A new year in California brings new promise – and plenty of promises from its elected leaders as to what will transpire in 2016.
Only a few days after we flipped the calendar, lawmakers were discussing what to do with the expected healthy surplus of tax revenue. And, per usual, legislators lined up with a long list of pet causes, some unfinished business from last year: fixing a $1 billion hole in the state’s Med-Cal budget and devising a plan for addressing California’s fraying infrastructure.
As for California Governor Jerry Brown, January brings two big moments: this budget proposal for the new state fiscal year beginning in July and a State of the State Address outlining his priorities. About that speech, to be delivered in Sacramento at 10 a.m. on Jan. 21: it’s the Governor’s way of proving he’s in touch with the main concerns of mainstream California. The question: does Brown have his finger on the pulse?
Consider President Obama’s State of the Union Address from last week: the White House talked about the President’s commitment to addressing gun violence. Meanwhile, national surveys show that national security and the economy – not guns – are foremost on Americans’ minds.
What if Governor Brown decided to give a State of the State purely based on what most concerns his constituents? The newest Hoover Golden State Poll provides some light.
Given a slate of 21 topics to decide as “top priorities,” the most popular choices were:
- Dealing with the state’s water problems (77%),
- Strengthening the state’s economy (73%),
- Improving the job situation (61%),
- And balancing the state’s budget (59%);
- Three other topics – reducing special interests’ influence on state government, improving roads, bridges and public transportation, plus improving K-12 education – all hovered around 50%.
Those topics of least concern to Californians:
- Continuing the state’s high-speed rail project (17%),
- And reforming the state’s prison system (27%);
- Five other topics – reducing income inequality, making public-employee pensions fiscally sound, strengthening gun laws, dealing with climate change, plus dealing with the state’s energy problems – all failed to muster 40% support.
So as you digest Brown’s address, see if his rhetoric matches this roadmap for what Californians would choose to be addressed in 2016.
And look for a few nuances. For example, should Governor Brown talk about climate change – one if his leading concerns, but not a strong finisher in the Golden State Poll – does he connect it to the drought, which resonates with voters?
Brown could bind together three leading concerns: the state’s job outlook, California’s feast-or-famine economy, and a budget too reliant on fluctuating tax revenue.
Also, pay attention to how the governor finesses the matter of the state economy. As is its custom, the Golden State Poll asked a battery of questions regarding Californians’ financial wellbeing.
- In terms of being better of worse-off financially versus a year ago, California is a balancing act: 49% said they’re about the same; 24% apiece were better or worse off.
- It was the same mixed message of job mobility: 48% expressed some confidence in making a lateral job move within six month; 46% weren’t confident.
- “Right track/wrong track” also yielded a mixed verdict: 27% said things were better, 38% said a little or a lot worse; 31% opted for status quo.
In this issue of Eureka, we explore the culture of Sacramento's governance and how it may impact two major policy issues in 2016 – transportation infrastructure funding and further action on climate change.
This issue includes:
- Hoover research fellow Carson Bruno’s analysis of the Golden State Poll and Californian’s attitudes toward a mileage tax, reducing petroleum use, and diverting High Speed Rail funds for other infrastructure projects;
- Bill Whalen, Hoover research fellow, cites a few differences between Sacramento and Washington. D.C. – western and eastern capitals with contrasting styles;
- Mark Watts, interim executive director of Transportation California, highlights the need for new thinking and a new model for transportation funding;
- And finally, Bruce Cain, director of the Bill Lane Center for the American West, and Stanford graduate student, Esteban Antonio Guerrero Jaimes, showcase how electric and hybrid vehicles are the answer to reducing California's reliance on petroleum.
We hope you enjoy this latest installment of Eureka – and that it gets you thinking about where California stands and if we’re moving in the right direction.