Local Officials Avoid ‘P-Word’ as They Push New Taxes

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

While public and media attention to this week’s primary election focused – understandably so – on contests for governor, U.S. senator and a handful of congressional seats, there were other important issues on Californians’ ballots. One, which received scant attention at best, was another flurry of local government and school tax and bond proposals. The […]

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Campaigns Try to Fool California Voters

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

Politics – the means by which we govern ourselves – can be a positive, even uplifting human enterprise. Too often, however, political tactics are based on the cynical assumption that voters can be easily fooled and the current election season is, unfortunately, rife. Take, for example, the television ads that Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the leading […]

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Voters Face Anti-Tax Measures as Cycle Continues

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

There is a cyclical quality to California’s perennial debate over taxation, one most evident in the tax-related ballot measures placed before voters. Initiatives to raise taxes, or make them easier to raise, will appear in one election cycle, but just two years later, voters may be asked to cut taxes, or at least make increases […]

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The Dimensions of California’s Pension Crisis

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

California’s public employee pension systems have immense gaps – called “unfunded liabilities” – between what they have in assets and what they will need to meet their obligations to retirees. The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), the nation’s largest pension trust fund, and other state and local systems are desperately trying to close those […]

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Bullet Train Colliding with Reality

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

Reality may finally be catching up with the vision – or pipedream – of a 200-mile-per-hour train connecting California’s northern and southern regions. A few weeks ago, the High-Speed Rail Authority released its latest “business plan” that was supposed to tell Californians how the brief stretch of track now being constructed in the San Joaquin Valley can […]

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Recent Years Prove We Need More Water Storage

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

The first thing to remember about precipitation in California is that it’s unpredictable, as the past several winters have once again shown us. Several years of severe drought ended in the 2016-17 winter with near-record rain and snow storms that filled the state’s badly depleted reservoirs. The 2017-18 “water year,” as hydrologists call it, began […]

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Will Anyone be Accountable for Stephon Clark’s Death?

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

As the capital of the nation’s most complex and populous state, Sacramento is no stranger to protest marches and other forms of political expression. However, the city has never experienced anything as emotionally powerful as the almost daily marches and rallies to condemn the city police shooting death of 22-year-old Stephon Clark in the backyard […]

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Would Today’s California Voters Change Proposition 13?

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

It would be fair to assume that relatively few of the California voters who passed Proposition 13 overwhelmingly 40 years ago will still be voting this year. So, one might wonder, would today’s voters be willing to make a major change in the state’s iconic property-tax limitation? They may be given the opportunity in a […]

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Local Tax Hikes Cleverly Packaged

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

Over the past few years, voters in hundreds of California cities and other local governments were asked to pass tax increases, and indications are that another big batch of local tax measures will be on this year’s ballots. All but a handful of the previous tax hikes were approved, although one failed sales tax, in Coalinga, was […]

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How Pension Costs Clobbered One Small City

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

When Santa Cruz, a picturesque and funky coastal city, first started to feel the pinch of rising retirement costs for city workers, it took several steps to limit the fiscal pain. As recommended by the League of Cities and other authorities, Santa Cruz issued a bond to pay down its rising pension liabilities, set aside […]

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