State has a budget problem — but how big?

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

The first step to effectively deal with any problem is defining it accurately — and the recession-battered state budget is a case in point. There’s no doubt that the pandemic-induced recession is one of the worst in California history and that its negative fiscal effects — both increased spending and reduced revenues — are many […]

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State budget will take a very big hit

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

A bit of fiscal history is in order. The Great Recession that hit California 13 years ago had a devastating effect on the state budget. General fund revenues — principally personal income taxes paid by affluent Californians — dropped by about 20% and to maintain basic services, the Legislature and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger ran up […]

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Who Should Pay for Pandemic’s Impact?

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

The COVID-19 pandemic and the severe economic recession it induced are disasters unparalleled in recent generations and it will take years to fully recover from their human and financial tolls. Already, however, they are spawning legal and political conflicts, over whom, if anyone, should be accountable for their impacts. There is, for instance, a flurry […]

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Crisis Reveals Big Financial Shortcomings

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

The rapidly expanding COVID-19 pandemic threatens the lives and livelihoods of Californians, but it also lays bare some multi-billion-dollar shortcomings in state government finances that have been ignored for decades, despite many warnings. The most obvious is the state budget’s unhealthy reliance on taxing the incomes of a relative handful of wealthy Californians. Income taxes […]

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The Gig Worker Battle Continues

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

When the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, was awaiting final congressional action in 2010, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a speech to county officials, uttered 24 words that have haunted her ever since. Referring to the controversies that surrounded the groundbreaking legislation, she said, “But we have to pass the bill so that […]

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Newsom makes big political wager

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

Gavin Newsom is rushing in where angels — and more cautious politicians — fear to tread by devoting virtually all of his second State of the State address to California’s seemingly intractable housing and homelessness crises. Newsom is staking his governorship, and perhaps his hopes of climbing further up the political pecking order, on jump-starting […]

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Bait and switch on pensions

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

Local officials, particularly those in California’s 400-plus cities, have been complaining loudly in recent years about pension costs, raising the specter of insolvency if they continue their rapid increase. Last year, the League of California Cities issued a report declaring that “pension costs will dramatically increase to unsustainable levels.” The California Public Employees Retirement System […]

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Another showdown over crime looms

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

No California ballot would be complete without at least one measure about crime and punishment and 2020 will be no exception. A referendum seeking to overturn California’s landmark ban on cash bail in criminal cases will once again test voters’ sentiments about the treatment of accused lawbreakers. During previous decades, particularly in the 1980s and […]

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Newsom Huffs and Puffs, Like the Big Bad Wolf

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

Remember the children’s fable about the wolf who was attempting to capture and consume the three little pigs? If a pig refused to admit him or come out of its house, the wolf threatened: “Then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in.” Gov. Gavin Newsom’s declaration that the state will stop […]

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Audit backs school finance critics

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

A half-decade ago, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature overhauled California’s school finance system with the avowed goal of closing the “achievement gap” separating poor and English learner students from their more privileged classmates. School districts with large numbers of “at-risk” students would be given billions of extra dollars to improve their educations. From the […]

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