For a great many reasons, Jerry Brown is exactly the wrong man to helm the (once-)Golden State at this time in its history. Indeed, when he first served as Governor in the 1970s, he sowed the seeds for the state’s current economic malaise. In 1978, he signed the Dill Act “giving the public unions collective bargaining.” Now the public-employees unions, on whose support he has been relying to win the election, all but control the legislature, making pension reform all but impossible “to accomplish.”
For a little more on the state’s “half-trillion-dollar pension mess,” check out this piece by Jane Jamison.
No wonder his camp is eager to exploit the flap over Meg Whitman’s housekeeper. It distracts voters from the real problems facing the state.
State spending is out of control. And as the former longtime Democratic Speaker of the State Assembly Willie Brown reminds us, “80 percent of the state, county and city budget deficits are due to employee costs.” And California’s fiscal problems (not to mention those of other states) are only going to get worse. According to the Washington Examiner, “the same woman who predicted the Wall Street meltdown is warning about another calamity — our state governments are going broke, with possibly disastrous consequences“:
[Meredith] Whitney has released a 600-page report on states’ fiscal woes, warning of $192 billion in state budget shortfalls, which comes to 27 percent of all combined state budgets for the 2010 fiscal year. States have been borrowing heavily from health care and public pension funds, which are now underfunded by $1 trillion, to cover their debts. What happens when states can’t pay the bills?
We need serious reform of overly generous state pension and employee benefits packages. In recent years, the federal government has helped paper over the problem of out-of-control state budgets, with the “stimulus” transferring federal funds to the states to pay off their various liabilities.
Without that cash, however, states are going to have to implement real reforms, most of which the ever-powerful public employee unions oppose. With such unions providing the backbone of Jerry Brown’s campaigns, the former Governor clearly lacks the capacity to confront California’s real problems.