California: Are We Back?

The economy is improving, the state’s finances are better than they have been in years, and polls show Californians are increasingly optimistic about the state’s future. After years of doom and gloom, is the Golden State back on its feet?

For most of its history, California was seen as a beacon of American opportunity. Then an economic nose dive and a dysfunctional political system led plenty of observers to write the state’s obituary. Some said we stopped investing in public infrastructure and providing decent public services. Others said too much taxation and regulation choked the economy. Almost everyone lost confidence in our public leaders and the system they use to govern. But in the last few years, California voters have reformed the political system and pumped new revenue into the public purse. Now, for the first time in years, most Californians say the state is headed in the right direction. Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval rating has topped 50 percent, and most Californians expect the Governor to be able to work with the Legislature to accomplish a lot in the coming year.

So what’s next for California? Have we “fixed” what was wrong? Or is this false confidence, a case of turning a blind eye to real problems that remain? As the state seems poised at a turning point, we look at the future of America’s most important state.