Bill Lockyer has enjoyed a state policy career that has spanned decades in the California Capitol and key elected positions. While he no longer runs for office, his views and perspectives are still sought after because of the significant experience he developed on California state policy during his tenure. As a result, what he sees for the next 25 years for the state is sometimes familiar and often critical in issues that still need to be resolved by future leadership.
California, per Bill Lockyer, has the odd situation of simultaneously enjoying some of the most advanced science and technology resources and educational institutions while at the same time struggling to reach sufficient performance numbers in many primary level schools with basic educational requirements. Much of the issue has to do with a disconnected purpose and lack of long-term planning of what education is supposed to deliver from K-8 grades all the way through college. Multiple ideas and prototypes exist, with science, technology, and math being the favorites, but until this umbrella strategy finally gets put in place, Bill Lockyer continues to see the state struggle with its educational paradox well into the 2010s.
On the economic side of things, Bill Lockyer expects California to quickly recover from the pandemic impacts of 2020 and to charge forward over the next decade or two. The pandemic dramatically reshaped the state’s workforce, pushing much of it into the new paradigm of flexible work designs, and that freed up a number of options that will increase employment numbers as well as boost the tax base from income tax collection. However, most importantly, the higher tax brackets grew in size and income, which means the state coffers will realize the benefit of that growth over the next few years. Long-term, however, Bill Lockyer notes the state has to balance growth with smart spending, or it will again be back in the same problem of overweight government services and insufficient revenues to pay for everything.
Law & Order
Bill Lockyer is no stranger to law and order issues. Over his career, he has been instrumental in California trial court reform as well having served as the Attorney General for the state as well. Going forward, the state has a major challenge in how it deals with incarceration. Bill Lockyer notes the current incarceration level has reached 97,000 state prisoners which in turn costs the state close to 10 percent of its state budget to keep contained and supported. All things being kept the same, Bill Lockyer sees the state continues to struggle with a long-standing issue of reforming criminal law or building more prisons. However, the state won’t have the option of doing anything and ignoring the matter.
The state is also likely to swing more swinging back and forth on crime definitions and who should be put in prison. The recent initiatives approved with Proposition 47 reduced many felony crimes to misdemeanors, which Bill Lockyer expects will eventually have a pendulum reaction back the other way as communities get tired of misdemeanor punishments being ineffective.
Health & Human Services
A key factor that will weigh on the elements above is the state’s safety net. The COVID pandemic brutally exposed how fragile and thin California’s basic health system and social support resources are. The state will have to push and find a solution, from Bill Lockyer’s opinion in solving the universal healthcare and support issue conundrum once and for all. And that will require funding and budget resources to make happen.
Finally, Bill Lockyer sees population growth and development running headlong into resource protection, which will force multiple choices on how to deal with sprawl as well as finally pushing the state hard into smart density planning. California is famous for its natural resources and water, but it will be sorely tested over the next two decades if planning doesn’t start now to develop smarter and better.