The first weeks of 2019 have been dominated by the push from emboldened Sacramento liberals to enact measures increasing our tax burden, imposing new regulations on employers, and taking away some of our personal freedom.
Most observers argue, based on the massive 2018 Democrat victories, that voters were giving a blank check for liberal, big government proposals.
To the contrary, I have argued that November’s blue wave was a failure of California Republicans to execute an appealing campaign strategy, and not a statement on the power of the free market. In my view, free market ideas can form the nucleus of new, untraditional political coalitions and the restoration of some political balance.
We’ll be discussing these ideas in greater detail on February 28 in Sacramento at PRI’s first “California Ideas in Action” policy conference. We hope you can join us for the conversation. Click here to learn more and register.
Recent polling backs up my thesis.
Take single-payer, for example. Virtually all the discussion since November has focused on the push to enact Medicare-for-All in California. The California Nurses Association – emboldened by the November election results and a 61-seat Democratic majority in the Assembly – are making a major push to pass it this year.
Yet, the polling shows that Californians weren’t embracing single-payer when electing massive Democrat majorities. The latest Quinnipiac University poll, released last week, shows that just 41 percent of Californians “support replacing private health insurance with a single-payer system run by the state.” 46 percent were opposed.
These results follow polling released in the last legislative session during the debate over SB 562 which found that 75 percent of Californians are less likely to support single-payer when they learn the costs in new taxes, 74 percent were less likely when they learned it would eliminate employer-based coverage, and 72 percent were less likely knowing it would hurt health care quality and medical advancement.
These numbers show Californians may be open to changing our health care system, but they don’t necessarily want to blow up the system, want market-based choices, and are open to free-market reforms.
Taxes are another issue. The blue wave has emboldened liberal activists to push long-sought changes gutting Proposition 13. They have proposed a 2020 ballot measure for a split-roll property tax system, which would be an estimated $11 billion annual tax increase.
Conventional wisdom is that such a change might be a slam dunk for passage after November. The most recent Public Policy Institute of California poll, released last week, shows a different story.
The poll found that 61 percent of Californians surveyed – including 58 percent of Democrats – said that “Passing Proposition 13 turned out to be mostly a good thing for California.”
When asked how they’d vote on the split roll ballot measure, the results were a near-tie. The measure is ahead by a narrow 47 to 43 percent margin. Boding well for its rejection, support among Latino voters is less than support among whites or African Americans, support among lower-income households is less than upper-income ones, and support among young voters is less than middle-aged and older voters.
The latest polling on this and other key issues – school choice, housing and homelessness, and energy poverty – shows that we shouldn’t be too quick in holding a funeral for free market ideas after November’s drubbing for California Republicans.
Even in this time of liberal dominance, new and diverse coalitions can be formed around free market ideas and show disaffected communities that market-based reforms are the positive alternatives they are seeking to address the challenges facing their communities.
Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s communications director.