California’s biggest problem is up for debate. Sadly, there are many contenders vying for that dubious distinction. But instead of focusing on the problems, we need to be focused on solutions. Without rank, here are five, chronic California problems where state leadership has completely failed and one simple idea for each to help improve governance and boost our quality of life.


Budget: This budget year, California faces a nearly $40 billion deficit.  To avoid such massive shortfalls, California should adhere to the state’s “Gann Limit,” a law passed by the voters in 1979 that limits annual budget growth to a combination of population growth and inflation. The Gann Limit is ignored or avoided by legislative trickery but it provides a simple structure that would avoid the massive budget growth that contributes to massive deficits whenever state revenues drop. Gann addresses California’s spending problem.

Housing: One of many reasons housing is so expensive is excessive government fees, which can run as high as $135,000 for building a single family residence. Right now, an El Dorado County man is battling these fees in his Sheetz v. County of El Dorado, California case currently before the US Supreme Court. I hope he wins, but the state doesn’t need to be forced into fairness by a court decision. Developer fees serve a specific purpose but have morphed into a revenue source for governments. They should all be reviewed to ensure they are meeting their purpose only and not as a backdoor funding source for general government operations. This could help lower housing costs.


Crime: California’s empowered criminals do not fear punishment and retailers are paying the price. Governor Newsom just recently witnessed this himself at a Target store. Thieves can afford to be cavalier, and casually stroll out of stores with arms full of merchandise because we’ve essentially eliminated punishment for shoplifting anything under $950 in value. I’m encouraging Californians to sign the petition to repeal Prop. 47 that has wreaked havoc on our state, and give prosecutors the ability to charge smaller retail thefts as felonies once again. 

Insurance: The only thing leaving the state faster than its residents might be its insurers, who are pulling out of all or some of California’s markets seemingly by the day. California must repeal Prop. 103 and make it easier for insurance companies to adjust rates and offerings. While this may lead to some price increases in the short term, providing a framework for more insurers to write policies here will lead to more competition, more choice, and more options for consumers.


Homelessness: This problem may be most emblematic of the California Way, where taxpayers pay the most but get the least. Cities in some of the state’s most beautiful and valuable areas have been overrun by a permanent cadre of homeless, many of whom are obviously mentally ill and who, by their own admission, are addicts.  The state must dramatically expand the concept of forced care in Governor Newsom’s “Care Court” proposal, to promote the health and safety of the homeless, but also to reclaim our streets, parks, and sidewalks for their intended purposes.

President Reagan once said there are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. And it won’t get better overnight. California holds all the promise it ever did and it can again be a national leader in all that is right and good. It has been in decline, but this can all be turned around by showing the political will to implement simple ideas that would reverse some of the state’s chronic problems.  With the right choices, our future is bright.

Senator Ted Gaines (Ret.) was elected to represent the Board of Equalization’s First District. He is a leading taxpayer advocate, defender of Prop. 13, and is committed to providing trustworthy and transparent representation for nearly ten million constituents in 34 counties of northern, eastern, and southern California. For more information, visit

Ted Gaines
Author: Ted Gaines