As 2014 draws to a close, Californians are planning for the years ahead. And while 2015 looks to have a promising start–a growing economy, drought relief, and some balance in the state legislature–many questions lie ahead. Here are the top 5:
1. What will be the effect of California’s most ambitious liberal laws? On Jan. 1, many new laws will take effect, as well as provisions of laws passed long ago. These include a new gas tax as part of the state’s cap-and-trade system, an end to the sale of certain types of guns, and a plastic bag ban, among others–all of which will deepen the state’s liberal culture of high taxes and heavy regulation. Will 2015 be the year that voters finally rebel and push back the boundaries of the bluest state in the Union?
2. What will Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer decide? Gov. Jerry Brown remains one of the most interesting dark horse candidates in the 2016 presidential race. If he ran, he would be the only Democrat with real governing experience and at least some achievements. Doubt also encircles Sen. Barbara Boxer, as she is rumored to be retiring when her term expires in 2016. That could open up opportunities for many likely contenders–and reshape the state’s liberal Democratic establishment.
3. Will the startup bubble burst? California’s economy and its public finances have been buoyed by the good fortunes of the tech industry, fueled in part by the JOBS Act, a rare bipartisan achievement of the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives that made it easier for fledgling companies to seek investors. However, some–like billionaire libertarian Peter Thiel–are warning that the tech boom is a bubble waiting to burst. If that happens, the consequences could be severe–for California and the nation.
4. Will Proposition 30 be renewed? Jerry Brown’s 2012 referendum raised taxes–supposedly temporarily–on the wealthy. While the effects continue to be debated, the tax hike contributed to a rare state budget surplus, and seems not to have driven taxpayers out of the state (at least, no faster than they were leaving anyway). Though Brown says he will not renew Prop. 30, his party may not agree, and liberal Democrats may try to renew it–perhaps using the iconic Proposition 13 as a bargaining chip.
5. What will Mother Nature do? This is always a poignant question in California. Not only is the state still suffering from a crushing drought despite recent rains, but several powerful earthquake faults are long overdue for a major adjustment.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak