Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Columnist gives sobering talk on economy to Solano leaders

FAIRFIELD — Longtime state newspaper columnist Dan Walters offered a sobering perspective of the economy in a talk Wednesday before Solano County leaders.
Walters told the crowd at a Solano Economic Development Corporation breakfast that economists have little evidence the state will emerge from the economic downturn anytime soon.

“No one truly knows what will happen next in this state,” Walters said at the Hilton Garden Inn in Fairfield.

The Sacramento Bee columnist, who’s written 7,500 columns on state issues since 1981, placed the blame on the structure of state governance and California’s attractiveness to new industry and investors.

He went through what the state’s resume might look like, with the negatives outweighing the two benefits he named: scenery and climate. Negatives include:

  • Fifth-highest tax burden on income basis in the nation.
  • Worst traffic congestion of any state.
  • Floundering educational system now rivaling Mississippi.
  • A jungle of red tape.
  • Second-worst roadway conditions in nation behind New Jersey.

“Where Tony Soprano buries bodies in the road,” Walter quipped.

Economic downturns are nothing new to the state, he said, although the current one has been the most destructive. A pattern of ups and downs dates back to the late 1970s, Walters said.

He put it like this: a boom hit in the 1980s when the federal government spent heavily on weapons manufactured here. Then it crashed in the 1990s when the Cold War ended. It boomed again with the rise of the tech industry and crashed soon after. One final up and down came with the housing boom and bust.

“You have to ask, ‘Do we want another bubble?’ ” Walter said.

For California to compete in the global economy, it must admit that its way of governing is broken, Walters said. He said he thinks the state has rendered itself ungovernable.

Reach David DeBolt at 427-6935 or