Making Sense by Michael Reagan

Having a happy New Year this year won’t be easy in California.

The state is a fiscal, social and economic train wreck that just keeps on wrecking.

As we roll into 2024, we’ve learned we’re looking at a projected budget deficit of $68 billion.

The Los Angeles Times explained the cause of California’s huge shortfall this week in its usual biased way – without pinning blame on the Democrats in Sacramento whose policies are responsible for it.

The deficit is not just because the state’s tech economy has cooled, unemployment is up and state income tax revenues are projected to fall by 25 percent. Or because gazillionaires like Elon Musk have taken their big companies and fortunes to Texas.

The experts in the Los Angeles Times pointed to another important contribution to the budget shortfall – more and more well-off, well-educated, ordinary Californians are leaving the state.

The escapees – the middle-class people who average about $150,000 a year – have finally had it with California’s higher taxes and permanently higher cost of living.

And, though the Los Angeles Times article does not mention it, the escapees have also had it with the general decline of the California Dream.

The state’s $68 billion shortfall is bound to grow even larger next year when a wave of costly new illegal immigrants arrives and a few hundred thousand more Californians flee to income-tax-free states like Florida, Texas and Tennessee.

But don’t worry, a mere $68 billion in red ink won’t stop California’s Democrats from spending more money than they have.

It’s the way they roll.

I remember what happened way back in 1966, right after my father became governor after defeating incumbent Pat Brown in a landslide.

On his way out the door after cleaning out his desk, Brown’s budget director stuck his head in my father’s office.

“By the way,” he said, “We’re spending a million dollars more a day than we’re bringing in.” Then he left.

My father just sat there, shocked. He had no idea. No one did.

Ultimately, because the state constitution says the budget has to be balanced, my father

Was forced to do something he never would have done otherwise – raise taxes.

But then he did something else. A few years later, his budget guy came in and said, “Governor, we have an issue.”

“What is it,” my father said.

“We have a surplus. We need to know what to do with a budget surplus.”

My dad simply said, “Well, give it back.”

“We don’t have a way to do that,” the budget guy said. “No one has ever done that before.”

My dad told the budget guy to find a way to give the money back to the taxpayers who had overpaid and given the state a surplus, and that’s what happened.

If you want to know the difference between a Red State and Blue State, that’s a pretty good example.

Of course, what my dad did almost 60 years ago is not how things work in Sacramento today.

We’re living in a one-party state run by Democrats who, whenever they get a surplus, yell “Windfall!” and spend and tax us even more.

It’s really sad to see what’s happened to California.

In the 1960s and 1970s it truly was the Golden State. Everything the Beach Boys said about it was true.

But it wasn’t just the sunshine and the beaches that made California a paradise.

Back then it was America’s model state. It had a sensible government, the best infrastructure and its economy was wide open, healthy and growing.

Hundreds of thousands of Americans came out to California from dull or dying places like Des Moines and Pittsburgh every year. They lived better, happier, more prosperous lives – and never dreamed of leaving.

Every year I look forward to the New Year. I don’t feel too good about what 2024 will bring for my wrecked state. But there’s always hope that the people still here will wake up and put California back on track.

Happy New Year, everyone.

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Copyright 2023 Michael Reagan, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Michael Reagan, the son of President Ronald Reagan, is an author, speaker and president of the Reagan Legacy Foundation. Send comments to [email protected] and follow @reaganworld on Twitter.