What We Are Saying

State Legislators Must Govern for California.

State governments have more responsibility for the funding and implementation of domestic policy than does the federal government and at least as much influence over jobs and economic growth. Governors in California need the consent of at least 61 and sometimes 91 state legislators to move legislation. A single California legislator can have more impact on the daily lives of Californians than even a US senator or congressman.

But most Californians don’t pay attention. Few Californians know the names of their state representatives much less how those legislators vote. If they did, they’d be surprised to learn about some Democratic legislators who, while publicly vowing support for jobs, colleges, social services and parks, vote against those priorities in order to boost the fortunes of narrow special interests. Or about some Republican legislators who publicly voice support for jobs but oppose bills that would improve the employment climate if that legislation would harm a corporate interest or increase state revenues. Or about some legislators who don’t understand the bills and budgets they debate and pass.

Interested Californians would also learn that state legislators have the tools they need to solve California’s pressing problems. No initiative stops legislators from improving our education systems or economic environment, ending our structural budget deficit, fixing our pension problem, properly funding parks and environmental protection, appropriately compensating government employees, raising taxes if and when needed, making government more efficient, and more.

Upon closer inspection, Californians would learn that a critical missing ingredient is courage. In the case of Democrats, courage means the willingness to buck narrow special interests seeking ever-greater shares of government spending at the expense of social programs, taxpayers and private-sector job growth. In the case of Republicans, courage means the willingness to buck narrow interests who, even when presented with all the reforms they seek, refuse to acknowledge that sometimes more revenue for the government can produce better outcomes. And in the case of all legislators, courage means an unshakable dedication to honest budgets, truthful accounting, open government and governing for the people rather than for personal gain.

Political Philanthropists Must Support Exceptional Legislators.

Fortunately there are five reasons for optimism. First, California elections now incorporate California’s Top Two Primary and Citizens Redistricting Commission reforms, improving the odds of success for courageous candidates not beholden to special interests. Second, because some of those legislative races are determined by relatively small numbers of voters and amounts of money, concentrated political spending and activity by engaged citizens can have a real impact. Third, because 100 of the 120 seats in the state legislature are contested every two years, change can happen relatively quickly. Fourth, political philanthropists are stepping up to support exceptional candidates. Fifth, those candidates are winning.

In the words of Edmund Burke, for evil to happen all that’s necessary is for good people to do nothing. Our state will be governed for the people when the people pay sufficient attention to the legislators who run their state. Start by learning who your state representatives are and how their votes match up with their words. And then support courageous candidates who will tell the truth and govern for California.