Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | May 7, 2009

Voter anger

Today I got into an email discussion of voter anger in the context of California’s May 19 special election. One of the parties to this discussion implied that voters who oppose some or all of the statewide props (I voted no on all but 1F) are acting out of blind emotion rather than reason.

I admit that I am angry about the state’s mess. I blame it largely on state legislators who are unable to prioritize the good of the state higher than their own personal political fortunes. That’s why it took so long to fix gerrymandering, with many in the legislature opposed to it, many campaigning against the various propositions to implement redistricting reform. That’s why we have chronic budget stalemates: No one is willing to tell their core constituencies (read: the folks who pay for their campaigns) things that they don’t want to hear. Democrats don’t want to tell public employee unions that they need to take pay and pension cuts. Republicans don’t want to tell businesses that they need to pay more taxes.

But I’m voting no on Props 1A through 1E because I’ve dispassionately weighed the pros and cons and decided that I value fixing California’s structural budget problems now rather than making bandaid patches with these props and delaying and increasing the pain. I don’t paint those who disagree with me with pejoratives; I simply recognize that they have different priorities. I wish the courtesy was extended to me by those on the other side who want to dismiss me as “angry and emotional.”

And if you want just one reason why so many voters in California are justifiably angry, see Contra Costa Times columnist Daniel Borenstein’s recent column on public employee pensions. Remember, most private sector workers have no pensions at all, while at the same time they’re paying for fat salaries and pensions for public sector employees. So you might share Borenstein’s amazement:

Craig Bowen’s salary during his final year as chief of the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District was about $221,000 a year. So how did he end up retiring in December with a tax-advantaged annual pension of $284,000?

Read the entire column for the depressing and enraging answer.

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