Introduction – Unsustainable California: The Top 10 Issues Facing the Golden State
In this 10-part report, we present and assess California’s 10 greatest challenges. We selected these challenges due to their unsustainability and the risk they pose to future Golden State generations.
Today’s California is undergoing changes and facing uncertainty. Like many states nationwide, California is emerging from the recent economic recession short on revenue and high on debt. The state economy shows signs of recovery. California’s recently released budget suggests that the state now has a modest operating surplus, and the state’s political leaders have already begun painting a rosy picture of California’s economic outlook. However, the full story is in the details.
A closer look reveals that California has many lingering challenges that the state’s political leaders have yet to address and resolve. Studying these issues reveals a common underlying theme: unsustainability. California as we know it is simply unsustainable. To correct California’s unsustainable course, the state requires informed citizens and leaders willing to tackle the state’s budget realities. We must end the cycle of neglect, ignorance, and postponement. Unless we end the cycle we leave these costly problems for future Californians to inherit.
California as we know it is simply unsustainable. To correct California’s unsustainable course, the state requires informed citizens and leaders willing to tackle the state’s budget realities.
Over the next several years, volatile revenues, disproportionate spending growth, mounting debts, and inadequate infrastructures present significant hurdles for the state and its citizens. All the while, California’s population will grow and age considerably, placing even greater strains on state resources. Even worse, California’s citizens are not armed with sufficient information due to California’s notoriously low levels of transparency, public disclosure, and civic engagement.
In the following sections, California Common Sense presents and assesses California’s 10 greatest challenges. The 10 critical issues are as follows:
- Water Supply: Outdated Infrastructure and Unreliable Water Supply
- Revenue Uncertainty: Unpredictable Tax Structures and Budgets
- Wall of Debt: Accounting Gimmicks and Understated Debt
- Public Retirement Benefits: Missed Payments, Mounting Debts, and Poor Management
- Healthcare: Rising Costs and Diminishing Access to Care
- K-12 Education: Low, Unstable Funding and Poor Student Performance
- High-Speed Rail: Unrealistic Estimates and Poor Implementation
- Crime and Corrections: Massive Overcrowding, Rising Costs, and Measuring Realignment’s Impact
- Economy: Lagging Recovery and Uneven Economic Growth
- Civic Engagement: Lack of Transparency, Eroding Public Trust, and Low Voter Turnout
We selected these challenges due to their unsustainability and the risk they pose to future Golden State generations. While no report can cover all of California’s challenges, this report provides a core understanding of ten critical issues and the importance they bear on the state’s long-term future.
Editor’s Note: We sincerely thank Kimberly Ang and Gwendolyn Holst for the excellent assistance they provided throughout the editing, formatting, and publishing processes.