Columnist looks at state ... and sees problems

Dan Walters

Sacramento Bee political columnist Dan Walters made his third appearance as a guest speaker at the Rancho Murieta Women's Club last week. Over the last decade, Walters has offered his takes on the governorships of Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. This time it was Jerry Brown's turn. Walters also revisited the state's budget woes.

Jerry Brown

A quick review of Brown's career -- "he's always running for something"-- was followed by Walters' assessment of the present Brown administration as a "do-over" or mulligan.  "He left a lot of stuff there when he left the governorship in 1983," Walters said. "It's amazing truly how many of the things he's dealing with as governor the second time around were there when he left 28 years earlier" -- the unfinished water plan, the budget deficit, public education,  the bullet train ("he talked about a bullet train 30 years ago").

Walters described his relationship with Brown as "prickly," and said Brown is "personally very stingy." Aside from being older, Brown hasn't changed, in Walters' view.

Speech

Thanks to actions following Proposition 13 in 1978, California runs at an operational deficit, Bee columnist Dan Walters told the Rancho Murieta Women's Club.

Ballot measure

"(Brown) is basically betting his entire governorship, his entire legacy, as it were, on what happens this coming November. ... This measure is a tax issue ... intended to get the budget into shape." The income tax and sales tax increases are temporary taxes. "He wants to go out saying he balanced the budget during his governorship. It's very controversial. It's certainly not embraced strongly by voters, according to the polls that have come out in the last few weeks. ... What happens if it passes? Not much, really, because the whole budget that's law is based on the assumption that that tax increase will pass. What happens if it doesn't pass? ... Plan B is to basically to cut the hell out of schools. Cut spending by $6 billion a year, of which about $5 1/2 billion would come out of public education. This is by design to cajole or blackmail voters into voting for these taxes ... because public education is the most popular thing the government does in California. ... Funny thing is if it passes, the schools don't get any more money. ... All they get paid is the money that's been owed to them for some years by the state."

Prop. 13 fallout

"When the voters passed Prop. 13 in 1978, cutting local property taxes by more than half, the state stepped in, maybe foolishly, and assumed the burden of financing schools and, to some extent, local governments. At the time, the state had a reasonably sized surplus in its budget, so it spent that surplus on what was called 'the bail-out' ... As the state was assuming new burdens for schools and local governments ... (the legislature and then-Governor Brown) cut state taxes. And the effect of those two things was to throw the state budget into an immediate operational deficit."

State debt

"The state of California has taken on enormous amounts of debt ... most importantly, unfunded liabilities for public employee pensions and health care -- hundreds of billions of dollars that are not being addressed ... and so we are basically upside down as a state," which is reflected in the state's low credit rating. "The state can become functionally insolvent..."  unless the budget deficit is controlled.

Taxes and spending

"We are highly taxed in California. We have a particularly high income tax already, we have a particularly high sales tax already. The only thing that prevents us from being the highest taxed state is our property tax.  Thanks to Prop. 13, our property tax is in the middle range ... that drops us down from first to fifth place....

"What happened to all that money? ... There are certain things that are certainly out of whack. We've been spending in recent years for example about $10 billion a year on our prison system. ... That's about twice as much as we should be spending for the number of prisoners that we have locked up. ... Prison guards in California make exactly twice as much as they do in Texas ... We have 12 percent of the nation's population and 32 percent of its welfare cases. ... So there are certain things that are out of whack, but undoing those sorts of things is extremely difficult. ... We are among the lowest spending states per pupil on public education. ... The question is should we vote for more taxes or will that just continue a dysfunctional status quo?"

From the archives:

  • Political columnist gives RM a taste of history as it's happening (July 24, 2003)
    By his handling of the energy crisis, "(Gray Davis) shot himself in the head. It felt so good he did it again" with the budget crisis. Doing the "short-term expedient thing ... is almost a fatal flaw in his case." Walters portrayed the governor as "consumed with his own career ... obsessed with his health" and so incapable of change he has the same thing -- broccoli and turkey -- for lunch every day. "He has not evolved. ... He has not a scintilla of interest in anything other than his career."
  • State has outgrown its government, Bee columnist tells Women's Club (March 27, 2008)
    "If Arnold Schwarzenegger with his celebrity, his independence, his middle-of-the-road politics, his ability to capture media attention -- all the attributes he brings to the governorship that very few people have -- if he can't make it work ... if he can't move it, then you have to assume it can't be moved. ... The structure is fatally flawed."

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John Hein
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Dan Walters

Thank you to the Sacramento Bee for at least having Dan Walters on their staff. He is perhaps the only voice of reason on the local staff and I applaud him for his efforts. The Bee could do us all a favor and try to allow him to write a little more.

John Hein

Myrna Solomon
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fair and balanced??

I wonder if the Womans Club will now get someone to speak who has a different  political opinion than Walters, since IMO, he is not neutral in the poltical world....and John validates my claims....

I wonder if some in the Womans Club are trying to push one political agenda and use this goup to do it? I sure hope not.... 

Myrna Solomon

Steven Mobley
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Pointing out the Obvious

Walters only highlighted the obvious failings, which are validated by the sorry fiscal state California has been in for many years. Pointing out well supported facts isn't his opinion, or evidence of his political affiliation. Remember, we're all in this sorry mess together.

Romney 2012

Steven W King
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Fair and balanced or truth and bull?

I agree with you Steve when you say pointing out the facts in not a political position. Raising taxes on the 5th most taxed state isn't a bright idea. Going forward with a multi billion dollar budget on the presumption that a massive tax increase will pass in the future is beyond description!!!  At some point, I'd like someone to take charge who knows how to serve instead of being controlled by the special interests that have the big bucks to give to the politicians. It appears Walters isn't a buddy of Brown but I just don't see the slant Myrna that we need an opposite opinoin. I think instead of fair and balanced it's truth or bull. Walters spoke with facts and the facts are the truth. The opposite view is to bring someone in who can pump out some more lies and phony numbers about how raising taxes isn't really raising taxes and how taxing those who employ people doesn't cause them to employ fewer people and how the rich who already pay far more than most in taxes can afford to pay more and if Gov. Brown just had another $20 Billion everything would be okay.. The truth is the government is out of control and their constantly increasing budgets are insanity and increasing taxes will only dig the hole deeper. The rich are the employers who pay employees. If we keep raising their taxes, they will keep holding onto their money instead of spending it and if they keep holding onto it, nobody gets hired. It's so basic, so simple. I just can't comprehend how people don't understand this! Until we get someone in office who understands that cutting taxes, letting taxpayers from top to bottom KEEP more of their own earnings, is the best thing that can be done, we will continue this recession. When taxes are reduced, people have more disposable income and they go buy products and services. Somebody has to manufacture those products and provide those services and that creates more jobs, increased tax revenues (because of more transactions occuring) more people paying taxes and fewer people collecting government payouts. It creates and stimulates investment opportunities and greases the wheels of capitolism! In a word, it causes growth! That goes for state and federal postions.

Again, I agree Steve - ROMNEY 2012

Myrna Solomon
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who's bull??

Steve Mobley, as a retired public employee...I don't understand how you would speak against those who are....since so many of your family is still...but I will keep my opinions to myself..I like your family!!

Steve King, your comments are very consistent with the Tea Party and so it is no surprise that you would write that what Waltered said are facts...I would bet that there are many out there that would disagree with Walters and give a different take on what is wrong with the California economy, and it would also be fact...

The one thing I agreed with is that spending more on prisons than on schools is just wrong...if we paid our teachers more money and let them have more control over their class rooms, maybe more children would stay in school, not get in trouble and there would be less kids going to prison... 

I remember a president named George Bush, for 8 years with a Republican congress, lowered taxes to the lowest levels in 50 years, got rid of most regulations or didn't inforce the ones they couldn't get rid of, and it almost caused a world depression....this is still fresh in my mind, trickle down economices didn't work. So, I don't understand how anyone would think this would have different consequences if tried again....

Myrna Solomon-----Barack Obama, 2012

Myrna Solomon

Todd Coulter
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Obama and Bush Both Suck

As I see it the Bush adminstration drove this country into debt and then Obama took over and continued to drive it way deeper.

Today, the reckless spending at both the state and federal level is off the charts and no one seems to really care....everyone is too worried about the other party instead of what they should be doing, which is working together to solve the major issues (but will never happen).  

I say its time for a new party and real change. Throw the bums out, Obama had his shot and failed miserably, he is going to go down as one of the worse presidents ever and it will be a fight between baby bush and obama who claims that last spot (both deserve it).

Neither party has proposed any real solutions to reduce spending, reign in healthcare costs and drive business growth. Without solutions and just constant attacks and negative BS the problems will never be solved.

They both suck in my opinion....we will have our own austerity program in 3 years

 

 

 

 

 

Steven Mobley
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Values trump economic interest in this family

Myrna,

I'm not really sure where you were going before you stopped yourself (kind of), but I have never supported our unions backing of democratic candidates. Is that what you were getting at? Union membership was / is a requirement of employment. I don't support that, never have, but had no choice except to join. Can't help that I benefited somewhat, but that doesn't change my sense of what is right and wrong. Some things are far more important to us. I know this confuses you, but we never entered public service for the money / benefits. We have a very keen sense / idea of what's best for our state and the country. Our vote can't be bought and we can't be counted on to vote in "our" best interest. No, we don't support / believe in unions or their extortion like tactics. Does that make us hypocrits?

The state can't afford to keep going the way its been going and the thing is, everyone knows it, but some are still supporting the status quo.

Our schools / education system in California receive more than 42% of the states tax monies. A staggering amount by anyone's measure.  A significant portion is unwisely spent on an over bloated administration and burearocracy, not on the teachers doing the actual teaching, or on the classrooms. More is also spent on duplicitous "State Dept of Education" , NEA,  "County Depts of Education" etc.... which duplicate the local school boards. None of those folks teach a single class. They're all administrators. That's a lot of wasted money.

Do you know who gets to appoint people to those "key" boards and directorships? You guessed it, the democratic majority, which has run our state for decades. Old dem law makers don't really lose their seats, or get termed out of their public paychecks. They get appointed to the various education / labor boards etc,,,, that California has no idea how to get rid of, or any idea as to what they actually do. A semi-retirement position for termed out / tossed out democratic lawmakers and their supporters.

Dan Walters needs to speak up more and people need to start paying attention to what's really going on and where our education and state monies are really being spent. I suggest you read some of Walters past articles. You likely won't care for them, or agree with them, but you won't be able to prove him wrong, at least not with facts.

Unhappy about public employee wages and pensions? Simple solution, stop voting for the democrats, or anyone else whose views / policies you disagree with.  They caused the mess we're in. Brown is only going to make things worse. He was a disaster in the '70s and is a disaster today. Until a libertarian candidate has a real chance of winning, we're supporting anyone but Obama, in this case our choice was made for us,,,,Romney 2012!

If anyone is offended, you're probably a little overly sensitive.

 

Jerry Pasek
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California

I find it troubling that folks of sound mind (and a brain?) think it is wise to spend far more than you take in (forever) and keep it up by buying votes with money from that guy behind the tree. Like Margaret Thatcher once said, "Socialism is great until you run out of other people's money". What is even worse is we are stupid enough to continue to put these clueless wonders in office because they tell a good story when selling snake oil to other clueless (or ill informed) voters. The economic house of cards is falling in Europe because they  spent well beyond their means (even with outrageous taxes) and it is starting here with cities failing and a state and federal government running on fumes for decades. Like a family, living off the credit card lasts only so long and then bankruptcy is the only way out. For the state, the only way out is via the highway and the last guy will turn out the capital lights. People (and employers) also vote with their feet so once their tolerance level has been breached, it is out of here... and that includes the USA.

Jerry Pasek
Doug Lewis
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tax cuts

Myrna you say cutting taxes caused the recession.  When people are allowed to keep their money, rather than give it to the government,  they have more money to spend and invest back into the economy.  Do you really feel the government does a good job spending our money?  Unfortunately Congress, led at the time by the Democrats, continued to spend and initiate policies in the housing market that inflated home prices and created reckless lending practices (Thanks Barney).  Niether Democrats or Republicans have done thier job to limit spending as all feel it their job to bring home the pork. 

Whenever our earned money is given to the government to be spent by the government, the government will do it in a wasteful manner.  Did the last stimulus work?  Unfortunately its too easy to spend other peoples money.  We are made to feel that if we dont pay more of our money to the government then we arent willing to pay our fair share.  Perhaps we are just sick of seeing our fair share wasted.  What percent of taxes should be given? 50% 75%?  Why not just give it all to them and let them give us back what they feel we deserve.  But wait. If the government is going to take care of us, why bother to work extra hard or struggle to run a small business.  If the final reward is the same for hardworkers and non workers, then why work at all?  Oh thats right, its the right thing to do.  We should all work doubley hard to make money to cover those who dont want to.  Progressive socialism works great as long as there is enough of somebody elses money to run the country.

On a family level, what if a family tried to balance their budget and reduce thier spending in the same way this administration does?  Would making the family bigger help the budget?  Would borrowing more money or spending money that is not available help their budget?  Would the family budget get better if they gave their money to a wasteful bloated neighbor to spend for them?  Could they take a buy it now and let the kids pay for it later if they can approach?  Could they balance their budget if they refused to create a budget for the last three years.  Nope.  No family has ever spent its way out of debt. 

  

Our Government was created to provide certain necessary united services and to protect our rights.  Like a fat  man with a turkey leg it has allowed itself to grow and exceed its mandate to the point it now feels that it must dictate everything we do from what we eat to how we spend our money.  They have forgotten they work for us. Government is like a flock of pigeons.  The more you feed them the more they will show up to be fed.

We have become a nation where success and wealth are viewed as bad while food stamp use is encouraged.  Where minority concerns trump our right to say a prayer in school or pledge allegence to our flag.  Where crosses cant be raised because its a violation of separation of church and state but at the same time the government can violate those religious beliefs. Where we insist on freedom of speech but condem that speech when it is contrast with our own views.  Where patriotic conservative concerned citizens are labled as radicals for trying to reign in government.   Where our President embraces  the same socialist ideologies our relatives fought World wars over and is hailed as "progressive".   Maybe its not just tax rates some of us are upset about.  

 

 

Doug Lewis

Darin Sexton
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Steven Mobley summed it up

Thank you Steve, you couldn't have said it more perfectly.  I agree with your entire post 100%.  The fact that you worked in the system and posses the perspective you have on unions is refreshing; your take on education as well.  Pure facts.  Excellent.

Natachia Taylor
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@ Darin Sexton regarding Steven Mobley

Excellent Indeed!  Where's the Like Button? 

NOBAMA 2012!!!

 

Janelle Atwell
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California

If you don't like the BLUE state, move out! GOBAMA 2012!

SNOWBOARDS AND BOOTS:

LIKE BRAND NEW! ONLY USED TWICE.

$200 OR B/0 FOR SNOWBOARDS.

BOARD BOOTS: $40 PER PAIR

SNOW BOOTS: $25

&n

Janelle Atwell
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California

If you don't like the BLUE state, move out! GOBAMA 2012!

SNOWBOARDS AND BOOTS:

LIKE BRAND NEW! ONLY USED TWICE.

$200 OR B/0 FOR SNOWBOARDS.

BOARD BOOTS: $40 PER PAIR

SNOW BOOTS: $25

&n

Doug Lewis
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Red White and Blue

Last time I looked up a flagpole I saw red white and blue.....not blue, not red

 

 

Doug Lewis

John Hein
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Move out????

I have lived in this state for 57 years and seen it go to h*** in a handbasket. Who is anyone to tell me I should move out? Are those of you suggesting we should move out native Californians? Just another typical liberal response to problems. When will liberals come up with substance and not resort to the same tired old tactics of demonization, degradation and blaming others? Something to think about indeed.

Not sure this state is so blue. Since we are dangling by a vine perhaps the voters in our state may wake up someday. Oh yeah, there is a majority on some type public dole. Somehow that slipped my mind!

John Hein

Natachia Taylor
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Blue?

Color doesn't matter, this is a one party state, (dems) and they are doing such a great job. Keep drinking the Kool  Aid.

Steven Mobley
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Massive Emigration Exists Already

Why on earth would anyone suggest a taxpayer and productive citizen of nearly 30 years and who cares deeply about California,  move out of California? Haven't we driven enough business and retirees out already? Ask Texas, Oregon, Florida and Nevada where all their recent residents and businesses have come from. You'll find they came from California, to escape the taxes, regulations and insanity that keeps increasing year after year. Pretty soon, all that will be left in this state will be the tax eaters, liberal elite and the illegal immigrants.

 

If it weren't for Los Angelos and San Francisco, the state would be mostly republican / conservative. Blame the gerrymandering of districts. If presidential elections weren't "winner take all" electoral votes, the results would always be much different and we wouldn't be considered anything close to resembling a "blue" state.

Janet Nicholson
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I'm a native Californian

In fact, I'm a native Fair Oakian (or whatever we're called).  I've never wanted to live anywhere but California (except to serve my curiosity because I've always lived here).  In the past few years I've wished there were other viable places to go, but I can't figure out where they are.  Wanted to go to Austin, but got shot down by my husband and we moved to RM instead.  If I could find another place in this country - or others, for that matter - that I believed had their act together I might give it serious consideration.  I have a friend who is bailing to Oregon, but I'm not sure that's a solution, either.

And, Steve, I agree with you about the unions - especially the State employee's union.  They've been the downfall of the quality of State employeesI used to be proud to be a State employee and I worked hard.  I still work as a Retired Annuitant (mission critical staff) and I can't believe the degradation in the quality of both staff and upper managers these days.  They can't find their behinds with both hands and totally cow-tow to what the unions want - both for State employees and for the IHSS providers - and, of course, it's the same union.  Management is totally AFRAID of the unions.  And don't think the unions are poor.  We have about 375,000 service providers in IHSS and send the union a check for between $2 and $4 million each month.

The motto around our office for the last few years has been "Where are we going and why are we in a handbasket?" 

I find it all a profoundly sad situation.  The stories I could tell...

I find it profoundly sad.

Beth Buderus
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Dems or Repubs?

Somewhere in this thread made me think of the people who have walked away from their houses....  What party are they?  Dems or Repubs? 

The more important question, I think, is...if you walked away from your house after you had taken home equity loans to buy boats, toys or even another house and you were able to keep your new purchases because you used your cash from the equity....I'm just wondering what does that make you in the political scheme of things??

Steven W King
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Someone has a faulty memory

Myrna,

George Bush did not have a Republican controlled congress throughout his two terms. In fact, he had a 50/50 split that was then a 49/51 Dem advantage by 2001 and only late in his presidency did he have any real support from the Congress at all. He carried an unemployment rate that was right around 5% for the overwhelming majority of his presidency (Obama's has been over 8% and still is) and he left office with a deficit of around 4 trillion if memory serves me. Correct me if I'm wrong on any of these statistics. The deficit just 3 1/2 years later with Obama in charge is now over 15 trillion!!! I have no idea what you are referring to when you say he almost caused a world wide depression. The economy after 9/11 was fine and showed steady growth UNTIL the housing market (Freddie Mac and Fanny Mae) faultered and brought everything to the point where it was when he left. Just for a reminder, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae were run by the Democrats and the problem in a nutshell was this false concept of equality. The Democrats yelled and screamed that everybody should have the "right" to buy a home and passed a law that changed the criteria of qualifying for a home loan from proven income to "stated" income. This allowed a lot of people who couldn't afford a home mortgage to "state" that they made more than they did so they could qualify and purchase a home. When the bills came due and they didn't really make what they claimed on their applications for credit, they defaulted. This was all under the guise of "equality". Everybody has the "right" to own a home. THAT is what blew this economy up and THAT is what continues to drag this economy down. That plus ever higher tax burdens and the uncertainty of that massive new debilitating tax called "Affordable healthcare". Investors are not investing because of the healthcare law and it's massive costs to them and they won't until it is done away with. And the economy will not recover in any substantive way until the government stops taxing the living daylights out of the people who hire employees and invest. Trickle down does and always has worked. Trickle up as they call Obama's never has and never will work but what it will do is destroy an economy and ensure permanent power to those in power if they can ever get the majority of voters on the government handout list!

To get things in shape we need to let the houses on the brink,  foreclose, let the market settle, stop taxing, start offering investment incentives, cut taxes, change home qualification laws back to earned/verifiable income (if they haven't) and stop acting like people have the right to own something they can't afford. They have the right to have the opportunity to earn it but they do not have the right to have someone else buy it for them through taxes and government give aways.

I don't think Obama has a chance. Like Steve Mobley said. It is going to be a landslide like hasn't been seen in a long time and only then will we see America be great economically again. If you think I sound like the Tea Party, I guess they are looking at the facts too.

One last note, there is only one truth. You stated that if someone came in with a different perspective from Mr. Walters they would also be correct factually. (paraphrase). I just don't see where that view meets with truth. Facts are facts and they lead to a truth. You cannot have two different people take the same facts (economic indicators) and arrive at two different conclusions and have them both be correct. ie.1+1=2 or 1+1=1. And the truth here is Obama has failed miserably and refused to recognize his failures due to being blinded by socialist ideology that the overwhelming majority of Americans disagree with and don't want. He's not politically savy enough to move to a more moderate angle to save himself like Clinton did so the handwriting is on the wall. At this point I even agree with the bumper sticker that says "Anybody but Obama". And Governor Brown has the same plan.

Steven Mobley
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Bigger Issues Ahead

An even bigger issue coming up is the shortage of doctors, and their lowered pay under the ACA. It was brought up here that certain portions of the ACA  would now be applicable. Doctors are having a hard enough time making ends meet and dealing with all the paperwork and lack of adequate reimbursement. Imagine the uproar if the same type of legislation applied to attorneys. New attorneys presently have around $110,000 debt when they graduate law school (not counting under grad debt). That equates to a nearly $1000 payment, after taxes, per month for 10 years. I know more than a few who are having trouble finding employment. Imagine being a future physician and incurring their average medical school debt of $250,000, not counting under-graduate debt. Is there any wonder why there is to be an expected shortage of doctors in the very near future? We're already experiencing a shortage now. 

Al Dolata
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"The economic house of cards

"The economic house of cards is falling in Europe"?   I don't think so.   Ponder the following:   U.S. debt as a per cent of GDP = 99.5.   That of France - 87.6; Germany - 80.1;  Holland - 65.6; Denmark - 45.6. and I could go on.   Sure Greece has a problem.   The number there is 152.3, and that of the  Celtic Tiger we heard so much about: 114.1.   The numbers in Spain and Italy are not good either, but the point is that most countries in Europe would appear by this standard measure to be in better shape than the super capitalist U.S.

Ponder also that the S&P credit rating of the U.K., Holland, France, Finland, and  France, etc is better than ours.

Oh, and concerning Dan Walters remarks:  I agree that California is in a crisis because of the Democratic/Union axis.   FDR was right: collective bargaining is not suitable for public employers.   But  I wished I got a chance to ask Dan to explain why South Carolina and a number of other southern states which have no public unions and darn few Democrats are in straits as tight as ours.

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Al Dolata