By Jordan Heide
“My father always said that America has two religious holidays: Election day and the opening day of major league baseball.”
Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone has been actively involved in United States politics for more than four decades, the better half of which have been spent in the state of California. Elected as Mayor of Sunnyvale in 1979, Stone’s political career has since proliferated, encouraging him to become an active voice in the California Democratic Party.
Stone has been reelected to the office of County Assessor four times, where he presides over 1.75 million residents; most impressively, his constituency is larger than that of thirteen state governors.
Stone is also an avid participant in national politics. During the 1992 Presidential Elections, Stone developed a close relationship with Bill Clinton, for whom he served as a campaign advocate. Stone’s friendship with former President Clinton inspired him to devote his efforts to the candidacy of Hilary Clinton during the 2008 Primaries.
I recently spoke with Mr. Stone about the state of California politics. His insights acknowledged the floundering condition of the domestic budget and offered probable resolutions to restore California as a liberal beacon of political success.
“California is in dire need of reformation,” yearned Stone. According to California law, the legislature is required to obtain a two-thirds majority vote to pass a budgetary amendment. Such a supermajority is difficult to achieve, and often leads to congressional gridlock perpetuated by the minority- Republican incumbents, who have preemptively signed a pledge upon entering office that they will never vote in favor of a tax increase.
“Taxes are a necessary evil,” proclaimed Stone. “We won’t be able to resolve the economic disaster until we begin raising taxes. Our infrastructure is collapsing, the public school system is failing- the government needs to raise revenue in order to solve these problems.”
One popular suggestion for the redemption of the California economy- which is suffering a $26.3 billion deficit- is that of legalizing marijuana. Though the proposition has garnered ample support, Stone doubts that it will solve the economic crisis.
“I’m sure it will pass, but the calamities of the current economic crisis are too large to be untangled by the legalization of marijuana alone,” said Stone.
The legalization of drugs, however, offers a solution to the overcrowding of prisons, which undoubtedly imposes a heavy burden on Californian tax payers. According to USA Today, the number of inmates in the California State Prison System has increased from a modest 25,000 in 1980 to more than 170,000 in 2007, inflicting a fiscal encumbrance on California citizens that has almost septupled in less than 30 years.
“To legalize drug use would be to lift an immense weight off the shoulders of the tax payers,” asserted Stone.
Another contributing factor to California’s financial hemorrhage is that of its pension policies. Government employees are permitted to retire at the age of 50 whileprocuring the privilege of retaining an astronomical 90 percent of their peak salary. With an average life expectancy of 80 years, retirees are relying on the government to subsidize their livelihood for three decades.
“The minimum retirement age should be raised to 65. That would halve the financial burden on the state,” said Stone.
California’s reputation as a socially progressive state has suffered, as well. The success of Proposition 8, which revoked the right of gay couples to marry, posed a stark contrast to California’s ubiquitously liberal tendencies and provokedmonumental controversy. According to the Associated Press, campaigns for and against Proposition 8 acquired $39.9 and $43.3 million in funding, respectively, and were second only to the presidential campaigns of 2008 in terms of monetary support. California redeemed itself in August 2010 when U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn Walker overturned Proposition 8; his decision is subject to appeal, however, and will not have any finite bearing until the appeal process has concluded.
California’s greatest accomplishments in recent years have been under the guise of environmentalism. Despite its enormous population, California maintains one of the lowest per-capita energy-usage rates in the nation.
“Californians are very environmentally cautious,” said Stone. “The efforts of the state government to preserve our natural resources have demonstrated the success of environmental conservatism to the rest of the country.”
However, the nature of California politics still leaves much to be desired. Stone’s solution?
“Eradicate term limits, reform fiscal policies, constrain campaign finance, and eliminate the two-thirds majority required to amend the state budget.”
Stone also encourages Californians to remain averse to Tea Party rhetoric.
“Tea Party advocates, such as Meg Whitman, lack the political savvy to salvage the economy. They are very idealistic and possess no tangible plan for reformation.”
California’s restoration is contingent upon the adoption of fiscally liberal sanctions that embolden the state government and generate the necessary revenue required to stagnate the deficit. Tea Party sympathizers strongly oppose such policies (particularly tax increases), despite their empirical effectiveness.
It seems that California requires the liberal revitalization that it so champions- not just socially, but politically and economically, as well.