In what amounts to an exit interview with the New York Times, former California Gov. Jerry Brown complained the state has “too many damn laws” and argued “the coercive power of the state should be invoked sparingly.”
We’ll never see another Democratic governor like him again in California.
But then we really didn’t see that Democratic governor, one who was both inclined and able to adequately check the Legislature’s unbridled impulses to pass ever more laws and employ the coercive power of the state. There was more talk than action the last eight years.
To be fair, Brown did at times act as the “adult in the room” by trying to keep the state’s wallet in his pocket to the degree that he could when members of his party were itching to spend recklessly. He on occasion was recognized by the advocates of limited government for his fiscal restraint.
Yet it was Brown who fought hard for the $52 billion motor fuel tax hike, supported the Prop. 30 tax extensions in 2012, and almost fanatically promoted the impractical bullet train that is projected to cost about $100 billion – at least until the next upward revision.
While it was somewhat satisfying to hear Brown pay his respects to limited government on his way out, it would have been more reassuring to have heard new Gov. Gavin Newsom issue a similar statement on his way in. Yes, he played the political game by promising “we will be prudent stewards of taxpayer dollars.” But that language is always expected, and there was nothing concrete from his Jan. 7 inauguration speech that would indicate he’s serious about reining in Sacramento’s legislating excesses.
On the contrary, he indicated that he plans to ramp up the Blue State agenda.
Capping off an inauguration ceremony that was bizarre even by Left Coast standards, Newsom promised “we will never waver in our pursuit of guaranteed health care for all Californians,” which could cost $400 billion a year, roughly twice the current state budget, if he’s talking in code about a single-payer regime. He also proposed universal government preschool, a bad idea that will cost about $2 billion initially, and up to $8 billion when combined with additional state childcare spending, says CalMatters. Among his first actions in office was signing an executive order to create a new state prescription drug purchasing scheme.
Newsom also wants California to provide a full six months of paid leave, financed of course by taxpayers, every time a family has a baby, and to embark on “Marshall Plan for affordable housing,” which means taxpayers will be required to fund, at least in part, 3.5 million new housing units.
These ideas are just a start. There might be a full eight years of new spending proposals ahead. Newsom is not a shy about offering up inventive ways government can spend other people’s money.
What the new governor needs is to temper his obsession for “big, hairy, audacious goals.” Otherwise, the ‘round-the-bend high-speed rail won’t be the only runaway train in California.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.