I was back in Sacramento recently for a meeting, where I got to enjoy the beautiful crisp fall weather and colorful leaves that I normally miss out on when the Legislature is out of session.
Out on the west steps the big, beautiful Christmas tree stood tall, dressed up with lights, ribbons and ornaments. It really is a beautiful sight during the holidays.
But it got me thinking. Frankly, California’s Capitol is more deserving of a Festivus pole.
Any Seinfeld fans here? If you’re not familiar, I encourage you to pull up the classic episode. For those who recognize the occasion, Festivus is coming up on Dec. 23.
Instead of a tree, Festivus has an aluminum pole. It needs no decorations. Especially not tinsel. Too distracting. After dinner, “The Airing of Grievances” takes place, during which you tell the people in your life all the ways they’ve disappointed you over the last year.
A lot disappointed me in Sacramento this year. Now, complaining is easy. But there’s a difference between complaining and shining a light on problems, which you’re going to hear about.
If the holidays are a time to take stock of the good things in our life, Festivus is a great opportunity to call out the bad. To focus on the work ahead, and stand up to the craziness driving families, businesses and opportunities out of the Golden State.
So with that, let me air some grievances.
The most egregious grievance on my list is California’s war on parental rights. State-sanctioned lockdowns truly harmed our youth. But armed with unprecedented power, progressive Democrat lawmakers doubled down with a slew of bad bills allowing minors to make major decisions regarding their physical and mental health without any parental consent or involvement.
The thought of the state being in charge of our children’s lives is frightening, especially since it repeatedly fails them. Take a look at the most recent standardized test scores released by the California Department of Education in October: Over 50% of schoolchildren fail to meet basic standards for English, 65% fail to meet basic math standards, and a whopping 70% fail to meet basic standards in science.
There is not a one-size-fits-all approach to learning, and I am a strong advocate for school choice. This stance gets reaffirmed every time entities like the California Teachers Association double down on policies that benefit the union to the detriment of students.
Even if you are involved in your children’s life and they get a good education, it’s harder than ever for young families to put down roots here. A recent Public Policy Institute of California poll reveals 7 out of 10 Californians think their kids will be worse off financially than their parents. Our cost of living is truly unbearable. Between the state’s median home price of well over $800,000, gas prices over $5 per gallon, and the highest taxes in the nation, Californians struggle to make ends meet.
At this point, I’m sure we all know people who have joined the “California Exodus” in search of better opportunities. My own daughter and her family are among them, which breaks my heart. But if you can’t get by, if you can’t grow, then it’s time to move on. This is true for families, and it’s true for businesses.
I really feel for small businesses. Not only were they shut down during the pandemic (while major corporations that can make major campaign donations got hall passes), but now the state is forcing them to pay higher taxes to make up for unemployment debt accrued during the pandemic. We could have made a sizeable dent in that debt when we had a $100 billion surplus, but now, just two years later, we’re staring down a worse-than-projected budget deficit of $68 billion. Funding for critical services – funding for just about anything – is going to be harder than ever to get.
Some other grievances from the last year?
Action on homelessness is still next to nonexistent, unless the governor is inviting special guests from China to town. Bipartisan solutions for the fentanyl crisis were killed in committee routinely. Even classifying the sex trafficking of minors as a serious felony barely squeaked out.
Soon your electric rates will be based on your income instead of your usage, and a Big Mac will cost you $16 due to the mandated $20-per-hour minimum wage for fast food workers.
On top of all that, the state is actively fighting to remove a measure from the November 2024 ballot that would make it harder for local governments to raise taxes.
Festivus’ “Airing of Grievances” is usually followed by “Feats of Strength,” but I think Californians would be better served with “Feats of Transparency, Rational Policy and Meaningful Action” when session resumes.
The governor and progressives in charge can flash shiny, tinsel-like distractions all they want. But the truth in this state is as plain, cold and hard as an undecorated aluminum pole.
It really is a Festivus for the rest of us.
Sen. Scott Wilk represents the 21st Senate District, which includes the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Victor valleys. “Right Here, Right Now” appears Saturdays and rotates among local Republicans.