Pete Schaafsma and I crossed paths quite a few times over the last 30-odd years. When you work on tax, budget and economic issues you want to learn from someone who knows the ins and outs — the minutia and details. Pete Schaafsma was a go-to guy on that score. The news of his passing caught me by surprise.
We were not always on the same page in these discussions. Early on, I remember one particularly heated conversation when Pete was with the Legislative Analyst’s Office and I was at the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. The point of contention was tax expenditures – those items in a budget that are considered lost or at least foregone revenue that government does not receive because of a tax exemption or tax break.
I argued that tax expenditures shouldn’t be counted as missing government money because the money was never collected; it was the taxpayers’ money after all, not the government’s. I’d like to think that my argument appealed to and was understood by the man or woman on the street while Pete could point to government insider and academic briefings that backed him up.
Over the years, I came to count on his counsel and observations about government finance matters while he was with the LAO, in the legislature working for the Republican caucus and when he set out in the private sector as a consultant.
The last time I worked with him was on the Proposition 30 campaign. He analyzed for us how much schools would gain if Prop 30 passed – and, indeed, how much schools would get even if it didn’t pass.
Pete Schaafsma was a knowledgeable expert of California’s fiscal landscape during some wild times from the Proposition 13 era through recessions, government deficits, economic bubbles and budget surpluses.
When these debates begin again, as they will, there will be one less trusted voice to turn to.