Confessions of an Irresponsible Voter

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

Since nobody in Sacramento is accepting responsibility for the state’s
fiscal disaster, I will. I am not a state officeholder or government
employee. I am just a small business owner, husband, and father of two in
the San Fernando Valley. I pay my taxes, and I do my best to support local
businesses.

So, why should I accept responsibility for the state’s ongoing fiscal
problems that resulted in a near meltdown this year? What do I have to do
with teachers being laid off and seniors losing in-home support services
while our taxes increase?

The reason is that, as a voter in every state election since 1988, I have
voted for several items that I should have studied more carefully before I
bought into the hype and voted with my heart instead of my brain.

I have let you down, California, and I apologize.

To be clear, I do not apologize for wanting to help people. Most of the
programs that have grown or been established under my tenure as a voter are
often effective and do more good than harm, at least up to a point.
Sometimes, people move into California to take advantage of these services
that their home states don’t provide. It’s likely that some of these people
don’t contribute their fair share to the economy or to state coffers.

As an irresponsible voter, I have cast ballots in favor of dozens of bonds
and new spending measures without reading the language carefully and doing
my due diligence. The commercials were so well done and the talking points
so persuasive that I couldn’t help myself. And now the state is going broke
because of it.

And I’m not the only one. I know there a lot of you out there who thought
universal preschool was such a great idea. How about after-school programs
for all? Locking up prisoners forever was another one I voted for without
realizing that the healthcare is so much better in prison that many inmates
live into their 90s on my dime. Hmm, I guess I didn’t think that one
through, because 27,000 inmates are being released due to federal orders and
legislative actions [plus inactions]. The state simply lacks the revenues to
pay for incarcerations for everyone who should be jail.

By the way, anyone who believes the rhetoric that the 27,000 released
inmates are “non-violent” offenders has been visiting too many medicinal
marijuana dispensaries (another vote I’d like to take back). They may have
been convicted of non-violent crimes or pleaded down from more serious
offenses, but most of these released inmates were living in violent
environments while in prison. I hope I don’t encounter too many.

Thanks to me, and people like me, California’s bond rating is now the worst
in the nation. Again, I am not a legislator who can vote on the state
budget, I’m just a voter, and apparently not the most responsible one
either.

Not only is our state budget in a seemingly constant state of deficit, our
bond payments are in sad shape too. According to Moody’s, California’s
leasing debt and other debts amount to $72 billion. Whew, that’s a big
number -hope my kids start paying taxes to pay those off soon!

Legislators, I feel your pain. When the Field Poll was released in May and
reported a 14-percent approval rating for the Legislature as a whole, I felt
some responsibility for your unpopularity. While too many of your
predecessors kicked the budget can into your legislative terms, I didn’t
help the situation by voting for so many spending increases and minimum
spending thresholds that lack revenue streams.

But the pain I feel for legislators is nowhere near the pain I have
inflicted on my children. Because of my poor choices at the ballot box, I
have all but guaranteed that they will not be able to afford a middle class
lifestyle in California unless they beat the odds and earn more money than
their parents.

Together, lawmakers and voters like me have racked up so much debt for
California that my kids are going to have to economize to make ends meet
when they enter the workforce. Paying off the state’s debt and paying off
out-of- ontrol pension costs will likely haunt them for their entire working
lives.

As I said, nobody in Sacramento ever apologizes. So, as part of my parental
philosophy to man up and accept responsibility when I’m wrong, I apologize
to my kids for being an irresponsible voter. Many times I thought I was
voting for your future by approving multiple initiatives.

Instead, I fear that I unintentionally caused more fiscal harm to the state
than we – and you, as future taxpayers – can bear.

This piece was originally published in the San Fernando Valley Business Journal

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