In June of 2003, California’s Democratic governor, Gray Davis — faced with a $38.2 billion budget deficit, as big as all the other 49 states combined — announced that he would raise $4 billion by reversing a cut to his state’s vehicle registration fees.
Vehicle registration is a mostly progressive fee that is assessed based on the value of the car, but Davis’ move ended up tripling the fee the average driver would pay. In a state still reeling from the worst of the dot com bust, the outrage was palpable.
California’s Republican Party seized the moment to launch a recall effort personally funded by millionaire Darrell Issa (R-CA) — who has always had a unique interest in cars. Issa, of course, thought he would be the natural replacement for Davis, but Arnold Schwarzenegger joined the race.
The newly elected Governator reversed the fee and ended up growing the deficit to as large as $42 billion in 2009.
A mere four years later, California has a new problem: What to do with the projected $850 million surplus it will have by the end of the year.
We’ve told you about the worst ideas from the Tea Party governments of Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas. So we figured you might be ready for a story with a happier ending. Even though the state is not completely free of problems, it is in vastly better fiscal shape than it has been in more than a decade.
Writer David Dayen has laid out how California’s progressives remade the state’s politics and corrected those who think Jerry Brown is deserving of most of the credit.
But the steps California’s Democratic majority took to erase tens of billions from the deficit and return their state to fiscal sanity are pretty simple. And they can be replicated in other states to overcome Republican obstruction and polices that favor the wealthy at the expense of working families.
Here are five of the best ideas from California’s Democrats.
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