The choice confronting California voters in November’s gubernatorial election was between Jarvis hip and Jarvis square. Both unconventional Jerry Brown and bland Evelle Younger, the Republican challenger, ran a campaign of cutbacks each proclaiming his commitment to a con- stitutional “spending limitation,” attacking his opponent for “overspending,” preaching the gospel of cheaper is better, less is more. Each even had his own Howard Jarvis commercial endorsement, and by election day, the injudicious or merely unlucky television viewer was likely to have seen Jarvis commending both Younger (“who brilliantly defended Proposition 13 before the State Supreme Court”) and Brown (“Sure, I wrote Proposition 13, but it took a dedicated governor to make it work”). Few political dialogues have so closely approached a monologue, few have offered so little hope to those most in need of public services.
For the figures are in on the condition of California’s welfare state after only five months of “making Proposition 13 work,” and they make melancholy reading, both in themselves and in what they portend. Despite a $5 billion bailout from Sacramento, Jarvis-Gann has cut deeply into municipal services. Over the past decade, Califor- nia’s 417 cities have had an average yearly increase in expenditures of 11.4 percent; in their first post-13 budgets, that increase fell to 4.6 percent—a little over half the annual inflation rate. The comparable figures for California’s 58 counties are an 11.3 percent average increase over the last 10 years, a 5.3 percent increase this year.