New Year’s Resolutions The California Legislature Should (But Probably Won’t) Make
Going into a new year, many of us use the occasion to start fresh, forget about the old, and resolve to improve our lives. If lawmakers are open to suggestions, here are some New Year’s resolutions the California Senate and Assembly should make:
Abolish the California Environmental Quality Act. Why is housing so unaffordable in California? Why does 30 percent of the homeless population call California “home”? CEQA. Developers don’t build enough homes because the law too often makes it unprofitable. Don’t reform it. Don’t amend it. Kill it and start over. A clean environment and economic progress are not mutually exclusive.
Overhaul the income tax system. It’s a mess. State Controller Betty T. Yee has said it is an “outdated, unfair, and unreliable” method for funding government. We need a tax regime that promotes both economic growth and personal freedom. Rates need to be lower and there should be fewer of them.
Deregulate. The Cato Institute ranks the state 48th in regulatory freedom. That’s an embarrassment. Do better.
Become more friendly to free enterprise and less hostile to business. Relocation specialist Joseph Vranich, who has left the state himself, says that as many as 13,000 businesses left California from 2008 to 2016 due to the tax-and-regulation burdens Sacramento and local governments put on companies. The thinking has too long gone in the wrong direction. Turn it around.
Let the markets, not government, decide our energy sources. Powerful politicians want the state to be free of fossil fuels. That might happen one day. Technology is taking us places beyond our imaginations. But it’s foolish to rush development with ill-thought-out public policy while the cheapest, most efficient energy sources are available to us right now.
Fix the public employee pension system. New data show it’s worse than previously thought. PRI senior fellow Wayne Winegarden says policymakers need to hear the wake-up call before it’s too late. If not, meeting the state’s pension obligations, is likely to mean that “taxpayers could be on the hook for massive, economy-crushing tax hikes.”
Don’t even think about single-payer health care. There are no benefits to a single-payer system. Treatment and outcomes would be worse, and the economy would take a beating. California taxpayers can’t afford the bill.
Be less Blue, a lot less Blue. Hoover Institution senior fellow Richard Epstein has said the Blue State model has failed. “The harm done by excessive regulation, taxes, and public expenditures plays itself out time and again in liberal bastions like Massachusetts, Vermont, California, Connecticut, Illinois, and New York,” he writes in Hoover’s journal. “A rising tide of taxation and regulation will sink all ships.” Lawmakers should think about the iceberg they are steering this state toward, and consider a new route.
Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.