Friday, August 27, 2010

The Gann Limit & Proposition 13 (1987)

The Rodda Project: Echoes of the tax revolt

In 1987, Albert Rodda was a member of the board of trustees of the Los Rios Community College District. Back in a academic environment that included Sacramento City College, where he had once been a faculty member, Albert became accustomed to people calling him “doctor” more often than “senator.” Nevertheless, it was his political experience even more than his academic background on which he drew in analyzing the affect of the Gann limit on local government agencies. As a system of public education, the Los Rios district was naturally concerned by the likely negative impact of the Jarvis and Gann initiatives on its ability to find the budgetary resources necessary to maintain its growing education program.

The Senator's paper was published in October 1987 as a 23-page booklet for the use of his fellow trustees and other interested parties. The following text comes unmodified from the booklet's pages, except that I converted Rodda's footnotes into endnotes and recreated two one-page graphs that the Senator originally drew by hand.


Gann Limit & Proposition 13:
Negative Effects on Local Government Agencies, Including School & Community College Districts

Albert S. Rodda, Ph.D.
Los Rios Community College District
Board of Trustees
October, 1987

Part I — Gann Limit Deficiency
Part II — Impact of a Prudent Reserve
Part III — Gann Limit and Revenues
Part IV — Gann Signature Petition

You are informed, I know, about the problems relating to the Gann Limit. This paper includes an analysis of problems which relate to Proposition #13. The relation between the two is discussed and might be of interest to you.

Part I — Gann Limit Deficiency

In the Fall of 1978, Paul Gann, who worked with Howard Jarvis to gain voter approval of Proposition #13 in June of 1978, sent out a letter of solicitation for signatures to qualify a second constitutional amendment initiative for the ballot in 1979. The objective of the initiative was to place a constitutional limit on government expenditures, state and local, in California. It qualified and was approved in November 1979 and is identified as Proposition #4.1 In his solicitation, he stated that 1978-79 would be the base year for the limitation and that annual increases in the Appropriation Limit, as it was defined, would be no greater than the "changes in the Consumer Price Index (U.S.) plus population," and this language was interpreted by the voters to be the essential provision of the initiative when they approved it on November 6, 1979. It was expected, therefore, by those who signed the initiative petition that the future per capita government expenditures would be equal in real dollars to the level which was provided in fiscal year 1978-79, since the annual adjustments would reflect the change in the cost-of-living.

Inadequate attention was given to all of the material that Gann circulated, including a draft of the proposed initiative which contained the following language: “... cost-of-living shall be...the Consumer Price Index for the U.S. as reported by the U.S. Department of Labor or successor agency of the U.S. government; provided, however, that for purposes of Section I, the changes in the cost-of-living from the preceding year shall in no event exceed the change in California per capita personal income from the preceding year.”

Since that language was identical to the initiative approved by the voters, the initiative placed a restriction on the annual increase in the Gann Appropriation Limit which has failed to conform to the intent as stated in the "Spirit of 13, Inc." signature solicitation petition. The reason for that deficiency is that for three years, 1980-81, 1981-82, and 1983-84, the increase in per capita Personal Income was lower than the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index and the annual growth in the Appropriation Limit, therefore, was lower than the increase in the cost-of-living and the increase in population promised in the solicitation.

In 1986-87, six years after the initiative became effective, the Gann Limit factored out at $23.8 billion and reflected a 90% increase over the 1978-79 base year. In the same year, if the formula used to determine annual increases had been, as stated by Gann in his letter of solicitation, the CPI and Population, the Appropriation Limit would have been $25.3 billion or a 102% increase. The net difference between the two amounts to $1.5 billion, which means that had the changes in the CPI been utilized in the calculation the dollar amount of the 1986-87 Gann Appropriation Limit would have been 6% more than the Gann Limit which became effective in that year.

If the Gann formula had been adjusted for changes in Personal Income and population growth alone, the state's Gann Limit would have equalled $28.7 billion for 1986-87, an increase equal to 130% and the net dollar difference would have been $4.9 billion. Such a level, if established for the Gann Limit, would reflect, not only inflation and the population increase, but the 1mprovement 1n the state s economy because of economic growth, since the Index of Personal Income is a measurement of changes in the personal income experienced by the citizens as a consequence of changes in the state's economic productivity.

Another meaningful index is the Implicit Price Deflator for State and Local Government Purchases, which is a measurement of annual changes in the cost of purchases made by the state and local segments of government. If the Gann Limit formula had been adjusted annually to reflect the Implicit Price Deflator (IPD), the limit in 1986-87 would have amounted to $26.1 billion, or 3% greater than the Gann Limit, or a difference in the amount of $800 million.

When calculated on a per capita basis, the Gann Appropriation Limit factored out at $882 in 1986-87 and when calculated on the basis of increases in the CPI and population, it amounted to $937. An even more dramatic difference prevails, however, when a comparison is made between the Gann formula and annual increases based exclusively upon annual percentage changes in Personal Income and the population. On the basis of such a calculation, the per capita Gann Limit would have been to $1,060. If the Implicit Price Deflator were used, the per capita Gann Limit for 1986-87 would have been approximately $974.

It must be recognized that fiscal year, 1986-87, was a critical year, since it was the first year that the state was required to comply with the Gann mandated tax rebate, a rebate in the amount of approximately $1.1 billion. It is interesting, however, that while the state, because of a favorable revenue situation, is spending at the Gann Limit level, many agencies of local government and local school districts, including community college districts, will have to operate under 1987-88 budgets which will be below the appropriations authorized by the Gann Limit. The Los Rios Community College District, for example, is estimating that the district will be compelled to operate under a 1987-88 budget which will authorize expenditures approximately 7.2% less than allowed under the district's Gann Limit. In dollars, the difference amounts to approximately $5.3 millions. This problem, one of a revenue deficiency, is proving quite serious, and I will discuss it in detail in Part III of this paper.

Absent voter approval of a constitutional amendment which changes the Gann formula, this situation with respect to the state and local agencies of government will become even more severe in the future, and it will become even worse if the economy experiences another period of stagflation, which is the term used to describe an economic condition in which there is an economic recession during a period of price inflation. During such difficult economic circumstances the Gann Limit will not increase at a rate equal to the depreciation of the dollar, or inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index.

In considering a change in the formula, the minimum correction should be one that provides a formula which will, in the language of the Gann solicitation, adjust each year's Appropriation Limit so that it reflects “... changes in the Consumer Price Index (U.S.) plus population.” The enclosed charts reflect the difference between the Gann Limit as calculated on the basis of different measurements of changes in the economy—inflation and economic growth.2

Part II — Impact of a Prudent Reserve

An interesting aspect of the impact of the initiative is that it allows agencies of government to maintain prudent reserves against unforeseen economic circumstances and contingencies but it does not allow the reserves to be maintained outside of or above the Appropriation Limit. The result is, therefore, to accentuate the adverse effect of the Gann Limit upon real dollar state government expenditures. The reason is that when the base year, 1978-79, was determined, the state was involved in the Proposition #13 bailout of local governments and the schools in an amount equal to about $4.4 billion, which provided a partial offset of the $7 billion lost because of the effect of the initiative upon local property tax revenues. The slate did not include a Prudent Reserve in its budget appropriations, and, therefore, the surplus it carried forward into the next year was not a part of the base year Gann Appropriation Limit calculation. The calculations for the base year resulted in a Gann Limit equal to $12.5 billion which was equal to the state's total appropriations for that year. Today, when the state budget includes a surplus or Prudent Reserve, it is considered apart of the state budget and is included in the state appropriations which are subject to the Limit. The result is that the state Prudent Reserve reduces the appropriations which may be authorized to fund government services under the Limit by an amount of dollars equal to the dollars set aside as a reserve.

Because of Governor Deukmejian's experience with the 1982-83 state budget revenue shortfall in his first year as Governor, he has been adamant in his determination to set aside a minimum of approximately $1 billion in the form of a reserve against unanticipated contingencies. Since this $1 billion reserve has been provided in the 1987-88 budget and is calculated under the Gann Limit as a state expenditure, it compounds the problem the state is experiencing in adjusting to an expenditure control which, as I have calculated, is approximately $1.5 billion below what it would be if measured against a Limit which reflected changes in the CPI and population.

When these two negatives are added together, it is clear that the Gann Appropriation Limit is approximately $2.5 billion less than the amount necessary to assure the state that the per capita real expenditure in 1978-79 is maintained in 1987-88, nine years later. It amounts to about a 10% erosion in 1978-79 dollars.

It is only reasonable to argue, therefore, that the Gann Appropriation Limit should be changed in order to permit the maintenance of a responsible Prudent Reserve Against Economic Uncertainties which is outside and not within the Appropriation Limit. In fact, such a change is now being supported by Gann and his associates.

Part III — Gann Limit and Revenues

An interesting aspect of the current fiscal situation is the relation of government revenues to the Gann Limit, one which varies significantly among agencies of local government, cities and counties, and school districts, K-14. Some are close to their limits and others are significantly below their limits.

And while this fiscal confusion prevails at the local level and can be expected to continue into the future, the state, because the elasticity of its revenues3 exceeds the elasticity of the state Gann Limit, can be expected to experience revenue surpluses in the future which may not be utilized to finance state government programs. Many school districts, cities and counties, however, will be mired in an impossible situation—inadequate Gann Appropriation Limits and revenues below those necessary to finance educational and government services authorized by the Gann Limit levels.

The problem confronting local governments, of course, is directly related to the fact that their revenues, especially property tax revenues, are less elastic than their Gann Limits, which despite the acknowledged deficiency in the Gann formula in adjusting for inflation and population changes will increase at a more rapid rate than revenues, unless, of course, some changes are made in the state's fiscal and revenue structure, state and local.

Revenues at the state level are currently exceeding the Gann Appropriation Limit, a change from the pattern which prevailed during the first seven years of the Gann Limit, 1979-80 through 1986-87. In the first year of the implementation of Gann Limit, 1980-81, the state was meeting its budget expenditures through the use of carryover surpluses to supplement tax revenues which were not producing a level of state income equal to the Gann Limit—a condition which continued during the early eighties because of the adverse effect upon tax revenues of the recession experienced by the economy. As late as last year, the state's revenue deficiency was expected to continue through 1986-87 and possibly into 1987-88. To the surprise of the Deukmejian administration experts in state finance, who were making such predictions, the economy improved and generated a substantial increase in state revenues over the amount projected for 1986-87 and 1987-88. Unfortunately, because of the inability of the Legislature and the Governor to agree on the way in which the revenue increase should be utilized in the 1987-88 budget, appropriate legislation was not enacted, and the state, therefore, was confronted with a situation in which revenues in fiscal year 1986-87 exceeded the estimated Gann Appropriation Limit in the amount of approximately $1.1 billion dollars, including a reserve in the amount of $571 million. It is estimated that the state budget for 1987-88 will be within the Gann Limit and will include a Prudent Reserve of about $1.0 billion.

Had a compromise on the issue been achieved, a substantial portion of the state Gann Limit excess could have been allocated to local agencies and local school districts, K-14, in the form of state subventions which would be included in the local and not the state Gann Appropriation Limit.

As a consequence of the partisan political impasse, significant state tax revenues are being returned to the taxpayers, beginning in November of this year, while many agencies of local government and school districts, K-14, will have to cope with serious, if not almost impossible, budgetary problems.4 The history of the current fiscal situation for state and local governments is interesting. Unfortunately, the problem is not only serious, but it is quite complicated, and any substantive reform will prove controversial.

During the seventies a powerful tax revolt movement developed in the state and, as a consequence of the desperate need for the state to respond, the Legislature placed before the voters a property tax relief-reform statute which would have reduced property taxes thirty percent across the board, provided greater relief for senior citizens who were home owners or renters, and required the state to assume the local costs of SSI-SSP, Medi-Cal and AFDC. The proposal was rejected by the voters in favor of Proposition #13, which imposed upon local governments and the schools, K-14, a $7 billion reduction in property tax revenues. Since the result would have been devastating for fiscal year 1978-79, the state committed itself to a one-time bailout of local government and school districts. In the following year, the bailout was made ongoing through the enactment of AB 8, Greene. As apart of that legislation I approximately $800 million in local property tax revenues were shifted from the schools, K-14, to other local agencies of government.

One of the consequences of that action was to make the schools, K-14, more dependent upon the state for funding and to increase local governmental dependence upon the local property tax revenues. In those areas where there has been growth and development the fiscal situation has been favorable to the cities and counties; however, in those areas where there has been an absence of such development, the fiscal consequences of Propositions #13 and AB 8 have been unfavorable and current statistical data indicate that local agencies of government are suffering financially, and many now have annual revenues which are significantly below their Gann Appropriation Limits.

This, of course, is a result of the fact that under Proposition #13 when new construction is taxed, the property is assessed at the current market value, which is true also of property which changes ownership, but all other property is assessed annually to reflect only a 2% increases, the base year being the 1975-76 assessed value. Local revenues, therefore, in slow growth areas are increasing only at a modest rate and one which is not equal to the rate of increase in the Gann Limit.

Absent a determination on the part of the state to recognize this problem, local public services in areas of the state where there is a slow rate of growth will suffer seriously.

Voters may, under the provisions of Proposition #4, increase the local Gann Limit, but a voter approved expenditure limit increase may continue only for four years unless approved a second time by the voters. Any such action taken by the voters, therefore, will amount to a band-aid approach to a serious fiscal issue confronting those segments of government which are not experiencing favorable economic growth.

A change in the Gann Limit formula, though warranted, will not benefit local governments in slow growth areas, since the current problem is not a deficient expenditure authorization. It is a deficient revenue source. Unless the revenue situation improves, a greater annual increase in the Gann Appropriation Limit, resulting from a change in the formula, will merely widen the gap between revenues and the Gann appropriation authorization. Of course, those agencies of government in rapid growth areas will benefit, since they will be able to spend revenues they receive but may not appropriate under the current formula.

The fact of reality is that whereas the state will exceed the Gann Limit this year, 1986-87, and will return $1.1 billion to the taxpayers, most local agencies of government and school districts, K-14, are receiving cumulatively revenues, on the whole, below the Gann Limit. The difference varies, of course. Some counties and cities are spending at a level close to their Gann Limits and suffer primarily from the inadequacy of the Gann Limit formula to reflect adequately changes in the real value of the dollar. They would benefit from a change in the Gann Limit formula which made it reflect more realistically annual changes in inflation.

The state of California is fairly immune from this adverse fiscal circumstance in view of the fact that its revenue situation has not suffered a serious deterioration since 1978, the year Proposition #13 was approved by the voters.

The reason is that the state is not dependent upon the property tax for revenues. One adverse effect of Proposition #13 upon the state, however, was the fiscal burden it had to assume in order to bailout the schools and local agencies of government. Subsequent to Proposition #13, the voters approved two initiatives which virtually repealed the Inheritance and Gift tax and required the full indexation of the Personal Income tax. That action reduced the annual rate of growth of state revenues, but it has not been significantly adverse, at least as of now. State revenues are now less elastic than they were in the seventies but they still exceed an elasticity of unity, or 1.0, when the condition of the economy is favorable. And, of course, because of the reduction in the level of authorized state expenditures resulting from Proposition 114, the Gann Limit, state revenues are adequate to finance the state budget. During a period of economic recession, there is a potential for a revenue deficiency and that aspect of state finance warrants the maintenance of a Prudent Reserve, but the situation is not one which may be referred to as “Gloom and Doom,” as is the case with respect to a number of counties and some school districts.

During the seventies state revenues increased at a rate greater than that of Personal Income and the elasticity was greater than 1.0, sometimes as high as 1.1. Excluding several exceptional years during the seventies, revenue calculations indicate an elasticity in the magnitude of about 1.35. During the early years of the Reagan administration, however, when the national economy was in recession, the elasticity declined to about .7, or became inelastic. Today, because of improved economic conditions, state revenue elasticity is greater than unity, approximately 1.1, and is estimated to remain at that level until the economy experiences a decline with the onset of a recession, at which time it can be expected to decline below unity, possibly, depending upon the severity of the cyclical change in the economy, to a level of .7 or .8.

Different revenue sources have different elasticity. The state personal income tax tends to be more elastic than other state taxes. The corporate income tax tends to be elastic but it is a much smaller revenue source. The general sales tax is elastic during periods of economic growth, but sin taxes, those on alcohol and tobacco products, are inelastic, as is the gasoline tax per gallon. The revenues from these taxes are directly related to the number of units sold and that accounts for the lower elasticity.

Since the personal income tax and the tax on corporate income together constitute a large percentage of the revenues received by the state, state revenues tend to be relatively elastic and to provide a reasonable source of total revenues, especially during a period of economic expansion and inflation.

These conditions do not prevail at the local level of government, especially counties and school districts, where tax revenues are related to the local property tax. Prior to Proposition #13, the local property tax tended to be moderately elastic, but because Proposition #13 limits annual increases to 2% of the value of the property, the base year being 1975-76, property tax revenues have lost considerable elasticity, especially in those areas where there is not a high rate of property transfer and modest real estate development.5 In such areas local governments do not have a tax or revenue base which increases annually at a rate which reflects inflation and normal increases in the cost of providing government services. It is largely because of this condition that cities, counties, and school districts are experiencing difficulties: one, due to the inadequacy in the Gann Appropriation Limit, and, two, due to the failure of property tax revenues to increase at a rate adequate to finance government services. As indicated above, the problem is worse, in fact very serious, in those geographical areas where there is a low rate of economic development, primarily agricultural and timber producing regions. In areas where enrollment declines are experienced by the schools, K-14, the fiscal situation is made even more negative because revenues from the state are based upon average daily attendance, ADA, as is the Gann Appropriation Limit. Thus, when ADA declines, total school revenues will decline or become stable, depending upon the cost-of-living or COLA adjustments provided through the state funding formula. Of course, the situation varies from area to area; nevertheless, the fiscal situation confronting many school districts and non-growth counties is quite critical. Unfortunately, the local agencies of government and the schools have no power to respond to the situation.

For some counties and special districts, the situation is quite negative because the state does not automatically compensate for property tax revenue declines or inadequacy.

Such a condition can compound over time and, as a result, controlled expenditures which are funded significantly from local revenues may increase at a much lower rate than the rate of increase authorized by the local Gann Appropriation Limit. This can account for the development of a sizeable gap between authorized expenditures and the revenues available to finance them, an unfortunate circumstance which a number of counties have experienced.

Statistical data indicate this situation to prevail in some areas of the state. For example:
  • Siskiyou in 1984-85 was funded at 66.5% of its Gann Limit and is estimated in 1986-87 to be at a 61.5% level.
  • Stanislaus in 1984-85 was funded at 63.5% of its Gann Limit and is estimated in 1986-87 to be at a 59.9% level.
  • Yolo in 1984-85 was funded at 59.9% of its Gann Limit and is estimated in 1986-87 to be at a 57.3% level.
  • Lassen in 1984-85 was funded at 63.5% of its Gann Limit and is estimated in 1986-87 to be at a 57.8% level.
Similar data relating to counties located in growth areas indicate expenditures equal to a higher percentage of the Gann Limit.

1984-85   1986-87
San Francisco95.1%86.9%
San Bernardino   87.9%99.5%
San Mateo86.2%92.3%

Shasta County has closed and terminated its countywide library system. The County Supervisors are claiming a $2.6 million shortfall in the county's 1986-87 budget. Butte County is planning to take the same course unless the cities in the county agree to contribute to the support of the library system. Butte County is calculating a revenue shortfall equal to $7.3 million in 1987-88 or 23.6% of its Gann Limit. Tehama is interesting since it has announced that it is bankrupt and that it will be unable to continue providing basic county government services. In 1984-85 the Tehama county limit was $11.7 million and appropriations were $9.6 million, or 82% of the Limit and a shortfall of $2.5 million. In 1985-86 the Tehama County Gann Limit was $12.5 million and appropriations were $10.1 million or 81% of the Limit. The shortfall was $2.37 million. There is no current data available, but it is evident that the fiscal situation is even more negative.

In 1986-87, the aggregate dollar deficiency was serious for those counties which were well below their Limits. The deficiency for El Dorado was $12.6 million and its Limit was $40.1 million; for Siskiyou, it was $2.8 million and its Limit was $14.1 million; for Trinity, it was $3.3 million and its Limit was $7.8 million; for Tuolumne, it was $9.5 million and its Limit was $21.7 million; for Yolo, it was $19.6 million and its Limit was $46.4 million and for Alpine, it was $2.1 million and its Limit was $3.5 million.

Sacramento County had a Limit of $201 million and a revenue deficiency of $31.7 million, or 15.8% below its Limit.

For the year, the total of the fifty-eight county appropriation limits equaled $6.37 billion; total revenues available to finance expenditures, however, equalled $5.59 billion. The revenue shortage for all counties amounted to $783 million, or a deficiency of 12%.

Similar fiscal problems confronted school districts which had revenues less than or below the Gann Limit, including community college districts.6

The percentage of revenues to district Gann Appropriation Limits for 1985-86 for community college districts indicated the following:

North Orange was 58%; Victor Valley was 57.5%; West Kern was 55.1%; Fremont-Newark was 54.7%; Gavalin was 51.8%; Yuba was 50.8%; San Jose was 45.8%; Yuba was 50.8%; Butte was 42.8% and Mt. San Jacinto was 34.1%.

Of course, some districts were experiencing more favorable fiscal situations: Merced was 97.1% of its Limit; Imperial was 95.6%; Palo Verde was 95.5%; Riverside was 92.0%; Allan Hancock was 87.6% and Los Rios was 88.3%.

What these statistics for the community colleges fail to indicate is the disparity that prevailed then and continues to prevail with respect to district revenues per student. For example, the difference, not counting the small districts which have greater expenditures per student, was $870 per student or 35% of the average, which was $2,430 per ADA. West Kern, a wealthy and small district, for example, was spending $6,684 per ADA.

When the entire community college system was taken into consideration the statistical data for 1985-86 indicated that revenues available to all of the 70 districts were equal to approximately 70% of the aggregate Gann Appropriation Limit. The Limit authorized approximately $2.3 billion in expenditures, but the revenues available to the districts equalled approximately $1.6 billion. The shortfall was in the amount of $700 million and it is evident that a similar fiscal situation will confront the community college districts this year, 1987-88, though it will be less serious because of the increase in ADA. The Los Rios shortfall is expected to decline from 12% in 1985-86 to 7.2% in 1987-88, which in dollars amounts to $5.28 million.

The statistical data provide an argument for greater equalization in the financial support provided community college districts, which .1 previously discussed in another paper, but the data also argue strongly for a change in the funding formula—a change which would provide a more adequate revenue base in that it would enable the community college districts to fund educational programs equal or close to their Gann Appropriation Limits. Obviously, the issue is complicated, and the important fact of reality is that the districts not only suffer from the effects of an inadequate formula for determining their annual spending limits but from revenue deficiencies which deny them the ability even to fund at a level authorized by an inadequate expenditure limit.

Cities are not being as adversely affected by of a revenue deficiency as are the counties and community colleges since they have a broader local tax base. Furthermore, judicial interpretations of Proposition #13 have allowed cities to increase local tax revenues. Proposition #13 property tax rates, for example, may be increased if the revenues are to finance retirement benefits contracted prior to voter approval of the Jarvis-Gann Limit. The decision was Carman vs. Alvord. In the San Francisco vs. Farrell Decision it was ruled that the two-thirds vote required by Proposition #13 to increase special taxes did not apply if the tax revenues were to finance general fund expenditures, since such taxes would not be classified as “special taxes” as defined under the initiative. As a consequence of this ruling, a number of cities have been able to raise taxes as a means of generating additional revenues. Fewer counties have taken advantage of this court decision because there are more strict statutory limits upon the taxing power of counties than upon city governments.

An interesting fact of California history is that in the early sixties a Governor's Commission on Metropolitan Urban Affairs produced a study relating to local government structure and organization and concluded that there was a need to reduce the number of city incorporations and the creation of special districts and simultaneously to encourage the creation of regional government units. representing the cities and counties in the area for responsible planning. The object of the Commission's recommendations, of course, was to encourage more meaningful planning and development in such areas as transportation, fire and police protection, land conservation, park and recreation development and public education. One outcome was the creation of Local Agency Formation Commissions and because of that action for many years the state has benefitted from a constructive program to provide reasonable and responsible control over the organization and structure of local governments. The effort, however, has not measured up to the goals and objectives of those who were evolved in implementing the concept as an important approach to the issues of conservation and responsible environmental protection.

Unfortunately, because of the negative impact of Proposition #13 on local government revenues, the fiscal benefit of the general sales tax to California cities, and the Supreme Court decision re increases in special taxes, there is an incentive for local communities to seek city incorporation. In the early sixties, for example, Sacramento County had five incorporated areas—North Sacramento, Isleton, Folsom, Sacramento and Galt. Today, after the annexation of North Sacramento by the City of Sacramento, there are only four, and there is the drive to incorporate Elk Grove, Carmichael and Citrus Heights, and in Yolo County, West Sacramento has incorporated. The contemplated incorporation efforts, if successful, will, it appears, deprive Sacramento County of much needed revenues and result in a duplication of government services.

Sacramento County is already suffering from a revenue shortfall because of Proposition #13 and the unrealistic expenditure limit imposed by Proposition #4. Because of these conditions, one can only conclude that community planning will be more difficult and the provision of county services restricted, though the local communities in which incorporation occurs may experience an enhancement of local government services with a potential for tax increases. The future is uncertain. It is clear, however, that community planning and environmental protection have a lower priority today than they had during the sixties and seventies.

In 1986-87 fifty-five cities were within ten percent of their Gann Limits and eighty-one were within 20%. For counties, the statistics were not so favorable. In 1985-86, of the 58 counties, 19 were within 10% of their Gann Limits and 31 were within 20% of their Gann Limits.7

It seems apparent that there are at least three changes in California's fiscal situation that are warranted. They are as follows: (1) a formula for calculating annual Gann Limits which more meaningfully conforms to the stated purpose of the designers of the initiative, (2) the exclusion from the Gann Appropriation Limit of budget reserves set aside to protect agencies of Government and the schools from the negative impact of a serious decline in revenues, and (3) some adjustment which would enhance revenues received by agencies of government whose revenue base consistently proves inadequate to finance the Gann Appropriation Limit level of services.

Some thought might be given to a program under which state surpluses above a prudent reserve level might be distributed on a formula basis to agencies of local government and school districts suffering from a serious revenue shortfall—revenues less than the appropriation level authorized by the local Gann Limit.

Another concept worthy of consideration is the enhancement in local government revenues. If such a change were to be achieved, of course, a major modification in the Proposition #13 amendment will have to be implemented. It must be recognized, however, that a substantive and realistic change in the basic provisions of Proposition #13 will be unpopular with important elements in the state and that an unrealistic and very idealistic change will result in local revenue losses and, therefore, only compound the negative character of revenue structure upon which local governments are so dependent. Significant and constructive reform will not be easy.

Historically, California has had a fine reputation for the quality of its public services and the character of its infrastructure. The question today, unfortunately, is: Will that tradition be continued? It cannot be preserved under Proposition #13 and #4 as they were approved by the voters.
1 A copy of letter of solicitation is on the last page of this paper.

2The Gann Limit estimates do not conform to those made by the Department of Finance because of the fact that the Department added dollar amounts to its Gann Limit calculations which have been questioned by the Office of Legislative Analyst and which I excluded. Because of the dollar augmentations, the Department of Finance has established state Gann Limits at a higher level. The disagreement over the appropriateness of the dollar augmentation has not been resolved as of yet and may ultimately be decided by the judiciary.

3 Elasticity is the percentage increase in revenues compared to the percentage increase in Personal Income. If the increase is the same, elasticity is unity, or 1. If it is greater by 10%, the elasticity is 1.1; if it is lower by 10%, it is .9, or inelastic.

4 Legislation was enacted during the closing hour of the session which authorized a modest dollar allocation to urban school districts. The school allocation was $86.6 million. Prior to that action, the Governor vetoed a school apportionment bill which would have granted an additional $700 million to public education, K-14.

5 Between 1984-85 and 1985-86 county appropriation limits increased at a more rapid rate than county revenues in twenty counties. The appropriation limit placed a restriction on eleven counties.
6 Sacramento City Unified School District had a 10.1% revenue shortfall; all K-12 districts in the county experienced a 4.6% shortfall and the county office shortfall was 21.9%, or $3 million below the Gann Limit of $15.9 million. ADA declines could be a critical factor with respect to some school districts.

7 Rough calculations indicate that in 1981-82 the City of Los Angeles raised approximately 43% of its local revenues from the sales tax and local taxes; whereas, in 1982-83 the County of San Diego generated only 11% of its local revenues from the sales tax and other local taxes. Fees and miscellaneous sources provided 33% of local revenues for the City of Los Angeles in 1981-82 and fees generated 28% of local revenues for San Diego County in 1982-83.

The statistical data for these calculations were derived from a California Tax Foundation Study entitled, “California Local Government Finance: Issues for the 80's.” Part I Summary, April 1984. Caution should be exercised in using the data since there is a wide diversity among the cities and counties, as well as between counties and cities.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Benjamin Franklin and 18th Century Economic Thought (1939)

The Rodda Project: An early essay on American economics

The title page of Sen. Rodda's paper on Benjamin Franklin and his views on economics carries an interesting information block:

Winter, 1939
Albert S. Rodda

One assumes, therefore, that Albert wrote this paper back in 1939 in response to an assignment in Professor Barker's winter quarter class on the colonial mind. Was Albert on sabattical from his high school position, taking a seminar at Stanford—or was it elsewhere? He had already earned his bachelor's degree from Stanford in 1933 and would not return for graduate studies until after World War II. This essay, therefore, remains something of a mystery.

However, the Senator was clearly fond enough of the essay to include it in his collection of papers and to make copies of it available. The version I possess was clearly typed professionally by the Senator's office staff rather than by the Senator himself (Albert's own typing is rather distinctive) and my copy is a photocopy of a comb-bound original. Since he often tinkered with and fussed over his papers, it's likely that the following essay is not exactly as it was in 1939. Nevertheless, it gives us a peek at an early stage of the Senator's thoughts on economics and presents his analysis of a Founding Father's perspective on economic theory.

One small technical note: The number 20 occurs twice as a footnote reference, but this is probably a typo. The reference for the first footnote 20 appears to be missing.

Benjamin Franklin in Relation to the Economic Thought of the Eighteenth Century

Albert S. Rodda
Winter, 1939

Europe in the eighteenth century was in a state of intellectual revolt against tradition and authority. Institutions, religion, philosophy, the sciences, morals, all were under the examining eyes of the rationalistic philosophers who were busy tearing down, patching up, and rebuilding European civilization according to an architectural pattern which would harmonize with the discoveries of inductive science and which would conform with the “eternal” laws of the natural order.

Men like Hume, Bayle, Locke, Voltaire, Diderot, Rousseau, scoffing at everything which was upheld by the sanctity of tradition, directed the vanguard of the attack on the ancien regime. With reason their weapon, humanity their cause, they drove relentlessly against every stronghold of old order.

Colonial America, though situated on the periphery of the struggle, was able, nevertheless, to contribute in no small degree to the spread of the principles of enlightenment. European traditionalism had been established only weakly on this side of the Atlantic, and a careless British government had allowed heretical institutions to take shape, with the result that the colonies served, somewhat unconsciously, as an experimental laboratory where the social theories of the intellectual dissenters were put to test.

Prior to 1700 the colonials were carefully nourishing such innovations as religious toleration, local self-government, social equality, constitutional government, and other significant departures from the social experiences of. the past. A few colonial philosophers had risen to leadership—Roger Williams and William Penn, for example— but none had approached the stature of their European contemporaries. Before the turn of the century American participation in the cause of liberty and freedom had been an important one, but it had been clearly more institutional than personal in character.

In the eighteenth century, however, Benjamin Franklin emerged from the American scene to occupy such an important position in the intellectual world as to force even the Europe of Voltaire to acknowledge him. Without a doubt, Franklin was the dominant intellectual light in the colonies and he was their great contribution to the cause of philosophical rationalism. Though less the destructive critic than most of his contemporaries, he was a true representative of that group of learned men. Truth, justice, peace, and order on earth were the goals sought by the apostles of enlightenment, and this was true of none more than it was true of Franklin. The impelling ambition of Franklin's philosophy was the betterment of the spirit of man and of the spirit of the world.

Not a creator of abstruse philosophical systems, Franklin gave the world no treatises on science, no monographs on government, no essays on philosophy and religion. For these things he was not famous. His greatness lay rather in the versatility of his knowledge, in his understanding of men, in the sobriety and depth of his character, in the breadth of his tolerance, and in his vast knowledge of the world and of the people in it. In these things Franklin showed a maturity of wisdom, perhaps, unequalled by anyone in his time.

Notwithstanding the fact that Franklin never wrote a treatise on economic theory, he must be credited with being the first American economist.1. His writings are full of intelligent opinions on the economic problems of his century, such as paper currency, free trade, taxation, population, slavery, interest and capital, labor, and many others. It is impossible, however, to say that he belonged to a particular school of economic thought, though he subscribed to the fundamental tenets of the Physiocrats.

Born in 1706, Franklin grew to manhood at a time when mercantilism, the theory of political economy which flourished in the seventeenth century, was on the defensive. The history of mercantilism had been closely interwoven with the social fabric of the ancien régime, and for this reason it was under suspicion and its doctrines were being rudely examined by the philosophers. Particularly in France, where commerce and industry had long experienced the suffocating restrictions of “Colbertian” mercantilism, was this true. In that country economic theory was being directed into new channels by a group of rationalists—the Physiocrats.

These men were the predecessors of Adam Smith in the attack on mercantilism. Their ideas were antithetical to the mercantile system, which they opposed because it violated the natural order of things,2 and it was from their doctrines that Smith developed the laissez-faire principles, so ably presented in his book The Wealth of Nations, which led to the complete discrediting of mercantilism.3 Between the extreme of laissez-faire and mercantilism must be placed the Physiocrats and Benjamin Franklin; they bridged the gap which separated the two.

Franklin came into first contact with the Physiocratic school of thought during his visit to Paris in 1767. At that time he met and became a personal friend of Quesnay, Mirabeau, Du Pont de Nemours, Turgot, and others.4 The exchange of ideas which took place naturally had a strong influence on Franklin's opinions, and his economic writings after that time reveal his inclination towards the Physiocratic way of thinking. However, it must be admitted that Franklin's own personal ideas and views, which he had developed independently of the Physiocrats, had made him a person who was almost a Physiocrat before he became familiar with their tenets.

Resenting British interference in colonial trade and industry, Franklin had become a believer in free trade as early as 1747.5 The Physiocratic objections to the mercantile restrictions on French commerce and their insistence on world-wide free trade served to convince Franklin of the correctness of his own views and caused him to become more firm in his opposition to British mercantilism.

At the same time, the relatively significant position occupied by agriculture in the colonial economic system had long absorbed Franklin's attention, and had made him a sincere and understanding friend of the farmer. He soon became quite won over to the idea of the Physiocrats that the only creators of real value were the agriculturists and those engaged in the extractive industries.6

He, therefore, subscribed to the theory of the “produit net” and supported the Physiocrats in their demand for the single tax on land, or the “impôt unique.”7 Franklin was considerably more sensible to the limitations of this principle than were the Physiocrats, however, and he suggested that in practice there doubtless would be countries in which the exclusive use of the “impôt unique” as a source of revenue would prove impossible. For this reason, he consented to a restricted use of indirect taxes on trade and industry where conditions adverse to the single tax prevailed. It was on the basis of this opinion that he later considered his conduct in support of a low import duty in Pennsylvania completely in accord with his original views. The American colonies, in his belief, presented an environment unfavorable to a successful application of the single tax principle.8

In respect of the question of value Franklin had again adopted the Physiocratic concept. In his early years he had adhered to the “labor-time” theory of value which he had learned from Sir William Petty, but he soon abandoned it for the value theory as conceived by the Physiocrats.9

He wrote to Lord Kames, in February, 1769:

Food is always necessary to all; and much the greatest part of the labour of mankind is employed in raising provisions for the mouth. Is not this kind of labour, then, the fittest to be the standard by which to measure the values of all other labour, and consequently of all other things whose value. depends on the labour of making or procuring them?10
This definition of value was a correlative to the theory of the “produit net.” For it was by the use of this value concept that the Physiocrats demonstrated the sterility of manufacturing. To labor engaged in manufacturing was attributed, by Physiocratic theory, a wage equivalent to the needs of living at a bare subsistence level. According to this proposition it was clear to the Physiocrats that during the process of manufacture labor would consume the entire reward for its efforts so that its work would not be productive of any addition to the sum total of social wealth. It must not be supposed, however, that either the Physiocrats or Franklin were of the opinion that manufacturing did not serve a social purpose. They merely maintained that manufacture produced no new wealth and that its service to society was in changing wealth to more desirable forms.11

Franklin also agreed with the Physiocrats in their opinion that commerce was merely an exchange of equal values and, therefore, was unproductive and was of benefit to society only insofar as it created place utility. According to this belief the only way a nation could secure wealth by foreign trade was through unfair commerce, or the exchange of commodities for foreign goods of greater intrinsic value—determined, of course, according to the Physiocratic value theory.12

Doubtless, Franklin favored the principles of the Physiocrats because of the emphatic support they gave to the movement for free trade and because of the significance they attributed to agriculture in the economic scheme of things. It is my opinion that the close similarity between the views of Franklin and the Physiocrats can be explained further as a natural outcome of the fact that they experienced the same feeling of humanitarian idealism. The philosophical outlook of the Physiocrats was predicated upon a spirit of altruism and upon an unselfish devotion to the task of improving society. They were seeking to design a social order in harmony with the “natural” scheme of things which they were certain would be more fitting to man's needs. In so doing, they struck a particularly responsive chord in Franklin, for they appealed to his strong sense of justice and to his implicit faith in a divine creator.

In their rebellion against the “positive” order created by the arbitrary enactments of governments, the Physiocrats, as we have observed, carried on their attack by extolling free competition among men and free trade among nations. However, their support of competition and of free trade was a subordinate part of their doctrine. They laid greater stress upon the importance of agriculture and the “produit net” concept, and in so doing they took up a blind trail and marched off into oblivion.

Quite the contrary, Adam Smith gave greater emphasis to the idea of free economic activity and elaborated a theory of political economy which rested upon a more comprehensive concept of the social order than that of the Physiocrats. Accepting the Lockean assumption of the natural order, so important to the Physiocratic analysis, Smith explained an economic system which operated naturally and spontaneously as a result of the competitive action of individuals working for their self-interest within the framework of a system of free economy.13

Predicating his investigations, then, upon the hypothesis that the social order operates according to fundamental natural laws, that free economic competition is necessary if society is to benefit from the spontaneous operation of these laws, and that individuals are governed in their action by the consideration of their own self-interest, Smith brought forth in The Wealth of Nations what he considered to be a detailed analysis of the dynamics of man's economic activities. His conclusions concerning the nature of wages, rent, value, money, taxation, production, distribution and other economic phenomena constitute the world's first scientific treatise on economic history and principles. In so doing, he unconsciously gave direction to the course that economic reasoning was to pursue during the nineteenth century, and although many of his ideas have been proven erroneous and have been abandoned, the essence of modern laissez- faire reasoning has its genesis in Adam Smith's basic assumptions and conclusions.

Concerning Franklin's attitude on the ideas put forth in the Wealth of Nations, we have little positive information. That Franklin knew of Smith's work is certain. In fact, Franklin was personally acquainted with Smith and was in touch with him in London (1773-1775) , while he was finishing his book. A Mrs. Deborah Logan stated in the memoirs which she wrote of her husband's life that Franklin told her husband that Smith had accepted certain suggestions of criticism made by Franklin with respect to particular chapters in the Wealth of Nations.14 It seems, though, that Mrs. Logan's statement exaggerated the influence that Franklin may have exerted on Smith while he was in London.15 Undoubtedly, Smith was familiar with Franklin's writing and thinking concerning certain politico-economic problems which had reference to the colonies, and Lewis Carey in his work entitled Franklin's Economic Views expresses the opinion that Smith embodied in his work some of Franklin's ideas with respect to the effect of abundant land on wages and population in a frontier society, certain population tendencies in the colonies, and the colonial point of view in regard to the British imperial system.16

Whenever Adam Smith's reasoning was in line with that of the Physiocrats, Franklin found it easy to agree with him. For example, in the case of free trade there existed a close similarity between the two men's opinion; although neither of them was in complete accord with the French economists. Both Franklin and Smith agreed that free trade was the most desirable situation with respect to the carrying on of commerce between nations, and yet both admitted that there were occasions when mild revenue tariffs and other restrictions, if not excessive or extreme, were justifiable. The Physiocrats, of course, could not agree with this mild departure from their doctrine.

Franklin would have approved of the implication of the “natural” order in Smith's system. He would also have favored Smith's forceful demonstration of the validity of the doctrine of free competition. The principles of extreme individualism, however, which exerted such a forceful influence on nineteenth century laissez-faire reasoning were not Smith's. Smith was suspicious of the social effects of unrestrained individualism and favored government regulation of the freedom of the individual when the better interests of society could be served by so doing.19 Franklin would have certainly agreed to this. Although a believer in free trade and the principle of “Pas trop gouverner,” he was aware of the weaknesses of human nature and would have questioned the wisdom of granting compete license to the individual. On minor points of doctrine Smith and Franklin found occasion to disagree quite widely. In their conceptions of a theory of value, for example, there was a wide divergence in the thinking of the two. Franklin, as we observed, expressed a belief similar to the Physiocratic idea; this was rejected by Smith, who, though somewhat uncertain about the real nature of value, suggested that it was determined by the amount of labor or of a combination of labor, land and capital which had gone into the productive process.20[?]

Again in the case of money Franklin subscribed to a different principle. Throughout his life he was consistent in supporting inflation in the colonies through the emission of paper currency. Though at all times moderate in his demands, he was, nevertheless, on the opposite of this issue from Adam Smith, who regarded the printing of paper money with a suspicious eye and a procedure to be utilized with discretion.20

Smith refused to accept the Physiocratic principle of the “produit net,” while Franklin gave every indication in his writing to a belief in this concept, and made the mistake, along with the Physiocrats, of exaggerating the importance of agriculture to the economic system. Smith, in fact, was the first important economist to assert that commerce and manufacturing were productive of economic wealth, and to emphasize the importance of the division of labor and the accumulation of capital in effecting increases in social income.21

As a philosopher, Benjamin Franklin belonged to the eighteenth century. He was a rationalist and believed that the human mind could solve most of the problems of living. He was a deist and sympathized with the idea of a “natural” law which governed human society. He was an optimist arid was convinced that society could be bettered. He was an individualist, but advocated some restraint of the individual on behalf of the interests of society. As an economist, he also belonged to the eighteenth century. His reasoning paralleled closely that of the Physiocrats, though he was less dogmatic in insisting on the infallibility of the Physiocratic tenets. And in striving for a solution to a practical economic problem of the day, he was quite willing to use whatever theoretical approach seemed the most reasonable. For this reason he accepted several of Adam Smith's most fundamental arguments. However, he could never have become a whole-hearted believer in the nineteenth century philosophy of laissez-faire. He was too much the sociologist and too little the scientific economist.

1 V.L. Parrington, The Colonial Mind (New York, 1927), p. 170.

2 Lewis J. Carey, Franklin's Economic Views (New York, 1928), p. 140.

3 Ibid., p. 160.

4 Ibid., pp. 137-9, B.A. Wetzel, Benjamin Franklin as an Economist (Baltimore, 1895), p. 31.

5 Carey, op. cit., pp. 134, 161-2; Albert H. Smyth, ed., The Writings of Benjamin Franklin (New York, 1907), II, 313-4, IV, 469.

6 Frank L. Mott and C.E. Jorgenson, eds., Benjamin Franklin (New York, 1936) , 345-7.

7 Carey, op. cit., pp. 154-5.

8 Franklin to Small, September 28, 1787. Smyth, op. cit., IX, 614-5.

9 Carey, op. cit., p. 147; Arthur E. Monroe, ed., Early Economic Thought, Selections from Economic Literature Prior to Adam Smith (Cambridge, 1930), 211-2.

10 Franklin to Kames, February, 1769. Smyth, op. cit., V, 102; Carey, op. cit., pp. 142-3.

11 Franklin to Evans, February 20, 1768. Smyth, op. cit., V, 102: Carey, op. cit., pp. 142-3.

12 Franklin's “Position to the Examined, Concerning National Wealth,” April 4, 1769. Mott, op. cit., pp. 345-7.

13 Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, IX, 15; Glen R. Morrow, The Ethical and Economic Thinking of Adam Smith, (New York, 1923), pp. 79-80.

14 Carey, op. cit., pp. 106-7.

15 Ibid., p. 130.

16 Ibid., pp. 124, 131.

17 Franklin to Small, September 28, 1787. Smyth, op. cit., IX, 614-5; Charles Gide and Charles Rist, Histoire des Doctrines Economiques Jusque Nous Jours (Paris, 1909), p. 117.

18 Ibid., p. 110.

19 Wetzel, op. cit., pp. 52-3.

20 Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations (New York, 1937) Edwin Cannan, ed., pp. 47, 48, 51; Gide, op. cit., p. 87.

21 Morrow, op. cit., p. 165.



Franklin, Benjamin. Autobiography. Goodman, Nathan, ed. New York, 1932.

Smyth, A.H., ed. The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, 10 vols. New York, 1907.

Smith, Adam. An Inquiry into the Nature and Cause of the Wealth of Nations. Cannan, Edwin., ed. New York, 1937.


Carey, Lewis J. Franklin's Economic Views. New York, 1928.

Gide, Charles and Rist, Charles. Histoire des Doctrines Economiques Jusque Nous Jours. Paris, 1909.

Morrow, G.R. The Ethical and Economic Thinking of Adam Smith. New York, 1923.

Mott, F.L. and Jorgenson, C.E. Benjamin Franklin. New York, 1936.

Parrington, V.L. The Colonial Mind. New York, 1927.

Wetzel, B.A. Benjamin Franklin as an Economist. Baltimore, 1895.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The post-election family letter

Coming to terms with the 1980 election

Shortly after his defeat for re-election in the 1980 general election, Albert Rodda took some time to write a letter that he distributed to his family members and his closest friends. More than two decades in the state senate had taken their toll on Albert and the silver lining in the 1980 election was the unsought opportunity to step back from the thick of things. As Phil Isenberg commented at the Senator's memorial ceremony in April 2010, Albert even suspected that his health was the better for his defeat. The additional time he had to spend with his wife Clarice was a sweetener in the face of disappointment.

The Senator kept the family letter in his files and occasionally sent it out in response to queries from political supporters. My copy comes from a packet of his writings that he shared with the members of the Friday lunch group. It includes the following preamble, a personal letter to Marge Burgess of Davis:
December 1981

Dear Marge:

Enclosed is an analysis of the election. Note the involvement of the Mormons and the radical right.

Incidentally, the indictment of Al Robbins occurred on Friday, the week-end of the election. The Gun Owners' campaign money was contributed after October 20, the last day for filing campaign contributions before the election. Senator Bill Richardson had told the County District Attorney that the Republicans had a “gimmick” against Rodda. The D.A. was elected because of the financial support of one of the Kelley brothers—a conservative who is an owner of Channel #3—traditional enemies of mine. Incidentally, many of our campaign signs were torn down, one had.a centerfold from Play Boy posted on it. Gross misrepresentations were made with respect to my voting record and my legislative activities. Telephone polls were used to confuse the voters about Robbins and to imply that I had the support of the Hayden Fonda group.

I am mailing this because I know of your interest in politics and your involvement in the local Democratic Party with Clary and me over the years. It was lovely to chat with you at the Wood's party. It is always a delight to meet our friends at the Wood's home. Clary sends her best wishes.

Albert S. Rodda
Executive Secretary

“Clary,” of course, is a reference to Albert's wife Clarice. At the time of his letter to Ms. Burgess, the Senator was serving as executive secretary of the Commission on State Finance. The lunch group packet did not include the newspaper clippings, but it did include the four-page “family letter.”


As you know, I have been defeated for re-election. Philosophically, I have accepted the defeat and I am looking forward to other activities. Clarice is also quite philosophical about the outcome. We will work to achieve a good life in retirement.

The reason that I am writing is to indicate to you the factors responsible for the defeat. As an incumbent, I have been a traditional liberal who reflected in his thinking the philosophy of Adlai Stevenson and progressive Republicans, such as Tom Kuchel. Today, the trend is away from that political perspective and the word liberal has become, in effect, unacceptable to many people. I knew that and I could have enhanced my chance for re-election if I had somewhat modified my image by denying my liberal convictions. But I would have presented myself improperly to the public. I decided not to do that. I preferred to accept the risks which were involved in continued adherence to my basic philosophy, responsible, not radical, liberalism.

I knew that I was in trouble when John Doolittle won the nomination in the Primary because it was well known that he was sponsored by Senator H.L. “Bill” Richardson, a very reactionary State Senator who collects substantial amounts of money from gun owners for the purpose of financing political campaigns against liberal Democrats. Richardson also has ties with the Moral Majority and has their support in his political activities. He is very negative with respect to government. In fact, Richardson, a former John Bircher, voted “no” on practically all substantive issues recently under consideration—the “bail-out” of local government, the State Budget, legislation to achieve tax relief-reform and environmental protection and to provide special education for handicapped children. It is clear that my opponent reflects in his thinking the basic political. philosophy of Senator Richardson, although the public is not aware of that fact because Mr. Doolittle did not indicate to the voters during the campaign what his philosophy was, nor did he discuss the significant issues that are known to confront the state.

John Doolittle is a Mormon and had the backing of the Mormons in the Sacramento community; in fact, they did much of his campaign work for him.

The fact that Mr. Doolittle received money from the gun owners' organizations enabled him to hire professional people to plan and direct his campaign. The campaign strategy the experts designed was to establish the fact, through a campaign brochure, that he was a decent, respectable, young conservative whose back ground was religious and moral. Once that was done, the strategy was to attack me during the last days of the campaign, when there was little time for me to respond. Radio and television time was used, to that end, as were campaign mailers. The mailers, incidentally, were very scientifically designed and sent out to a computer-selected list of voters. The material misrepresented my position on two basic issues—crime and education. The voters were told that I was soft on crime and responsible, therefore, for the increase in crime which occurred in the last 20 years in Sacramento County. They also were told that I advocated permissiveness in the schools and that I was responsible, therefore, for the decline in the educational achievement of students in California. In both instances, the statements made were unfair and inaccurate. With reference to the soft on crime issues, my opponent cited a number of votes and actions by me to sustain his argument; unfortunately, he omitted important information and clearly misstated some of the facts. We responded to the charges through a newspaper ad, which is enclosed, and it was printed in the Sacramento Bee and the Sacramento Union on Sunday, November 2nd; unfortunately, as I feared, not too many people read the ad; had they done so, they would have realized that my record was being grossly misrepresented. I also tried in the ad to answer another charge, which was that I had authorized teachers to strike. The collective bargaining law, which I authored, was well understood to deny the right of concerted action, or the strike, to employees of the public schools and in that respect was the same as the previous law, the Winton-Russell Act.

The campaign not only misrepresented my record and created a false image of my role in the Legislature, but, as I stated above, it failed to state the position of my opponent on significant issues. Mr. Doolittle would have had to admit, had he done so, that since he supported Proposition #9, which would have deprived the state of $3 billion of revenue this year, that he favored drastic reductions in the quality of state service and in the ability of the state to finance local government, including schools. This issue and others, which are very significant and which I have been trying to address, as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, he totally ignored. What I am saying is that no meaningful attention was given in the campaign to the basic issues confronting California. The opposition campaign was drafted very cleverly to place me in a very negative context and to capitalize on the conservative political trend, the people's fears and feelings of insecurity, their almost hostile feeling toward government and their dissatisfaction with the public schools.

Nevertheless, I think that I could have won the election had it not been for two circumstances that affected the election. One was the release by the media of data which indicated that, even before the President conceded his defeat, Carter could not win re-election. As you and I know, many people, after that information was made public, failed to vote and many of them were Democrats. But the second critical factor was the action of the District Attorney of Sacramento County in announcing just a few days before the election that State Senator Alan Robbins had been indicted by the Grand Jury for sexual relations with women who were under the age of 18. A great deal of publicity was given the indictment by the media and it appears that many constituents confused me with Senator Al Robbins. We have reason to think that this confusion happened throughout the district. Reverend Korfhage, a retired Methodist Minister, for example, communicated with several neighbors to indicate his support of me and two immediately commented that “Senator Rodda has been indicted.” Several other friends indicated the same experience—that voters were unable to distinguish between Robbins and Rodda. Incidentally, we have been told that my opponent's poll of voters in the district supported this fact—that there was confusion. That confusion among the voters alone could have significantly influenced the election.

I am enclosing the mailer that we sent to the voters to indicate my philosophy and position on issues. It was positive. As stated above, I am sending also a copy of the newspaper ad which we used in response to the charges that were made with respect to my failure to support meaningful laws to curb criminal activity. I am sending this material to you because I want you to know the facts about my record.

I have tried to be an objective and conscientious Senator. I have not taken honoraria when I made speeches and there were many speeches for which I could have received compensation. I have not maintained a district office and I had the opportunity to do so in two areas of Sacramento. That would have added to the cost of my office. I. did not use a district newsletter and I saved the state, therefore, about $30,000 annually for about 12 years. Unfortunately, as a consequence, I did not establish a strong name identification. Furthermore, I was so much involved in the burdensome responsibilities of my position as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee that I was not able to become as actively involved in minor local community affairs as I otherwise could have been. I had to make the choice—being responsible, being diligent and performing my burdensome tasks, or being political and making my re-election a first priority. I chose the former. Furthermore, I would not change my style of campaigning and shift from a constructive effort to inform the voters of my philosophy and my actions with respect to the state and this community to one in which I would engage in the campaign style and tactics used by my opponent. I am disappointed that the voters did not perceive the difference between us and that they refused to acknowledge the constructive contribution that I made over the years to the state, to education, and to this community. One has to accept such a response to one's work, however, when one is a “public servant.”

It is not easy to serve as an elected official. One is constantly under pressure and one is deprived almost of the opportunity of being a free person. Now that I am retiring because of my defeat, Clarice and I hope that we will be able to relax and enjoy the years left to us and to have a closer association with our friends and our relatives. So my defeat hopefully will prove to be a blessing. We are grateful that there are many favorable
aspects to this decision on the part of the voters. I do not want members of the family to feel ashamed or to feel bitter about my retirement from public life because of the fact that it was not voluntary. I appreciate very much the support all of you have given me over the years. It has been a great asset to Clarice and to me and we are very proud of you and the contribution that you have made to this community as members of our family.

I am enclosing copies of newspaper articles that may be of interest. One is an editorial and the other is a Los Angeles Times article. Incidentally, newspapers from allover the state wrote favorable comments about my incumbency. We should be grateful that I served so long and received such friendly and positive commendations.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Rodda Memorial: Remarks by Tony Barcellos

As the junior member of Sen. Rodda's staff at the end of his tenure in the state senate, I had less experience than any of his other aides. However, I was given the opportunity to continue that service in other capacities and to regard him as a mentor and friend. The Rodda family generously asked me to contribute some remarks to Albert's memorial ceremony, which I was pleased and honored to do. What follows is a reconstruction of the sense of my remarks, which were not written down in advance.

The Albert S. Rodda Memorial Ceremony
Comments by Tony Barcellos

Friday, April 23, 2010
Sacramento City College Auditorium

When you have so many of Albert Rodda’s family members, friends, colleagues, students, and admirers in one place, there is no story, joke, or anecdote about the Senator that will be new to everyone. Despite that, I will not hesitate to tell you stories you have heard before.

Albert has taught me well.

I was privileged to work as a legislative assistant for the Senator and I am honored that the family asked me to participate in this memorial ceremony. However, being on the program after Greg Geeting, I knew that he would address some of Albert’s best-known stories and that I would have to be prepared to address others. As Greg observed, Albert was content to let others take credit as long as things got done, which is why so much legislation bears the names of his colleagues although much of the language came from the Senator. Greg also pointed out that Albert was an uncharacteristic legislator, a mild-mannered man who was easy to underestimate.

I point out that Albert was, in this way, a deceptive politician. Those who discounted him because of his meek nature soon discovered their mistake. He was a master of his craft.

In times of loss and transition, our culture has developed a ritual to comfort those who are left behind. We praise the departed and pay tribute to his accomplishments. We honor his character and his honesty. We catalog his kindnesses. We say that he will be missed. These are the things we do.

In Al Rodda’s case, however, all these things are true. He makes it possible for us to say these things in all honesty. That is a rare privilege.

Being a part of Senator Rodda’s team will always be one of the most important things in my life. It was during his final term in the state senate that I joined his legislative staff. The boss would sometimes forget that I was such a new arrival and would ask me if I remembered some issue or another from an earlier legislative session. When I pointed out that I had been on staff for only the last two years of his tenure, the Senator would say, “That’s strange. It seemed much longer.”

However, I had the honor of working for Albert in a number of different capacities. When Jess Unruh persuaded the Senator to join the treasurer’s office to run the Commission on State Finance, I was the only person from the Senator’s capitol staff who was asked to accompany him.

All the others had job offers.

Later, when the boss decided to run for the Los Rios board of trustees, I worked on his campaign. I know that some people—perhaps people in this room—approached Albert and asked him to head a search committee to recruit a candidate for Los Rios Trustee Area 5. “Look, Al,” they told him. “You live in Area 5 and you would be the perfect person to persuade a good candidate to run for the board from that area.” Of course, everyone approached by the Senator responded by saying, “Al, why don’t you run?” I’m sure the people who slyly maneuvered Albert into this position must have been quite proud of themselves, but did they really think they had him fooled?

I imagine he could have said, “Thank you, my friends, for talking me into doing something I was already thinking of doing.”

After the Senator’s smashing victory, I naturally asked him about the possible of a little political patronage for his campaign staff. “When do I get a faculty appointment?” I inquired. Albert was completely deadpan when he replied. “I’m sorry, Tony,” he said, “but we’re going to continue to hire people based on merit.”

It was another four years before I managed to land a position at American River College. The final stage of the hiring process was a one-on-one interview with the college president, Queen Randall. Of course, Albert’s name was included on my application as one of my references. I was happy to have his support, but it would have been impolitic and awkward to make too much of it. I was wondering the Senator’s name would come up and how I would handle it if it did.

I didn’t have long to wonder. No sooner had I been ushered into her office than Dr. Randall came sweeping around from behind her desk to shake my hand and exclaim, “Oh! I see you got to work for Dr. Rodda! Isn’t he the most wonderful man?”

“Yes,” I said. “Yes, he is!”

Yes. He was.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Rodda Memorial: Eulogy by Greg Geeting

Greg Geeting first worked for Sen. Rodda as an intern. He later returned to the Senator's staff as a legislative assistant and later as a consultant to the Senate Finance Committee. After service with the State Board of Education (executive director) and the State Department of Education (administrator), Greg was elected to the Sacramento County Board of Education. The Rodda family invited Greg to speak at the Senator's memorial service on April 23, 2010, at which he delivered this eulogy.

Memorial Program for Albert S. Rodda, Jr.
Comments by Greg Geeting

Friday, April 23, 2010
Sacramento City College Auditorium

Of all the people I have known, none has been more remarkable than Albert S. Rodda, Jr. For that reason, I’ve encountered two distinct challenges in preparing comments about his life. The first has been deciding what to leave out when considering a life so rich, so full, so deep in courage and contribution. The second has been deciding just where to begin.

I’ve settled on beginning at the end. Margaret Rodda alerted me to the potential that Albert might pass away on Saturday evening, April 3. I made my way over to the house and had the great honor—and I do consider it that—of putting my hands on his shoulders and saying one last time, “You, sir, are a great man. We are all privileged to know you and to be your friend.”

As I prepared to leave—all of us choking back tears—I complimented Albert’s long-time caregivers—Ana and Eli—on the graceful dignity that they had enabled him to maintain over the past five years. King of his recliner, he usually greeted visitors with a smile and a laugh, and he was always so well cared for. I said I would return the following day, Easter Sunday, but we acknowledged in some unspoken way that the end appeared near.

On Easter morning, my daughter and I spotted Eli while walking around Curtis Park, and he informed me that Albert had passed away. Eli had gotten that sixth sense that Albert’s passing was imminent, and he called Ana to return quickly from the pharmacy. Then he said, “Albert, you must wait until she gets back.” And somehow he summoned the strength to do so, holding on until Ana returned, then quietly passed away.

We forged on around the park, and as we came up the eastern side—honest to Pete—if there weren’t two young boys playing ball—about 10 years old, one a bit older, one a bit younger—just as Albert and Richard might have done some nine decades before. It was spring in Curtis Park, and the cycle of life was renewed.

Now, I believe I first met Albert Rodda in 1964. I was 11, and my father and I were traveling around to the local democratic clubs with a black-and-white, 16 millimeter promotional film for the Lyndon Johnson-Hubert Humphrey ticket. My dad absolutely loathed dealing with the film projector. I’m pretty sure I met Senator Rodda at one of the local clubs. My dad said they had been colleagues back when Sacramento State College was co-located here on the Junior College campus. I also remember him saying, “Senator Rodda is a quiet man, but he really gets things done!” Now, I like to think that he added, “I hope you’ll be just like him.” However, that may be wishful recollecting.

In any case, fast forward 10 years to 1974—I joined Senator Rodda’s office as an intern. From the first minute, it simply felt like the right place to be. I didn’t want to leave, and—as fate sometimes makes possible—I remained for seven years in different capacities. I truly believe that all of us who worked for Senator Rodda during some part of those splendid years knew that we were participating in a rare golden age. It was a privilege of destiny; a providential turn of events in our own lives. During my own seven years, and in the 30 years of friendship that followed, I came to learn much about this outstanding and truly gentle-man.

Now, as my time is limited, I have chosen to focus on three of the many fine qualities that made Albert so remarkable.

First and foremost was his noteworthy academic accomplishment, as his many papers attest. The memorial program notes his degrees from Stanford University and his graduation Phi Beta Kappa. And, that was during the hardscrabble existence of the Great Depression, while he worked for pennies an hour in a box factory. Importantly, though, he did not put his intellectual pursuits on the shelf—so to speak—but kept current. He always had a book in hand, such as Barrett’s Irrational Man, exploring the intricacies of Jose Ortega y Gasset among other existentialists—and the books were always stuffed with newspaper clippings and handwritten notes.

In 1971, he delivered his paper “Freedom: With God or Without God?” contrasting the views of Nietzsche, Sartre, and Kierkegaard. He did so not to give a tidy pirouette of academic prowess, but rather to pose deeply introspective, challenging questions for his audience to ponder.

Albert often frustrated a press increasingly hungry for short, quotable quotes. His obituary in the Sacramento Bee mentions one. He was asked to state simply his personal religious views. He responded, “I used to call myself an agnostic humanist existentialist, but now I call myself a theist humanist existentialist.” Academically precise, but probably not destined for Rick’s List on CNN!

Second, Albert Rodda was a most atypical politician. He was generally quiet and restrained—rarely given to bombast. Moreover, even back then, politicians did not apologize—it’s a sign of weakness. But, Albert would typically get in three “I’m sorrys” during your first minute of conversation. Clarice used to gently chide him by saying, “Oh, it’s Albert S-for-Sorry Rodda,” which was one of the rare humorous references I recall about him. Another I recall was that he was “the mouse who ate the cat.” Both are very genteel humor to be sure. So, I called my good friend John Mockler to ask for a humorous anecdote about Albert, and he provided me instead with this insight: even though Albert was a very good-humored person, he was not someone people found “funny,” meaning an object of humor. Rather, he was someone people recognized as civil and gentlemanly, and you don’t make fun of them.

As I pondered John’s remarks, I realized that while Albert was “comfortable” with the burdens he carried as a legislator and a politician, it was a studied, tenuous, cautious comfort. His fondness for the Arden Fair Food Circus provides an example. With a number of small food vendors surrounding a vast sea of tables and chairs, each person—including lobbyists who chose to tag along—bought his or her own lunch, and Albert treated all to a dish of ice cream. He once told me that he enjoyed the anonymity of the place. So, there’s a scene for you: chair of the State Senate’s most powerful committee, freed and refreshed by linoleum flooring, Formica tabletops, and plastic trays!

Finally, Albert Rodda was remarkable for his record of accomplishment. Not silly bill counts, though he carried many bills to successful completion, including SB 160, his landmark bill on teacher collective bargaining. Consistently, though, content and substance were Albert’s objectives. He was willing to let someone else author a bill, provided the content and substance were agreeable. Not infrequently, he would carry his own bill for purposes of developing a Senate consensus on a critical issue, then graciously allow a fellow Senator or an Assembly Member to amend the consensus language into another bill and take credit.

He was also willing to fight even the most powerful interests when content and substance so demanded. In 1972, for example, Senator Rodda was one of the very few who opposed SB 90, which simultaneously endeavored to tackle school finance reform and property tax relief, doing neither very well. In an exceedingly rare public display of anger and frustration, he said that schools would be better off eating out of a garbage can than accepting the bill. Everyone from CTA to Wilson Riles to Ronald Reagan patted Albert on the head and thanked him for his passion. Subsequently, when SB 90 proved woefully inadequate, who was it? it was Albert who carried stop-gap measures and then helped shape a longer term solution—as was his custom, content and substance, not “I told you so.”

So, now it’s my turn to say I’m sorry. I’m sorry for all of the great stuff I had to leave out of these remarks to pare down to these three essentials: pursuing intellectual/academic excellence, being an atypical politician, and—in my father’s words—getting things done!

I close with a paraphrase from the great American poet Edwin Markham’s homage Abraham Lincoln: the Man of the People. In that poem, Markham employs the metaphor of Lincoln as a lordly cedar green with boughs that goes down with a great shout upon the hills and leaves a lonesome place against the sky. Unlike Lincoln, Albert lived a long and full life, and died quietly as had been his way of living. Yet, we all regarded Albert as a lordly cedar, and his passing—just as Lincoln’s—leaves no less of a lonesome place against the sky.