Fixing California Finances — Ignore The Voters!
California is not a well-governed state. But for a long time, I heavily blamed the voters on that one. After all, they did stupid things like voting for a $9B bond issue to start a high-speed rail line in the middle of a horrendous deficit.
But perhaps I spoke too soon. Yes, California voters are more than willing to vote for huge spending to be financed by bonds. That’s a big problem, if the spending (and thus the bonds) occur. But if Tim Cavanaugh of Reason is correct, it’s not the problem I once thought. Why not? The state isn’t spending the money:
One favorite trick for avoiding disaster at the level of state budgets is to keep authorized expenditures cooped up by never writing the checks. This practice can go on for years or decades, depending on the lobbying power of the people who stand to gain from the spending. A former California budget director once set my mind at ease when I asked about the hundreds of billions of dollars in bonded debt the ballot-initiative mobocracy has committed the state to. It turned out that only a small portion of those bonds had been issued. (And it’s pretty stunning to consider that the Golden State’s fiscal self-destruction would be even worse if anybody took an interest in honoring the will of the voters.)
So, that is good one one front. The state has shielded us from some of the stupidity inherent in democracy.
But there’s another worse aspect. The state has spent us into oblivion even without the voters’ help! I used to think it was a competition between idiotic direct democracy voters and idiotic gerrymandered politicos in an effort to bankrupt the state. It turns out I was wrong — the politicos want to hoard all the “glory” for themselves!