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Viewpoints: California must stay united to face its problems

An effort to divide California into six separate states died late last week, failing to gather enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. With its demise, another bad idea about how to fix California has fallen by the wayside.

The proposal put forward by Silicon Valley millionaire Tim Draper was the wrong solution for California’s 38 million residents, and threatened to make many of the problems facing the state even worse. By isolating the state’s richest and poorest areas, it would have divided California into winners and losers, haves and have-nots. By drawing new artificial divisions, the six states proposal encouraged citizens of our state to retreat into their corners instead of banding together to solve some of our state’s most difficult challenges.

Over the last several years, under the strong leadership of Gov. Jerry Brown, Californians have shown that this state is governable. Not only that, we continue to forge a path for national leaders to follow, offering an example of how progressive ideas and bold leadership can bring Republicans and Democrats together to solve seemingly overwhelming political problems.

Since 2011, California has closed a $43 billion deficit, adopted a more progressive income tax system that asks millionaires to pay their fair share, reformed public employee pensions, and is poised to create a new rainy day fund to help stem the boom-and-bust budget cycles that have rocked our state for the last three decades.

Just last month, Democrats and Republicans in Sacramento came together to put a $7.5 billion water bond proposal before voters that will help address the massive drought currently crippling the state.

While it is still not perfect, the political culture has changed in Sacramento and will continue to improve. Much of that culture change is due to important electoral reforms.

Proposition 28 changed the state’s term limits law to encourage lawmakers to develop expertise and not constantly be worried about their next political maneuver. Proposition 25 ended the two-thirds requirement to pass a state budget. California, which used to be known for its budget stalemates that extended deep into the summer, has had on-time budgets ever since. In 2012, California voters acted once again, passing Proposition 30 to help close the state’s persistent multibillion-dollar budget gap.

When the political system was in need of repair, Californians banded together to make their state work better. That is what California has always been about, and will continue to be about.

Now more than ever, it is important that Californians stay united and that the state continues to not only succeed, but thrive. We are the only plurality Latino state in the nation, and will be a majority Latino state within the next three decades. We must be working to make sure as these children and grandchildren of immigrants come of age, they are able to take their place in the middle class and participate in what has always been the promise of California.

It is also an opportunity to revisit some proposed changes to the initiative process that have wide support among voters. Increasing disclosure rules for initiative funders, allowing for legislative review and revision of proposed ballot measures and taking steps to re-engage citizens in the initiative process can all help create a better system that will allow for voter-driven reforms while ensuring the initiative process is not gummed up with frivolous measures such as Draper’s six states proposal.

The failure of the Draper initiative does not mean that California is perfect. There are a number of changes that could help make the state a better place to live, to work and to do business. But those solutions can and should come from all Californians – its citizens and its elected representatives – who have proved time and time again that they can stand, together, and meet any political challenge.

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