California is All Wrong on New Housing

 

By Richard Colman

The target is 3.5 million new California homes by 2025.  That’s what California’s new Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom wants to see in the Golden State.

When it comes to housing, Newsom has things backwards.

Instead of encouraging the construction of new housing, Newsom should give people who live in California — or may at some future time want to live in California — an incentive to leave the state or never try to enter.

Newsom should be following the plans of Tom McCall, governor of Oregon from 1967 to 1975.  McCall, a Republican, was a vigorous environmentalist.  He died in 1983.

According to a 2013 report from Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB), McCall “. . . put environmental protection ahead of economic growth.”

The OPB report said that McCall had a slogan, “Come visit, don’t stay.”

During the McCall era, other, similar slogans emerged.  One slogan said, “People don’t tan in Oregon.  They rust.”

Another slogan stated that non-Oregonians entering the state should be greeted by signs stating, “Welcome to Oregon.  Now turn around and go home.”

California has 40 million people — more people than all of Canada.

There is not enough room for all these Californians.  Housing prices in California are astronomical.  In California’s coastal regions, houses that cost $25,000 in 1960 are now selling for $2.5 million or more.

Taxes in California are high.  The state’ sales tax is the highest in the nation.  The state’s gasoline tax, depending on the statistics used, is the nation’s highest or second highest.  The state’s personal income tax has the nation’s highest top bracket, 13.3 percent.

Gov. Newsom ought to be doing everything he can to bring California’s population down.  The governor should be taking his cues from Oregon’s McCall.

Newsom may not have to do anything at all to reduce California’s population.  The state’s high cost of living and the promise of even higher taxes ought to force plenty of Californians to go to another state or country.  In fact, if Newsom raises taxes to even higher levels, even more Californian’s can be expected to leave.

But there are special incentives that Newsom can use to reduce the state’s population level.

Newsom could offer cash bonuses — or tax rebates — to people who leave.  He could ask the state legislature to give money or rebates to Californians who, on the condition that they never return, leave the state.  This approach may face constitutional obstacles.

Another proposal, perhaps of dubious constitutionality, would be to impose a special tax on new residents.  What would happen if each new resident had to pay $100,000 just to buy or rent shelter in California?

On Nov. 4, 1986, Californians approved Proposition 63, an amendment to the state’s constitution.  The proposition passed with 5.1 million “yes” votes (73 percent) to 1.9 million “no” votes (27 percent).  The proposition declared that English is the official language of the State of California.  Newsom could rule that Californians who are over a given age and cannot speak English, must be barred from living in or moving to California.  Again, there may be constitutional issues.

Taking a cue from President Donald Trump, Newsom could propose the construction of a wall around all of California’s borders.

Whatever Newsom does, he ought to follow the ideas of Oregon’s McCall. 

Newsom, by following McCall’s lead, could possibly become one of California’s greatest governors.  And — who knows? — housing in California could become affordable again.

 

Richard Colman is the founder and president of Biomed Inc., a biotechnology, publishing, and informatics company.  He is a biochemist and earned masters and doctoral degrees from the University of California at Berkeley.  He lives in Orinda, California.


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