Dan Walters

Dan Walters
May 3, 2015
Observations on California and its politics

Since becoming governor for the second time, Jerry Brown has preached the virtues of what he calls “subsidiarity” – reversing the concentration of governmental finances in Sacramento that began when he was governor the first time.

When voters passed Proposition 13 in 1978, clamping tight limits on local government and school property taxes, the state assumed much of the burden, especially for schools.

Over the ensuing decades, the fiscal shift continued. A major milestone was the state’s assumption of financing local trial courts, which had hitherto been county burdens.

In addition to operational financing, the state also issued bonds for construction of schools, jails, courthouses and other previously locally financed facilities.

Brown has undertaken two major, albeit partial, reversals of that trend.

One is another “realignment” that shifts responsibility for incarcerating and supervising low-level felons to counties, as well as operation of some health and welfare programs, with a dedicated share of sales taxes to pay for them.

The second is an overhaul of school finance that provides more money to local districts, albeit with an emphasis on poor and/or “English learner” students, but leaves its precise use to local officials. And Brown also wants them to re-assume the financing of school construction.

As the governor was giving local officials more flexibility in managing services and money, however, Brown was going the other way, in a sense, regarding the constitutionally autonomous University of California.

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