Nowhere has Donald Trump's ascendency to the presidency of the United States been met with more consternation and frustration than in California. Even Orange County, which has long been known as "the most Republican county in the nation," turned blue this year. Couple this with the newly-earned super-majority status the Democrats will enjoy in the state Legislature and the rest of the nation can expect to see an interesting showdown between the federal government and the largest state in the union.
The tension is already beginning to show. Early posturing by key leaders in California's majority party indicates that they are gearing up for a long – and tense – four years of resistance. That has been validated by the announcement that the Legislature has hired President Obama's former attorney general, Eric Holder. While most of President-elect Trump's policies are not finalized, early signs suggest they may directly challenge the way things have been done in California – or, at least that's what the majority party's "fight versus flight" reaction appears to assume. What we do know is that California appears to be more focused on posturing than on pulling up a seat at the table with the rest of the country.
We also know that governments in this nation do not operate in isolation. In fact, many state budget priorities are dictated by federal funding. Healthcare, transportation and environmental issues are all heating up to be battle areas between the Golden State and Washington. If California bites the hand that feeds it in one or more of these critical funding areas, the onus will be on the state's Democratic leadership to figure out how to close the gap if there is a loss of federal funds.
What could be jeopardized? Take healthcare, for instance. California receives roughly $20 billion annually through Obamacare. Or transportation. Trump has proposed a massive infrastructure overhaul, but his plan will be met with blowback from deficit hawks and mass-transit may not be made a priority. This could put huge holes in California's most favorite pet projects, like high-speed rail where $3.3 billion from the federal government goes toward just one of its sections, and a Bay Area Rapid Transit extension.
In terms of climate change, Governor Brown may have the most to lose. The Environmental Protection Act can override state climate policies, big and small. Perhaps it is no surprise then that Governor Brown came out early acknowledging Trump. Brown said in a press release regarding cooperation with Trump, "In California, we will do our part to find common ground whenever possible."
Despite false assurances that California's economy has recovered, the state's general fund can't handle another hit. California has the largest unrestricted net deficit of any of the 50 states. It's nearly $170 billion, and growing.
And consider that $84.6 billion, out of the $95.9 billion dollars in total federal funding that California is projected to receive in 2016-17 for health and human services, education, labor and transportation, is for local assistance. With the pressures of unfunded pension liabilities overwhelming local budgets, decisions made in the Legislature could put local municipal finances further in peril.
At a time of unparalleled polarization, California now finds itself in the uncomfortable position of being one of the bluest states in a very red nation.
Trump has called on America to bind the wounds of division, asking all Republicans, Democrats, and Independents across the nation to come together as one united people. The Legislature should heed his call.
California's leaders can ensure that the money they send to Washington makes its way back to Sacramento by forging a healthy and robust relationship.
However, if California decides to draw a line in the sand, Trump, the consummate businessman, might not view California as a very good investment. This will hurt every resident.
There are only a few days left to re-posture and show better leadership, rather than continue with showmanship that resembles a major and dangerous game of "chicken." My hope is that California's majority party focuses on reaching across the aisle – with an olive branch – for the betterment of the state.
State Senator John Moorlach represents the 37th District of California, is a trained Certified Financial Planner and is the only CPA in the California State Senate. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.