Sunday, October 14, 2012

California's Budget Problem Solved!

 Midwest Born and Raised,
California Aged...
This describes me and a lot of others. There is a huge contingent of California residents who all share one characteristic.
We are climate refugees from other states.
We come from places with cold winters and hot, humid summers. We hail from lands that, several months out of every year, are covered in ice and snow or are thick with mosquitoes and biting, black flies. We come from clouds and rain and tornadoes and hurricanes. Sure, California has earthquakes and bad rush hours in the urban areas, but I'm talking climate, here, something on my mind as winter approaches.
What we all found in California was sun and Mediterranean temperatures. Mild winters, hot, dry summers with almost no bugs, and perfect weather spring and fall.
Stay at Laguna Beach
Most of us climate refugees discovered California's climate on vacation, and the memories nagged us until we came back. Some of us discovered the climate after we moved west for other reasons.
There are many people who were born in California and don't have a clue about how good they've got it until they leave. They meet a future spouse from the Deep South and move there. Ouch. I don't need to elaborate on the details of scorching wet heat. They get a job offer in D.C. or New York or Philadelphia or Boston. Double ouch. Cold, biting winter winds, with wet summer heat.
Some native Californians get so disgusted with our state's gridlocked politicians that they move someplace politically sensible and functional like Minneapolis, Minnesota, or Portland, Oregon. I've been to both places often. I love them both. And when I get back to sunshine, I turn my face skyward and smile.
So here's the budget solution. California should charge for sunshine and warm weather. It needn't be much. Just a few pennies per person per day when the high temps are between 65 and 85. Add in a tiny bit per person per hour of brilliant sunshine. Can you guess how many days we have with temps between 65 and 85? Can you guess how many hours of sunshine we get in a year?
A couple of Silicon Valley techies could work out the details. An iPhone app would probably do the trick. 
Like everywhere else, we already have hotel room taxes. All we have to do is expand the pleasure tax a bit. You get off your plane and your phone registers temp and sunshine and deposits a few cents into California's bank account. If you don't like it, you are free to leave, and we'll reverse the charges.
If other states had our sun and weather, they wouldn't hesitate. Why should we?
Would people resist? Maybe. But I've been at the Oregon/California border when the sky to the south is pure blue and the sky to the north is a heavy cloud bank. Ask those drivers streaming south over the state line if they would rather pull out a shekel or turn around. I can guess the answer. I've been at SFO and LAX when jumbo jets full of pasty-faced easterners and northerners set down in a land where the winter temps are 30 or 40 degrees warmer than those back home in Chicago or Kansas City or Seattle. Or, if they came from Minneapolis in January, 70 degrees higher. The amazing flip side is that when they come in the summer, the temps back home in the east and north are often hotter, especially if their California vacation is spent near the coast or up in the Sierra.
People from all over the world travel here in astonishing numbers just to step out of that plane any month of the year, take off their shoes and walk the beaches, feel the sun on their back, the cool breeze on their faces.
If you like winter, California has lots of that, too, and the Sierra gets more snow than nearly anywhere. But in contrast to your home state where you get stuck in a winter inertia of a cold, frozen landscape, California winter is optional. You can ski in Tahoe in the morning and golf in the afternoon.

The Amazing Backdrop, skiing in Tahoe
Photo from

You can get off the top of Heavenly's Sky Chair at 10,000 feet, ski down the mountain, drive down to the Central Valley, and see your first palm trees in about two hours. The more adventurous can pack up their snowboards in late morning and be walking the coastal beaches or surfing the same afternoon.
Photo -
How many places in the world can make that claim? The Southern Alps in France or Italy? The Andes in Ecuador or Chile? You can do it in the Pacific Northwest, but you'll want some warm beach and surf clothing!
There's a lot of cool stuff about the Golden State. But we climate refugees can attest that California's climate is near the top of the list. If California could monetize it better, our budget crisis would be less.

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