California’s byzantine regulatory structure is hamstringing its efforts at conserving water. The LA Times reports:
[A] state appeals court on Monday ruled that a tiered water rate structure used by the city of San Juan Capistrano to encourage conservation was unconstitutional. The Orange County city used a rate structure that charged customers who used small amounts of water a lower rate than customers who used larger amounts.
But the 4th District Court of Appeal struck down San Juan Capistrano’s fee plan, saying it violated voter-approved Proposition 218, which prohibits government agencies from charging more for a service than it costs to provide it. […]
The stakes are high because at least two-thirds of California water providers, including the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, use some form of the tiered rate system.
A tangle of laws, voter-approved propositions, NIMBY regulations, and other man-made problems has tied California into knots and made it impossible for the Golden State to manage what is a difficult but not insurmountable water supply challenge. Some of the laws and policies responsible are “liberal” and some are “conservative” in inspiration, but the combination is a hopeless mess.
The reform of California is a major test of the American system. California has wrecked its middle class even as it has produced plutocratic elites in Hollywood and Silicon Valley. The state has serious poverty, too—perhaps the worst in the country. That our largest state is a hopeless muddle, its infrastructure is in disarray, and its cost structure is increasingly uneconomic—this isn’t something that the rest of the country can just slough off. This is a national concern partly because the U.S. economy can’t do really well if California is sick; and partly because many of the same problems now choking California have taken root in other states as well as at the federal level.
We’ve criticized Governor Jerry Brown over his hare-brained high speed rail boondoggle, but in many ways he’s been a decent governor, struggling with intractable problems and making some progress here and there. However, California’s problems are so deep-seated and so tangled that even a great governor would be hard pressed to change the state’s trajectory.
California isn’t the only U.S. state approaching the limits of governance: New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Florida and a number of other states face a toxic mix of political gridlock, inflated government costs, dysfunctional regulatory climates, entrenched public unions, crony capitalist networks, special interest domination of the political process, underperforming schools, horrendous prisons, decaying cities—the list goes on, and should be familiar to our readers.
California needs water, but America needs new answers for problems that neither Democratic governance nor GOP nostrums have been able to address.