Tom Lackey | Can We Afford to Call California Home?

SCV Voices: Guest Commentary
SCV Voices: Guest Commentary

The dream that was the Golden State is quickly fading. California’s promise of a gilded future is turning into nothing more than fool’s gold for those who are not extremely wealthy. Every day, I hear from people looking to move out of state because they are finding it harder to survive and make ends meet. California claims the highest poverty rate in the nation and unless something changes, it’s only going to get worse. Unfortunately, if the state government was making better decisions, it wouldn’t have to be this way. 

Californian’s affordability problem continues to get progressively more expensive. The housing crisis is deepening each day and transportation costs are rising due to bad policies from the governor and liberal lawmakers in the State Capitol.

Given this, it’s no surprise that 140,000 people move out of state each year – three times the number that left in 2010. The out-migration isn’t spread evenly across all demographic groups, either. Specifically, the people packing up and moving are middle-class Californians, right at the age when they are looking to start a family.

Sacramento’s decisions are hollowing out the middle class, hurting a crucial part of our communities and California’s future. The political establishment is simply out of touch with the struggles everyday people are facing.

Housing costs are the biggest struggle facing Californians. Our state is desperately low on homes that young, middle-class families can afford. Overregulation has slowed new home production to dangerous levels, and many of the houses we do build are unaffordable for everyone but the wealthy.

In a baffling decision earlier this year, state bureaucrats decided to mandate solar power on all new homes built in the state — adding yet another expense that makes buying a new house out of reach for many individuals. Ordinary Californians can decide to rent at sky-high rates or cross state lines to become homeowners. California’s inaction to cut red tape for homebuilders is making it easier for them to choose the latter.

Beyond housing, the second biggest struggle for ordinary Californians is transportation costs. Last year, Sacramento passed the gas tax increase knowing it would hurt working-class Californians. The weight of increased gas prices is crushing ordinary people who are already being squeezed by rising rents or long commute times because they can’t afford to live near their jobs.

State lawmakers have the power to get California back on the right track. They just have to make the right choices.

In a crisis, leaders need to take action. The Legislature can choose to build more homes now. Sacramento can choose to streamline regulations to build affordable housing for the people, the same way it does for sports stadiums like the new Rams and Chargers stadium being built in Inglewood.

Instead of raising transportation taxes, Sacramento can choose to use existing funds to fix our roads. California has a multi-billion-dollar surplus that could have been spent on improving our roads. The $52 billion in added taxes from the gas tax increase is putting an unnecessary burden on working-class families. Sacramento needs to choose policies that ease the burden to get to and from work, not make it harder.

People across the state are asking themselves the same question: Is California still affordable for working and middle-class families?

Based on the lack of action from Sacramento to provide common-sense solutions to these problems, the answer to this question is a resounding “no.” The out-of-state migration numbers show the heavy price California’s problems is placing on middle- and working-class families.

The numbers don’t lie. Unfortunately, California is becoming a state where only the rich can survive. The Golden State needs leaders willing to address the challenges of everyday Californians and support policies that help, not hurt, the middle class.

Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, represents the 36th Assembly District, which includes the Antelope Valley and portions of the Santa Clarita Valley.

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