The coronavirus outbreak, and the resulting economic fallout, should push all of us to look more critically at the status quo here in California.
With the UCLA Anderson Forecast determining that the country is now in a recession, an assessment echoed by Bank of America, and that California will be hit harder than the rest of the country, it’s time we reflect on what we’ve allowed to happen in our state.
While we hope state and local governments are successful in their response to the coronavirus, the way far too many of them have been operating may soon face a serious reckoning.
In good economic times, state and local government officials have been able to get away with profligacy while buying just enough time to avoid the negative consequences of their actions.
Sacramento has been willing to dole out anything state employee unions want, even if the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office flags a lack of justification for doing so.
Many school districts, like Los Angeles Unified, have been kept under the influence of teachers unions and haven’t been able to make fiscally sound decisions that put students first in years.
And county and city governments have had to slowly reduce public services to make room for the impact of pension crowd-out.
While the tsunami of public sector pension costs has done increasing amounts of harm to government budgets over the last decade, and silently driven the surge of tax hike measures seen across the state in recent years, city councilmembers, county supervisors, school board members and elected officials and representatives in state government have consistently banked on the good times continuing. Or, at least continuing long enough for them to either term-out of office or get elected to a new term, which buys them time, or a new office, which allows them to avoid responsibility for the problems facing their new jurisdiction.
This style of governing can’t continue. Those who raise attention to the pension problem or undue influence of public sector unions don’t do so out of malice toward public employees, but because the status quo has obviously been unsustainable and gradually destructive even in good times.
This is a time to take corrective action and prepare better for the future.
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