Obama uses executive power to move gun control agenda forward
President Obama is quietly moving forward on gun control.
The president has used his executive powers to bolster the national background check system, jumpstart government research on the causes of gun violence and create a million-dollar ad campaign aimed at safe gun ownership.
The executive steps will give federal law
enforcement officials access to more data about guns and their owners, help
keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill, and lay the groundwork
for future legislative efforts.
It is unclear whether the National Rifle Association (NRA) will challenge any of the executive actions in court. A spokesman for the NRA did not return a request for comment.
The moves, which have not been widely touted by the administration, come as Obama ups his pressure on Congress to take action on gun control in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings. The Senate is expected to begin floor consideration of legislation when it returns in April.
Efforts to renew a ban in semi-automatic weapons with military-style features and high-capacity magazines have stalled in Congress. Democratic senators still hope to move gun control legislation that includes tougher background checks, but conservative Republican senators have threatened to filibuster it.
If approved by the Senate, any bill would then face tough sledding in the GOP-controlled House.
Gun control groups say Obama’s piecemeal approach falls short of what could be accomplished by legislation overhauling the nation’s gun laws. Still, they argue the actions remain important and will reduce gun violence.
“They’ve taken direct aim at some of the bigger problems in the regulatory part of the issue and they’re doing it in the right way and that’s going to be very helpful,” said Mark Glaze, the director of Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns group.
PALIN, BECK FLIP OUT OVER MSNBC AD
Network blasted for pushing collective ownership of children
Published: 16 hours ago
MSNBC is airing a provocative message for parents: Your kids belong to the community – not to you.
The network released a promo video featuring Melissa Harris-Perry, host of a weekend morning MSNBC show and professor of political science at Tulane University, who says Americans must grow beyond the idea that children belong to their parents.
“We have never invested as much in public education as we should have because we’ve always had kind of a private notion of children. Your kid is yours and totally your responsibility,” Harris-Perry said. “We haven’t had a very collective notion of these are our children.
“So part of it is, we have to break through our kind of private idea that kids belong to their parents, or kids belong to their families, and recognize that kids belong to whole communities. Once it’s everybody’s responsibility and not just the household’s, then we start making better investments.”
At least three leading conservatives immediately blasted the promo.
Talk-show host Rush Limbaugh declared, “The nuclear family has always been under attack by communists, by leftists. The nuclear family – just like religion – must be destroyed, and in its place, ‘the community,’ the collective.
“So, while this is outrageous in its self-contained form, it isn’t anything new. I guess one of the things that is the most frustrating to me is that liberalism and socialism and Marxism and this kind of stuff have been out there on display for people to see and recognize and accept as true for decades.”
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin tweeted: “‘Apparently MSNBC doesn’t think your children belong to you. Unflippingbelievable.”
Meanwhile, Glenn Beck pointed out that the MSNBC network promo is not just some gaffe by a host or panelist.
“This is something that people thought about,” he said. “This is something that everybody worked on. This is something that everybody got together and filmed.”
Beck said he has been predicting that leftists would stop hiding their true intentions, and this is just the beginning.
“I told you there would come a time when they would show you their true colors,” he said.
Federal judges take scores of junkets, investigation finds
Conservatives fund seminars influencing attending judges
Conservative foundations, multinational oil companies and a prescription-drug maker were the most frequent sponsors of more than 100 expenses-paid educational seminars attended by federal judges over a 4-1/2-year period, according to a Center for Public Integrity investigation.
Leading the list of sponsors of the 109 seminars identified by the Center were the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, The Searle Freedom Trust, ExxonMobil Corp., Shell Oil Co., pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. and State Farm Insurance Cos. Each sponsored 54 seminars.
Judicial conferences are billed as educational retreats intended to improve judges’ understanding of the law and economics. Judges and seminar hosts say the conferences, which feature lectures and panel discussions, provide helpful information that refines their legal expertise.
But they’ve long drawn scrutiny for how they are funded and organized. Sponsors pick up the cost of judges’ expenses, which often include airfare, hotel stays and meals.
Since the 1990s, critics have complained that many of the privately funded conferences serve state and federal judges a steady dose of free-market, anti-regulation lectures that could influence judges’ rulings from the bench.
Among the seminar titles from July 2008 through 2012 -- the span of the Center's investigation -- were “The Moral Foundations of Capitalism,” “Corporations and the Limits of Criminal Law” and “Terrorism, Climate & Central Planning: Challenges to Liberty & the Rule of Law."
About 11 percent of the more than 1,700 federal judges in the United States reported attending one or more of the seminars over the period, according to disclosure forms reviewed by the Center.
Roughly three-fourths of the more than 800 sponsors listed in documents were individuals, including a number of judges who took trips, raising the possibility that they may have offset the cost of the seminars with their donations. Most of the remaining underwriters were companies and foundations.
Determining exactly how much was paid by which sponsor is difficult to determine because amounts are not required to be reported under the disclosure rules. Those rules were established in 2007, when the Judicial Conference of the United States, a group of senior circuit judges who oversee the U.S. courts, implemented a policy requiring judges and seminar hosts to disclose general information about the conferences.
Dan Walters: State Senate seat could be big battle
Published: Friday, Mar. 29, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Ordinarily, a special legislative election in a rural corner of California would not generate much outside interest.
But the May 21 election to fill a state Senate vacancy in the southern San Joaquin Valley is getting a lot of attention because its outcome is in doubt. Were the Republican to win, it could imperil the Democrats' supermajority in the Senate, especially because Republicans are expected to pick up one or two Senate seats in the 2014 regular election.
The vacancy was created when Democrat Michael Rubio of East Bakersfield resigned midway through his first Senate term to work for Chevron. But because Rubio was elected in the 16th Senate District in 2010 – before Senate districts were redrawn – the special election to fill his seat must be conducted in the old district.
That district has about an 18-percentage-point Democratic registration advantage, which would favor the anointed Democratic candidate, Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez. And her position strengthened markedly this week when another Democrat, Fran Florez, dropped out.
Florez, whose son, Dean, was Rubio's predecessor, clearly was under pressure from party leaders to step aside. They worried that a Perez-Florez duel would consume money, generate discord and give the Hanford farmer Andy Vidak, a better shot. Vidak, who is well known in the region, made a strong bid for Congress in 2010.
The advantage that Perez gains from Florez's departure, however, does not make her a shoo-in.
She's a newcomer to electoral politics, having served only a few months as a Kern supervisor, she was forced to change residences to run for the Senate, Kern has just a quarter of the 16th District's voters, she's little-known in the much larger Fresno-Tulare-Kings county portion, and there's some local resentment about abandoning her county position so quickly.
Finally, as with all special elections, there's voter turnout.
Written by James Enstrom and Harold Calahan
from Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) , increasing their water bills by up to 20%. This Ratepayer money has been used to build in the Great Basin (Alpine, Inyo, and Mono Counties) in order to control dust from
The dust, a form of particulate matter air pollution, is blown off the dry lake bed by wind. Owens Lake has been largely dry since the was completed in 1913 by DWP’s Chief Engineer William Mulholland. This aqueduct has made possible the delivery of water necessary for the growth and survival of Los Angeles for the past century. As an organization deeply concerned about Owens Lake, DWP has worked diligently to successfully reduce the lake dust to an entirely safe level.
The Great Basin, which has a population density of only two people per square mile, is not experiencing any documentable adverse health effects from the current level of Owens Lake dust.
Then, amazingly, Schade requested in a that the Great Basin be EXEMPTED from costly dust-related regulations by claiming the dust is NOT dangerous in this sparsely populated area. Like Elmer, Ted is a hypocritical charlatan!
Instead of agreeing to the much less wasteful dust control proposed by DWP, Shade has hired $750 per hour attorneys and has demanded $400 million more for dust control done his way. His demand is so outrageous that DWP filed an October 12, 2012 federal lawsuit against Ted’s Empire.
This lawsuit has wide support from Ratepayers, the entire Los Angeles City Council, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, homeowners associations, and others.
Until Shade stops misrepresenting the dangers of the Owens Lake dust and agrees to efficiently and economically control it, a new advocacy group appropriately named IRATE (Irate Ratepayers Against Ted’s Empire) will advocate and promote an IMMEDIATE AND TOTAL boycott of the Great Basin, particularly .
IRATE has extensive expertise in the flawed PM (dust) science that is being misused by unaccountable regulators like Schade and in effective ways to do Ratepayer advocacy.
IRATE is organizing the BOYCOTT with assistance from as many Ratepayers as possible in order to stop the water waste at Owens Lake and end Ted’s billion dollar rip-off.
Berkley, CA Councilman Wants Billions in Email Taxes – to Fund Post Office
Let's pummel a successful private endeavor to prop up a failed government one
Yes, Leftists are talking about taxing emails. Again.
Ponder for but a moment the monumental government overreach necessary to monitor and count every email every American sends. and are hay-yuge government Web data grabs. They pale in comparison to this.
Which would be not unlike taxing the Henry Ford Motor Company to prop up the horse-buggy industry.
Into mighty thefts do tiny little taxes grow. But Wozniak is already thinking big.
Oh, is that all? One tiny problem (of many) facing Grand Theft Wozniack:
Report: California lawmakers skirt contribution limits
BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted: 03/11/2013 01:00:53 AM PDT
SACRAMENTO (AP) -- California lawmakers are circumventing campaign finance limits through "ballot measure" committees that set no caps on the amount donors can contribute, according to a report.
The committees allow legislators to ask contributors for more than the $4,100 per election they can solicit for their own campaigns.
The accounts must be used to support or oppose any ballot measure, but that can include proposals still in the development stage that might never see the light of day, the Sacramento Bee reported.
During the past two years legislators collected $2.7 million through these committees. A Bee review found some of those funds were used to pay for items with questionable connections to ballot measures -- including thank-you gifts to donors, a lawmaker's tuition and contributions to nonprofits. Some lawmakers spent the money on out-of-state fundraisers.
Filtering contributions through the committees can "kill two birds with one stone" for donors, said Jessica Levinson, a campaign finance and ethics expert at the Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
"If you support the ballot measure and you want to just support the candidate because of just emotional support, or you want to support the candidate because you want to get something in return, it's kind of a win-win," Levinson told the newspaper.
At least two dozen lawmakers maintained ballot measure committees in the two years leading up to the 2012 election.
They say the committees allowthem to help state and local efforts to shape policy and to communicate with voters on issues outside Sacramento.
Assemblyman Isadore Hall's "Inspiration and Hope for California" committee didn't put the funds directly toward any proposals up for a vote in the last two years, the Bee said. But it did spend $6,800 for a seminar at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government and $1,700 at the University of Southern California.
Hall, a Compton Democrat, told the newspaper attending what he described as leadership seminars at Harvard and USC helped him play a greater role in formulating and supporting future measures on the ballot. He defended the committee, telling the Bee it creates "opportunity for exposure in terms of different ideas that would affect the state of California."
Phillip Ung, a policy advocate for California Common Cause, told the newspaper the ballot measure committees essentially are "political slush funds" that can be used to offset costs that would usually fall to the more strictly regulated re-election committees.
"In the long term, they can't continue the way they are because they're just being abused by some elected officials," he said.
Information from: The Sacramento Bee, http://www.sacbee.com
The Supermajority and the Merry Go Round
by: Brian Leubitz
Mon Mar 11, 2013 at 05:54:51 AM PDT
You would need a supercomputer to keep up with the supermajority these days. But perhaps the better question is what that means for the state.
With the recent Los Angeles elections, the Assembly will certainly lose Bob Blumenfield, and the May run-offs could mean that Curren Price will need a replacement for his Senate seat. The LA Times attempts to break it down:
Blumenfield, chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, won't leave state office until July 1. But his planned departure is among a handful of resignations in both houses that have set off a round of musical chairs for the Democrats who dominate the Legislature.
Their numbers in the Assembly will dip below the supermajority threshold they achieved in November if two members move to the Senate in special elections that start Tuesday. The numbers will fall again when Blumenfield leaves. (LAT)
Got that? Well, that's not really all of it. Two Senate seats are scheduled to be filled in heavily Democratic districts for now Congress members Gloria Negrete McCloud and Juan Vargas. Then Michael Rubio of Chevron will be replaced by a special election in May. And then Price and Blumenfield...
You get the picture. Whatever the reason, what it does mean is that votes on serious reform measures will wait until a sure supermajority is in place. That means that the few modest reforms that Leadership is looking at right now, while not really stuck per se, they are in a state of limbo. That being said, there aren't any 2/3 votes that are strictly time-sensitive coming up anytime soon. Revenue isn't really on the table, except in the long-term 2/3 reform sense. If that waits another few months, well, it waits a few months.
The other question is whether this will continue to be normal. State legislators will always jump at non-term-limited Congressional seats. That much will never change. However, with the new term limits laws, we are likely looking at the last generation of Assembly members that will be looking to hop to the Senate. Sure, it's a bit smaller, but why bother when you can just ride incumbency. And reducing some of that turnover is a very, very good thing, beyond the question of the supermajority.http://www.calitics.com/diary/14899/the-supermajority-and-the-merry-go-round
SHOULD CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR JERRY BROWN TAKE A VICTORY LAP?
by Joel Kotkin 03/11/2013
"Memento Mori" – "Remember your mortality" – was whispered into the ears of Roman generals as they celebrated their great military triumphs. Someone should be whispering something similar in the ear of Gov. Jerry Brown, who has been quick to celebrate his tax and budget "triumph" and to denounce as "declinists" those who threaten to rain on the gubernatorial parade.
Brown speaks about California's "rendezvous with destiny" and the state's "special destiny... more vibrant and more stunning in its boldness." His pitch certainly has persuaded much of the mainstream media to add their horns to the triumph.
Yet right now, despite its many blessings, our state remains more on a collision course with mediocrity – at best– than with any such manifest destiny. California may not be a "death-spiral state" as some conservatives suggest, but Brown's triumphs – the Proposition 30 tax increases, the marginalization of the GOP as well as his Democratic rivals – have been more political than substantial and have done little to address the state's major long-term challenges.
Let's check this out. Unemployment remains the third-highest among the states; we still have one-third of the nation's welfare recipients; the highest poverty rate in the country, with one in five of California's diminishing ranks of children living in poverty, including more than a third of children in Fresno. Our education system, with new dollars or not, continues to fail young people and our economy.
Critically, the three key elements typically invoked to promote the comeback meme – budget relief, the genius of Silicon Valley alchemists and "green" jobs – are themselves suspect. Even Brown, who suggested that we could create 500,000 jobs from his climate change agenda, isn't speaking much about it. In California, and across the nation, "green jobs" have failed to materialize enough to offset the higher costs imposed on the rest of the economy, the high public subsidies and parade of failed ventures associated with these policies.
Yet, Brown is so dogmatically loyal to this agenda that he remains committed to massive regulation of the economy, which is slowing growth. And he shows – despite his occasional bouts of fiscal sanity – no signs of backing away from his financially troubled bullet-train fantasy.
If green economics are failing, can Silicon Valley bail out the state? Reporters anxious to celebrate our deep-blue state's comeback almost always genuflect to the tech industry. They rarely bother to look at the fact that, even with considerable growth in the tech sector over the past two years, the valley has not even recovered the job levels of a decade ago.
More troubling still, Silicon Valley is becoming less an exemplar of capitalism than the beneficiary of an insider game that relies on access to capital and contacts more than on innovation. It is also becoming increasingly dependent on government largesse: No one bet more on subsidized "green" companies than the venture-capital elite. Prospects are also dimming for social media, the valley's latest signature industry. User interest in Facebook is slipping, notes Pew, and the industry now sees its next great opportunity, of all socially worthless things, in online gambling.
State Sen. Michael Rubio announced today that he is resigning from the state Legislature and taking a job directing California governmental affairs for Chevron Corporation.
The East Bakersfield Democrat cited a desire to spend more time with his family in a statement released today, saying he "realized that my current professional path has left little opportunity to be home for those who are most important to me, which is why I am making a change."
"My wife and I have been blessed with two beautiful daughters, from whom we have learned a great deal," he said. "Our youngest child, who has special needs, has given me great perspective as to life's priorities and our eldest has reminded me that the most critical decisions are made at home and not under the Capitol dome."
Rubio, who was elected to the state Senate in 2010, dropped plans to run for Congress in 2012 after his daughter was diagnosed with Down syndrome. One of the upper house's most moderate members, Rubio was leading a push to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act. He was named chair of the Environmental Quality Committee last year and has worked closely with Senate President Pro TemDarrell Steinberg on drafting legislation for the upcoming session.
Rubio said in the statement that his resignation is effective today. His decision means Senate Democrats will temporarily lose their supermajority, as two other Democratic seats are currently vacant. A special election will be held to fill his seat for the remainder of his term.
PHOTO CREDIT: State Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Bakersfield, left, a member of the Senate Transportation and Housing committee, explains to Sen. Doug La Malfa, R-Willows why he would vote against La Malfa's proposal to put a $68 billion high-speed rail plan back before California voters, during a hearing at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Tuesday, April 17, 2012. After more than an hour of testimony La Malfa was granted his request to postpone the committee's vote on the bill. He did not say when he would seek a vote.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
February 18, 2013By Jon Coupal
Have California school officials found their own bizarre way to support Michelle Obama’s campaign against childhood obesity? What else could possibly explain their skimming of at least $170 million -- and possibly much more -- from federal funds supplied to provide nutritional lunches to the state’s poorest children? The just-released findings by state auditors show the biggest offender is the Los Angeles Unified School District, having misappropriated $158 million. For LAUSD observers this comes as small surprise considering the district’s abysmal record of managing its funds.
A trustee for Santa Ana Unified School district, which has been ordered to repay $2.7 million to the Student Meal Fund, tried to excuse his district’s action by saying, “If the law was as simple as, you can do this or you can’t, we would understand it.” The comment is a reminder of the huge disconnect between many government officials and the general public. Most regular folks understand that it is wrong to take food from hungry children without having to be told -- the few who don’t appreciate the difference between right and wrong usually end up being sent to prison.
While we are looking at skimming, it has recently been revealed that Cal Fire has been hiding $3.6 million. Incidentally, this is the same agency that is imposing an illegal fire tax over which the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association has filed a class action lawsuit. This latest revelation comes on the heels of the State Parks Department scandal involving $54 million in hidden funds. When officials are interviewed they reveal the tendency to hide extra money is the result of their fear that if the word gets out that they are flush with cash, Sacramento lawmakers will cut their budget. After all, where would these bureaucrats be if the extra money were spent on other needy programs or, heaven forbid, returned to taxpayers?
To “skimming” and “hiding” let’s add outright waste. A shining example is the $10 million dollar contract Caltrans signed with a public relations firm on behalf of -- wait for it -- a bridge! That’s right, a state agency was hiring spin doctors to put the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in the best possible light. (What, like commuters have a choice with some competing bridge?) Looks like it is embarrassed Caltrans officials, who cancelled the contract when it became public late last year, who now need a PR makeover.
There are always those close to government who downgrade the importance of government waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer money when confronted with examples that amount to only a matter of millions, not billions of dollars. Governor Brown stated that he found the story regarding Cal Fire’s hiding money to be “boring.” Even more telling was the comment by a governor some years ago when at a meeting, the subject of a wasteful program that amounted to close to $20 million was raised. “It’s peanuts,” he responded. The problem is there is evidence that there are boxcar loads of these “peanuts” for which every Californian is paying.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -- California's largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers' rights.
Guv Brown to Raise Taxes on Small Business and Middle Class by Ending Most of Enterprise Zone Incentives—Guv Perry HAPPY
Guv Brown knows taxes—he knows how to raise taxes without anybody noticing. For instance if you cut a tax credit, then the tax bill becomes higher. If you end a tax credit for an Enterprise Zone who would get hurt?
“According to the Franchise Tax board 93% tax returns filed take advantage of the tax credits available in this program are filed by businesses and individuals with net assets of $5 million or lower.”
Jerry is all he can do to assure Rick Perry is re-elected Governor of Texas—and California becomes Calcutta.
By Amy Wong, Capitol Weekly, 02/18/13
The governor’s efforts to reform California’s 29-year-old enterprise zone system, an ongoing tax-break program that encourages business investment and promotes new jobs in economically distressed areas of the state, is his latest attempt in a series of major moves targeting local businesses and governance.
Critics claim that the governor’s reforms could further drive businesses out of California, but Brown and his allies believe the $700 million EZ program is deeply flawed, with little oversight and accountability. In effect, they are asking: Is the money the state loses by providing the tax breaks good policy?
The EZ hiring credit is “by far the most expensive for the state in terms of forgone revenues. In 2007, this accounted for $237 million of the corporation tax revenue reduction attributable to Enterprise Zones,” reported the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal adviser.
Businesses in Enterprise Zones can earn a $37,440 state credit for each qualified employee hired who is from a Targeted Tax Area. In addition, unused tax credits can be applied to future tax years.
By U-T San Diego Editorial Board , 2/18/13
The war of words between California Gov. Jerry Brown and Texas Gov. Rick Perry over whose state is more accommodating to economic growth has been illuminating, but in a depressing way. Brown is on record as saying his state is overregulated, to the detriment of the economy. How could he plausibly disagree with Perry when Perry said the same thing?
But instead of acknowledging hard truths about the Golden State, Brown and his aides employed their favorite poll-tested tactic of trashing Texas. And when they did talk about California, we heard an appalling confirmation of the governor and his staff’s indifference to the state’s economic suffering. In an interview with U-T business reporter Jonathan Horn, here’s what Kish Rajan, the director of Brown’s Office of Business and Economic Development, had to say:
“We’ve proven that you can have a successful economy and still preserve the environment and look after workers and protect consumers and look after the public health.”
So the Golden State has a “successful economy”? Really?
California is in its longest sustained stretch of high unemployment since the depression. Its jobless rate has been higher than 8 percent since September 2008. For 52 months, there have been at least 1.5 million people in this state actively seeking work who can’t find jobs. And those numbers don’t even reflect the “underemployed” – those with part-time jobs – and the hundreds of thousands of people who have given up looking for work. In January, the state’s unemployment rate was 9.8 percent, among the worst of any state and significantly higher than the national average of 7.9 percent.
Rajan’s comments make clear the immense disconnect between the powerful wing of California’s Democratic coalition – urban professionals, academics, public employees and those in the entertainment industry – and the coalition’s ignored wing – poor and lower-middle-income residents who struggle to find work and make a living in our expensive state.
Texas Trumps Governor Moonbeam
Governor Perry goes on a recruiting tour in California.
Texas governor Rick Perry knows how to start a rumble. Last week, he spent a mere $24,000 on radio ads in California, urging firms there to move to Texas, with its “zero state income tax, low overall tax burden, sensible regulations, and fair legal system.” The ad goaded Governor Jerry Brown into telling reporters that Perry’s effort wasn’t news. “It’s not a burp,” he sneered. “It’s barely a fart.”
But his insult generated dozens of stories about the differences between Texas and California, playing into Perry’s hands. He begins a four-day barnstorming tour of California today, touting Texas’s virtues to business owners.
The Sacramento Bee, the leading paper in California’s state capital, went beyond Governor Moonbeam’s sneer by running a long editorial that roundly trashed Texas and Perry: “Actually, we think it’s more than a fart. It’s a cry for help. Perry can’t create jobs, he can only steal them from other states. His campaign for the Republican presidential nomination was a joke. His beloved Dallas Cowboys haven’t been in the Super Bowl since 1996.” The liberal Bee then offered to organize a “book drive” to help Texans graduate more high-school students, suggested that the Lone Star State could spend more on “mental health services,” and quoted the late Texas liberal Molly Ivins’s put-down of her native state as “a low-tax, low-service state.” “We can afford to do better,” the Bee quotes Ivins as saying. “We just don’t.”
GUN CONFISCATION BILL PROPOSED IN CALIFORNIA: ‘WE CAN SAVE LIVES’
Feb. 8, 2013 3:35pm Jason Howerton
Law abiding gun owners in California have to feel uneasy after Democrats rolled out a massive gun control package on Thursday, which includes strict ammunition regulations and even a bill that allows potential confiscation of the state’s 166,000 legally registered semi-automatic rifles.
Under the sweeping gun control bills introduced by state Senate Democrats, all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines would be banned, all guns would be registered and gun owners would need a special permit just to buy ammunition.
The proposals appear to be even more draconian than New York’s recent gun control legislation, considered to be the toughest in the nation.
Mercury News has more details:
The 10-bill package constitutes the single largest gun control push in decades in the Golden State, which already boasts some of the nation’s strictest gun laws. It joins equally controversial proposals from Assembly Democrats that would regulate and tax ammunition sales and consider taking the state’s 166,000 registered assault weapons from their owners.
This first unified California plan comes less than a month after New York adopted its own sweeping package of new gun controls and President Barack Obama announced a package of executive actions, all in the wake of December’s Connecticut schoolhouse massacre. Even as this plan emerged Thursday, House Democrats’ gun violence task force was announcing 15 “policy principles,” including protecting Second Amendment rights but also instituting universal background checks and reinstating a federal assault weapons ban.
State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) on Thursday defended the huge gun control package, saying “California’s tough gun laws have been exploited long enough.” He also said he respects the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens to have firearms for hunting, sport and home defense.
That being said, he believes the sweeping gun regulations will “save lives.”
“We can save lives by curbing the proliferation of guns designed to be fired and reloaded rapidly,” he said. “We can save lives by getting guns and ammunition out of the hands of the wrong people. We can save lives if every gun owner knows how to safely handle those guns. And if we can save lives, we must act to do so.”
However, pro-gun advocates argue that the bills are unconstitutional and infringe on the Second Amendment.
“[A]lmost every item in the proposal is wildly unconstitutional,” said Gene Hoffman of Redwood City, co-founder and chairman of the Calguns Foundation gun rights group. He also said the state’s overreach may “accelerate the speed at which the Supreme Court takes these ideas off the table.”
Mercury News reports other bills would also include the following regulations:
· Require anyone wishing to buy ammunition to first get a permit by passing a background check, as Los Angeles and Sacramento already do.
· Update the definition of a banned shotgun with a revolving cylinder to include the new technology of a shotgun-rifle combination.
· Prevent unregulated gun loans, with some exceptions, including hunting, in order to keep weapons from those who haven’t passed background checks.
· Require all handgun owners obtain a safety certificate every year, rather than the every-five-years requirement for purchases of new handguns.
· Prohibit anyone barred from owning a weapon from living in a home where weapons are kept and to expand the list of crimes for which convictions result in being barred from gun possession.
· Let the state Justice Department use money from the state’s Dealer’s Record of Sale system to eliminate the backlog of people identified as no longer allowed to own guns but not yet investigated and contacted by law enforcement.
CALIFORNIA'S POLITICS OF FARCE
by Joel Kotkin 01/21/2013
Karl Marx wrote, "History repeats ... first as tragedy, then as farce." Nothing better describes how California, with its unmatched natural and human riches, has begun to morph into what the premier California historian Kevin Starr has called "a failed state" – a term more usually applied to African kleptocracies than a place as blessed as the Golden State.
The tragedy begins with the collapse of a governance system once widely hailed as a leader in efficiency and foresight but which now perpetually teeters at the brink of insolvency and suffers among the worst credit ratings of all the states. Only 20 years ago, the state's fiscal debt per capita was just below the national average; now it ranks consistently toward the bottom No surprise, then, that California routinely ranked as the "worst governed" state in America.
This poor performance has consequences, particularly in terms of business. Today, CEOs rank California as just about the worst place to do business in the country, and have for a remarkable eight years in a row. And it's not just the plutocrats who are angry; a survey by the economic forecasting firm EMSI shows that, in 2011, California also ranked 50th, just ahead of Michigan, in new business startups.
Unlike my conservative friends, I do not think the fault lies entirely with the Democrats. Instead, it has to do with the total eclipse of the state's once-lively two-party system. As Starr has noted, California's golden age of governance from the 1940s to the 1960s was largely a bipartisan affair, with power shifting between the parties. "Despite their differences," Starr writes, "Democrats and Republicans saw sufficiently eye-to-eye" to embrace policies that drove California's growth.
Progressives, for their part, often suggest this paradigm died with the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, which diminished local government and concentrated fiscal power in Sacramento. Yet even as late as early 1990s, when the state was facing a dire recession due to the end of the Cold War, liberal Democrats such as Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and state Sen. John Vasconcellos managed to work well with Republican Gov. Pete Wilson and business leaders like Peter Ueberroth to force policy changes that helped spur the state's last sustained recovery.
The more recent demise of California governance stems from demographic trends and political miscalculations that have turned our state increasingly into something akin to Mexico under the old dictatorship of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party). Wilson's decision to embrace the anti-illegal-immigration measure Prop. 187 as part of his 1994 re-election strategy helped precipitate this shift. Although Prop. 187, which passed easily, helped in the short run, it crippled the Republican Party in the ensuing decades.
Before 1994, Republicans were capable of winning upward of two-fifths of the Latino vote. But after that, as the Latino portion of the electorate grew, from 7 percent in 1980 to more than 21 percent today, these voters became, much like the African-American vote, essentially a bloc owned by the Democrats. In 2010, Jerry Brown won nearly two-thirds of their votes in his bid to return as governor. Asian voters, despite their decidedly middle-class and entrepreneurial bent, sensed the whiff of nativism among Republicans and also turned to the Democrats. With minority communities' share of the electorate growing every year, the GOP essentially has backed itself into permanent minority status.
This has set the stage for a bizarre political farce, where minority representatives in Sacramento – with few exceptions – consistently vote against the interests of their own constituents on issues such as water allocations in the Central Valley or regulations that boost energy and housing prices. In their clamor to join the "progressive" team, they, in effect, are placing the California "dream" outside the reach of the state's heavily minority working class.
January 18, 2013
CalPERS has decided to immediately suspend a program that allowed some salaried managers to moonlight in-house and take hourly pay, saying that the controversy surrounding the practice has become a "significant distraction" to its work.
In a statement the fund issued minutes ago, the state's largest public employee pension fund says is ending the so-called "additional appointments" immediately, despite its assertion the practice saved an estimated$1.6 million since June 2011.
The statement doesn't include how many employees participated in the program or what it cost CalPERS in payroll. Earlier this week the fund said it paid 50 managers an average $900 each in November to work in hourly positions.
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said Thursday that the dual-job news was "disturbing" and he promised a committee would look into it. The State Controller's Office has been sorting through payroll data to get a statewide fix on the issue, but as of this afternoon it still hadn't come up with those figures. Several departments contacted by The Bee have yet to answer questions about whether they used additional appointments, although CalPERS has suggested that the practice is common.
"It is now obvious that there are various interpretations of the use of Additional Appointments across all state departments," the CalPERS statement says. "Most importantly, we recognize that the media has sensationalized this practice and it has now become a significant distraction for policy makers and our own employees from the important business of serving California."
CalPERS released the information this afternoon after The Bee reported earlier this week about its managers earning fixed salaries while also taking secondary rank-and-file positions. CalPERS said it resorted to the practice nearly two years ago when its new computer system launch and subsequent glitches created daunting workloads against the pressure of unyielding deadlines.
CalPERS officials said the program was legal and above board, but personnel experts interviewed by The Bee raised concerns that the program could be illegal and, at the very least, circumvents the state's intent to set fixed salaries for managers.
"In my humble opinion, it risks violating federal labor law," said Dave Gilb, a former state personnel director, by blurring the line between who is a salaried employee and who isn't. And, he said, the program was unnecessary because the state has a bonus system that pays up to $1,200 per month for managers who have to work extreme overtime.
In today's statement, CalPERS said it planned to end the additional appointment program in June, but will suspend it now while it gets advice from two agencies that deal with employee matters, the State Personnel Board and the California Department of Human Resources.
New year to bring 876 new laws to California
· By Timm Herdt
· Posted December 30, 2012 at 9:32 p.m.
Homeowners behind on their mortgage payments and negotiating with their banks to find a way to work things out won't have to worry about getting a surprise foreclosure notice.
Women will have expanded access to birth control, as registered nurses will be able to dispense contraceptives such as the pill.
Apartment dwellers concerned about the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning will be able to breathe easier.
Employers will not be allowed to require workers or job applicants to divulge their social media accounts or provide passwords to them.
Those are among the legal changes in California that will kick in Tuesday as a result of some of the 876 laws signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012. By historic standards it was a somewhat low number but was the most new laws put on the books in the state since 2006.
The following is a list of some new laws. More information on them is available by searching the bill number under "Bill information" at http://www.leginfo.ca.gov.
- Bankruptcy protection: AB 929 permits debtors to keep items such as tools of their trade and an automobile so that they will be better positioned to engage in work or seek employment after going through a bankruptcy.
- Bear hunting: SB 1221 bars hunters from using trained dogs to track bears, chase them into trees and bay to summon hunters to shoot the bears.
- Birth control: AB 2348 authorizes registered nurses to dispense hormonal contraceptives such as the pill, patch and ring. Women will not have to see a doctor but will have to undergo a routine health assessment.
- Boat registration fee: AB 2443 requires owners of boats used in freshwater bodies to pay an additional registration fee of up to $10 — the precise amount is not yet set — to pay for inspection and infestation control programs to prevent the spread of invasive mussels in state waterways.
- Carbon monoxide: The final phase of a 2010 law, SB 183, starts Tuesday when owners of apartment complexes will have to have installed carbon monoxide detectors in every dwelling unit with a fossil-fuel-burning furnace or appliance, fireplace or attached garage.
- Drug overdose reporting: AB 472 allows any person to report a drug-related overdose to authorities or seek medical assistance for a drug overdose without being subject to arrest on suspicion of possession of or being under the influence of illegal drugs. People would not have immunity from prosecution for laws involving illegal sales or forcible administration of drugs.
- Electronic proof of insurance: AB 1708 allows drivers to use electronic proof-of-insurance documents displayed on mobile devices when asked for that information by a police officer responding to an auto accident or issuing a traffic citation. Motorists will continue to get paper proof-of-insurance forms from their insurance companies unless they request otherwise.
- Homeowners' bill of rights: SB 900 institutes new protections for homeowners seeking to avoid losing their homes to foreclosure. Among other provisions, it prohibits lenders from initiating the foreclosure process during the time an application for loan modification is being reviewed and requires lenders to provide homeowners with a single point of contact as they navigate their request for a loan modification.
- Legacy license plates: Under AB 1658, the Department of Motor Vehicles will start accepting applications for specialized licenses plates that replicate plates from the past. Styles from the 1950s, '60s and '70s will be available. The DMV will not begin production unless at least 7,500 are ordered.
- Off-road vehicles: Clarifying a previous law that goes into effect Tuesday and mandates that passengers in off-road vehicles must sit only in places designed by the manufacturer to be seats, AB 1266 removes a previous requirement that passengers in such seats have both feet on the floorboard.
- Pickets at funerals: SB 661 makes it a misdemeanor to engage in picketing targeted at a funeral from one hour before the services begin to one hour after they end.
- Religious attire: AB 1964 adds religious dress and grooming practices to categories protected by fair housing and employment laws.
- Same-sex marriage: SB1140 specifies that if same-sex marriages become legal in California, no priest, minister, rabbi or authorized person of any religious denomination could be required to solemnize a marriage that is contrary to the tenets of his or her faith.
- Social media: AB 1844 prohibits employers from requiring or requesting an employee or job applicant to disclose a user name or password for the purpose of accessing personal social media accounts, or to access his or her accounts in the presence of the employer. Employees cannot be discharged, disciplined or retaliated against for failing to comply with such requests.
- Sporting events: AB 2464 requires the owner of any professional sports facility, such as baseball stadiums or basketball arenas, to post written notices with a text message and telephone number that spectators may use to contact security to report disturbances or a violent act.
Navarrette: Scholarships for illegal immigrants
· Ruben Navarrette's email address is email@example.com.
· Posted December 30, 2012 at 1 a.m.
When it comes to how California handles illegal immigrants, the state is all over the map.
Not unlike the rest of the country, the Golden State can't decide whether it wants to make life comfortable for the undocumented or make them so unhappy that it runs them off.
'Twas always thus. Consider my home state's history over the past few decades.
In the 1980s, Republican Sen. Pete Wilson of California — at the behest of agribusiness — drove support for the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which President Ronald Reagan signed into law in 1986. The legislation granted amnesty to about 3 million illegal immigrants.
Then in the 1990s, when Wilson — who had come home to serve as governor — found himself with dismal approval ratings and a tough re-election battle, he drove support for Proposition 187, which California voters approved in 1994. The ballot initiative — later struck down as unconstitutional — denied illegal immigrants and their U.S.-born children access to schools, welfare and non-emergency health care.
Today, the tradition continues. And now, it's Democrats who are being inconsistent. One minute, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown is signing a bill to expand educational opportunity for undocumented youth by letting them compete for scholarships to attend public colleges and universities in the state.
The next minute, Brown all but ensures that more of these students and their parents will get deported when he vetoes another bill aimed at reining in Secure Communities, a program the Obama administration uses to coerce local police into enforcing federal immigration law.
Now, in a recent development, the flagship institution in the University of California system — UC Berkeley — has announced that it is forming a $1 million scholarship fund for undocumented immigrant students. Believed to be the largest scholarship of its kind at any university in the country, it is being funded by a donation from a private foundation.
When the Dreamers Fund is established in 2013, as many as 200 undocumented students from 20 countries will be eligible to apply. The awards are in the amount of $8,000. To qualify, students need at least a 3.0 grade-point average.
The new scholarship will come in handy. While getting into a college or university isn't usually a problem for many illegal immigrant students, paying the tuition can be. The undocumented are ineligible for federal grants or student loans.
To address that problem, the California Legislature passed a law last year declaring undocumented students eligible to receive private scholarships offered by state colleges and universities.
The scholarship takes its name from the Dream Act, legislation that would have provided a pathway to legal status and citizenship to those who attended college or joined the military. The Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate killed the bill in December 2010 when five Democrats voted against cloture. Otherwise, in the 2012 elections, Democrats might have been slapped with the label of being weak on illegal immigration.
While some Californians grumble about offering scholarships to illegal immigrants, there is really nothing wrong with it. There is a legitimate debate to be had over whether illegal immigrants should have access to public funds. Those who feel strongly that illegal immigration is destroying California certainly don't want to see their tax dollars go to educate young people who shouldn't be here in the first place.
I don't agree with that point of view, but I understand it. We all should. Yet, this is private money, and the University of California is free to use it however specified by the donors. Case closed.
Besides, there's an added benefit. In a larger sense, the Dreamers Fund is an honest acknowledgment by the University of California of a couple of things that most people don't want to admit.
First, that many undocumented students are hardworking and productive, and they deserve financial support from private individuals.
And second, that Californians owe a debt to the estimated 3 million undocumented residents who call the state home. Despite what many people think, these immigrants pay taxes (sales, municipal, property). And they help keep the state's economy humming along by maintaining the profit margins for the multitude of businesses — farms, ranches, landscaping companies, construction firms, meat-processing factories, hotels, restaurants, etc. — that hire them and then turn around and pay state taxes as well.
Thank you, University of California. Honesty is hard to come by in just about any aspect of the immigration debate, and it is much appreciated.
Overtime pay now broken out in government salary list
· By Gretchen Wenner
· Posted December 29, 2012 at 7:14 p.m.
Overtime pays. But "other" income pays even more, according to the latest state collection of city and county payroll figures.
State Controller John Chiang's office in mid-December published its third annual database showing pay information for city and county employees throughout California, an effort launched in the wake of the Bell pay scandal in 2010.
The latest numbers, which are for calendar year 2011, echo some earlier findings for Ventura County (see related graphic for city details):
* As in previous reports, Oxnard City Manager Ed Sotelo — who has been on paid leave since late January — ranked No. 1 among local city and county employees, with total wages of $313,567.
* A temporary recreation worker in Oxnard held the bottom spot with $3. The list includes information for more than 14,000 local positions, including part-time and temporary posts.
* Port Hueneme's police force again boasted top earners for that city. A police sergeant was the highest-paid employee, with $214,373 in wages. Two other sergeants cracked the city's top-five list.
* Port Hueneme's former police chief, Kathleen Sheehan, ranked seventh in that department's pay, below four sergeants, a lieutenant and an officer. The chief is not eligible for overtime, and Sheehan's total 2011 wages were $156,512. The officer who out-earned her, by contrast, took in wages of $160,477, including $42,708 in overtime and $20,352 in "other" pay. In all, the officer's wages exceeded the position's maximum posted salary by nearly $72,000.
* Countywide, about 2,239 workers earned wages of $100,000 or more. Forty-seven exceeded $200,000.
The numbers also reveal new facets of the overall pay picture.
For the first time this year, the controller's office broke out overtime, lump-sum payments and so-called "other" wages, which can include uniform, hazard and bilingual pay as well as car allowances, stipends and various perks.
Countywide, more than $48 million in overtime was reported in 2011.
Three workers made more than $100,000 in overtime alone. All three were with the Ventura County Fire Department, which dominated the top of the overtime rankings. Of the 30 who pulled in the most, 29 were county fire staffers. The other was a lab scientist with the county Health Care Agency. Overtime for those 30 ranged from $71,904 to $113,313.
Even more — $51.7 million countywide — was tallied in the "other" category. The upper end of "other" wages was heavily populated with county nurses and medical personnel. The highest amount, $80,467, went to a nurse.
Lump-sum payments countywide totaled $17.9 million.
David Grau, a board member of the Ventura County Taxpayers Association, a watchdog group concerned with public employee pensions and pay, said the additional detail this year is welcome. Many people look only at base pay, he said, not knowing other types of compensation go into pension determinations.
"All those other elements have been the main driver of the pension spiking we've been talking about for a long time," Grau said.
The city of Ventura was given permission to leave out overtime, "other" and lump-sum details this year due to software issues, city and state officials said, but must provide that information in next year's report.
The state's total wage figures include base pay, overtime, vacation payouts, bonuses and other income subject to Medicare taxes. The information does not include employee names.
The database also lists employer-paid pension contributions and health care benefits. Those numbers are not included in the wage total. Oxnard's city manager, for example, earned $101,217 in various pension and deferred compensation benefits. When those numbers are added to wages, his total compensation for 2011 reached $414,784.
Some local cities have seen total payroll numbers drop with belt-tightening in the past few years.
Fillmore, for example, posted total wages of $2.6 million in 2011, down from $3.2 million in calendar year 2009 — a nearly 19 percent drop. Other cities also saw dips, including Santa Paula, Oxnard, Ventura and Thousand Oaks.
Jacob Roper, spokesman for the state controller's office, said interest in the pay website has remained strong. The site has had 6.1 million page views since it launched in late 2010. On Dec. 18, the day after new figures were posted, the office counted 12,000 page views. Chiang's office separately reports pay for state workers, special districts and some higher education institutions.
Ongoing collaboration with cities and counties led to the new categories for overtime, "other" and lump-sum pay, Roper said.
"It just keeps getting better," he said of the database.
On the Net: http://publicpay.ca.gov
CA unemployment Numbers by County:
Downloadable spreadsheet: https://www.box.com/s/83198dcd5a46bc6c980d
51 Counties below National Average...
Joel Kotkin: California's poor long-term prognosis
By JOEL KOTKIN / Register columnist
California's current economic recovery may be uneven at best, but things certainly look better now than the pits-of-hell period in 2008. A cautiously optimistic New York Times piece (http://tiny.cc/gvejpw) proclaimed "signs of resurgence," and there was even heady talk in Sacramento (http://tiny.cc/rwejpw) of eventually sighting that rarest of birds, a state budget surplus.
Yet such outbreaks of optimism should not blind us to the bigger issue: the long-term secular decline of the state's economy. Whether you believe that the new higher taxes may now slow our growth, as my colleagues at Chapman University (http://tiny.cc/i1ejpw) now believe, or right the fiscal ship, as is widely hoped in the blue California press, it's more important to look more at the long-term trends, and assess where we stand compared with our domestic competitors.
California, despite its enormous natural and human resources, is losing ground in most basic areas. Its unemployment rate, a still-horrendous 10 percent, stands as the nation's third-highest. This is not a new development or the product of a run of bad luck. The state's unemployment rate (http://tiny.cc/o5ejpw) has been consistently above the national average for almost all of the past 20 years. Most interior counties, including the Inland Empire and the Central Valley, now suffer unemployment rates well into the double digits, with some approaching 15 percent.
Overall, the state is still down a half-million jobs during the recession. California's losses since its employment peak have been considerably above the national average, some 3 percent, far worse than the 2.3 percent erosion seen nationwide. Despite the modest recent uptick, the California Budget Project (http://tiny.cc/89ejpw) projects the state would need to add twice as many jobs per month to fully recover from the recession by the summer of 2015.
Other long-term trends confirm the state's secular decline in competitiveness. Take per capita income – a decent indicator of relative progress. In 1945, journalist John Gunther, writing his famous "Inside USA," gushingly described California "the most spectacular and most diversified American state ... so ripe, golden." At the time, the state boasted the third-highest per capita income in the nation. As late as 1980, the state still ranked fourth. Today, despite Silicon Valley's money machine, California has fallen to 12th and appears headed for further decline.
Despite hopes in Sacramento and in the media, high-tech alone can not bail out the state. The much hoped-for windfall around the time of the Facebook IPO has failed to produce the expected fiscal bonanza for the state treasury. Silicon Valley famously gets nearly half the country's venture capital, but its impact on the rest of the state has diminished. In the 1980s and 1990s, tech booms stretched prosperity throughout its surrounding regions and as far as Sacramento. Now it barely covers half the Bay Area; unemployment in Oakland remains at around 13 percent and one child in three lives in poverty.
Part of this reflects the shift from an industrial high-tech focus to one fixated on software and social media. Given the extraordinary ease with which support and even research operations can be moved, once companies start to grow, they easily head to India, China or over to lower-cost locales like Utah or Texas. "Sure, we are getting half of all the venture capital investment but in the end we have relatively small research and development firms only," observes Jack Stewart, president of the California Technology and Manufacturing Association. "Once they have a product or go to scale, the firms move elsewhere. The other states end up getting most of the middle-class jobs."
This can be seen in the long-term trends in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics-related) jobs. Over the past decade, even with the current bubble, Silicon Valley's STEM employment, according to estimates by Economic Modeling Specialists Inc., has increased by a mere 4 percent over the past decade. In contrast, science-based employment jumped 25 percent in Seattle, 20 percent in Houston and 16.8 percent in Austin, Texas.
Fiscal cliff stumble could doom California's budget recovery
Published: Friday, Dec. 28, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Friday, Dec. 28, 2012 - 5:00 pm
Gov. Jerry Brown and California lawmakers struck an upbeat tone in recent weeks as they enjoyed their most positive budget outlook since the economic downturn.
Whether that mood survives the winter depends on Washington.
State budget experts say the biggest immediate threat to California finances is a recession triggered by automatic federal cuts and tax hikes, absent a political deal to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff."
The state's biggest federal program, Medi-Cal, is spared from automatic cuts. But a new recession could threaten the state tax revenue that serves as the lifeblood for California government.
"A lot of it relies on confidence, and I think that one of the things that makes this especially hard to predict is we can't really know how businesses and consumers will respond," said Jason Sisney, the chief forecaster at the Legislative Analyst's Office.
In November, the LAO predicted a relatively small $1.9 billion state budget deficit through June 2014, followed by surpluses in years thereafter.
But in a separate simulation based on a federal impasse, the LAO estimated the state would receive $11 billion less across two years in a recession, nearly a 6 percent drop. A decline that size would force state lawmakers to impose spending cuts,just as many Democrats are eager to restore health and welfare programs, or to look for other ways to raise money.
Sisney said recession predictions assume that consumers and businesses lose confidence in the economy because people have to pay higher taxes and the federal government reduces its spending.
Absent a deal, about 400,000 Californians would stop receiving unemployment checks after this week, representing 43 percent of the state's 923,000 beneficiaries, according to the state Employment Development Department. These are people who have collected unemployment checks beyond the standard 26 weeks. Some have been able to receive up to 99 weeks of assistance.
December 5, 2012
Thanks to passage of Proposition 30 last month, high-income Californians would pay the nation's highest marginal income tax rates -- nearly 52 percent -- if President Barack Obama and Congress fail to make a deal to avoid the so-called "fiscal cliff," according to a new study.
Without a fiscal cliff deal to the contrary, the Bush era tax cuts on high-income taxpayers would expire next year and rates would return to their previous levels.
Gerald Prante, an economics professor at Lynchburg College in Virginia, and Austin John, a Lynchburg economics student, calculated marginal tax rates -- the highest rates on the highest levels of income -- for all 50 states. They combined state, federal and, where applicable, local income taxes, pluspayroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare and included the deductibility of some taxes.
Proposition 30 added three percentage points to the marginal state income tax rate for California's highest-income taxpayers, bringing it to 13.3 percent. That action raised California over other high-tax jurisdictions to a marginal rate of 51.9 percent, slightly higher than New York City's level. Hawaii was the only other place with a calculated rate above 50 percent.
Their report was published by the Social Science Research Network.
Brown to Borrow Money From Pension Plans to Build Choo Choo Train
How will Jerry Brown pay for the $200 billion 135 mile choo choo from Bakersfield to Madera?
““We have active interest in and outreach to sovereign funds and foreign consortia that are looking at us,” Jeffrey Morales, chief executive of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said Nov. 29.
In addition to sovereign wealth funds, or state-owned investment pools, other potential investors include companies that will build and operate trains and stations, he said.
State owned investments pools? What are those? Oh, CalPRS and CalSTRS the insolvent pension plans run by the government.
By James Nash, Bloomberg, 12/2/12
California is courting sovereign- wealth funds, pensions and endowments for more than $50 billion to build Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed bullet train to link the state’s largest cities, the most expensive public-works project in U.S. history.
High-speed rail ventures such as California’s, which has weathered management shake-ups and fluctuating cost estimates, pose attractive opportunities for such investors, who together have $6 trillion in assets, said Andy Kunz, president of the U.S. High Speed Rail Association, a nonprofit advocacy group meeting this week in Los Angeles.
California is the only U.S. state working to lay tracks for trains running as fast as 220 miles an hour (354 kilometers an hour). The $68.4 billion project, linking San Francisco with Los Angeles, is counting on $10 billion in bonds authorized by voters, $3.3 billion committed by the federal government and as much as $55.1 billion from private sources.
“We have active interest in and outreach to sovereign funds and foreign consortia that are looking at us,” Jeffrey Morales, chief executive of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said Nov. 29.
December 4th, 2012, 10:25 am · · posted by Ronald Campbell
California High Speed Rail Authority Chairman Dan Richard injected a solemn note into a love fest for the220-mph train Monday.
“If we screw this up,” he said at the U.S. High Speed Rail Association conference in Los Angeles, “we’re going to set high-speed rail back big time.”
Richard, a former top executive at Pacific Gas & Electric and longtime director of the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, became chair of the troubled rail project early this year. Since then, the authority has named a new chief executive, former Caltrans director Jeff Morales, who in turn has brought in a new set of managers.
While the authority has put management issues behind it, Richard said, ultimate responsibility rests with him and other board members.
“If this thing goes awry,” Richard said, “we’re not going to point to Jeff (Morales).”
Richard’s comments – which differed in tone from the generally optimistic cast of his remarks – came in answer to a question about avoiding a repeat of Boston’s infamous “Big Dig” road improvement project, which went far over schedule and over budget. The project manager on the Big Dig was Parsons Brinckerhoff, the same company that has long served as chief consultant for the authority.
“We cannot tolerate having a Big Dig equivalent,” Richard said.
When he joined the board, Richard said, he was skeptical of the plan to begin construction in the San Joaquin Valley instead of where most of the people are, in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area. He said he has changed his mind.
Not only can the train run full-speed in the valley – which it plainly cannot do in Anaheim or Atherton on the San Francisco Peninsula – but it has a right-of-way problem that makes building in the valley urgent. In the Bay Area and Southern California, the authority plans to share long-established rights of way with Caltrain and Metrolink. But in the valley, the fastest-growing part of the state, Richard said, the authority is finding new apartment buildings popping up on its intended alignment before it can make an offer for the land.
The authority hopes to begin construction on the Bakersfield-to-Fresno segment in summer 2013. By the end of the decade it plans to connect that segment to Palmdale and to start high-speed service.
Asked about the existing Metrolink service from Sylmar to Palmdale, which a questioner said was very slow, Richard appeared elated at the characterization. He suggested slow Metrolink service would encourage the public to demand completion of high-speed rail from Palmdale into the Los Angeles Basin.
“We will hit a tipping point for high-speed rail when people see they can do part of their trip at very high speed,” Richard said. “So I’ll be happy that it’s slow, for a while.”
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearingen said the train offers a chance to cure the valley’s nagging transportation problems. Although it’s an economic giant, the nations’ agricultural heart with 8 million people, businesspeople are hours away from connections to other business centers.
High-speed rail, she said, is “a chance to address one of our big three deficits,” other than education and water.
Swearingen left before this Watchdog, who cut his teeth investigating dishonest pols and inept federal farm lenders at The Bakersfield Californian, could ask her about other valley “deficits,” such as poverty – three of the five poorest metro areas in the nation are in the valley – and pollution – four of the dirtiest five – and what the train would mean for them.
So we turned instead to another conference attendee, Tate Hill, president of the Fresno Metro Black Chamber of Commerce.
“This is a state and federal investment to see that the valley gets its share,” Hill said. “It’s a tool that allows local, state and federal resources that come into the valley to have a focus. … High-speed rail doesn’t solve all things. But it is a big boost.”
The conference drew about 250 people, many of them engineers or vendors looking for a piece of the $6 billion in federal and state funds already committed to the project and the billions more likely to come.
Siemens, the German engineering giant, co-sponsored the conference and hosted a booth. Saleswoman Gina Mattern showed off a large display photo of the company’s high-speed train, already in operation in six countries, but painted in California blue and gold and bearing the authority’s “Fly California” logo.
It will be years before the authority buys trains. When it does, just a handful of companies worldwide, Siemens among them, are likely to be bidders.
Posted in: High Speed Rail
Democrats' longtime O.C. chief stepping down
By MARTIN WISCKOL / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
After a dozen years as chairman of the Democratic Party of Orange County, Frank Barbaro is stepping down, saying he's weary of dealing with the warring factions within the county party.
"Everybody just seems to be at each other's throats all the time," said the 69-year-old Santa Ana attorney. "The Democratic Party is a party of many tents and keeping everybody placated is not always possible. I'm just tired of all the infighting. I don't want to do it anymore."
Frank Barbaro is stepping down as chairman for the Democratic Party of Orange County after 12 years in the post.
Despite the friction, Democrats have gained ground under Barbaro's watch.
The county's growing Latino electorate has been accompanied by Republicans' voter-registration advantage shrinking from 17 percentage points to 10 points. Of the 34 cities in the county, six are now Democratic – up from two when Barbaro took office in 2001. November's election saw Democrat Sharon Quirk-Silva upsetting incumbent Assemblyman Chris Norby, R-Fullerton, and Obama winning 11 cities – including five GOP cities.
Barbaro had previously served as party chairman in the late 1970s, which included the brief period in 1978 when there were more registered Democrats than Republicans in the county. He is well-connected with key politicos in Washington, D.C., and in Sacramento.
"Frank's the one who can have the governor return his call in 30 minutes," said Tustin's Jeff LeTourneau, a gay-rights activist running for the chairmanship.
Also running for the post, which will be voted on Jan. 28 by the party's governing Central Committee, is Ladera Ranch's Henry Vandermeir, a longtime Democratic Party activist and the executive director of the Democratic Foundation of Orange County. Another possible candidate is former state Sen. Joe Dunn. Dunn has not announced whether he's decided to seek the post. If Dunn runs, LeTourneau said he'd drop his bid and support the former lawmaker, who is now executive director of the State Bar of California.
The chairmanship, like its Republican counterpart, is an unpaid position.
Barbaro was recruited to run for chairman in early 2001 by Central Committee members unsatisfied with the other candidates. He won easily and helped bring together those with differing agendas. Among them was the Democratic Foundation, a group of wealthy party activists Barbaro helped found in 1976, which Barbaro helped re-engage with the county party.
"Without him, the party might have fallen apart over the past decade," Vandermeir said. "He's done a good job of keeping the different factions together."http://www.ocregister.com/news/party-379600-county-barbaro.html
December 5th, 2012, 10:25 am · · posted by Morgan Cook
California‘s unemployment insurance program has too often left thousands of newly-unemployed workers waiting more than three weeks for their first unemployment checks, according to recent reviews of the program’s performance by state and federal officials.
California’s program — which provides temporary financial support to workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own — has failed every year since 2001 to send at least 87 percent of first payments within three weeks as required by federal standards, according to data from the U.S. Department of Labor.
In the first six months of this year, the program ranked 43rd among the nation’s 53 programs for timeliness of first payments, according to U.S. Department of Labor data.
The program’s sustained poor performance landed it on the labor department’s annual watch list of programs at risk of federal intervention, a spokesman for the federal agency wrote in an email to The Watchdog this week. As of Monday, California was one of eight programs on this year’s watch list.
Of the 596,690 first payments California’s program made during the first half of this year, 77 percent were on time, according to the federal data. About 31,070 took seven weeks or longer.
The national average for timely first payments during the six months was 83 percent.
“When the department fails to make timely first payments … these delays directly affect how quickly claimants receive their unemployment checks and thus can cause hardship,” State Auditor Elaine Howle wrote in a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown earlier this month.
Howle’s report described the results of a review her office conducted this year to follow up on a 2011 audit of the state program’s performance. The 2011 audit noted serious gaps in service as the program struggled to meet unprecedented demand amid climbing unemployment.
Between 2007 and 2010, the state’s unemployment rate increased 132 percent —- from 5.3 percent in June, 2007 to 12.3 percent in June, 2010, according to the 2011 audit. The increase resulted in a 148 percent increase in initial claims during the two-year period.
The surge in demand left officials struggling to make payments on time, and the program’s automated phone system was overwhelmed by calls for help and services, the state audit found.
As of August, the state’s unemployment rate had decreased to 10.4 percent, but the program continued to take too long to make first payments, and its phone system still failed millions of callers, according to this year’s review.
In the fiscal year ending June 30, 12 million calls, or 24 percent of total attempts to connect to the phone system, were unsuccessful, according to the review. The system blocked out the calls and callers could not get access to services.
People tried to speak to an agent in 29.7 million calls that got through to the system, Howle wrote in the letter. Less than 5 million of the callers were connected to an agent. The remaining 24.9 million attempts to speak to an agent were “unsuccessful.”
The 2011 audit included recommendations to help the program improve service and meet federal performance targets, Howle wrote in her letter to Brown. At the time of the review this year, the program had fully implemented less than half of the recommendations.
In an official response, the Employment Development Department said officials have not ignored the state auditor’s recommendations.
“The EDD does in fact have a plan to address performance,” the statement said. “While the (auditor) states that we have not fully implemented several corrective actions, for those specifically required by the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), who oversees the UI program, we have submitted corrective actions plans to the U.S. DOL and they have been approved.”
VICTOR DAVIS HANSON
California, Here We Stay
Reasons not to flee an imploding state
Thanks to a uniquely temperate climate, California’s agricultural abundance is boundless.
California’s multidimensional decline—fiscal, commercial, social, and political—sometimes seems endless. The state’s fiscal problems were especially evident this past May, when Governor Jerry Brown announced an “unexpected” $16 billion annual budget shortfall. Two months later, he signed a $92 billion budget that appears balanced only if voters approve an $8.5 billion tax increase in November. According to a study published by a public policy group at Stanford University, California’s various retirement systems have amassed $500 billion in unfunded liabilities. To honor the pension and benefit contracts of current and retired public employees, state and local governments have already started to lay off workers and slash services.
Not just in its finances but almost wherever you look, the state’s vital signs are dipping. The average unemployment rate hovers above 10 percent. In the reading and math tests administered by the National Assessment of Educational Progress, California students rank near the bottom of the country, though their teachers earn far more than the average American teacher does. California’s penal system is the largest in the United States, with more than 165,000 inmates. Some studies estimate that the state prisons and county jails house more than 30,000 illegal aliens at a cost of $1 billion or more each year. Speaking of which: California has the nation’s largest population of illegal aliens, on whom it spends an estimated $10 billion annually in entitlements. The illegals also deprive the Golden State’s economy of billions of dollars every year by sending remittances to Latin America.
Do You Live In A Death Spiral State?
Don’t buy a house in a state where private sector workers are outnumbered by folks dependent on government.
Thinking about buying a house? Or a municipal bond? Be careful where you put your capital. Don’t put it in a state at high risk of a fiscal tailspin.
Eleven states make our list of danger spots for investors. They can look forward to a rising tax burden, deteriorating state finances and an exodus of employers. The list includes California, New York, Illinois and Ohio, along with some smaller states like New Mexico and Hawaii.
If your career takes you to Los Angeles or Chicago, don’t buy a house. Rent.
If you have money in municipal bonds, clean up the portfolio. Sell holdings from the sick states and reinvest where you’re less likely to get clipped. Nebraska and Virginia are unlikely to give their bondholders a Greek haircut. California and New York are comparatively risky.
Two factors determine whether a state makes this elite list of fiscal hellholes. The first is whether it has more takers than makers. A taker is someone who draws money from the government, as an employee, pensioner or welfare recipient. A maker is someone gainfully employed in the private sector.
Let us give those takers the benefit of our sympathy and assume that every single one of them is a deserving soul. This person is either genuinely needy or a dedicated public servant or the recipient of a well-earned pension.
HJTA sues to halt
Cal-State partisan politicking
Sacramento — The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association announced today it is filing a lawsuit against Cal State University after discovering personnel used taxpayer-funded resources to solicit students in favor of Proposition 30, the $50 billion tax increase on this November’s ballot.
The complaint was submitted against Cal State University (CSU) Monterey Bay after the Humanities Department sent an email communication to students blatantly advocating for Prop. 30. The message urged students to “work together to pass Prop. 30” and even went so far as to offer an inducement that if Prop. 30 passes, “students will get a $498 tuition refund.” The email requested students to share the communication with their families (presumably, parents who pay the tuition) and to “encourage them to vote their support for the CSU System this November.” The transmission was sent from the Department’s official email address to students at their CSU Monterey email addresses and was signed by Director Ernest Stromberg, who is named as an additional defendant in the case.
Using public resources for political campaigning violates Government Code section 8314 which states, “It is unlawful for ... any state ... appointee, employee, or consultant to use or permit others to use public resources for a campaign activity, or personal or other purposes which are not authorized by law.”
Government Code section 89001 provides, “No newsletter or other mass mailing shall be sent at public expense.” Section 82041.5 defines “mass mailing” as a mailing to more than 200 recipients. Defendant Stromberg’s email to approximately 360 students qualifies as a prohibited mass mailing. Both CSU Monterey and the individuals involved can be held liable for the actions, the suit contends.
“This campaign mailing violates the constitutional rights of taxpayers and students whose tax dollars and student fees are being misused to promote a political cause which they do not support,” said Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “This is one more example of those inside government who are taking advantage of their taxpayer-funded positions to force their political beliefs upon students.”
The complaint against CSU Monterey comes just one week after a CSU Fresno professor reportedly forced students to advocate in favor of Prop. 30 on a mid-term exam, and just one month after a CSU Long Beach professor utilized the CSU Long Beach email system to encourage faculty to volunteer to help pass Prop. 30 and provided links to unions’ campaign headquarters.
The lawsuit was submitted this morning to the Monterey County Superior Court.
For a copy of the lawsuit, please click here.
Phony Tony, Los Angeles Mayor, Conspires to Openly Violate Federal Law
It is against Federal law to assist an illegal alien in anyway. Of course Democrats do not believe in obeying or enforcing the laws.
“Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is pushing a plan to create an official city photo identification card that could double as a prepaid ATM card and help immigrants get access to banking services.
The initiative could reduce crime because fewer people would have to carry cash, but critics say it’s another ill-advised City Hall effort to accommodate illegal immigrants.”
How you heard of a rash of muggings of illegal aliens for their cash? What a joke of a Mayor, he can’t even lie very well—even Arnold lies better.
Are you concerned about illegal aliens being mugged or are you concerned about the people they kill, mug and steal from? They take jobs from honest Americans, crowd our schools and hospitals. Phony Tony cares about illegal’s being mugged while these criminals break our laws and steal from US every days.
By Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times, 10/13/12
TO SEE COMPLETE STORY CLICK ON BLUE HEADLINE
“City officials and other supporters of the city ID card say it’s a practical attempt to balance federal immigration laws with making residents less vulnerable to crime and more accountable to their community. An official ID would make it easier for many residents to open bank accounts, obtain city services and identify themselves to law enforcement officials, they argue.”
Mayor Villaraigosa wants city ID card for immigrants
Villaraigosa is pushing a plan for an official city identification card that would double as a prepaid ATM card to help undocumented residents get access to banking services.
By Catherine Saillant, Los Angeles Times
October 13, 2012
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is pushing a plan to create an official city photo identification card that could double as a prepaid ATM card and help immigrants get access to banking services.
The initiative could reduce crime because fewer people would have to carry cash, but critics say it's another ill-advised City Hall effort to accommodate illegal immigrants.
The idea for the city ID card originated in his office, the mayor said, as part of previous efforts to help immigrants open bank accounts so they wouldn't become targets of crime.
Councilman Richard Alarcon recently introduced a more limited proposal to create a new library card that could also serve as a debit card. But Villaraigosa said he wants to go farther and have the city begin offering full-fledged photo IDs.
A handful of cities, including San Francisco and Oakland, issue identification cards to anyone who can prove residency, regardless of immigration status. Villaraigosa said it's time that Los Angeles — home to an estimated 4.3 million immigrants — joined them.
"It will be an official ID," Villaraigosa said in a recent interview. "It will be as strong an effort as San Francisco's."
Any move to add the nation's second-largest city to those making official IDs available to undocumented residents is likely to intensify the debate over the role local governments should play in dealing with illegal immigrants. Critics said Villaraigosa's proposal is the latest indication that Los Angeles leaders are taking an increasingly supportive view of undocumented immigrants as they encourage them to join in the city's civic life.
"It is clearly an accommodation," said Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform, a group critical of illegal immigration. "Los Angeles is making it easier for people who have violated federal immigration laws to live in the city."
Guv Brown Gives Tax $$ to Multi-Billionaire: CA throws subsidy at Tesla Motors
Would you give tax dollars, $10 million to a multi-billionaire? Jerry Brown is doing just that.,
Musk is not merely a member of America’s 1 percent, for which Occupy has much contempt. He’s a member of the 1 percent of 1 percent.
That’s why it is so unseemly that the California Energy Commission just gifted Tesla Motors $10 million to pay for machinery it purchased for its Freemont factory. Tesla will use the tax dollars, supposedly, to add 500 workers to build its Model X, a rechargable sports utility vehicle.”
The money to billionaires is what the Left/Occupy Gang complain about—yet it is Brown, Obama and their friends making the rich, richer. Thought you should know how hypocritical Democrats have become.
By Joseph Perkins, Calwatchdog, 10/12/12
Memo to Occupy San Jose: I’ve got a ripe target for you on Santana Row, playpen for the Silicon Valley wealthy.
Musk is not merely a member of America’s 1 percent, for which Occupy has much contempt. He’s a member of the 1 percent of 1 percent.
That’s why it is so unseemly that the California Energy Commission just gifted Tesla Motors $10 million to pay for machinery it purchased for its Freemont factory. Tesla will use the tax dollars, supposedly, to add 500 workers to build its Model X, a rechargable sports utility vehicle.
“These investments in clean vehicles,” said Energy Commissioner Carla Peterman, “will reduce petroleum use, improve air quality, and create jobs, while demonstrating California’s commitment to a greener transportation future.”
The problem is the means by which Peterman’s agency made those “investments.” It’s by socking California drivers with a surcharge on their vehicle registration and smog check fees.
It’s bad enough that the 99.9 percent of us that are not multi-billionaires like Musk have to subsidize his car company. But it’s patently unjust that the state’s most needful drivers — the working poor, the unemployed, the elderly on fixed incomes — have to bear that burden.
The state Energy Commission’s $10 million giveaway to Tesla might be less outrageous if the company was non-profit; if it was developing its modern electric version of the old German gasoline-fueled “people’s car,” which came to be known here in the states as the Volkswagon.
But Tesla Motors is hardly manufacturing any low-priced, low maintenance people’s cars. It’s producing automotive toys for the decidedly well-to-do. The kind of volk who drop by its Santana Row showroom.
Indeed, Tesla’s very first offering to the car buying public was a $109,000 fully-electric roadster. Its second offering, the Model S, a luxury sedan, had a base price of $57,400 to $77,400.
Tesla’s Model X, which is scheduled to go into production in 2014, according to Tesla spokeswoman Christine Ra, will start at $60,000 and top out at $100,000.
Tesla is not building vehicles for the mass of Californians, who have made the Honda Civic and Accord, and Toyota Camry and Corolla the state’s best-selling cars. It’s targeting well-heeled California residents, those whose tastes run to Mercedes, BMW and other luxury nameplates.
There’s nothing wrong with Tesla positioning itself at the high end of automobile market.
It’s just hypocritical for the state government, led by a governor promoting a ballot measure that “asks California’s wealthiest to pay a little more” in taxes, is asking California’s poor and middle class to pay a little more in vehicle registration and smog check fees to subsidize a car company owned by one of the state’s wealthiest residents.
The thing of it is, Tesla doesn’t even need the state’s $10 million gift. The company raised $200 million in a secondary stock offering just last week. CEO Musk says the company will be “cash flow positive” as soon as next month and profitable in 2013.
So $10 million will hardly make or break Tesla. And if there was even the remotest possibility of that happening, Musk’s pockets are deep enough to keep his car company afloat.
October 12, 2012
OAKLAND - Gov. Jerry Brown, who has done little public campaigning for his Nov. 6 ballot initiative to raise taxes, said tonight that he has been busy fundraising but will launch a "full-on campaign" of events starting Tuesday in Los Angeles, the state's largest media market.
"It's definitely a very close and challenging race, and I'm going to spend the next three weeks doing everything I can to make sure we put it over the finish line," the Democratic governor said after an appearance in Oakland. "This will be a full-on campaign."
He said his appearance Tuesday will likely be at the University of California, Los Angeles.
"You have to raise the money," Brown said over salmon cakes at a restaurant here. "This is not a free good. I've got to be on the phone ... calling people. When you ask people to give you 35 million bucks, it takes time. You have to eat, you have to drink, you have to talk, you have to sit, you have to stand. And I do all of that."
Brown's remarks come after Molly Munger, the proponent of a rival tax measure, unloaded on Brown with a television ad this week criticizing his initiative. Her measure, Proposition 38, would raise on all but California's lowest-income earners.
Brown, who also started campaigning relatively late during his 2010 gubernatorial run, held a handful of events at schools earlier this year. He billed an August press conference as a "kickoff" to his campaign, though his public appearances were few.
Brown said the initiative campaign is only now beginning to resonate with undecided voters.
Top donors go all in on state ballot measures Biggest contributors include billionaires, corporations, unions
If you are a small donor, $25, $50 or $100, do not bother to donate to any initiative this year. This is the year of unions, corporations and billionaires controlling the financing of ballot measures.
So far Molly Munger has donated $35 million to get you to give $120 billion to government education.
“The California Teachers Association, for example, gave nearly $8 million to Brown’s measure, according to MapLight. The union is one of the heaviest hitters in California politics. From 2001 to 2011, it gave more than $118 million to candidates and initiatives, more than any other interest group, according to a previous analysis by California Watch, sister site of The Bay Citizen.
This season, the union also has forked more than $18 million to try to defeat Proposition 32 [PDF], which would weaken the clout of unions by barring the use of payroll-deducted dues for political purposes.
The Service Employees International Union unloaded more than $20 million, also to support Prop. 30′s tax increase and oppose Prop. 32. The California Federation of Teachers added nearly $3 million to those efforts.
On the other side of those initiatives, Munger’s half-brother, Charles Munger Jr., has spent $23 million.
Your $25 is worthless against all this—save it to pay higher taxes and higher costs of products and services thanks to government action.
By Will Evans, Bay Citizen, 10/12/12
The top 10 donors to November’s state ballot measures – a smattering of extremely wealthy people, powerful unions and large corporations – have dumped more than $150 million into the fight so far, according to campaign finance tracker MapLight.org.
The mega-donors include politically opposed siblings, a 91-year-old car insurance magnate, a conservative group that keeps its donors secret and a teachers union that has outspent every other special interest in the last decade. MapLight.org tracks the top donors of each ballot initiative on its Voter’s Edge website.
At the top of the list this year is civil rights attorney Molly Munger, who has given nearly $30 million of her own fortune to pass Proposition 38 [PDF], which would raise taxes to fund K-12 education. Her father is a billionaire business partner of Warren Buffett at Berkshire Hathaway.
“Molly Munger is investing her own money in the campaign because she cares deep
LA Confidential: Mayor Villaraigosa Covers Up $400M Taxpayer Boondoggle
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who also ran the Democratic National Convention, has now embroiled himself in a scandal of epic proportions with taxpayer dollars. Villaraigosa and staff negotiated a deal with Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) to build a football stadium in downtown Los Angeles. The price tag for the taxpayers: almost $400 million in debt, supposedly to be repaid by AEG. The stadium will be built on land currently occupied by the Los Angeles Convention Center. Los Angeles, as you may recall, doesn’t have a football team.
Sounds like a typical stadium boondoggle.
Except that it turns out that AEG is being sold, which means that the group that will perform the contract with the City of Los Angeles is not the same as the group that negotiated the contract. Here’s where it gets truly ugly: Villaraigosa knew about the upcoming sale, and told nobody. He kept it a secret. He said nothing to Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller and City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana. Members of the City Council, who will have to sign off on the deal, were kept in the dark, too.
“I’ve met with ... people who are looking to bring a football team. I'm not going to tell everybody everything we’re doing because we want a football team. And a lot of what happens here is, it’s got to be negotiated quietly,” said a frustrated Villaraigosa to the media.
Now, there is only one reason for Villaraigosa to hide the AEG sale from those who most needed to know about it. According to mayoral candidate Kevin James, that reason is simple: AEG received a sweetheart deal at taxpayer expense, which upped AEG’s sale price. Now the new buyers will have a great deal with the City of Los Angeles. And Villaraigosa will get to look like a hero for bringing the NFL to Los Angeles. Perfect for his gubernatorial run.
There’s something seriously fishy going on here. The details of the AEG deal must be examined closely, especially given the fact that Los Angeles already carries a $258 million deficit and a $27 billion unfunded pension liability.
But this is how Democrats do business. There’s a reason that Villaraigosa and Barack Obama are thick as thieves – when it comes to taxpayer dollars, they are thieves.
NY Times: CA UNCOUNTED Debt Between $167 and $335 BILLION—Not Counting ACTUAL Debt of $631 Billion
California is in a Depression. Like peeling an onion every layer of government exposes larger deficits and massive debts.
“The task force estimated that the burden of debt totaled at least $167 billion and as much as $335 billion. Its members warned that the off-the-books debts tended to grow over time, so that even if Mr. Brown should succeed in pushing through his tax increase, gaining an additional $50 billion over the next seven years, the wall of debt would still be there, casting its shadow over the state.”
Unpaid bills for education, pensions, infrastructure, and money stolen from Trust Funds—none part of the $631 billion debt of them California government. To “fix” this Brown, Munger and the unions want to take tens of billions from families and businesses—forcing firms to leave the State and raise the unemployment rate. California needs some adults in charge.
By MARY WILLIAMS WALSH, NY Times, 9/20/12
TO SEE COMPLETE STORY CLICK ON BLUE HEADLINE
On Thursday, an independent group of fiscal experts said Mr. Brown’s efforts were all well and good, but in fact, the “wall of debt” was several times as big as the governor thought.
Directors of the State Budget Crisis Task Force said their researchers had found a lot of other debts that did not turn up in California’s official tally. Much of it involved irrevocable promises to provide pensions to public workers, health care for retirees, the cost of delayed highway maintenance and an estimated $40 billion bill to bring drinking water up to federal standards.
They also pointed out many of the same unpaid bills from previous years that the governor had brought to light, like $8 billion in delayed payments to schools and community colleges, and $250 million that was raided from a fund dedicated to transportation and treated as revenue.
L.A. Times Hiding Video of Obama FRIENDSHIP With Terrorist
by Stephen Frank on 09/23/2012
A free nation has a free press. Looks like the bankrupt L.A. Times prefers Obamanation to the Constitution and traditions of the First Amendment.
“The L.A. Times persists in hiding from the public a 2003 video of Barack Obama attending a party for radical Islamist activist Rashid Khalidi, a video that supposedly features extreme anti-Semitic rhetoric. Yet, with criticism stinging, the Times has issued a rather feeble reason for keeping that important video secret from the American people.
They are “keeping a promise,” we are told, to protect a “confidential source.”
Should the American people be allowed to see the video of Obama laughing at a party for a terrorist. Will the video show both engaging in anti-Semitic jokes and conversation? The L.A. times, pretending to be a newspaper refuses to let the public know. Do you want to know? Did you know they had this evidence of corruption and bigotry?
Federal judge says no constitutional right to secret ballot
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San Fran Electricity Rates to go up 77% (not a typo) Next Spring
by Stephen Frank on 09/23/2012
Great news for the people of San Francisco—they are going to save the planet, even if it bankrupts them!!
“Thousands of San Francisco residents may be sucked into a green energy plan that will raise their electricity rates 77 percent without their knowledge or consent. Beginning next spring, half of the city’s 375,000 residential ratepayers will automatically be enrolled in CleanPowerSF – unless they take action to opt out of the program. Eventually the entire city will be enrolled in the program unless they choose to opt out.
City officials are hoping at least 90,000 households will choose to remain in the program — despite the 23 percent increase (an extra $18) on the average monthly PG&E bill, which includes electricity and gas.”
What will a 77% raise in the cost of energy be for the poor and middle class? How will this affect jobs? We know the answer—the global warming canard is going to bring down a once great city, and the mantle of an Al Gore hoax. Watch the value of business and homes collapse in San Fran. Now is a good time to sell.
Posted by Joel Engel Friday, September 14, 2012 at 10:15am
California, you may have heard, is broke. Really broke. So broke that yesterday the Regents of the University of California began brainstorming what to do if indeed additional revenues from Governor Jerry Brown’s pet initiative to raise taxes this fall fails at the ballot box.
Given how much of Brown’s plans for the future revolve around this ballot proposition—Prop. 30—you’d think the governor would be more careful about the messages he sends to us voters. What he’s done, as opposed to what he’s said, strike a lot of us as reason to vote against him.
I happen to know a prominent Californian who knows Brown, and though their politics are poles apart, he calls the governor “a sober and serious politician who’s trying his best. He’s definitely not Governor ‘Moonbeam”—the nickname bestowed on Brown his first time in office more than three decades ago.
Maybe, but moonbeamism is an apt word to describe Brown’s consuming affection for the pie-in-the-sky idea of constructing America’s first bullet train, connecting Los Angeles with San Francisco. Two months ago, his very public lobbying of the state legislature got him $8 billion for the train’s inaugural steps.
That’s all fine and good for him. But how could that boondoggle not have cost him thousands, maybe millions, of votes for the ballot initiative that he’s framed as essential to the state’s financial health?
To the average Californian, like me, there’s so much wrong with the train proposal that its route through the lightly populated Central Valley instead of along the coast and its less-than-bullet speed are now beside the point.
The most optimistic estimates of final cost project a shortfall of $60 billion, and the most optimistic projection of ridership leaves the train having to be subsidized to the tune of hundreds of dollars a ticket until Captain Kirk begins dictating his captain’s logs. Make that Capt. Picard.
Not a single ordinary Californian expects this train to get built. Nor do we want it, not when everything else in this formerly golden state is crumbling either physically or metaphorically, and our actual budget deficit, free of accounting legerdemain, may be $20 billion.
When you add in unfunded liabilities like pensions for public-employee unions, we’re not much more solvent than Greece.
So we were surprised that the governor would waste so much political capital and dwindling credibility on this fast train to nowhere given that the Prop. 30 tax hike would optimistically raise $2 billion less than the train allocation.
It goes without saying that Brown would love to simply sign higher taxes into law; if possible, he’d have done it on taking office early last year. But California requires bills that raise taxes to get yeas from two-thirds of the legislature before reaching the governor’s desk, something that even in heavily Democratic California is a nigh impossibility.
That’s why, in November, we will be asked to vote yes on the governor’s initiative to increase our state sales tax another quarter percent—that is, a mere penny on every four dollars spent; no big deal, right?—and establish three new income-tax rates on those with taxable incomes over $250,000, $300,000, and $500,000 respectively.
In theory, this should be easy, at least according to those who imagine that, like them, voters have few scruples and will readily vote to increase some other guy’s taxes (I actually don’t include Brown in that group).
But in this last June’s election, weeks before Brown’s public cheerleading for the train funds, millions of Californians had already sent him and our legislature a loud message that they must’ve been too preoccupied to hear: Sacramento could have the train funds or they could possibly have the tax hike—but not both.
By the closest margin in California’s history of ballot propositions, Prop 29—the California Cancer Research Act, which would’ve added a buck to each pack of cigarettes—was defeated. The counting took weeks and came down to fewer than several thousand votes out of five million cast.
Prop 29’s authors and major supporters were dumbfounded. They blamed the loss on the tobacco companies’ poisoning our minds with $47 million worth of “propaganda.” You see, at 15 percent, California has the second lowest smoking rate in the country; only Mormon-infused Utah is lower.
Their cynical calculation was that 85 voters with no lungs in the game would vote against the pockets of the 15 once they heard that 60 percent of the new funds raised—nearly half a billion dollars annually—were allocated for research “into the prevention, detection, treatment, and potential cures of cancers and other tobacco-related illness, including heart disease.”
Who could be against all that, especially if it doesn’t cost them anything?
As someone who prefers to be at least two zip codes upwind of a burning cigarette, I’m certain that Prop 29 lost for one overarching reason: Californians have grown deaf to hysterical, doomsday warnings—exactly the kind, from a fiscal perspective, that Governor Brown and fellow supporters of Prop 30 will soon be chanting like a mantra.
(You will not be surprised to learn that, though many initiatives qualified for the fall ballot, our secretary of state placed Brown’s first; hence its number. Conventional wisdom is that propositions are more likely to pass the higher they appear on the ballot.)
Here, for example, was Doug Ulman, president of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, which took a lead position in support of Prop 29:
The defeat of this life-saving initiative is a genuine tragedy. Big Tobacco lied to voters to protect its profits and spent $50 million to ensure it can continue peddling its deadly products to California kids.
Well, that’s one way to look at it. Another is that a genuine tragedy is a tree falling onto a house, killing kids.
As for the lies, they were what’s known as truths. The ads noted factually that the money raised in-state by the tax increase wouldn’t necessarily remain here for research—and that the funds would establish yet another bureaucratic entity, operated with the remaining 40 percent of the revenue, to collect and distribute the monies without public input or scrutiny.
Then there’s the fact that, even if the proposition had passed with 100 percent of the vote, tobacco companies would still have been free to peddle their “deadly products”. Prop 29 neither criminalized tobacco nor allowed anyone under 18 from buying it.
In California, as elsewhere, years of crying wolf like that have inured the populace, who actually does recognize that the beasts are actually baying at our door. We just no longer trust our elected hunters to shoot straight. Especially after $8 billion that doesn’t exist can be found for a quixotic boondoggle.
When the campaign-commercial season reaches its critical final weeks, Prop 30 will be sold as a last-ditch effort to save public education. Ads galore will paint grim scenarios of what will befall “the children” and thus “our future as Californians” if we don’t vote to raise taxes and “save our schools.”
Most legislators will join the robocall chorus, not only in the hopes of sparing themselves from having to solve the budget problem with some hard choices, but also to ensure that they continue receiving the largesse of public-employee unions whose influence would be threatened by (further) draconian cuts necessitated by the proposition’s failure.
Indeed, the primary financial backers of the signature drive to get the proposition on the ballot were the same unions whose benefits packages, voted on in better days, are contributing disproportionately to our insolvency.
No matter how cruelly they beg for our votes, though, preserving the status quo of California’s public schools is something fewer taxpayers are inclined to do.
And no wonder. United Teachers of Los Angeles, for example, voted four times in four years to shorten the academic year in order to preserve union jobs—a move necessitated in part by reduced funding resulting from declining enrollment tied to the appalling quality of the education they provide.
UTLA manages to make the thought of shutting down the schools and starting over an appealing one.
Come to think of it, a multibillion-dollar train to nowhere that will never be built anyway is a perfect metaphor for the fate of Proposition 30.
Despite all the scaremongering, six days after Halloween it will lose. But unlike Prop 29, the margin won’t be close. Californians who refused to stick smokers with the tab for, say, melanoma research—which has nothing to do with smoking—will not stick it to themselves so that public employees can remain insulated from the real world and legislators from the consequences of their inaction.
Translating the Language of Politicians
By Jon Coupal
Those in some professions intentionally adopt language that is obscure and impenetrable to the uninitiated, wrote the late S.I. Hayakawa, a semanticist and former U.S. Senator from California. He surmised that this is done so that the layman will be confused and perhaps be in awe of the perpetrators’ importance. As a lawyer by training, I must concede that the shoe fits many in my profession.
However, there is at least one field where communication is not so much intended to be incomprehensible, but to create a very clear impression in the mind of the listener that what is being said is benevolent and true when, in fact, it is not.
Politicians are masters at using words to describe themselves and their endeavors in ways that make their motives seem beyond reproach. Here are a few of the noble sounding, grandiose terms currently common in “political speak” and their translation into the language of real people.
Shared Sacrifice: This term has become popular both in Washington, D.C. and in Sacramento. In a recent letter to the president, Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described “democratic socialist,” wrote supporting deficit reduction through “shared sacrifice.” Reading the letter in its entirety, what the senator was asking for, of course, is a tax increase. So when a politician says, “shared sacrifice” it is probably a good time to get a firm grip on your wallet.
Grand Bargain: This term has become fashionable in the nation’s Capital. It has been used to describe efforts by President Obama to reach out to Congress to promote a tax increase. Here in California, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has picked up on this addition to the political lexicon by calling for a “grand bargain,” whose primary element would be a dismantling of Proposition 13 to allow for -- you guessed it -- a tax increase.
Investment: In 1993, Bill Clinton called for a major “investment” in America. No doubt guided by his wily consultant, Dick Morris, the words “tax increase” never passed through his lips, but that is exactly what he wanted, a massive tax increase, which Congress approved.
There are a number of other pleasant and/or patriotic sounding terms that, when used by politicians, are actually code for increasing the burden on taxpayers. Among these are “new revenue,” “budget solution,” “fair share,” and a personal favorite from the mouth of President Pro Tem of the California Senate, Darrell Steinberg, “tremendous opportunity to restructure the way we govern.” Then, of course, there is the slightly strange “You didn’t build that,” as a roundabout justification for higher taxes.
Fortunately, most taxpayers are not so gullible as to be taken in by the politicians’ high sounding rhetoric filled with pleasant euphemisms for confiscating more of their hard-earned money. As Ronald Reagan observed, the most frightening nine words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
Hayakawa had a less humorous and more ominous warning about the misuse of language by the political class. In the introduction to his Language in Thought and Action, published in 1949, he urged every citizen to adopt a habitually critical attitude toward language, without which, he warned, “…our political liberties remain at the mercy of any eloquent and unscrupulous demagogue.” His advice remains good today.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -– California's largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers' rights.
To read this column on the HJTA website, please click here.
The latest on California politics and government
July 31, 2012
California ranks second highest in employment distress
California's unemployment rate - currently 10.7 percent - has been the nation's third highest for months but ranks second worst in a broader measure of employment distress by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It's called "U-6" and it includes not only unemployment, but "marginally attached workers," and those employed only part-time for economic reasons.
By that measure, 20.3 percent of California's workforce was distressed from the third quarter of 2011 through the second quarter of 2012, the new BLS report says. And that was second only to neighboring Nevada's 22.1 percent.
California is also tied for the top spot with Rhode Island in the "U-4" category - unemployed workers plus discouraged workers - at 11.8 percent.
The Sacramento Bee
Brown warns of deep cuts if tax-hike fails
August 16, 2012 8:54 AM
STEVEN HARMON, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS
SACRAMENTO • California Gov. Jerry Brown officially opened his Proposition 30 campaign for tax hikes Wednesday by saying it’s a simple choice for voters: ask the “privileged and most blessed” people of the state to give back a little or watch three weeks disappear from the school year and a half billion be taken from colleges and universities.
“To those who much has been given, much will be required,” Brown said at a rally at the New Technology High School in Sacramento. “I quote Luke in the Gospels and what was good 2,000 years ago is good today.”
The governor’s tax measure would raise income taxes on couples making $500,000 or more for seven years, while also boosting the sales tax by a quarter cent for four years. Schools would be cut by $5.5 billion, and colleges and universities another $500 million if voters reject the initiative in November.
Brown took issue with the idea that voters will frown on his tax measure because of recent controversies such as the $54 million that was hidden away in the state Parks and Recreation accounts, the center of attention at the Capitol since the story broke last month and the subject of a legislative hearing Wednesday.
“If the government can’t be trusted, what do we do, dismantle the schools? Do we end the highway patrol? Do we open the prison doors?” Brown said. “If you say you can’t trust the government, then there should be zero tax and there should be anarchy. But if we have to live with this flawed institution called democracy, which happens to be populated with people like me and the legislators and all the other characters in Sacramento and throughout the state, that’s the way it is.
“Now, if somebody has some virtuous group of saints that can come in here and make it all work, hallelujah.”
Tax opponents said voters won’t buy what they said are scare tactics from the governor.
August 13, 2012
California Republican Party approves structural changes
With less than three months to go until the November election, the California Republican Party Board of Directors has approved a structural shake-up some insiders say is meant to limit Chairman Tom Del Beccaro's involvement in the party's strategic planning and fundraising efforts.
The actions, outlined in a draft resolution provided to The Bee, included creating a new 2012 campaign fund that will be controlled by the vice chairman and the treasurer. The board also replaced all members of the Strategic Planning Committee, which it assigned to oversee "Victory 2012 activities to support the election of Republican candidates," including voter turnout and outreach programs and media relations. The board also created new efforts to plan for the party's 2013 convention and develop a plan for renovating the Burbank offices.
The changes were approved during a closed meeting Sunday after the general session of the party's fall convention in Burbank concluded.
Del Beccaro, elected to the position in 2011, has come under fire from some inside the party for failing to raise sufficient cash and backing an effort to qualify a referendum of the newly drawn state Senate maps. The board does not have the ability to remove the chair from his post.
The move came after several weeks of bad press for the party, which has suffered losses in registration numbers and at the ballot box in recent years. It closed the second quarter of the year with virtually no cash on hand. The financial troubles forced officials to lay off staff, including the party's spokeswoman, and downsize the Sacramento headquarters, though other offices have been opened throughout the state.
Del Beccaro is eligible to run for a second term at the party's spring convention next year. He has not publicly said whether he intends to do so. He did not return a message seeking comment left Sunday.
Editor's note: An earlier vote incorrectly stated that Del Beccaro is not a member of the new committees. The CRP bylaws state that the chair serves ex officio on all committees.
Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2012/08/california-republican-party-looks-to-curb-power-of-chair.html#storylink=cpy
Up to $2.3 billion in California public funds hiding in plain sight
Posted: 07/26/2012 06:02:27 PM PDT
Updated: 07/31/2012 12:20:53 PM PDT
SACRAMENTO -- A week after uncovering a hidden-funds scandal at the state parks department, finance officials are now trying to piece together why the balance sheets for similar "special funds" are off by $2.3 billion -- money that appeared to be right under their noses amid California's financial meltdown.
An analysis by this newspaper of California's little-known 500-plus special funds -- like the ones that included $54 million in parks money shielded from the Department of Finance -- shows tens of millions of dollars in discrepancies in numerous accounts.
The fund that gives restitution to violent crime victims was off by $29 million. The one that provides children with low-cost health insurance was $30 million out of balance. The fund that rewards people for recycling bottles and cans was $113 million off.
"Where are these dollars?" asked state Senate budget chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who said it was a "big problem" that the special funds "clearly have not been getting enough attention."
The newspaper's review found at least 17 accounts that appeared to have significantly more reserve cash than what individual departments reported to the finance department, though it's unclear why.
An account that helps build state courts had $27 million more on the controller's ledger than the figure reported to the finance department. A pool of money that helps problem gamblers was off by $7.9 million. Another fund that assists in prison guard training was off by $6.4 million.
The problem could date back decades and is only now coming to light after discrepancies were discovered in the parks funds, costing longtime parks director Ruth Coleman and deputy director Michael Harris their jobs.
The potential error is especially remarkable considering how easy it would have been to catch.
Earlier this year, dozens of state departments told Gov. Jerry Brown's budget aides that they had a combined $8.8 billion left in "rainy day" reserves for their special fund accounts as of a year ago. At the same time,http://www.mercurynews.com/california-budget/ci_21168552/up-2-3-billion-california-public-funds-hiding?source=pkg
Capitol Alert: California appellate court turns back challenge to Proposition 13
By Dan Walters
firstname.lastname@example.org Tuesday, Jul. 24, 2012 Tuesday, Jul. 24, 2012
Proposition 13, the landmark property tax limitation passed by California voters in 1978, has survived another legal assault.
The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles on Tuesday denied, without comment, an appeal of a lower court decision rejecting a challenge to the measure from Charles Young, the former chancellor of the UCLA campus.
Although Proposition 13 was upheld by the state Supreme Court shortly after its passage, Young contended that by requiring a two-thirds legislative vote for imposing new taxes, the measure constituted a "revision" of the state constitution that could not be enacted by voters.
email@example.com - Jon Coupal will be fighting his battle against taxes on multiple fronts in 2012. As president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Coupal will be a leading voice urging GOP legislators to oppose any new taxes proposed to balance the state budget. California appeals court sides with multistate firms on taxes
While voter-approved initiatives can amend the constitution, revisions -- a more fundamental form of change -- must go through a constitutional convention or a constitutional revision commission.
Young, represented by retired federal Judge William Norris, contended that by requiring a two-thirds vote for state tax increases, Proposition 13, went beyond an amendment in that it fundamentally changed the balance of fiscal power in the Legislature because "legislators opposing a tax increase are given the functional equivalent of more votes than those legislators who favor such proposals."
The appellate court refused to entertain the case, however, and it's uncertain whether Young will try again with the state Supreme Court. Norris has said he and Young were inspired to launch the indirect challenge to Proposition 13 by the wording of a state Supreme Court decision dealing with Proposition 8, the equally controversial measure that barred same-sex marriages.
Proposition 8 was challenged on similar grounds -- that it was a constitutional revision rather than an amendment -- and while the court upheld its status as a valid amendment, some language in the ruling indicated to Young and Norris that a challenge to Proposition 13 might succeed.
Proposition 8 was later invalidated by the federal courts.
Jon Coupal, who heads the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which is named after Proposition 13's chief sponsor, hailed Tuesday's decision.
July 19, 2012
California legislative employees making six figures get raises
By Torey Van Oot and Jim Sanders
At least 93 California legislative employees making more than $100,000 received raises this year, a review of newly released payroll records showed.
While six-figure wage earners represent just a fraction of total legislative staff, the Capitol now has more than 300 employees making more than $100,000.
Forty-seven Senate employees with six-figure salaries received raises between Jan. 31 and June 30 of this year. Six additional employees in that pay range received raises but were promoted or assigned to a new job. Records released to The Bee under the Legislative Open Records Act show that at least 189 employees in the upper house now make six figures or more, a net increase of 15 since Jan. 31.
The Senate salary hikes were part of a yearlong policy that resulted in merit raises of up to 5 percent for roughly 560 of the upper house's 964 staff members. Rhys Williams, a spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, said that merit raises totaled about $1.5 million in the past year, with 58 percent of Senate employees receiving a raise.
Some employees received larger percentage hikes because they switched job classifications, recently or in years past, without a pay increase at the time, Williams said Wednesday.
In the Assembly, 46 employees with six-figure salaries received pay increases since Dec. 1 under a directive by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez permitting raises ranging from 3.6 percent to 5 percent for aides whose pay had not risen in three years or more. There have been about 365 raises and about 110 job reclassifications among the Assembly's roughly 1,300 employees.
The lower house now has 130 employees making $100,000 or more -- an increase of 10 since Dec. 1, records show.
Pérez's decision to allow raises after a long pay drought extended to employees of all pay levels, and hundreds have have seen their paychecks rise since the legislative year began Dec. 1.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg on Wednesday announced plans to seek a one-year freeze on pay increases in light of the state's ongoing fiscal problems. The Senate had previously frozen pay for four years, from 2007 to 2011. The Assembly has no plans to enact a salary freeze.
Editor's note, 1:36 p.m.: This post has been updated to correct the number of Assembly employees making $100,000 or more.
Huge budget deficit be damned: California Gov. signs funding bill for $68 billion high speed rail project
By Doug Powers • July 21, 2012 01:16 PM
There’s every indication that environmental laws Gov. Jerry Brown has supported, among other obstacles (such as having no money for it), will prevent California’s planned “train to nowhere” from being completed, but the project will move forward regardless:
California moved full steam ahead on Wednesday with a $68 billion high speed rail project, a move that comes as the state slashes spending to close a nearly $16 billion budget deficit and as a string of its cities mull bankruptcy.
At a ceremony in Los Angeles, Governor Jerry Brown signed an initial funding bill for the train project, clearing the way for construction of a 130-mile section of track through the state’s agricultural heartland.
Brown says a bullet train network will boost job creation and provide an alternative to car and plane travel in the country’s most populous state.
say California can ill afford the $68 billion project that farmers unions
regard as an “imminent threat” to some of the most agriculturally productive
land in the United States.
The state and federal financing outlined in the bill includes the issuance of $2.6 billion in state bonds, which would in turn unlock $3.2 billion in federal funds for construction of track in the Central Valley that was expected to begin at the end of 2012 or the start of 2013.
Construction had to begin before the end of this year or the project’s eligibility for over $3 billion in stimulus funds would have expired. If the funding holds out for the first leg, over a decade from now Californians will finally be able to travel from Borden to Shafter in record time. To dream the impossible dream.
Ex-bullet train booster calls new plan 'mangled,' perhaps illegal
July 11, 2012 | Lance Williams
Even as the state Senate voted last week to approve California’s $68 billion high-speed rail plan, opponents filed yet another lawsuit to stop the controversial construction project.
Former California High-Speed Rail Authority Chairman Quentin Kopp, who led a 20-year fight for the bullet train, said he believes this latest lawsuit poses a real threat.
The compromise high-speed rail plan crafted by Gov. Jerry Brown and approved Friday is a “mangled” – and probably illegal – version of the project state voters enacted in a 2008 initiative, Kopp said in a phone interview.
“They have distorted high-speed rail and twisted it into (providing) money for commuter rail services,” he said.
Kopp is not a party to the suit but said he was familiar with its assertions. His comments are of note because for decades – first as a San Francisco legislator and then as rail authority chairman – he was among the California's leading advocates for high-speed rail.
“I can’t say it was unnecessary to get the votes, but it’s not high-speed rail,” Kopp, who also is a retired judge, said of the compromise plan. “It violates (the initiative) in at least four respects and maybe five.”
In a statement, rail authority CEO Jeff Morales said the rail plan enacted last week – including its expenditures on commuter rail service in the Bay Area and Southern California – was "fully in compliance" with the bullet train law enacted by voters, called Proposition 1A.
"This is now a truly statewide vision that is born directly from the funds made available when the voters passed Prop. 1A," he said of the new rail plan.
Morales declined to comment on the latest lawsuit, filed in Sacramento County Superior Court by the County of Kings Board of Supervisors. Central Valley farmers fear that rail construction will wreck vast stretches of prime agricultural land.
The suit accuses the state of illegally spending public funds on the bullet train, arguing that Brown’s reconfigured or “blended” plan for the rail system simply cannot produce what voters authorized.
On four earlier occasions, judges have rebuffed similar lawsuits, saying they were filed prematurely. That might no longer be the case now that the Legislature has voted to issue $4.5 billion in state bonds to begin construction of the first segment, a line between Merced and Fresno.
Michael Brady, Kings County’s lawyer, said he was in the Capitol on Friday to watch the Senate vote. As approval neared, he said he went to the courthouse and filed the lawsuit, which seeks a court order stopping all spending on the project.
“The vote by the Senate doesn’t make any difference,” he contended. “The Legislature cannot approve a project that violates the law passed by the voters.”
The system approved by voters in 2008 is supposed to link San Francisco and Los Angeles with electric trains traveling more than 200 mph, whisking travelers between the two cities in two hours, 40 minutes.
Passengers aren’t supposed to have to change trains, and the state is barred from paying operating subsidies to the rail line. Those and many other provisions are written into state law.
Earlier this year, after construction costs ballooned to an estimated $98 billion, Brown slashed $30 billionfrom the project’s budget. To save money, the project was reconfigured into what is called a “blended” rail system, in which the bullet train would share tracks with commuter rail systems on the San Francisco Peninsula and in the Los Angeles basin.
The $8 billion spending package approved by the Legislature includes an anticipated $3.2 billion in federal funding. The measure passed the Assembly easily. But in the Senate, the vote was 21 to 16, with four Democrats refusing to endorse the measure. Republicans were uniformly opposed.
In an apparent attempt to attract support, the governor’s measure included about $2 billion for transit improvements for San Francisco's Muni system, BART, Caltrain and Los Angeles’ Metrolink service.
The governor hailed the vote, saying, "The Legislature took bold action today that gets Californians back to work and puts California out in front once again.”
The lawsuit contends that the latest version of the project is so fundamentally different from what voters authorized that it should not be allowed to proceed.http://californiawatch.org/dailyreport/ex-bullet-train-booster-calls-new-plan-mangled-perhaps-illegal-17007
Dan Walters: So-called trailer bill bolsters California secrecy
By Dan Walters
Published: Sunday, Jul. 22, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
As noted in this space and other venues, many provisions of the so-called "budget trailer bills" that the Legislature wrote in secret and hastily enacted last month had nothing, in fact, to do with the budget.
To establish a tenuous connection to the budget, Democratic legislators inserted token $1,000 appropriations in measures that make major changes in law.
One elevated Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase measure to the top of the November ballot. The maneuver is now being challenged in court, but regardless of the outcome, it's a shabby, underhanded way of rewriting election law without public notice, hearings or other democratic processes.
Senate Bill 1018, another of the so-called trailer bills, was not only written in secret but enhances secrecy in a new state program.
One of its provisions authorizes the "linkage" of California's huge new anti-greenhouse gas emission program to a newly formed private corporation and declares that it "should be done transparently. …"
But a few paragraphs later, SB 1018 says, "Sections 11120 through 11132 do not apply to the Western Climate Initiative, Incorporated, or to appointees … when performing their duties under this section."
Hidden California state parks funds spark outrage
By Matt Weiser and Kevin Yamamura
Last Modified: Saturday, Jul. 21, 2012 - 12:23 am
California state parks Director Ruth Coleman resigned and her second-in-command was fired Friday after officials discovered the department has been sitting on "hidden assets" totalling nearly $54 million.
The money accumulated over 12 years in two special funds the department uses to collect revenue and pay for operations: $20.4 million in the Parks and Recreation Fund, and $33.5 million in the Off Highway Vehicle Trust Fund.
The money accumulated, state officials said, because the parks department had a pattern of underreporting the actual size of the funds in its regular dealings with the state Department of Finance.
Why and how this occurred remains a mystery and will be the subject of investigations launched Friday by the Department of Finance and the state attorney general's office, said John Laird, secretary of the California Natural Resources Agency, which oversees the state Department of Parks and Recreation and who announced the discovery of the funds on Friday.
Farm bill would replace dairy subsidies with insurance
Dairy farmers that opt into the insurance plan would be paid when milk prices drop too low, but they also would be required to cut back production at that time.
Some California dairy farmers are pushing to change the way the bill calculates… (Bob Chamberlin, Los Angeles…)
Congress wants to ditch the usual subsidies for dairy farmers and replace them with a new type of insurance to protect farmers' bottom lines during hard times. But some California dairymen aren't lapping it up.
The measure would replace outright subsidies with a voluntary insurance plan to pay farmers enough to maintain a profit margin when milk prices drop too low.
Farms that opt into the insurance plan, however, would be required to produce less milk whenever prices fall below a certain point, based on the idea that a glut of milk forces prices down.
The bill cleared the House Agriculture Committee on a 35-11 vote Thursday and now goes to the chamber's floor.
Supporters argue that insurance is the best safety net for the nation's dairies, which have had a rocky three years since milk prices plummeted in 2009. Higher feed and transportation costs have been draining dairies' bank accounts. In 2009, about 20% of the state's 1,800 dairy farms shut down.
Some dairy farmers, however, don't like provisions that could restrict their operations.
If farmers scale back production, "it makes them a much less reliable supplier, and a supplier who can't compete as efficiently," said Daniel Sumner, a UC Davis agricultural economist who studies the dairy industry.
That is why countries such as New Zealand and Australia, which also export dairy products, would welcome such a supply-management requirement in the U.S., he said.
"The California industry, just over the last several years, has become efficient enough to become competitive internationally," Sumner said.
Two members of the House committee, David Scott (D-Ga.) and Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.), tried to amend the bill Wednesday to eliminate the supply-management provision, but their amendment was voted down, 29 to 17.
SoCal Tax Revolt Coalition
A Letter From The President
June 8, 2012
The California Primary was a huge success from a “tea party” stand point. Many of the candidates that were supported by citizen activists made it through to the general election in November. And is spite of the “open primary” we really had a great showing of conservative candidates with even some third party candidates making in through to the general.
Prop 28 was approved which means that the elected in Sacramento will be able to stay in their positions even longer before needing to seek re-election, this mean it’s even more imperative to see those positions being held by candidates we want to help us govern in the state.
Prop 29 the tax increase for new bureaucracy was defeated, narrowly but still defeated. This was great especially after the news that Governors in California had used 9/11 scholarship monies to support their failed policies and budgets, which was a good sign of things to come with yet another new branch of government that would have been created under Prop 29.
San Diego had a great showing with fiscally conservative city councilman DeMaio making it through to the general against long time Congressional ruling elite Bob Filner. And San Diegans decided to give the unions a run for their money by approving Prop A , open competitive bidding for contracts and Prop B true pension reform. San Diego and San Jose made national news by passing the pension reform measures.
I am so proud of all of the hard done by the voters and groups in California that educated voters for months. It is a good day in California and with much perseverance and divine intervention it may be a turning of the pendulum back to common sense fiscally responsible governance in our Golden State.
To see a list of the races in CA go to this spreadsheet I prepared, https://www.box.com/s/a02d5334194371f666d9
Stay tuned for our next mission as we are not done yet and we need to prepare for the general election in November where there will be more tax increases on the ballot.
The best tweet seen last week was, “I can see November from WI!” love it!
SoCal TRC Team
It looks like that Facebook IPO may not be enough to save California's fisc after all. Facebook
co-founder Eduardo Saverin has renounced his U.S. citizenship to move to Singapore, which has
no capital gains tax. And now we learn the Golden State's budget deficit will come in at $16
billion, up from a merely awful $9.2 billion estimate in January.
California Controller John Chiang reported last week that April tax collections were a gigantic
20.2%, or $2.44 billion, below 2012-13 budget projections. You have to admire Mr. Chiang's
capacity for understatement as he noted that "revenues disappointed." Yes, and J.P. Morgan's
whale trade was a $2 billion rounding error.
Among the biggest surprises is a 21.5% or nearly $2 billion decline in personal income tax
payments from what Governor Jerry Brown had anticipated. This reinforces the point that when
states rely too heavily on the top 1% of taxpayers to pay the bills, fiscal policy is a roller coaster
California is suffering this tax drought even as most other states enjoy a revenue rebound.
State tax collections were up nationally by 8.9% last year, according to the Census Bureau, and
this year revenues are up by double digits in many states. The state comptroller reports that
Texas is enjoying 10.9% growth in its sales taxes (it has no income tax), while California can't
seem to keep up despite one of the highest tax rates in the land.
This would seem to suggest that California should try cutting tax rates to keep more people
and business in the state, but Sacramento is intent on raising them again. Governor Brown and the public-employee unions are sponsoring a ballot initiative in November to raise the state sales tax by a quarter point to 7.5% and to raise the top marginal income-tax rate to 13.3% from 10.3%. This will make the state even more reliant on the fickle revenue streams provided by the rich.
Meanwhile, an analysis by Joseph Vranich, who studies migration of businesses from one state
to another, finds that since 2009 the flight of businesses out of California "has increased fivefold
due to high taxes and regulatory costs."
This month Chief Executive magazine reports that its annual survey of CEOs ranked California
dead last among the 50 states in business climate. Texas was number one. The silver lining for
Jerry Brown, if not for the California fisc, is that if you're already ranked 50th you can't get any
lower—though he seems willing to try.
Why Did The Deficit Grow?
By The Numbers
On May 14th, the Governor released the May Revision of his proposed 2012-13 budget. The May Revision will be the starting point for final negotiations on the budget due by June 15th. Among the highlights of the May Revision:
- The deficit has grown from $9.2 billion to $15.7 billion. This increase was a function of $1.7 billion in spending increases since the adopted 2011-12 budget, a failure of $4 billion of "phantom revenue" to materialize and increased spending proposed for 2012-13.
- The Governor's office projects that revenues will grow $4.9 billion before the Governor's tax increase. Unfortunately, absent proposed spending cuts and fund shifts, spending would grow 9.8%. Total state spending (from all funding sources) will reach a new historic high of nearly $225 billion in 2012-13. This is $12 billion higher than the 2011-12 (current year) budget and $30 billion higher than 2007-08, before the recession.
- The Governor's proposed tax increase is estimated to raise $8.5 billion. Schools would only get a portion of this new funding, approximately $2.9 billion, even though the language of the initiative suggests that the tax increase is dedicated to school funding. The language of the initiative allows the state to reduce state support for schools and use those funds for fast growing health and welfare programs.
Grimes: Assembly Committee Exposes Lies in Guv Brown New Budget—No Surprise
Jerry Brown is taking $410 million from a homeowners settlement, meant for them, to pay for his deficit. He wants one billion dollars from an energy settlement, meant to repay businesses and families ripped off, to pay for his choo choo train.
“Like a woman with a shopping addiction, California politicians are going to bankrupt the Golden State. California has a $16 billion deficit, a $4.6 billion budget spending increase since January, a credit rating which will probably be lowered and a big fat $10 billion debt owed to the K-14 public schools.
It doesn’t look good. Someone needs to cut up the state’s credit cards and put the Legislature on a Weight Watchers plan for big spenders.”
Yes, we owe $10 billion to government schools. We also owe $14 billion, in total, to the Feds for loaning us the money to pay our unemployment checks.
$16 billion in deficit
$10 billion owed the schools
$14 billion owed the Feds
$33 billion stolen from Trust Funds by Arnold and Jerry to pay for their deficits.
Get the point, California is in a Depression and bankrupt. Yet silence from the Guv.
By Katy Grimes, Cal Watchdog, 5/17/12
Like a woman with a shopping addiction, California politicians are going to bankrupt the Golden State. California has a $16 billion deficit, a $4.6 billion budget spending increase since January, a credit rating which will probably be lowered and a big fat $10 billion debt owed to the K-14 public schools.
It doesn’t look good. Someone needs to cut up the state’s credit cards and put the Legislature on a Weight Watchers plan for big spenders.
May Budget Revision
With nothing but bad news to deliver, on Monday Gov. Jerry Brown gave his May Budget Revision. By Tuesday, the Assembly Budget Committee was dissecting the budget with the help of Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor and the Department of Finance’s Michael Cohen.
And while the budget talk was wonky and dry, one issue kept resurfacing: On top of our $16 billion state debt, the State of California also owes $10 billion to its K-14 public schools.
The Legislature has avoided making actual cuts to programs by using education funding every year to shore up the gaps. But the money taken from education is still owed to the K-14 schools. Robbing Peter to pay Paul, this “deferral” has accumulated to $10 billion. The law states that it must be paid back.
The Legislative Analyst’s Office has warned about the ongoing deferral to education as the state has increasingly relied on education funding to pretend the budget is balanced and avoid unpopular cuts to programs.
But when the Legislature defers funding to schools in order to keep the money for other state programs, it also has to approve additional borrowing.
That’s like paying only the minimum on your MasterCard, and then opening a new credit card for additional spending.
Assemblyman Brian Nestande, R-Palm Desert, took Cohen and Taylor to task on Tuesday after both indicated the need for Gov. Brown’s tax initiative to pass in order to meet the spending in his budget.
Brown’s tax increase initiative would increase the state income tax on those making more than $250,000, for five years, and raise sales and use tax by 1/2-cent for four years, and allocate 89 percent of the tax revenues to K-12 schools, and 11 percent to community colleges.
“What are you doing differently with the budget this time?” Nestande asked Cohen. “You were way off last time.”
Relocation Expert Warns CA Tax Hikes Will Push Out More Businesses
by Stephen Frank on 05/16/2012 ·
Here is a guarantee—pass the Brown/union and Munger tax increases and the California Depression will deepen. We will lose jobs ad families to Texas. Did you know that North Dakota is now the number two oil producing State in the nation? Imagine our jobs and revenues if we were allowed to drill?
“Vranich has been tracking the numbers for years, and says he uses conservative public domain information that is beyond challenge but that really understates the problem. Officially, he says, 254 large companies left California last year, a rate five times higher than 2009, but he cites private economic modeling specialists that put the figure as high as 4,600 departures in 2010.
“My data is only the tip of the iceberg because there are so many companies that are [exiting] quietly,” he says, adding that the trend appears to be accelerating this year. Vranich is unaware of a cross-state database, but believes California has the highest number of business exits, and that “New York and Illinois are probably tied for second place.”
The top reasons prompting these exits are, in general, high taxes, excessive regulation and an environment of hostility to business.”
That is the definition of California, a failed State, run by deniers and power hungry special interests. Pass the taxes and spending goes up and U-Haul makes a killing.
Relocation Expert Warns California Tax Hikes Will Push Out More Businesses
Joseph Vranich says cost of hiring is top concern for financial advisors, other professional service firms; taxes and regulation top list for others
By Gil Weinreich, AdvisorOne, 5/16/12
California’s $16 billion budget hole has garnered headlines, as has Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed fix, which includes tax hikes and budget cuts.
But from the boots-on-the-ground perspective of business relocation coach Joseph Vranich, in an interview with AdvisorOne, a further increase in taxes for the 48th ranked state in terms of tax burden (according to the Tax Foundation) will only exacerbate the problem.
“There’s always a tax comparison with another state,” says Vranich (left), whose Irvine, Calif.-based Spectrum Location Solutions serves clients from large corporations moving 1,000 employees to family-run companies moving 10 people. “Every client I’ve ever served has saved various taxes by moving out of the state.”
Vranich has been tracking the numbers for years, and says he uses conservative public domain information that is beyond challenge but that really understates the problem. Officially, he says, 254 large companies left California last year, a rate five times higher than 2009, but he cites private economic modeling specialists that put the figure as high as 4,600 departures in 2010.
“My data is only the tip of the iceberg because there are so many companies that are [exiting] quietly,” he says, adding that the trend appears to be accelerating this year. Vranich is unaware of a cross-state database, but believes California has the highest number of business exits, and that “New York and Illinois are probably tied for second place.”
Facebook’s IPO Testifies to Silicon Valley’s Power but Does Little for Other Californians
by Joel Kotkin 05/18/2012
The $104 billion Facebook IPO testifies to the still considerable innovative power of Silicon Valley, but the hoopla over the new wave of billionaires won’t change the basic reality of the state’s secular economic decline.
This contradicts the accepted narrative in Sacramento. Over five years of below-par economic performance, the state’s political, media, and business leadership has counted on the Golden State’s creative genius to fund the way out of its dismal budgetary morass and an unemployment rate that’s the third highest in the nation. David Crane, Governor Schwarzenegger’s top economic adviser, for example, once told me that California could easily afford to give up blue-collar jobs in warehousing, manufacturing, or even business services because the state’s vaunted “creative economy” would find ways to replace the lost employment and income. California would always come out ahead, he said, because it represented “ground zero for creative destruction.”
Schwarzenegger’s successor, Jerry Brown, and his economic team have been singing the same song, hoping, among other things, that the Facebook offering, and other internet IPOs, might bring in enough money to stave off the state’s massive, growing deficit, now estimated at more than $16 billion. Yet even as the new IPO wave has risen, California’s fiscal situation has worsened while state tax collections around the nation have begun to rise.
Of course, Facebook’s public offering will help, but only so much. According to the legislative analyst’s office, the Facebook gusher should put an additional $1.5 billion into the state coffers this year, roughly one tenth of the state deficit, with perhaps another billion in the following few years. This constitutes a nice win, but barely enough to sustain the state even over the short—not to mention the long—run.
The problem lies in large part in the nature of the economy epitomized by Facebook. Being based in cyberspace and driven entirely by software, such companies employ almost exclusively well-educated workers from the upper middle and upper classes. In the past “a booming tech economy created all kinds of jobs,” notes Russell Hancock, president and CEO of Joint Venture Silicon Valley, a key industry research group. “Now we only create these rarefied jobs.”
As Hancock suggests, this contrasts with previous California booms. Back in the ’80s or even the ’90s, California’s tech booms were felt broadly in Orange and other Southern California counties and appeared to be moving inland to places like Sacramento. Anchored by its then dominant aerospace industry, Los Angeles remained a tech power on its own while enjoying employment from a burgeoning fashion industry, the nation’s dominant port and, of course, Hollywood.
In contrast, today’s job surge has been largely concentrated in a swath from San Francisco down to Sunnyvale. These firms create the kind of outrageous fortunes celebrated in the media, but their overall employment impact has not been enough to keep California even at parity with the rest of the country. Over the past decade, the state has created virtually no new STEM jobs (science, technology, engineering and math-related employment), while the U.S. experienced a 5.4 percent increase. Arch rival Texas enjoyed a STEM job gusher of 13.6 percent. More important still, mid-skill jobs grew only 2 percent, one third the rate nationally and roughly one fifth the expansion in the Lone Star State.
California legislative Democrats balk at Jerry Brown's budget cuts
In a show of good faith one year ago, legislative Democrats slashed Medi-Cal, cut universities and reduced welfare grants to slice the state deficit 13 weeks before the constitutional deadline. But this year Democrats are refusing to go along with Gov. Jerry Brown's most controversial reductions, spurning his demand to have cuts in place by March. (Sacramento Bee)
CA: AM Alert: Shack up with a student, lose your pension
Republican Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen of Modesto will introduce her own pension legislation today with a bill aimed at cracking down on student-teacher relationships. Assembly Bill 1861 would eliminate pension and retiree benefits for teachers who have an inappropriate relationship with a student at the same school - even if the student is an adult. (Sacramento Bee)
Op-ed: Sam Blakeslee: Republicans back Jerry Brown's pension reforms; where are the Democrats?
There is a saying in the sales industry, "When you get a 'yes,' stop talking and take the order." Democrats in the state Legislature would do well to follow that axiom. (Mercury News)
US: States From Ohio to Florida Weigh Running Company Funds
Six U.S. states, led by Massachusetts and California, are taking steps to put public pension overseers in charge of retirement savings plans offered to nongovernment workers, according to an advocate of the idea. (Bloomberg)
CA: Fresca Deli calls it quits
Fresca Deli, located in the CalPERS building at 400 Q St., closed its doors earlier this month. (Sacramento Press)
CA: Healdsburg fears growing public pension problem
Healdsburg officials struggling with the difficulty of reining in public pension costs fear the magnitude of the problem will grow unless a solution is found soon. (Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
WV Supreme Court rules on public employee resignation case
A public employee can rescind a resignation before an effective date as long as the employer has not yet accepted it, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled March 22. (The State Journal)
Oregon Public Employee See Pension Reduction
More than 20,000 retired Oregon public employees will see a reduction in their monthly checks after being overpaid. (KDRV Newswatch 12)
WV, veterans battle over public pension credits
From West Virginia's last living Medal of Honor recipient to the former military chief of its National Guard, veterans are calling for a more fair and consistent process for boosting the pensions of state employees who have served in the armed forces. (AP / The State Journal)
Massachusetts State Payroll Database: What did state employees earn last year?
Want to see how Massachusetts doled out more $5.38 billion to state workers in 2011? (Masslive.com)
NH: Bill has workers paying state
State employees who drive state cars to and from work may have to begin reimbursing the state for their commuting miles. (Concord Monitor)
Read more here: http://blogs.sacbee.com/the_state_worker/2012/03/am-reading-democrats-dont-want-budget-cuts-or-pension-check-error-ma-state-payroll-goes-online.html#storylink=cpy
With right or left, Jerry Brown struggles to push through taxes
Published: Sunday, Mar. 11, 2012 - 2:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 11, 2012 - 9:49 am
This year, it is Democratic interests he is failing to control.
Despite visiting with labor union leaders fromSacramento and Los Angeles to Washington,D.C., the Democratic governor has been unable to persuade supporters of two rival tax measures to abandon them so that his own initiative to raise taxes might succeed.
He still wants to discuss it, but acknowledges he sees no sign that the proponents of those measures will back down. "Talking to some of these other people," he complained last week, "I don't find an appetite for inquiry."
Brown was cautioned when he took office last year that the Capitol had become more fractious than when he was governor before.
But if the limitations of diplomacy are by now evident to Brown, he keeps talking.
California boards face legal threats over racial makeup
By Will Evans
Published: Sunday, Mar. 11, 2012 - 2:00 am | Page 3A
Compton City Councilwoman Janna Zurita owes her Hispanic last name to a grandmother from Spain, whom she never met. Zurita considers her mother black and said her father "wants to be black" even though he "looks Latino."
Zurita, the mayor pro tem of Compton, sometimes jokes with her sister about their racial roots.
"She always tells me I look just like a Mexican: flat booty, straight hair. You know, just all kind of – how Mexicans used to look. You know, now they have big booties," Zurita said in a legal deposition in November. "You know, little jokes about it."
While Zurita takes a sometimes-playful approach to her racial identity, it became the serious subject of a recent lawsuit under the California Voting Rights Act. In January, a judge ruled that a trial would be necessary to figure out whether Zurita could be considered Latina and whether that means Latinos have a voice on the council. The city settled the suit late last month.
The legal gymnastics in Compton illustrate California's far-reaching law, which bars local governments from diluting the voting strength of minorities. The law has become the foundation of a burgeoning onslaught of legal threats that could upend the racial makeup of elected bodies throughout the state.
Armed with 2010 census data, a network of attorneys is increasingly targeting local governments, from cities and school boards to hospital and community college districts, for not reflecting the demographics of their constituents.
"We're seeing the fastest change in how California organizes local government since the Progressives of the early 20th century," said Douglas Johnson of the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont Mc-Kenna College, who has been critical of the law.
Rural homeowners irate over California's new $150 annual fire protection fee
Published: Sunday, Mar. 11, 2012 - 2:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Mar. 11, 2012 - 9:52 am
An emergency state mandate to charge 800,000 rural homeowners up to $150 a year for Cal Fire's wildlands fire prevention services is drawing opposition in rural counties.
That's a $35 discount because the Wilton residents, like 90 percent of all affected homeowners statewide, already pay for fire protection from their local fire district.
Critics complain that the charge, which will generate about $85 million annually for the state starting in fiscal 2012-13, will make it harder for local fire districts to raise money. And, they say, there is no new service in exchange for the fee to be imposed across more than 30 million acres of California wildland and watershed areas.
Gov. Jerry Brown this year has waged a campaign to charge rural residents for the costs of fire protection since an increasing number have moved to wildland areas. And state fire officials say the greater the number of homes in rural areas, the higher the cost of fighting fires.
"In other words, if an area is completely dominated by vegetation, it probably would not require as many resources to protect it," said George Gentry, executive officer of the state Board of Forestry and Fire Protection.
March 3rd and 4th, 2012
California Tea Party Groups
San Juan Capistrano - Orange County, California 92675
Capistrano Inn/Best Western
27174 ORTEGA HWY SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CA 92675
Hotel reservations at number above or website above.
We have blocked 20 rooms for our conference at $89.95 per night. Mention SoCal Tax Revolt for the discount.
Registration is $45.00 per person for the conference, this includes lunch both days.
Please register for event at the below link for PayPal.
Despite an incredible effort by so many of you and tens of thousands of volunteer circulators working alongside paid petition-gatherers, I regret to inform you that we fell short. 504,760 valid signatures were needed to qualify the referendum for the November 2012 ballot. Although we put in a herculean effort the count as of late last night was 447,514 signatures, which precludes us from submitting the signatures today to the registrar of voters at each of the 58 counties.
This is disappointing news, but it is no less of a warning to Governor Brown, and every Democrat legislator who voted to create a new entitlement program for illegals while the state still has a budget deficit over $9 billion, and cannot even meet it's obligation to legal California students.
Thank you for joining us in this historic effort as Californians of every age, race, religion, income and political party came together to fight to restore sanity to the Golden State. We may have failed in this first battle, but we will not give up in the war to save California from the reckless politicians who want to raise our taxes to put the college dreams of illegals ahead of our own children.
Your efforts have not been in vain. We have alerted our fellow citizens to this fiscal nightmare. Today only marks the end of one battle in a war to reclaim our voice in our legislature.This one loss will not dampen our resolve.
It is an honor fighting alongside you in this great cause.
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly
Gov. Jerry Brown calls for historic shuttering of state's notorious youth prison system
By Karen de Sá firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: 01/06/2012 04:10:18 PM PST
Updated: 01/08/2012 05:11:50 AM PST
Following years of failed attempts to rehabilitate juvenile offenders and improve public safety, California's once-sprawling youth prison system may soon shut its gates for good.
If the Legislature approves the plan Gov. Jerry Brown released Thursday as part of his budget blueprint, California could become the first state to entirely eliminate its prisons for youthful offenders, juvenile crime experts say. The responsibility for jailing all youths would shift to local governments.
Fiscal pressure in a system with annual costs of $200,000 per ward drove Brown to propose halting new admissions into the Division of Juvenile Justice. Under the plan, beginning next year the state's three remaining youth prisons would be phased out as current inmates complete their terms.
But Brown's vision represents far more than just belt-tightening. Already, it's being described by crime experts across the country as a historic proposal given the state's size and the notorious history of its youth prisons. Wire-mesh cages, 23-hour cell confinement and brutal staff beatings are well-documented parts of that legacy.
"California is at the front end, cutting edge of what is going to be the huge trend going forward," said Bart Lubow, who directs national juvenile justice reforms for the Annie E. Casey Foundation. "And that is the policy embrace of the fundamental truth that kids do better when they are near their homes."
Matthew Cate, California's corrections chief, predicted Brown's plan would be a boon to public safety. "The biggest benefit is it keeps wards close to home," Cate said. "The evidence shows, especially with young people, that it eases the return to communities and reduces victimization."
Currently, only the most serious and violent offenders are housed by the state. And California's corrections system for youths has reached other milestones that reform advocates could only have dreamed of a decade ago.
With dramatic drops in youth crime and more incentives for counties to keep their offenders close to home, the number of youths in custody has plunged from more than 10,000 wards in 1996 to just about 1,100 today. The number of youth prisons has dropped from 11 to three. And for the first time in recent history, conditions inside the facilities have finally begun to improve, said one of the system's longtime critics, Donald Specter of the Marin-based Prison Law Office.
Juvenile crime rates have plunged in every major county in California from 1998 to 2010. The rates of serious youth crime are now the lowest since statewide statistics were first collected in 1954, according to the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.
Those who have spent decades attempting to overhaul the youth corrections system say they never imagined the reforms would become so costly -- and the population so shrunken -- that the juvenile prisons would ultimately close.
Still, they share concerns about sending young prisoners back to county jails. Absent a state option, they predict, more youthful offenders will be sent to adult prisons, or housed in facilities even less equipped than those run by the state.
In contrast with adults, juvenile offenders have a legal right to treatment, education and training. But juvenile halls are designed for short-term detentions, and county ranch programs are generally not secure enough to provide for maximum security.
Brown has high hopes for California
BY JULIET WILLIAMS AND JASON DEAREN/ ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted: 01/07/2012 01:01:43 AM PST
SACRAMENTO -- While most other states are limiting expectations as they try to recover from the recession, Gov. Jerry Brown is dreaming of a bright future for his native California.
Even as he prepares for another year of budget cuts, Brown is bucking national conventional wisdom by proposing spending on the types of long-term projects most other governors and state legislatures are shunning.
The 73-year-old Democrat, in his second stint in the governor's office, has said he intends to plan for California's future even as the state tries to right its economy and limit spending on basic programs such as health care for the needy, social services and higher education.The budget proposal for the 2012-13 fiscal year that he released on Thursday commits seed money to a number of expensive projects that he hopes will guide California in the decades to come. The amounts are relatively small but provide down payments for initiatives he said are essential to keeping California desirable.
The allocations underscore Brown's support for a $98 billion high-speed rail line that has been heavily criticized for its ballooning price tag and an array of alternative energy projects he hopes will lead to a cleaner environment and so-called "green" jobs.
Despite the worst economy in modern times, the Democrat once mocked as "Governor Moonbeam" for proposing communication satellites in space is asking state lawmakers to support "bold moves" that live up to California's history of innovation. Critics question whether California can afford the projects in the years ahead.
"This is a strong, confident investment in the future of California," Brown said in releasing his budget plan. "There are a few people, some of them who are hankering after life in Texas, who call California a failed state. But we are the innovative state. We're the state of Apple computer, of Facebook, of Hewlett-Packard, Hollywood, stem cell research, international trade, diversity. This is a state that's dynamic, it's creative, and it's prosperous."
Brown's approach is markedly different than that taken in most other states in the wake of the Great Recession. Other governors and state legislative leaders have taken the opposite view, arguing that governments at all levels must live within their current means.
Forty-eight states have cut programs and services since late 2007. That includes California, which has made deep cuts to social services and education. Brown also has sought to reduce bureaucracy or transfer to local governments the types of programs that he believes should not be overseen by the state, but he also has said he wants to empower government's core functions, including offering help to those who need it most.
Brown's 2012-13 spending plan includes $4.2 billion in cuts to the state's welfare-to-work program, Medi-Cal and child care services. Yet he also is proposing spending about $1 billion in expected revenue from California's new "cap-and-trade" program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He wants that money to go toward clean energy research, natural resource protection and infrastructure projects related to alternative energy.
He also budgeted $15.9 million for the agency overseeing the high-speed rail project, signaling his continued support for it even in the face of several reports that question the project's planning and costs. The rail line is one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects proposed in any state, with plans to link the San Francisco Bay area, the Central Valley and Southern California with trains running up to 220 mph.
The current cost estimate is more than double the original, and funding for most of the project has not been identified.Brown also wants to devote $25 million and create 135 new jobs as part of a habitat conservation and water delivery system in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. That comes amid the ongoing debate over whether California should build a massive canal or tunnel to move Sacramento River water to farms and cities to the south.
During his campaign for governor, Brown endorsed building a canal or tunnel around the delta, but his administration has not proposed building one so far. A proposal for a so-called peripheral canal that Brown supported was the subject of a bitter ballot fight when he was governor in the 1980s.
The sums are small in scope amid a total proposed general fund budget of $92.5 billion, but they reflect the governor's attitude that California can't stop planning for the future just because times are tough right now.
Investments in the environment are relatively cheap and one of the few policy goals that are not blocked by current political and economic realities, said Thad Kousser, an assistant professor of political science at the University of California, San Diego.
He said Brown is taking a risk by supporting high-speed rail but noted that funding for the initial phase of construction comes from sources outside the state budget.
"This is Jerry Brown swimming up the political stream to fulfill his father's vision of California, of investing in infrastructure," Kousser said. "It doesn't look easy in the short term, and many of us will be long gone before it comes to fruition."
Brown's father, Pat Brown, was governor from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s and is credited with developing California's extensive water system and a higher education system that until recent years was a model for its combination of accessibility, affordability and high quality.
If the rail project eventually succeeds, it could provide Brown a lasting legacy of his own. His first tenure as governor, from 1975 to 1983, also was marked by cutbacks to state government and a voter revolt against escalating residential property taxes. Brown was asked this week whether he has had second thoughts about the rail project after the latest critical report.
"You know, I'm of the view that this is the time for big ideas, not shrinking back and looking for a hole to climb into," he told reporters. "California is a big state. America can have a high-speed rail system like every other country -- every other major country -- and I think we've got to move forward."
Republicans and some Democrats have called for scrapping the project. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said Brown's budget reflects his "addiction to overspending.""It is irresponsible to assume that billions of dollars in new tax revenue will suddenly appear, while they move full-speed ahead on high speed rail, a billion-dollar cap and tax scheme, and numerous unsustainable entitlement programs," he said in a statement.
The environmental projects eligible for some of the $1 billion look to the future: solar and wind farms, as well as programs to charging stations for electric vehicles. Such projects will end up boosting the economy as well as protecting the environment, said Stanley Young, a spokesman for the California Air Resources Board, which would oversee the spending.
Jan Mazurek, director of strategy and operations at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University, said Brown also has displayed political courage by pushing ahead with the cap-and-trade plan, which was part of a bill signed by his predecessor, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The plan puts a price on greenhouse gas emissions and offers financial incentives for companies to reduce pollution.
"Other states may be shortsighted toward environmental budget cuts, but Governor Brown understands a cap can close the deficit and that it can grow clean energy companies. A growing economy closes budget deficits," Mazurek said.
Brown served as state attorney general before he was elected governor for the second time in 2010. During that tenure, he supported enacting the state's greenhouse gas law and has repeatedly talked about the need to plan for the predicted effects of climate change.
During a conference on extreme climate risks he hosted last month in San Francisco, Brown urged people to "wake up" to the extreme weather patterns caused by climate change. He said there already was evidence that warming weather is causing faster snowmelts from the Sierra Nevada, putting stress on the state's aging levee system and threatening agriculture in the Central Valley.
He said the greatest obstacle California faces is a "deep sense of complacency" that things will work themselves out.
Economy is revving up; why is Jerry Brown seeking cuts, tax hikes?
Published: Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 - 12:21 am
The economy is kicking into gear – yet Gov. Jerry Brown says California still has to slash spending and raise taxes.
The jarring contrast between Brown's budget proposal and the latest unemployment news out of Washington is a reflection of the depth of the downturn in California. Even as job growth is gaining significant momentum – nationally and in California – most experts don't expect an immediate end to multibillion-dollar state budget deficits.
"At the state level, revenues are going up. But the gap, the red ink at the state level, is so huge," said Sung Won Sohn, an economist at California State University's Channel Islands campus in Camarillo. "There's still a significant amount of red ink to cover."
On Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statisticssaid employers across the country added a better-than-expected 200,000 jobs in December. The national unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent, the lowest since February 2009.
Just a day earlier in Sacramento, the governor offered up the sort of grim menu that's become the norm at the Capitol in recent years: billions of dollars' worth of spending cuts and higher taxes.
If the Legislature won't raise taxes, Brown warned of billions of additional spending cuts.
Brown's plan acknowledges that things are getting better. The deficit is estimated at $9.2 billion, or about one-third what it was a year ago. The outlooks for the national and state economies are "guardedly positive," according to his official forecast.
But the Democratic governor said the economy isn't growing quickly enough to rescue the state budget.
In one telling statistic, his forecasters at the Department of Finance said it will be 2016 before California recoups the 1.2 million jobs it lost during the recession.
That's seven years after the recession technically ended in June 2009. Typically, full recovery in the job market takes no more than 4 1/2 years, the forecasters said.
Los Angeles is the home of a criminal police force. The Chief of Police allowed vandals to cause millions of dollars of damage to public and private property and watched for two months. The cops allowed gangs to roam the streets of downtown and close streets to traffic whenever they wanted.
The LA cops allowed drug sales and the public urination and defecation in the streets–and just watched.
For years the LAPD have allowed foreign criminals to roam the streets, commit crimes and then refuse to turn them in to the Feds for deportation–some would call that a criminal conspiracy.
“A few weeks ago, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa ordered the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) to stop impounding the vehicles of unlicensed drivers for 30 days as per California state law, according to Judicial Watch, a non-profit organization that investigates and exposes government corruption and abuse.
The state law is intended to keep potentially reckless drivers off the road and therefore protect the public. It applies to unlicensed drivers as well as those who have had their license revoked or suspended.
In other words, under the LAPD guidelines, citizens will have their vehicles impounded at their own expense, but illegal aliens will retain their illegally driven cars.”
A corrupt Mayor directs a corrupt police department–and honest citizens are at the mercy of the criminals and corrupt city government.What do you think should be done?
Jerry Brown and the amateur Arnold are sexists. They have created policies to release half of the women in State prison–but no similar policy to release half the men. The professional Jerry and the Amateur Arnold obviously believe that women cannot be as dangerous as men. That is sexist. California is no longer a safe place to live, thanks to courts and politicians. At least we have the Second Amendment–which both Arnold and Jerry have tried to minimize.
“Since Governor Jerry Brown ordered to shift low-level offenders from state prison to county jails to reduce the state’s bloated prison system, more and more jailed moms are serving the remainder of their sentences at home (see earlier story). The state began shifting inmates in October, reducing the number of prisoners by more 8,000.
KPCC, a Southern California public radio station, reports that 20 female inmates qualified this year to serve their sentences at home, and officials hope to increase that number to 500 in the near future. The Alternative Custody Program could potentially lead to the early release of 5,000 women, which is half of the female prisoners in California prisons.”
This will save $6 million in prison costs and cost tens of millions in new crimes. No one ever accused Jerry or Arnold of being math geniuses or concerned about the welfare of innocent citizens.Sexism will have a cost in human life.
Complying with a court order, the California Assembly released thousands of pages of documents about its members' expenditures today that it fought against providing to the public.
The documents detail budgets and spending by each of the Assembly's 80 members. The data should enable the public to better determine what portion of committee funds are used for lawmakers' personal staff.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley ordered the records to be released in a lawsuit filed by The Bee and Los Angeles Times. Frawley issued a tentative ruling in December, which the Assembly did not contest.
"How the government spends the public's money is an area of profound interest," said attorney Rochelle Wilcox, who represented the newspapers in the fight over interpretation of California's Legislative Open Records Act.
Documents released by the Assembly "provide significant information about Assembly spending of tens of millions of dollars annually," Wilcox said.
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said that his house was changing its policies to make information accessible to the public even before Frawley's ruling.
"We had the opportunity to challenge the ruling of the court," Pérez said. "I don't think there's any value in that. We have no interest in muddling the issue up, so we're going to move forward in compliance with the court and act based on best practices around sharing information."
After the lawsuit was filed, but before it was resolved, the Assembly began posting onto its website member-by-member expenditure information that previously was not released until 12 months after the end of a legislative year.
Jerry Brown budget plan cuts welfare, threatens deeper cuts if taxes fail
Published: Friday, Jan. 6, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
Last Modified: Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 - 10:47 pm
Gov. Jerry Brown released a new budget Thursday that would slash health and welfare programs for the poor and ask voters to pump nearly $5 billion back into education through higher taxes.
Brown framed his $92.6 billion spending plan as an either-or decision dependent on his $6.9 billion initiative to increase taxes on sales and the state's high earners.
If voters approve his taxes, he suggested, the state could begin paying down years of debt and reverse recession-era cuts to K-12 schools, which have stuffed more students into classrooms and shortened the instructional calendar to save funds.
"With the tax program, we will eliminate the budget deficit finally, after years of kicking the can down the road," Brown said.
If voters reject his plan, schools may have to cut deeper and prolong a patchwork of borrowing to maintain operations.
For K-12 schools and community colleges, the tax measure would provide nearly $4.8 billion more than they received this fiscal year, roughly a 10 percent increase. Department of Finance Director Ana Matosantos suggested losing that money if voters reject taxes would be "equivalent to" cutting three weeks of school, though education experts believe such drastic measures would be unnecessary.
If the taxes fail, the governor proposed $200 million cuts each to the University of California and California State University systems, which have relied on substantial tuition hikes to offset state reductions in recent years.
California's top Senate Democrat today shut the door on Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal to make deep cuts to social services programs in the first few months of the year.
The January spending plan unveiled by Brown today includes nearly $1.4 billion in cuts to the state's welfare-to-work and subsidized child care programs. The Democratic governor called on lawmakers to approve those cuts in March to maximize savings.
But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, echoing comments made Wednesday, said he wants to hold off on further spending reductions in hopes that the state will see an uptick in revenues this spring.
"Why would we make cuts that are going to harm people and harm the economy in March when in fact in May there's a real not just possibility, but if the trend continues, a probability that the deficit number is going to be less," the Sacramento Democrat told reporters, pointing to improvement in a revenue forecast made in December.
Brown's plan relies on a mix of roughly $4.2 billion in cuts and the passage of a $6.9 million tax measure he is seeking to qualify for the November ballot in order to close what he estimated to be a $9.2 billion budget deficit through June 2013. He proposed deeper cuts to K-12 and higher education if that measure fails.
Steinberg emphasized that the plan Brown unveiled today is just the first draft of a 2012-2013 spending plan.
"It's a January budget, and a ... June 15 budget, by definition, historically looks nothing like a January budget," he said.
Steinberg characterized Brown's call for additional cuts if voters fail to approve his tax measure in November as a "sound" approach but signaled that the Legislature might look at other areas for those spending reductions.
Brown's first draft of the budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year that begins July 1 envisions reducing the state workforce by some 3,000 positions, mostly from the The cuts fill a small part of the $9.2 billion budget hole projected through June 2013.
When asked whether state workers could expect layoffs or job elimination through attrition, Department of Finance Director Ana Matosantos said the goal is "reductions in positions."
The administration will "try to minimize the number of layoffs" by relocating employees whose positions have been eliminated, Matosantos said during an afternoon press conference. "But the total workforce will continue to go down."
The budget proposal doesn't include state worker furloughs. Contracts covering more than half the 200,000 unionized workers under gubernatorial authority contain no-furlough protections in exchange for one unpaid day off per month, but those provisions expired last year. Several unions that signed similar contracts with Brown last year still have the furlough-free guaranteed for a few more months.
That left open the possibility that Brown could have suggested the Legislature impose furloughs again. But the governor and his administration have consistently signaled that they don't think furloughing is sound policy.
Brown's budget plan reduces the number of state agencies -- cabinet-level organizations that oversee departments -- from 12 to 10. Brown also wants to eliminate 39 state entities and wipe out nine state programs.
Brown wants to ax the California Volunteer Agency. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named the first secretary to the agency in 2008 to "encourage volunteerism in California and to improve coordination of volunteer efforts between the state's departments and agencies," according to the volunteer agency's website. The agency's functions (and federal funding) are proposed to continue through the Office of Planning and Research.
December 18, 2011
The tax-and-spend Sacramento insiders who hunger for more taxpayer cash are having to secure their drool bibs after the release of a poll claiming broad public support for Jerry Brown’s proposed tax hikes.
The poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, a left-tilting think tank, asked the following question:
"Governor Brown has proposed a plan to help close the state's budget deficit over the next five years. The plan, which would be put before voters in November, would raise $7 billion annually through a temporary four year half cent sales tax increase and a temporary five year income tax increase on those earning more than $250,000. Do you favor or oppose this proposal?"
According to PPIC, 60% of likely voters indicated support for the plan, which has those backing tax increases salivating.
Nonetheless, there are reasons to be skeptical. Let’s take a closer look.
Note how the question is framed in terms of deficit reduction, even though real world experience shows that there's no correlation between raising taxes and reducing the deficit -- or else California certainly would have no deficit at all by now.
In the second sentence, it's stated the governor’s plan will, for certain, produce $7 billion in new tax revenue, even though, again, real world experience shows that tax increases rarely, if ever, produce the revenue that is predicted.
See how the tax increases are described as "temporary," while also noting their sunset dates. Is it really necessary for a pollster to emphasize that four year and five year tax increases are "temporary?" Doesn't their description as four year and five year tax increases already make that clear?
And the question mentions the sales tax, which impacts everyone, first, and then ends with the tax increase on top earners, so that the "tax the evil rich" element is emphasized at the end of the sentence, right before the respondent is asked to make a decision?
Ironically, this same poll shows 57 percent of Californians believe there's a lot of waste in state government spending and 67 percent say the state government is pretty much run by a few big interests looking out for themselves and not for the benefit of all of the people.
If taken literally, the poll tells us that most Californians think government wastes their money and, therefore, they want to pay higher taxes. This significant contradiction of logic takes us back to the biased wording of the tax increase question.
Only an election can sort out what voters are really thinking, but before the Sacramento politicians start spending the “new” money they believe this poll shows they will get, they should look back to 2009. Two months before a special election vote on Proposition 1A, that would have raised taxes by $16 billion, a Field poll had the measure passing by 57%. It lost two months later by more than 65%
In releasing this latest poll, the PPIC should have provided bibs for everyone because what they have served up is pabulum.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -– California's largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers' rights.
December 19, 2011 The numbers behind California's 11.3 percent jobless rate
California's unemployment rate has been edging downwards in recent months in an apparent sign of slow recovery from the state's worst recession since the Great Depression, dropping to 11.3 percent in November.
But it's a mixed bag of numbers. The good news is that a quarter-million more Californians were working in November than a year earlier, and that was more than enough to offset a 34,000-person increase in the labor force, so the unemployment rate dropped by 1.2 percentage points from the previous November, although it's still one of the nation's highest.
The bad news is that about 2 million Californians considered to be in the labor force are still jobless, and that's about a million more than were unemployed before recession struck the state.
Roughly half of the 2 million jobless workers are receiving unemployment insurance benefits and the state fund that pays them is nearly $10 billion in the red and subsisting largely on loans from the federal government.
That fund covers only the first 26 weeks of unemployment for about a half-million recipients. Benefit extensions for another half-million, up to 99 weeks in total, are financed by the feds, but the longest extensions will expire in less than two weeks unless Congress renews them.
They are ensnared in a sharp partisan battle in Washington. In all, state and federal unemployment insurance payments total about $1.2 billion a month, but that's down from a 2011 high of more than $1.6 billion last March.
About a quarter-million Californians exhaust their benefits each month, although some may qualify for additional benefits upon re-application. Approximately that many initial claims for benefits are filed each month.
Sacramento, state jobless rates show big drops
By Dale Kasler The Sacramento Bee Last modified: 2011-12-17T08:35:58Z Published: Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011 - 12:00 am
Sacramento's unemployment rate has fallen to its lowest level in 2 1/2 years – and the region is showing signs of finally joining the economic recovery.
Thanks to unusually strong holiday retail hiring, Sacramento unemployment dropped half a percentage point in November, to 10.9 percent, the state Employment Development Department said Friday.
Overall, payrolls grew by 4,000 jobs.It was the first time that Sacramento unemployment dipped below 11 percent since May 2009.
A year ago, the rate was 12.8 percent. "This is the first month when Sacramento is showing a clear gain … in a long time," said Jeff Michael, an economist at the University of the Pacific.Statewide unemployment fell four-tenths of a point, to 11.3 percent. It was one of the most dramatic one-month declines in years.
But the state as a whole added just 6,600 jobs, following several stronger months. The payroll figure is based on a broader survey and is considered more reliable than the unemployment rate."We didn't gain any ground here," said Howard Roth, chief economist at the state Department of Finance.
Feinstein earmark quietly paves way for easier water sales Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif. | Rafael Suanes
Draft plan to protect California's Delta inadequate, scientists say Story | California lawmakers seek to exempt water projects from key law Story | California water politics seep into GOP spending bill On the McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON — Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein quietly used a $915 billion spending bill to accomplish a long-standing and, in some circles, controversial goal of easing Central Valley water sales.
With one sentence, the 1,221-page bill signed Saturday by President Barack Obama helps the Westlands Water District and privately owned Kern Water Bank, among others, buy more from irrigation districts served by the federal Central Valley Project.
With a second sentence, the bill orders a study designed to streamline water sales, including those from north of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to south of the Delta. "The water transfer language inserted by Sen. Feinstein will add to the flexibility that we have sought, and it will certainly help us meet our water needs," Westlands General Manager Tom Birmingham said in an interview Monday.
Feinstein describes the measure as a sensible way to move water around the state. But opponents, who had earlier resisted the proposals when presented as separate legislation, consider it a boon for some well-connected farmers. "It's an earmark worth millions to the water merchants, who can buy water at rock-bottom prices and resell it," Patricia Schifferle, director of the environmental group Pacific Advocates, said in an interview Monday, adding that "there are a lot of things that sneak into these late-night bills." And Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, campaign director of Restore the Delta, agreed Monday that the legislation "opens the door to problematic water transfers (that) could be used for speculation (and) development."
The issues are both technically complex and politically fraught, as is usually the case with California water. In part, the legislation lifts several restrictions that a 1992 environmental law imposed on the transfer of Central Valley Project water. The federal project provides water at subsidized rates through a Redding-to-Bakersfield network of dams and canals.
The 1992 law, called the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, declared that irrigation districts could only sell their water if it would have otherwise been "consumptively used or irretrievably lost." The districts also could only sell water amounting to the average of what they actually received.
The rules were designed in part to limit water speculation and ensure irrigation districts were not selling contracted-for water that they really didn't have. Operating under these existing rules, as well as others, federal officials last year oversaw the transfer of about 600,000 acre-feet of CVP water in California.
This was about 10 percent of the total amount delivered through the project. In 2009, Feinstein and Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer wrote legislation essentially waiving the two rules for certain water transfers. A similar bill was written in the House by Reps. Dennis Cardoza, D-Atwater, Calif., and Jim Costa, D-Fresno, Calif. "The bill...will provide more flexibility in the system, allowing water to flow more freely around the Central Valley,"
Feinstein said when she introduced the bill in October 2009. Birmingham added Monday that the revisions will "help to streamline the approval process" for water transfers. Feinstein has estimated that up to 80,000 acre-feet of additional water might be transferred under the new rules.
Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/12/19/133552/feinstein-quietly-paves-way-for.html#storylink=cpy
Sacramento region governments cut from the bottom while adding to the top By Phillip Reese and Loretta Kalb email@example.com By Phillip Reese and Loretta Kalb The Sacramento Bee Last modified: 2011-12-19T03:27:07Z Published: Sunday, Dec. 18, 2011 - 12:00 am |
Several local cities sliced their payrolls through layoffs last year by cutting those who made the least. And they ended up paying more employees six-figure salaries.
The 3,800 employees who earned at least $100,000 annually last year made up 10 percent of the region's city and county workers, but ate 25 percent of payroll. Their ranks increased by about 80, while the number of city and county workers earning less than $100,000 fell by almost 3,000, according to a Bee review of new data from the state controller's office.
The trend was not universal. Cities such as Davis, Rancho Cordova and Elk Grove reduced the number of their workers earning six figures. But the city and county of Sacramento collectively increased the total amount paid to six-figure employees by $23 million, or 9 percent, while cutting 1,800 workers from their payrolls."Somehow that doesn't surprise me," said Tana Taylor, who was laid off from her job as an office assistant in Sacramento County's Department of Health and Human Services last year. "Higher-end people – they seem to be hanging in there."
Quirk may leave millions unrepresented by state Senate
Every 10 years since the 1970s, millions of Californians have temporarily gone without representation in the State Senate while millions more have temporarily been double-represented.
By BRIAN JOSEPH and JIM MILLER / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER and THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE
SACRAMENTO – More than 230 years since the American Revolution, taxation without representation still survives in California.
Thanks to a quirk in the law, millions of Californians may not be represented by a state senator in 2013 and 2014 while millions of others could be represented by two senators.
Laguna Niguel Mayor Paul Glaab is one of the 3.97 million unlucky Californians who may go without representation in the State Senate in 2013 and 2014 thanks to a quirk in the law. Several Orange County cities may be affected, including Laguna Niguel, Seal Beach and Mission Viejo.
And it's totally legal.
"I'm aghast," said William Siebuhr, a Westminster resident who is one of the unlucky Californians facing two years without a voice in State Senate. "Somewhere along the line, I've been screwed out of my rights," he said.
Just one mile away, John Vestman of Stanton could have two state senators. "It seems lopsided," he said.
In all, 3.97 million Californians may go without representation in the Senate, according to an analysis by The Orange County Register and The (Riverside) Press-Enterprise. Another 3.9 million residents could be represented by two senators, according to the newspapers' figures.
"Amazing," said Paul Glaab, mayor of Laguna Niguel, another city that faces two years without Senate representation. "To me, that's an anomaly that probably should be corrected," he said.
Since the 1970s, millions of Californians have temporarily gone without Senate representation every decade. But the phenomenon receives little attention because it's complex and obscure, and because the courts have ruled it's not in violation of anybody's rights. It's just a weird byproduct of redistricting and the Senate's election schedule.
"It happens every time we redistrict," said Tony Quinn, a former GOP redistricting staffer. "You can't avoid it."
Experts, however, say it's not a big deal. If you have a problem with the government, you can still turn to your representatives in the State Assembly, U.S. Congress or local government, said UC San Diego political science professor Thad Kousser.
"It evens out because we have so many ways to get our voices heard in California," he said.
Republicans have filed a suit challenging the new Senate districts. At this point it's unclear whether the new or old districts will be used in next year's election, or whether judges will draw up a third set of maps to use while the case unfolds.
Rural school districts hard hit by transportation
Share By Diana Lambert firstname.lastname@example.org By Diana Lambert The Sacramento Bee Last modified: 2011-12-19T15:42:40Z Published: Monday, Dec. 19, 2011 - 12:00 am
Four of the six schools in the Eastern Sierra Unified School District are scattered along Highway 395, a two-lane road that meanders through scenic Mono County in the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains.
Students often travel as far as 35 miles – each way – to school and back. The drive can be treacherous, especially in winter when rain and snow make the roadways slippery. Traffic near schools and a dearth of street- lights make travel hazardous for drivers pulling into school parking lots and students traveling on foot, said Stacey Adler, superintendent of Mono County schools.
But things could get much worse come Jan. 2. That's when the district's 500 students will have to find their own way to school, unless they live more than six miles away. Last week, still grappling with a budget crisis, California became the first state in the nation to completely eliminate transportation funding for public schools.
Gov. Jerry Brown cut $248 million in state funding that helps put school buses on the road and reduced student attendance funding by $79.6 million. Those cuts take effect the second half of the academic year
.Eastern Sierra Unified is among the districts that will pare back busing for the remainder of the school year. But school officials say most rural districts don't have the luxury of completely abandoning bus service, given the distances their students travel to school. They call transportation a safety issue for students and an economic necessity for working families.
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/12/19/4132035/rural-school-districts-hard-hit.html#storylink=cpy
November 28, 2011
SJSU's Survey and Policy Research Institute says that its overall consumer sentiment index has dropped 10 points in the last year to 64.5, and the index of future expectations has dropped as well. The poll, conducted in October, found that 43 percent of California adults described their personal financial situations as worse than they were a year earlier.
As constructed, the index rates anything above 100 as positive and anything below that level as negative. It's similar to the national index of consumer confidence developed at the University of Michigan, and the latest SJSU survey results closely track those at the national level in the latest Michigan poll.
"The good news here is that we are starting to see some improvement in consumer
confidence statewide," said Melinda Jackson, the institute's research director. "The bad news is that attitudes are still fairly pessimistic overall. We may have turned the corner on the worst of the recession, but there is not a lot of hope for a quick recovery in these numbers."
In fact, 85 percent of the survey's respondents believe that the state remains in recession, even though technically it has hit bottom and is in recovery, and more half said they expected recession to continue for at least three more years.
Read more: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2011/11/californians-economic-confidence-falls-survey-finds.html#ixzz1f482pkCJ
Viewpoints: Elite 'council' would have king-like powers
By Joel Fox
Special to The Bee
Published: Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 11A
When I read about the Think Long Committee's proposal for a "Civic Council for Government Accountability," the first image that jumped into my mind was the Ruling Council in the Christopher Reeves' "Superman" movie, sitting as elders while their world collapsed around them. That image was quickly replaced by the perhaps more appropriate image of the infamous "Committee of 25," an elite group of power brokers that served as a shadow government for the city of Los Angeles in the 1940s and '50s.
As described in the Think Long Committee's blueprint for changing governance in California, the civic council would be an independent, impartial and nonpartisan body that would establish and develop a vision encompassing long-term goals for California's future.
As designed, it will certainly be less than impartial and nonpartisan. However, the worst of the plan is that the civic council would be given extraordinary, king-like powers that exceed the powers of legislators, the governor and ordinary citizens.
The appointment process for membership on the council will not eliminate politics from governance but may well enhance it.
The 13-member body would be appointed by the governor (nine appointments, two from other than the majority parties); the Senate Rules Committee (two appointments, one each from the state's majority parties); and the Speaker of the Assembly (two appointments, one each from the state's majority parties.)
Given the political makeup of the state, that means the majority party will make all the appointments with the potential of creating a one-sided super majority from their party running the council. Will the committee truly be nonpartisan and impartial? Hardly.
Companies give GOP, regulators different messages
BY THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Posted: 11/26/2011 01:01:05 AM PST
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Large and small companies have told Republican-led congressional committees what the party wants to hear: dire predictions of plant closings and layoffs if the Obama administration succeeds with plans to further curb air and water pollution.
But their message to financial regulators and investors conveys less gloom and certainty.
The administration itself has clouded the picture by withdrawing or postponing some of the environmental initiatives that industry labeled as being among the most onerous.
Still, Republicans plan to make what they say is regulatory overreach a 2012 campaign issue, taking aim at President Barack Obama, congressional Democrats and an aggressive Environmental Protection Agency.
"Republicans will be talking to voters this campaign season about how to keep Washington out of the way, so that job creators can feel confident again to create jobs for Americans," said Joanna Burgos, a spokeswoman for the House Republican campaign organization.
The Associated Press compared the companies' congressional testimony to company reports submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The reports to the SEC consistently said the impact of environmental proposals is unknown or would not cause serious financial harm to a firm's finances.
Companies can legitimately argue that their less gloomy SEC filings are correct, since most of the tougher anti-pollution proposals have not been finalized. And their officials' testimony before
congressional committees was sometimes on behalf of -- and written by -- trade associations, a perspective that can differ from an individual company's view.
But the disparity in the messages shows that in a political environment, business has no misgivings about describing potential economic horror stories to lawmakers.
"As an industry, we have said this before, we face a potential regulatory train wreck," Anthony Earley Jr., then the executive chairman of DTE Energy in Michigan, told a House committee on April 15. "Without the right policy, we could be headed for disaster."
EDITORIAL: State shouldn’t back away from budget’s automatic trigger cuts
State leaders knew there was a good chance it would come down to this.
Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011 | 12:01 AM
To the surprise of almost no one, state tax revenues have failed to meet the hopeful expectations of lawmakers when they approved a budget in June. As a result, the Legislative Analyst’s Office says California now faces a $3.7 billion shortfall in the current budget year.
This shortfall was anticipated in the deal that Democrats and Gov. Jerry Brown crafted. With no chance of new tax revenue because of Republican intransigence, Democrats based their plan on rosy projections, but wisely coupled it with a contingency plan of “trigger cuts” should revenues come in lower than expected.
That moment has arrived. The Department of Finance still needs to present its own forecast on revenues for the remainder of the year, but there is little doubt that California faces a multibillion-dollar shortfall that will need to be addressed with more spending reductions.
Supporters of public education are balking at $1.36 billion in mid-year trigger cuts that K-12 schools would absorb. School advocates now say they are surprised the triggers will have to be pulled. Really? State leaders were adamant in the summer that the trigger cuts were very serious possibilities.
Sure, they hoped California could avoid the triggers. But they were necessary to calm Wall Street and other holders of California’s debt.
We can understand why some might want to tinker with the triggers. Many school systems will have trouble absorbing further cuts, especially since lawmakers agreed to a deal with the California Teachers Association to spare teachers from midyear layoffs. That leaves schools with two messy choices: Shortening the school year by seven days or renegotiating pacts with teacher unions so they can institute furloughs.
But as bad as those choices are, it would be worse for lawmakers to back off the triggers, shift cuts to higher education, or resort to gimmicks such as further rosy revenue projections.
Republicans, not surprisingly, are responding to the LAO findings with barely restrained glee. The LAO report, said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, vice chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, shows that the “budget passed by Democrats with only a majority vote was overly optimistic and based on shaky assumptions.”
November 23, 2011
Four days after the pepper spraying incident at UC Davis, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, acting governor while Gov. Jerry Brown is on vacation out of state, issued a statement Tuesday night condemning the "senseless violence" and praising UC officials for ordering an independent investigation.
"UC students and the people of California deserve a swift, just and thorough independent investigation into this matter," Newsom said in a prepared statement. "Concrete remedies need to be implemented to ensure that peaceful protests on our university campuses are never again met with senseless violence."
Newsom visited the campus earlier Tuesday, his office said. His statement followed remarks by other major politicians, but not Brown, who has kept silent on the matter.
"President Mark Yudof and his staff have kept my office appraised on the events of the last week and I made it clear that the University has a profound obligation to its staff and student body - not to mention its worldwide reputation - to better balance protecting the public safety with protecting the constitutional right to free speech and political expression," Newsom said. "After contact with William Bratton earlier this week, I am pleased that the University of California has retained the former Los Angeles Police Chief to lead an independent investigation of the pepper spray incident on the campus of UC Davis last Friday. I have every confidence that Chief Bratton will be thorough and frank in its findings."
Read more: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2011/11/gavin-newsom-condemns-senseless-violence-at-davis.html#ixzz1emiimCvs
California’s “golden” status set to run out of money in two weeks
Continue reading on Examiner.com California’s “golden” status set to run out of money in two weeks - San Diego County Political Buzz | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/california-s-golden-status-set-to-run-out-of-money-two-weeks?CID=examiner_alerts_article#ixzz1e4tPuvep
Once famous for the “gold rush,” California’s fertile land drew anybody who wanted to strike it rich, sadly those days are long gone and have been replaced with tax and spend policies that have ended in massive deficits.
California’s financials offer proof that the month of October painted serious accounting problems for the state. According to the October Statement of General Fund Cash Receipts and Disbursements report from California State Controller John Chaing, the state’s income plunged by $3.6 billion. On the other side of the balance sheet, California’s spendaholic ways will increase by $10.2 billion this year. The governor and state legislators don’t seem to be smarter than a fifth grader- that's a $6.6 billion deficit.
According to Chriss Street of Cal Watchdog, “California has already drawn down 85 percent of its credit lines and only has $4 billion remaining to fund a $13.8 billion deficit. With the same sovereign credit rating as basket-case Portugal, California’s debt is at maximum risk of being downgraded to ‘junk’ bonds. With credit lines almost tapped-out, the sovereign debt crisis that has hammered Europe may arrive in America.”
Continue reading on Examiner.com California’s “golden” status set to run out of money in two weeks - San Diego County Political Buzz | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/county-political-buzz-in-san-diego/california-s-golden-status-set-to-run-out-of-money-two-weeks?CID=examiner_alerts_article#ixzz1e4tForHh
November 14th, 2011, 12:29 pm · · posted by BRIAN JOSEPH, Sacramento Correspondent
The state Department of Finance this morning released budget figures that confirm the state is in danger of enacting mid-year cuts to schools and other services.
According to Finance, state revenues came in $608 million below projections for the month of October. All told, state revenues this year are $1.26 billion below projections, according to Finance numbers.
State Controller John Chiang recently estimated that revenues are $1.5 billion behind projections. While Finance’s number would represent an improvement, it the difference wouldn’t be enough to avoid so-call trigger cuts that were built into this year’s budget deal.
This summer, the state budget was balanced largely on optimistic revenue projections. The budget included a series of additional cuts that would be triggered mid-year if those revenues didn’t materialize. Both the University of California and California State University systems would lose $100 million if the trigger is pulled on the cuts, among other agencies.Over the last few months, revenues have consistently come in below projections. The Department of Finance said in a prepared statement that if revenues do indeed meet projections, “it is currently anticipated that the bulk of these revenues would be reflected in higher [personal income tax] and Corporation estimated tax payments and final return payments which will be made in the months of December 2011, through June 2012.”
During this month and next, the Department of Finance and the well-respected Legislative Analyst’s Office will produce new revenue projections. “It is these forecasts that will determine whether the ‘trigger’ budget reductions will be implemented,” Finance said.http://totalbuzz.ocregister.com/2011/11/14/budget-cuts-may-be-coming-in-sacramento/76943/
NEW: Court Case Shows Republican Hypocrisy
NOV. 14, 2011
We all know that California’s Democratic Party is running the state into the fiscal ground, given how beholden its members are to public-sector unions and how devoted they are to expanding government and raising taxes. The state needs some political competition, but a major court case reminds us why the state Republican Party is a useless vessel that’s incapable of broadening its base and changing the state’s political trajectory.
On Thursday, the California Supreme Court began oral arguments in a lawsuit brought by defenders of the state’s redevelopment agencies (RDAs), which are seeking to overturn recent laws that essentially shut down those agencies. Gov. Jerry Brown isn’t often right, but he was on target when he proposed shutting down these central planning agencies that primarily dispense corporate welfare to big businesses and drive small property owners off their land so that big-box stores can prosper.
Brown’s plan wasn’t perfect. It allowed the agencies to buy their way back into existence as many of them have since done. The law wasn’t passed entirely for the right reasons. Brown and legislative Democrats had typically supported RDAs, but were looking for quick ways to close the state’s gaping budget hole. As Bloomberg reported, “The governor and supporters of the law said the redevelopment agencies have become little more than slush funds for private developers, and they want the tax money generated by new developments to be diverted from the agencies to local schools, law enforcement agencies and other services.”
When your political enemies give you a gift, you ought to take it. Instead of taking it, California Republicans actively opposed the governor’s plan and shamelessly sided with the people who run roughshod over everything the GOP is supposed to stand for. Forget all the talk about property rights, limited government, free markets and family values.
GOP Votes to Protect
“Almost like in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ where up is down, and down is up, this past year Democratic Legislators voted to abolish redevelopment and most Republicans fought tooth and nail to protect 425 redevelopment agencies from being abolished!” explained Jon Fleischman, California GOP vice chairman and publisher of the GOP-oriented Flashreport. Fleischman noted that over two crucial votes, only six Assembly Republicans voted to abolish RDAs and only one Senate Republican voted to do so. This indeed is shameful.
In fact, one of the GOP’s leaders, Sen. Bob Huff of Diamond Bar, received the League of California Cities’ Legislator of the Year award for his efforts to save redevelopment agencies. His wife, by the way, works for a developer who is one of the state’s biggest redevelopment beneficiaries. This is the type of thing that makes me want to join the unbathed wretches occupying city parks.
Little-known state board overturns employee terminations
A nurse's aide accused of stealing money from an elderly patient and a hospital staffer who allegedly beat a disabled patient with a shoe were among those ordered rehired by the Personnel Board.
By Jack Dolan, Los Angeles Times
November 13, 2011, 7:58 p.m.
When thousands of dollars belonging to elderly residents of a veterans home went missing, police set out to catch the thief. A video camera they hid showed nurse's aide Linda Riccitelli creeping into a 93-year-old man's room and sticking her hand in a dresser drawer stashed with bait money.
Investigators confirmed the cash was gone and the video showed that no one else had opened the drawer.
Prosecutors charged Riccitelli with burglary, and the Department of Veterans Affairs fired her. To most, it seemed like an open-and-shut case. But a little-known state agency that rules on employee discipline saw things differently. It ordered Riccitelli re-hired, with three years' back pay because, they said, the evidence was "circumstantial."
The board has reversed dozens of terminations in recent years, turning the employees' time off into the equivalent of long, paid vacations. Among the cases: a mentally disturbed prison doctor fired for mistreating inmates; a psychiatric hospital aide fired for allegedly striking a severely disabled patient with a shoe, and a prison mechanic who requested two-months' leave to address "family issues" while he was in jail for beating his wife.
Working for the state is "different" from the private sector, said Personnel Board Executive Director Suzanne Ambrose, explaining that the review process was designed to prevent employees from losing their jobs for political reasons and to ensure "fairness in how the government work is being done."
By contrast, the vast majority of Californians who work in the private sector serve at the pleasure of their bosses. If fired, they have little recourse unless they prove in civil court that their employer violated anti-discrimination laws by terminating them based on something such as their age, race or disability.
John Seiler, Cal Watchdog, 11/11/11
As we have predicted many times here on CalWatchDog.com, the state still is taking in too little revenue for what it spends. The latest monthly report from Controller John Chiang:
SACRAMENTO – State Controller John Chiang today released his monthly report covering California’s cash balance, receipts and disbursements in October, showing revenues came in $810.5 million below projections from the recently passed state budget.
“October’s poor revenues capped a very disappointing first four months of the fiscal year,” said Chiang. “Unless revenues and expenditures begin to track with projections, the State will face increasing cash pressure in the months ahead.”
The Controller’s Office continues to work with the Department of Finance to identify and prepare for any impact on the State’s cash outlook. After accounting for October revenues, total year-to-date general fund revenues are now behind the budget’s estimates by $1.5 billion, but expenditures for the year are over projections by $1.7 billion.
The State ended last fiscal year with a cash deficit of $8.2 billion. The combined current year cash deficit stands at $20.3 billion. Those deficits are being covered with $14.9 billion of internal borrowing (temporary loans from special funds) and $5.4 billion of external borrowing.
Well, what do they expect from a state that punishes businesses and productive workers with high taxes and multitudinous regulations? Successful states, such as Texas and its zero income tax, pamper businesses because that’s where the jobs come from. If businesses leave, then the tax base erodes.
It’s like a sheep herder. A smart one keeps his sheep happy so he can sheer them and make money from the wool. A dumb sheep herder kills his sheep and eats them.
In California, the state government — which is run by the government-worker unions — first starves the sheep, then kills the sheep to eat them. Then it complains there’s not enough wool to go around. And it plots to kill the sheep sooner.
NOVEMBER 14, 2011 10:16AM
California's economic downturn over a decade old
California conventional wisdom is that we were doing just fine until 2008 when the housing bubble burst. But according to the new study below, such was not the case. We'd been sacrificing our business climate for years, and the stats in the study show the results.
Yes, the housing/mortgage collapse had a dramatic negative effect in the misnamed "Golden State," but our underlying business economy had been heading downhill (well, heading to other states) at least since the turn of the century. Indeed, in the middle of the last decade California was losing over a QUARTER MILLION PEOPLE ANNUALLY to other states. And that's a NET loss -- what's called net domestic migration (migration between states).
It goes without saying that there is NOTHING going on in CA that will reverse this trend -- quite the opposite. Just wait until AB32, the global warming madness, takes full effect (we won't have to wait long).
BTW, if you are not subscribed to the free CITY JOURNAL daily email broadcast service (with some emphasis on California), you are missing out.
Pelosi fires back at '60 Minutes' report on 'soft corruption'
(CNN) -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi fired back Sunday at a CBS News' "60 Minutes" report that highlighted several instances of what it suggested could be "soft corruption."
The show looked at the investments of various lawmakers -- including Pelosi, House Speaker John Boehner and Republican Rep. Spencer Bachus of Alabama -- who reportedly bought stocks around the same time legislation involving those investments was being discussed.
Pelosi and her husband participated in an initial public offering of Visa in 2008, according to CBS. They bought 5,000 shares at the initial price of $44; two days later, shares were trading at $64, CBS said.
The network reported the investment came at the same time a piece of legislation that was opposed by credit-card companies was making its way through the House.
"Congress has never done more for consumers nor has the Congress passed more critical reforms of the credit card industry than under the Speakership of Nancy Pelosi," Pelosi spokesman, Drew Hammill, said in a statement soon after the report aired Sunday night.
"It is very troubling that 60 Minutes would base their reporting off of an already-discredited conservative author who has made a career of out attacking Democrats," he added.
CBS said it used as a starting point for its story the research of Peter Schweizer, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank at Stanford University.http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/13/politics/60-minutes-pelosi/index.html?hpt=hp_c2
Bring It All Down, Man
Nov 03, 2011
In attending the occupation of Oakland, I was struck by how the American Left has coalesced around the advocacy of Saul Alinsky, a man that 99% of the so called 99%ers have doubtlessly never heard of. In the 1930’s Alinsky created the “crisis strategy” which prescribed flooding welfare rolls in order to bankrupt cities. David Horowitz has led the country in detailing how it was the Alinsky model which profoundly influenced Barack Obama and gave birth to vast “shake-down” organizations such as ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now). But even more importantly, he points out it was Alinsky, who, though not a communist, united the various socialists, anarchists, union workers, the disadvantaged and disaffected into a nihilist common cause—the seizure of power.
So successful was his strategy in uniting the American Left that in 1969, a Wellesley undergraduate by the name of Hillary Rodham wrote her senior thesis on Alinsky comparing him to Martin Luther King and Walt Whitman. In his Rules for Radicals, Alinsky writes, The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution. Without committing itself to a specific end game or vision of the future, Alinsky was crystal clear. The only organizing principle of the new Left would be the destruction of American society, its economic system and the seizure of its instrumentalities of power. During Oakland’s occupation, Allinsky’s political nihilism was utterly on display.
On a classically perfect autumn day in Oakland, mid 70’s, sunny, and crystal clear, dressed to look like an occupier, I first encounter a group of them sitting in front of Chase bank branch. They’d put crime tape over the ATM and are sitting in front of the main entrance which is locked and are smugly making sure that no customers will try to enter the branch. Peering through the windows, I see that some employees are inside presumably catching up on paperwork. One of the occupiers has a large wad of one dollar bills in her hand. She gives me one and says, “Here take it. We’re practicing generosity.” I take it and give it to homeless guy a block away and tell him where he can go to get some more.http://townhall.com/columnists/larrykelley/2011/11/03/bring_it_all_down,_man
November 2, 2011
Gov. Jerry Brown has shut down the government transparency website created by his predecessor, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, as a repository for financial disclosure statements and other records.
A note on the website, www.transparency.ca.gov, says information previously available on the site can be found on other state websites and furnishes the links. But open government advocates have objected to the move, saying it will make it more difficult for citizens to track spending.
Many of the documents -- including information about state contracts, audits and salaries -- can be found on other sites. But the transparency site, created in 2009 and shut down Tuesday, also included travel expense claims submitted by senior agency officials and employees of the governor's office.
Brown's office said this afternoon that travel records can be requested under California's open records act. Elizabeth Ashford, a spokeswoman for the Democratic governor, cited the time and cost of copying and uploading those documents.
Ashford said the website was created in response to concerns about travel and spending during Schwarzenegger's administration. Staff and travel costs under Brown are far lower, she said.
Phillip Ung, a lobbyist for the government watchdog group Common Cause, said there is a "large public interest in having a centralized disclosure, which is exactly what the transparency website was."
When he saw a note on the website this afternoon announcing its discontinuation, Ung said, "This is the worst."
The note on the website says Brown "is committed to keeping state government open and transparent while eliminating inefficiencies and unnecessary costs."
OBAMA’S BIG GREEN MESS - HOW THE WHITE HOUSE LOST ITS ECO-MOJO.
Oct 17, 2011 1:00 AM EDT
This summer, federal inspectors made a routine visit to 11 homes in St. Louis to see what taxpayers got for the $5 billion that President Obama spent to help Americans weatherize their homes to save energy.
What they found was quite a surprise. Some of the energy-efficient furnaces installed at taxpayer expense spewed carbon monoxide that could poison occupants. New water heaters lacked required pressure valves, putting them in jeopardy of exploding. And a handful of contractors—unfamiliar with the nuances of specialized weatherization work—had used air blowers in homes with asbestos, potentially dispersing the cancer-causing agent, according to several Energy Department inspector-general reports.
As it closes in on retrofitting 600,000 homes, the government’s weatherization program—a key element of President Obama’s green-energy initiative—has had its share of happy, energy-saving customers. But it has also been riddled with problems. In one review, Energy Department investigators found that 14 percent of weatherization projects surveyed, from Tennessee to West Virginia, failed to meet safety or quality standards. Many customers were poor or elderly, with few resources to pursue wayward contractors.
It turned out that as so much money was being spent so quickly, a lot of state and local governments, as well as contractors, simply weren’t ready for the job at hand. "You don’t have trained people to do those jobs in places like Arizona or Florida," says Earl Devaney, chairman of the Recovery Board and Obama’s handpicked watchdog to oversee stimulus spending. "It turned into a cottage industry." A senior Energy Department official agreed: "We were clearly not ready to take all this money, especially at the state level."
Washington’s scandal du jour has been Solyndra. The California solar company received a rushed half-billion-dollar clean-energy stimulus loan from the Obama administration, only to go bankrupt and potentially leave taxpayers on the hook—despite warnings from career officials that both Solyndra and the larger solar industry were facing financial pressures.
But it is far from the only blemish on the administration’s much-touted green agenda. In addition to weatherization problems, an internal Labor Department report disclosed this month that a multibillion-dollar program to retrain workers for green-energy jobs met only 10 percent of its goal of creating 80,000 jobs. A federal renewable-energy lab in Colorado that got nearly $300 million from another green-energy program began laying off 10 percent of its workforce last month.
Overall, as the $787 billion economic stimulus—the primary engine for the green-energy agenda—came to an end Sept. 30, it is clear that the program created far fewer jobs than promised. So-called green-collar jobs are notoriously hard to tally, but numerous estimates by gleeful Republicans put the taxpayer cost of each green-energy job created by the stimulus at more than $1 million.
The White House acknowledges it hit bumps but insists the payoff will become clearer down the road. "Any time you take historic action you’re certainly going to learn lessons," says Heather Zichal, Obama’s chief energy and environment adviser. "These investments are not just about the jobs they are creating today but also support the long-term competitiveness and health of this important sector of our economy."
Some of the biggest immediate beneficiaries of the green revolution, ironically, may have been politicians themselves.
Executives of the top 50 recipients of the government’s green-energy aid have donated more than $2 million to federal campaigns since Obama took office. Some of the biggest recipients of green stimulus money—including NRG Energy and Consolidated Edison—made six-figure donations to candidates and interest groups. The industry as a whole has ponied up more than $5 million from its executives and political action committees, a notable increase from a formerly quiet sector. Democrats have been the main beneficiaries of clean-energy money. But Republicans have tapped their allies in the fossil-fuel industries—Exxon Mobil and Koch Industries have been the biggest donors, and overwhelmingly to Republicans—for more than $20 million in donations since Obama took office.
The clean-energy agenda quickly took on the trappings of the money-for-access game endemic to Washington. Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, a chief backer of Obama’s agenda, hosted a roundtable in Washington in June 2009 with a dozen major clean-energy executives eager to build projects in his home state of Nevada. Within a year, at least eight executives from those companies donated to Reid’s reelection campaign. Reid’s office declined to comment.
Republicans put their own squeeze on the industry, pressing for federal largesse while publicly denouncing Obama’s program. House Speaker John Boehner, a leading critic on Solyndra, urged Obama to allocate clean-energy grants for a nuclear-enrichment project in Ohio, his home state, just three months after one of the company’s executives donated to Boehner’s reelection campaign. According to Maplight.org, a nonpartisan researcher of money’s influence on politics, Boehner has received nine major donations from nuclear-energy advocates. A spokesman for Boehner says there’s nothing improper about the speaker’s support of nuclear energy.
Last-minute 'gut and amend' laws bypass scrutiny in California
By Laurel Rosenhall
Published: Monday, Oct. 17, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1A
It was after midnight on the last day of the legislative session last month when the state Senate took up a controversial bill concerning election laws for the very first time.
Most bills go through a months-long process of hearings, negotiations, amendments and votes. Not this one.
Senate Bill 202 was written about 24 hours earlier, when Democrat Loni Hancock of Berkeley deleted the language in a bill about filing fees on voter initiatives and replaced it with a highly political proposal to change the state's election laws in ways that will favor Democrats in 2012.
"The lack of process in this bill is inexcusable," Sen. Ted Lieu of Torrance told his colleagues that night. "We as Democrats should be ashamed at how this came to the Senate floor."
Hancock's bill was the most extreme example this year of the Legislature's penchant for writing new laws at the last minute – but it was by no means the only one.
The Legislature wrote 48 bills in the last three weeks of the regular session, long after the deadlines for most law-making procedures had passed. They did so by deleting the text of existing bills and replacing it with something new and often unrelated – a process known as "gut and amend."
Lawmakers sent 22 of those bills to the governor, who signed all but three of them.
Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/10/17/3984771/last-minute-gut-and-amend-laws.html#ixzz1b3jXHEUy
Auditor's instincts paved way for Kinde Durkee probe
By BRIAN JOSEPH / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
The arrest that's sent shock waves through the California Democratic Party started with a hunch.
In March of last year, a soft-spoken forensic accountant with the state Fair Political Practices Commission learned of a single, $4,500 expenditure buried in the bank statements of an unremarkable campaign account.ADVERTISEMENT
Nineteen months later, federal prosecutors and politicians have accused treasurer Kinde Durkee of embezzling millions of dollars from U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Orange County Assemblyman Jose Solorio and other federal, state and local Democrats.
This week, Durkee is expected in court. Her attorney, Daniel Nixon, has said, "We anticipate she'll enter a not guilty plea." An affidavit filed by an FBI investigator says Durkee admitted taking funds from her clients.
But the allegations against Durkee might never have materialized if not for that unassuming auditor, who believed something was very wrong with that $4,500 check.
Grant Beauchamp wasn't thrilled in March 2010 when he sat in his bare office at the Fair Political Practices Commission in downtown Sacramento. Before him was a box of financial documents, hundreds of pages deep.
It wasn't the size of the task that bothered him. A veteran auditor, Beauchamp, 54, has spent more than half his life poring over papers just like these. He finds the work invigorating, picking through photocopied checks, searching for violations or fraud.
Beauchamp had devoured files 40 times as big during a career that stretched three decades.
No, what bothered Beauchamp was the nature of the assignment. Beauchamp – slim, with a receding hairline and white temples – has a look that belies his thirst for action.
Beauchamp accepted this job to take on big, important cases and, as he sat in his office, nothing in this box felt big or important.
California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore leaves California for Texas
California is becoming 'post-industrial hell,' economist says
BY LANCE WILLIAMS California Watch | Wednesday, Oct 12 2011 01:03 PM
Last Updated Wednesday, Oct 12 2011 01:04 PM
Since the recession began, times have been tough in California -- everybody knows it. The economy is in a protracted stall.
But it took economists at California Lutheran University's Center for Economic Research and Forecasting to describe, in hyperbolic language, the depth of the problems that have beset the Golden State since the stock market started to tank in the summer of '08.
"California," writes center director Bill Watkins, "is fast becoming a post-industrial hell."
That's true "for almost everyone except the gentry class, their best servants and the public sector," he writes.
In an essay and accompanying PowerPoint, Watkins sketches his portrait of Lotus Land as Hell on Earth by citing a series of post-recession economic statistics, many familiar, all of them sobering:
* The state's unemployment rate seems stuck at 12 percent, higher than the national average, and the state is still shedding jobs.
* The poverty rate is 16.1 percent, also slightly higher than the national average, and maybe 10 points higher when adjusted for the high cost of living.
* Fresno and San Bernardino are among the 10 poorest large cities in the U.S. With a 34.6 percent poverty rate, San Bernardino is the second-poorest U.S. city, after famously troubled Detroit.
Other economic indicators give a grim readout as well, according to Watkins. Wages are down. Since the recession began, the value of the average California home has dropped by about $90,000. About 3 percent of all home mortgages are in foreclosure.
And while 150,000 California students get their college diplomas each year, the state is creating only about 50,000 jobs for people with college degrees, he writes.
And so, middle-class people are bailing out. "Domestic migration has been negative for a decade," Watkins writes, and the state is attracting fewer legal immigrants from abroad.
To top it off, Watkins complains of problems with the state's schools and highways, its brutally gridlocked traffic, and even the reliability of the water supply.
Stephan Franks Article on CA Jobs
Friday, 30 September 2011 18:08
Do you need more evidence that California is in a Depression?
Eight of the Nine worse cities for unemployment in the nation are in California–and the ninth, Yuma, Arizona is just a few miles from the worst city in the nation, El Centro!
“El Centro, 32 percent
Yuma, Ariz., 29 percent
Merced, 18 percent
Yuba City, 17 percent
Stockton, 16 percent
Modesto, 16 percent
Fresno, 16 percent
Visalia-Porterville, 16 percent
Hanford-Corcoran, 15 percent”
Note that six of the nine are in the Central Valley–the amateur Arnold, allowing the Feds to stop our water is the main reason the Food Bowl of America is mostly a Dust Bowl.
California Supreme Court Nominee
Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 July 2011 08:52
Tuesday, 26 July 2011 08:47
President Obama nominated Gordon Liu twice as a U.S 9th Court of Appeals Federal judge, considered by the U.S. Senate to be too far left to be an objective force on the court. Result - Gordon Liu failed his nomination twice. But, Governor Moonbeam of braindead fame has now nominated the same Gordon Liu for the California Supreme Court. And people wonder why I'm proud to have been born and raised on the Communist Coast!
LOS ANGELES -- Tea Party leaders Tuesday faulted Democrats for failing to police their own ranks, after a California congresswoman told a cheering audience that the conservative movement should "go straight to hell."
Mark Meckler and Jenny Beth Martin of the Tea Party Patriots - the nation's largest tea party organization - said in a statement that President Barack Obama and other Democrats call for civility but "are neglecting to censure their own."
California recently instituted as part of its budget solution an “Amazon Tax” aimed at forcing out-of-state, online retailers with no physical presence in the Golden State to collect and remit sales tax in respect of goods sold to Californians where the retailer in question advertises, or maintains an “affiliate” referral relationship, with websites based within state lines.
Prior to passage of the bill obligating collection and remittance in such circumstances, prominent online retailers including Amazon.com and Overstock.com had threatened to terminate relationships with affiliates, if the legislation became law. Now that it has, and affiliate relationships are being severed, something critics of the legislation say was entirely foreseeable is occurring: Online businesses and entrepreneurs are leaving the state, thus risking an actual reduction, as opposed to marginal increase, in California’s tax revenue.
READ MORE. . .
Assembly Republicans start releasing office spending records
Individual Republican Assembly members began releasing their current office budgets Thursday in the wake of a call by the GOP caucus for the Assembly to make them public for all members.
"The people I represent would want to know what their money is spent on -- it's their money," said Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield.
Besides Grove, Assembly members Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto, and Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, released their month-by-month office expenditures.
All three are freshmen, and each is projected to have a surplus by year's end: $51,477 for Donnelly, $27,174 for Grove, and $25,090 for Olsen, the newly released records of month-by-month spending show.
READ MORE . . .
California unemployment rises in July to 12%
By Marc Lifsher, Los Angeles Times
August 20, 2011
Reporting from Sacramento— California's stubbornly high unemployment rate rose even higher in July, climbing two-tenths of a percentage point to 12%, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Friday.
It was the second straight monthly increase in joblessness as measured by a federal survey of households.
California's unemployment rate was the second-highest in the nation, exceeded only by Nevada at 12.9%.
READ MORE . . .
REPORT: OBAMA ADMIN FUNDED OBAMACARE INTERNET PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN
Posted on August 19, 2011 at 4:14pm by
In a bombshell accusation, the government watchdog group Judicial Watch announced today that the Obama administration used taxpayer money to help orchestrate an internet search engine manipulation campaign specifically promoting Obamacare.
Judicial Watch obtained 2,328 pages of records pursuant to a March 23, 2011, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. The FOIA information included correspondence between the Department of Health and Human Services and the Ogilvy Group, the public relations fire hired by the White House to push Obamacare on the American people.
Judicial Watch listed the following as major points of interest from the FOIA request (all bullets quoted):
REPORT: OBAMA ADMIN FUNDED OBAMACARE INTERNET PROPAGANDA CAMPAIGN
Posted on August 19, 2011 at 4:14pm by
In a bombshell accusation, the government watchdog group Judicial Watch announced today that the Obama administration used taxpayer money to help orchestrate an internet search engine manipulation campaign specifically promoting Obamacare.
Judicial Watch obtained 2,328 pages of records pursuant to a March 23, 2011, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. The FOIA information included correspondence between the Department of Health and Human Services and the Ogilvy Group, the public relations fire hired by the White House to push Obamacare on the American people.
Judicial Watch listed the following as major points of interest from the FOIA request (all bullets quoted):
Democrats DEMAND ‘Made in the USA’ Requirement Pushed As Job-Creator for California
Written by CA Political News on August 12, 2011, 02:33 AM
‘Made in the USA’ Requirement Pushed As Job-Creator for California
By Susan Jones, CNWNews.com, 8/11/11
CNSNews.com) - Liberal activists -- with a dig at tea party conservatives -- are pushing a California ballot initiative intended to bring jobs to the state by requiring state and local government agencies to buy only “Made in the USA” products.
"The Tea Party gridlock and paralysis in Washington and Sacramento requires middle-class voters to take action to bring back jobs," said Jim Gonzalez, a proponent of the initiative and a former finance chair of the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors. “The Bring Manufacturing Jobs Back to California Act would end the decline of manufacturing jobs that is at the root of our economic crisis."
Beginning in January 2014, the initiative would require the State of California and all local government entities to purchase or lease only those products that are manufactured in the United States – and made mostly from materials produced in the U.S.A.
Construction and public works contracts would go only to companies that agree to use or supply made-in-the-U.S.A. products and produced-in-the-U.S.A. materials.
Gonzalez and two fellow Democrats, Bill Zimmerman and John Thiella, have sent the ballot initiative to the California Attorney General for a title and a summary, after which they will circulate the petition and try to collect enough signatures to get the measure on the November 2012 ballot.
"Between 2001 and 2011, California lost 612,000 manufacturing jobs, equal to over 32% of our state's industrial base," said Thiella, who formerly worked for California's elected tax commission. He said the proposed ballot initiative would create a market for new manufacturing contracts based on the combined purchasing power of the State of California and its counties, cities, districts, and local government agencies.
"The Bring Manufacturing Jobs Back to California Act is about simple economic justice in an economy being destroyed by outsourcing and long term unemployment," said Bill Zimmerman, who has organized other citizens' initiatives, including the Proposition 215 (medical marijuana).
(As an example of how outsourcing is hurting the state, the ballot initiative notes that the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge span is being built by low-wage workers in China.)
Protecting Taxpayers by Protecting Local Discretion
By Chris McKenzie and Jon Coupal
Those familiar with Sacramento politics know that the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the League of California Cities are often on opposing sides of major policy issues. Nonetheless, we have worked together on a number of issues where our interests overlap. One issue on which we have always agreed is firm opposition to unfunded mandates on local governments. Many in local government are unaware that it was a taxpayer advocate, Paul Gann, who placed in the California Constitution a prohibition against unfunded state mandates to local governments.
Today, we stand together again as state legislators attempt to inject paralysis and dysfunction into local budgets. Specifically, our organizations join in strong opposition to several bills attempting to restrict the ability of local governments to reduce costs, manage their budgets and spend tax dollars in the most efficient manner possible.
Take for example, AB 438, a bill that restricts the ability of cities to contract for library services. For communities that have already pursued some level of contracting out, it has proven to be remarkably successful with lower costs, expanded library hours and, in most cases, no layoffs. In an era of reduced revenues from the highs of a couple of years ago, local agencies should have maximum flexibility to deliver quality services in a way that provides the best value to residents.
AB 646 is another restrictive bill that undermines a local agency’s ability to bargain with its employees by giving special authority to employee organizations to create delays in the negotiation process.
AB 506 is yet another bill that would severely impact local fiscal and labor decisions by imposing delays and obstacles that effectively prohibit a local agency in a fiscal crisis from seeking federal bankruptcy protection. While no one in local government relishes the idea of bankruptcy, if mediation and all other reasonable efforts to compromise result in failure, then it is crucial that local agencies retain the option of bankruptcy protection without various legislative hurdles being imposed on the process.
Particularly during these difficult economic times, Californians want their government to be lean and efficient. They want to have their tax dollars used wisely. In tough times, our residents expect their government leaders to make tough choices. Our elected leadership at the state level seems unable to make hard decisions, while most city governments simply have no choice.
City governments have eliminated and consolidated programs, reworked agreements with their labor unions, contracted out for services, and have had to lay off employees. These actions are in the best interest of taxpayers,but they make some powerful interest groups in Sacramento unhappy. Several bills, including those mentioned here, are aimed at limiting local discretion to deliver services and efficiently trim their budgets.
While Gov. Jerry Brown, a former big city mayor himself, needs to be more aggressive on matters of local control, he has already taken some positive steps. For example, he recently vetoed AB 455 (Campos), another bill that would have seized local authority. He stated in his veto message that the bill sought to “impose a level of state control that is inconsistent with my administration’s efforts to…increase local control.” As legislators continue to place stacks of bills on his desk that compromise local control we hope that he repeats this language in his veto messages as a Zen master repeats a mantra.
Chris McKenzie is executive director of the League of California Cities. Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
To read this column on the HJTA website, click here.
California Amazon tax will kill 25,000 small businesses
With the California legislature having just passed a flawed budget full of accounting tricks, budget gimmicks and money grabs, one area of small business is about to be taxed right out of business - just so that the state can fill a budget hole instead of making necessary and substantive cuts.
One of the budget trailer bills contains three formerly separate Internet tax bills now wrapped into one, to tax all Internet purchases made in California.
The ‘Amazon tax,’ AB 27 X1, is in legislative limbo. The tax was part of the budget deal that was vetoed only 10 days ago by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. But now legislative analysts are trying to get the governor, who has signaled his support for the tax, to sign the bill, or the bill will have to go through the legislative process again.
In the face of strong evidence that this trick would most certainly put many small e-retailers and internet affiliates out of business, legislators continue to pursue what they claim will be a $200 million windfall of tax income. AB 155, one of the online tax bills authored by Assemblyman Charles Calderon, would change the definition of a “retailer” to include any group “that performs services in this state in connection with tangible personal property to be sold by the retailer.”
The bill states, “Qualifying services include, without limitation, the design and development of tangible personal property (merchandise) sold by the retailer, or the solicitation of sales of TPP on the retailer’s behalf. Imposes a sales tax on retailers for the privilege of selling TPP, absent a specific exemption. The tax is based upon the retailer’s gross receipts from TPP sales in this state.”
Calderon even included a “complementary use tax on the storage, use, or other consumption in this state of TPP purchased from any retailer.”
That about covers everything a retailer does. However, the bill specifies that the use tax is imposed on “purchasers” — the customer.
Anonymous is starting to lose more than it wins. As I already mentioned on Wednesday, the FBI is racking up names to arrest, and moving on them. systems. . Of course, when they’re in jail, that won’t matter much, but it’s fun to see.
to try , even though as I’ve pointed out previously and as Ryan Young pointed out at Daily Caller,. The deal will increase competition, and it should pass unmolested by government, for the greater good.
Tip: “The Cloud” is not a backup, and , then you do not own your email address. Protect yourself out there, folks. Just because “everyone” is using a certain service, that doesn’t mean that service is safe. Not Gmail, not Paypal, nothing. Be careful. Don’t overcommit.
Tea Party Patriots hit back on S&P downgrade
By Cameron Joseph - 08/08/11 11:28 AM ET
The Tea Party Patriots attacked the Obama administration for Standard & Poor’s downgrade of the national credit rating the day after senior Democrats tried to blame the Tea Party movement for S&P’s move.
The group seized on an editorial in a Chinese government-run newspaper that said the U.S. needed to address its “mounting debts.”
“When Washington, D.C., gets slammed from the right by communists, you know we have a problem with our leadership,” Tea Party Patriots co-founder Mark Meckler said. “[Politicians’] muddled thinking comes from a lack of leadership that has failed to face our debt problems or corral overspending.”
Their response comes as recent polls show the debt-ceiling debate hurt the Tea Party’s standing with voters. A CBS News/New York Times poll conducted the first week of August had 40 percent of Americans disapproving of the Tea Party, with only 20 percent in support.
Democrats were quick to blame the movement for S&P’s actions.
“The fact of the matter is that this is essentially a Tea Party downgrade,” David Axelrod, a top adviser for President Obama’s reelection campaign, said Sunday on CBS. The United States came close to default, Axelrod said, because “strident voices” in the Tea Party were willing to see the country fall short of its debt obligations.
“Not one of the Republican presidential candidates stood up in opposition to that,” he said.
Standard & Poor’s blamed both mounting debt and the uncertainty created by the debt-ceiling negotiations for the downgrade from AAA to AA+, the first time the U.S. government has been downgraded since S&P gave it the AAA rating in 1917.
The Tea Party Patriots were the only major Tea Party group that refused to support any form of debt ceiling increase -- the other major Tea Party groups backed Republicans' plan to include a balanced budget amendment and cut spending.
Erik Wasson contributed.
This post was updated at 3:02pm.
Senators debate illegal immigrant student bill
BY CINDY CARCAMO
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
For the first time, Senators held a hearing this week on a bill that would give thousands of students and military hopefuls who are in the country illegally a pathway to U.S. citizenship.
Still, the observers have said the future looks dim for the bill because Republicans have taken a harder line against illegal immigration and now have control of the House.
DREAM Act Activists rally in support of the bill in Orange County. Cindy Yamanaka/ The Orange County Register
The Development, Relief and Education for Minor Aliens Act – better known as the Dream Act – has ping-ponged its way through Congress for about a decade without much success but this is the first time its had a hearing in the Senate.
Tuesday's hearing was an opportunity for proponents and opponents of the law to lobby. During the hearing, the panel clashed with Republican legislators in front of Democrats and room packed with hundreds of youngsters who were allies of the bill or in the country illegally themselves, according to news reports.
"Let me ask everyone here today who is a Dream Act student to stand and be recognized," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, the bill's sponsor.
Nearly everyone in the room stood up, Fox News.com reported.
The Senate Judiciary Committee's immigration subcommittee discussed brining the Dream Act back before Congress.
Senator John Cornyn, a Republican from Texas, pressed Department of Homeland Security head Janet Napolitano on a stipulation in the act that would give her the authority to waive educational requirements for some Dream Act applicants on a case-by-case basis, The New York Times reported.
Cornyn said he was uncomfortable with that part of the bill, as well as another stipulation that allows participants to have two misdemeanors convictions before being expelled from the program, according to the New York Times.
Napolitano told Cornyn that given the limitations to the DHS budget, deporting teenagers who have spent much of their lives in the country and hope to enroll in college or serve in the military didn't fall within the enforcement priorities of the agency.
The bill would allow students who are in the country illegally and have finished at least two years of college or military service to apply for legal status. The act would also protect them from deportation and make them eligible for student loans and federal work study programs.
Students would need to have lived here at least five years before the bill was enacted into law and have arrived before they were 16. Applicants would also need to be younger than 36.
Still, the bill's opponents call it a provisional amnesty, stating that it's flawed and contains major loopholes. Others say that people would be rewarded for breaking the law.
Proponents of the bill have said that most of these students were children when they were brought over by their parents. Activists argue that the children should not be punished for their parent's decisions and instead should have the chance to give back to society via the military or as working taxpayers.
The bill's most recent failure was during the Congressional lame-duck session last year.
Democratic lawmakers reintroduced the bill in May.
Read more about the hearing in the Christian Science Monitor, Associated Press, New York Times and FoxNews.com.
See which states have their own version of the Dream Act.
Immigration Text Alerts: Subscribe to free immigration news alerts. About 3-7 are sent each week. Text OCRIMMIG to 56654. More OCRegister news alerts.
http://www.ocregister.com/news/bill-306717-act-dream.html start saving on taxes today
By MICHAEL GARDNER
FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
SACRAMENTO – Starting Friday, Californians can buy and license a new car for less money than Thursday.
How much less? Try $300 on a $20,000 purchase.
A woman puts new registration sticker on her car at a Department of Motor Vehicles office in Redwood City, Calif., Thursday, June 30, 2011. All Californians with a vehicle will pay $12 more a year to register it and millions of property owners who live outside cities will pay $150 a year for state fire protection. Those are among the new fees included in the state budget signed on Thursday. On July 1, a temporary hike in vehicle license fees also ended.
That's because a series of temporary sales, vehicle and income tax increases expired at midnight after Gov. Jerry Brown and Republican lawmakers failed to strike a deal on extending the taxes as part of a new budget deal signed into law Thursday.
Combined, the new lower tax rates will save the average family of four about $1,000 a year, according to various state figures.
"Today, young families in California should celebrate. ... I have seen how these taxes going to state government impacts their budgets," said Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, who used to sell cars.
But those savings come at a price. Some offsetting new fees have been imposed, budgets for schools and services slashed, and college tuition is on the way up.
"The budget choice was simple: pay the same amount in taxes you do now or enact painful budget cuts that will be felt for years to come. Legislative Republicans made their choice, and Californians will suffer the consequences," said Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and president pro tempore of the Senate.
Republicans insist Californians will still come out ahead.
"It will still be a net cut. Taxpayers will still see a lower tax burden," said Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher, a San Diego Republican who opposed the new round of fee increases.
Sales tax cut: Today marks a 1 percent rollback in the state sales tax, saving shoppers $1 for every $100 worth of taxable goods they buy — from books to wrenches. That may not sound like much, but it adds up. The state Board of Equalization puts the savings at $233 a year for the average Californian even if they do not buy big-ticket computers or appliances.
Smaller vehicle license fee: The rate will be almost halved, to 0.65 percent from 1.15 percent of the value. That's about $5 for every $1,000 in value, or $100 savings on a car DMV values at $20,000.
Income tax: Californians will also feel less of a bite from the tax man on April 15, thanks to the Dec. 31, 2010 expiration of a temporary tax hike. Income tax rates for the 2011 calendar year will go down, but by how much is contingent on personal finances, deductions and other factors. But, as an example, a family with one child and adjusted gross income of $60,000 will save about $340.
Tax credits: As part of the income tax rollback, couples filing jointly will be able to declare a roughly $309 per dependent credit. The comparative 2010 credit was $188.
California's $85.9 billion budget: Here are the major provisions
Published: Friday, Jul. 1, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Last Modified: Friday, Jul. 1, 2011 - 12:13 am
After a veto fight with his own party and unresolved differences with Republicans, Gov. Jerry Brown signed an on-time $85.9 billion spending plan Thursday that slashes higher education and the safety net while counting on a windfall of tax revenues.
Democrats approved the plan using new majority-vote budget powers.
The plan "really does put our fiscal house into much better shape," Brown said as he signed the main budget bill. "But we're not finished."
What follows are major provisions in the plan:
TOTAL GENERAL FUND BUDGET: $85.9 billion
Health and Human Services:
• Co-payment requirements. Starting Nov. 1, patients will be required to pay $5 on doctor visits and $50 on emergency room visits. Also imposes co-pays on prescription drugs and hospital stays. Saves $511 million.
Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/07/01/3740427/californias-859-billion-budget.html#ixzz1QsKCba4w
June 15, 2011
Legislature approves majority budget plan ahead of deadline
The state Legislature plowed through a package of majority-vote budget bills this afternoon, approving a plan to close the $9.6 billion deficit with more than seven hours left until the deadline for both houses to pass a budget.
The package includes deeper cuts to higher education and the courts, the elimination of redevelopment agencies with plans to create an alternative funding system, a quarter-cent increase to the sales tax and a $12-per-vehicle increase to the vehicle registration fee. It also relies on higher revenue projections and maneuvers like bringing back an abandoned proposal to sell state buildings and tapping into funds meant for health and educational programs for young children.
The plan now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, whose own budget proposal is centered on extending higher tax rates set to expire through a vote of the Legislature and later statewide election.
Majority Democrats, facing today's deadline and the threat of no pay if a budget was not approved by midnight, said they were forced to resort to the alternative package without Republican votes needed to approve the governor's plan.
"This was very, very tough. But we've been given the responsibility and we certainly have done I think a very good job with the tools at our disposal," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said after the Senate finished its work today.
Republicans, who had sought a spending cap and changes to the pension and regulatory systems as part of a deal to put taxes on the ballot, blasted the plan as filled with gimmicks, one-time solutions and legally questionable tactics for raising revenues.
"This Democrat budget is an irresponsible package that has no real pension reform, no hard spending cap, no plan to put people back to work and no change to government as usual," Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton, of Rancho Cucamonga, said in a statement. "It clearly demonstrates that legislative Democrats would rather pander to their special interest allies than adopt the long-term budget solutions that Californians demand and deserve."
Brown has 12 days to sign or veto the budget approved today. Steinberg said he is still hoping an agreement on approving so-called tax bridge and later election on the taxes can still be reached. Unlike the budget in the wake of the successful 2010 ballot measure Proposition 25, the tax solutions require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.
Read more: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2011/06/legislature-plans.html#ixzz1POVTYbLj
The victory of three Republican Latinos in last year's election is a warning sign for Democrats. Political activists and campaign strategists say Democrats need to do more to bolster their Latino candidates.
By Mark Z. Barabak, Los Angeles Times
FIELD POLL: Brown numbers slipping
Published: Wednesday, Jun. 15, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
Gov. Jerry Brown still has public support for his tax plan, but the margin has slipped, and so has his public approval rating, according to a Field Poll released today.
The poll comes as legislative Democrats – frustrated by months of failed budget talks between Brown and Republican lawmakers – prepare today to take up a budget of their own.
Though Brown's public approval rating has slipped just two percentage points since March, to 46 percent, many Californians who previously were undecided about Brown made up their minds against him. Thirty-one percent of voters disapprove of Brown's job performance, up from 21 percent in March.
"Three months ago he was still in his honeymoon period with voters," Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo said. "Now I think what you're seeing is more of a return to normal."
Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/06/15/3701203/field-poll-support-slipping-for.html#ixzz1PLw8GWgl
June 11, 2011, 5:08 p.m.
Early this year, Brian Sandoval and Susana Martinez made history. He became Nevada's first Latino governor. In New Mexico, she became the country's first Latina governor.
Just as striking as their breakthrough is their party affiliation: Both are Republicans.
For Democrats, the election of the three was something else: a warning sign at a time when Latino support has grown increasingly vital to the party's success, especially in the battleground states of the Rocky Mountains and desert Southwest.
Sens. Harry Reid of Nevada and Michael Bennet of Colorado each withstood the 2010 Republican wave thanks in good part to Latino support. President Obama is counting on strong Latino turnout to hold on to Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico — states he won in the last White House race — and to expand the 2012 competition to Arizona and, maybe, Texas and Georgia.
"The Republicans, by electing three national Latino leaders, have really challenged the Democratic Party," said former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, until recently one of the highest-ranking Latino Democrats in the country.
"Democrats have to recruit more Latino candidates and they have to start siding with Latinos on redistricting and other issues," Richardson said, "because many Latinos perceive that the party doesn't care enough about electing more Hispanic officials."
California ponders end run around Electoral College
By Genevieve Jerome | 05/26/11 12:00 AM PST
Remember back in 2000 when George W. Bush was elected president, even though rival Al Gore won the popular vote?
If so, you’re not the only one: A number of Democrats – and some Republicans – want California to award its Electoral College votes in a presidential election to the candidate who wins the popular vote. The idea is to avoid elections in which the popular-vote winner loses the race because the rival candidate has more electoral votes. That, in turn, might give California, the nation’s most populous state, more clout in picking a president.
A bill to do exactly that faces the state Senate. Last week, the Assembly in a 43-18 vote passed AB 459 by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-South San Francisco, which enables California to join in a compact with a number of other states and the District of Columbia to authorize the vote shift.
For the compact to work, it needs a total of 270 electoral votes by all of the states. Thus far, states with a total of 77 electoral votes have decided to join the compact. Many states are waiting to see what California, with a trove of 55 electoral votes, is waiting to do.
“I think if voted, it would be a major positive effect on California. I think it will allow our voices to be heard in the national debate for president,” said Assembly Democratic Caucus Chair Jerry Hill who represents the 19th district. Hill says assuring the popular vote could have a major impact on important issues such as off-shore oil drilling and agricultural issues.
“The passage of the bill would make a big difference because California would be relevant in presidential elections,” says Hill. “Today the only thing we’re good for in a presidential election is for money,”
Senator Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, feels AB 459 would have a positive effect on California.
“Assembly Bill 459 will help to put California on a more balanced playing field with other states, so that we can attract national attention to issues that are unique to our state,” says Walters. “California is too large and our issues are too important to be ignored at the expense of those in battleground states. AB459 is an issue of equity – our citizens deserve comparable national consideration as those in other states.”
State budget special election: An update
One of the most common questions in our budget online chat yesterday had to do with the budget special election.Gov. Jerry Brown originally called for an early June election, but that became impossible once talks ended in March. Here's where various players stand on the election issue at the moment:
Brown: Wants a special election as soon as possible, which realistically means September if the Legislature agrees on a budget by June. To balance the budget until an election, he wants lawmakers to extend sales and vehicle taxes from July 1 until the election. He backed off his original call for a retroactive extension of an income tax surcharge for 2011, though he still wants a smaller dependent tax credit.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento: Wants to balance the 2011-12 budget by having the Legislature approve a one-year extension in taxes. Wants the electorate to vote on extending the taxes for four more years some time in 2012.
Assembly Republican Caucus: Opposes tax extensions and opposes an election, other than one on pension reductions and a spending cap. Issued a plan that relies on cuts such as a 10 percent reduction in state worker compensation and taking funds from First 5 and mental-health programs, as well as Brown's projection of unexpected tax revenues.
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles: Believes the Legislature should approve taxes on its own, but says he is open to a "ratification" by voters at some later date.
Read more: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2011/05/budget-special-election-an-upd.html#ixzz1NQ1mTd3P
Former Assemblyman Roger Niello's politically-motivated attempt to slash retirement benefits and collective bargaining for public employees is dead -- for now. Niello told the Sacramento Bee last night that he was pulling the measure, which apparently had no significant backing behind it to qualify for the ballot. Many believe Niello filed the measure to curry favor for an expected bid for the California Senate. The LAO reviewed the initiative last week, noting that it would force an increase in social service benefits to state workers because they would not be able to have secure retirements. Here's what Dave Low, chairman of Californians for Retirement Security, had to say about Niello's decision: It is appropriate that the flawed Niello initiative to gut retirement security for millions of Californians will end up in the scrapheap of politically-motivated failures instead of on the ballot. It was a poorly drafted attempt to punish middle-class workers and it ignored the fact that workers have agreed to substantial reductions in retirement benefits and have increased their contributions towards pensions from 5 to 10 percent. We continue to believe the way to improve the state's pension system is at the bargaining table, not the ballot box.
APNewsBreak: High-risk Calif parolees unsupervised
By DON THOMPSON, Associated Press
2:15 p.m., May 25, 2011
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California improperly paroled more than 450 dangerous criminals without supervision last year as part of a program designed to reduce prison crowding and cost, the California prison system's independent inspector general said Wednesday in a report.
A faulty computerized risk-assessment program predicted the offenders could be released under the state's non-revocable parole law that took effect in January 2010.
The inspector general found that about 1,500 offenders were improperly left unsupervised, including 450 who "carry a high risk for violence." The offenders otherwise would have been released under traditional parole, which requires them to report in regularly and follow specific rules.
The new law was designed for less serious offenders. Under non-revocable parole, offenders don't report to parole agents and can't be sent back to prison unless they commit new crimes.
The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said it relies heavily on a computerized program because it must review the criminal histories of more than 160,000 inmates and more than 100,000 offenders on parole.
Auditors found the risk assessment was wrong for 23.5 percent of more than 10,000 offenders who were considered for non-revocable parole between January and July 2010. Some were scored too high and others too low, with the lower-scoring inmates eligible for unsupervised release.
Even after the computer program was altered, analysts determined it was wrong in 8 percent of cases.
"CDCR should not compromise public safety ... by understating offenders' risk of reoffending and releasing high-risk offenders to unsupervised parole," the report said.
The department disputed the inspector general's analysis and conclusion.
"Alleged `errors' ... have in large part been corrected," Lee Seale, the department's deputy chief of staff, wrote in a rebuttal letter. "We reject the notion that the California Static Risk Assessment is flawed and dispute the evidence the OIG cites in support of this claim."
Senators unveil bipartisan transportation plan
Posted at 02:49 PM on Wednesday, May. 25, 2011
By JOAN LOWY - Associated Press
WASHINGTON -- A bipartisan group of senators said Wednesday they have agreed to the outlines of a long-term transportation spending bill, boosting prospects for ending a stalemate that has kept highway and transit construction programs in limbo since 2008.
The bill would spend about $56 billion a year on highway and transit construction, said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It has the support of Sens. James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the senior Republican on the committee; David Vitter of Louisiana, the senior Republican on the highway subcommittee, and Max Baucus, D-Mont., the subcommittee's chairman.
The group is notable in part because its members span the Senate's ideological gamut. Baucus also chairs the Senate Finance Committee, which is responsible for figuring out how to pay for the plan.
The plan calls for spending roughly the same amount of money per year adjusted for inflation as was authorized by the last long-term transportation bill, which was passed in 2005 and expired in 2009.
Unable to figure out how to fund a new long-term plan without the politically unpalatable prospect of raising federal gas and diesel taxes, Congress has kept highway and transit programs limping along through a series of short-term cash infusions from the general treasury.
Read more: http://www.fresnobee.com/2011/05/25/2402428/senators-unveil-bipartisan-transportation.html#ixzz1NQ0WvAo0
May 2, 2011 Stephen Frank's California Political News and Views
Job Growth? 1st CA City is #155!
May 03, 2011, 01:44 AM
How bad is California for job growth? The answer is worse than you thought.
This is from New Geography.com This survey looks at a total of 398 cities.
1. Texas has 22 cities before CA has its first at 155--Merced
2. New York has 7 cities before Merced.
3. Gulfport-Biloxi is #26
4. San Jose is 181
5. San Fran is 218
6. El Centro is #251
7. Sacramento is 367 (out of 398)
8. Los Angeles is 373
9. Oakland is 395
New York City is #52
Do not blame me for California being in a Depression it can not get out of, the numbers speak for themselves--California is in a fiscal death spiral and the studies prove it. Want a job? Go to Texas.
Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers last month passed what might have been the biggest package of spending cuts in state history, more than $11 billion in reductions to almost every part of the government.
When the next fiscal year ends less than 15 months from now, many of those cuts will have failed to deliver their promised savings.
As a result, even if Brown gets the entire combination of spending cuts and tax increases he is seeking from the Legislature and the voters, a new shortfall will likely emerge unless the economy outperforms projections and the state collects higher tax revenues that expected.
That’s been the pattern in Sacramento for many years.
For evidence, look no further than the brand new contracts the Brown Administration has just negotiated with many of its workers.
The budget package Brown is piecing together relies in part on a savings of 10 percent from these contracts. An independent analysis of the deals suggests they will save far less than that next year and will probably increase state costs in the long run.
The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst examined the proposed contracts for public safety workers, engineers and scientists. The safety workers’ deal would save less than 3 percent next year, the analysis said, while the two other contracts might save 6 percent.
That’s far less than the budget projected, but even those savings might be optimistic.
One reason is that all three deals end the three-day-per-month furloughs imposed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and replace them with one floating unpaid day off per month for these employees. In his projected savings, Brown has counted the furloughs already taken this year. But by ending the program, his new contracts will actually cost the state more money between now and June 30 before any savings start to accrue.
CA MEETS TEXAS VIA THE TAXPAYER
Friday, 15 April 2011 12:04
NEW: ABC – Anywhere But California
Katy Grimes: Thanks to Gov. Jerry Brown signing into law this week the global warming inspired 33 percent renewable requirement for utilities, we can expect more California jobs to head to Texas.
The law requires investor-owned and public utilities to obtain one-third of their electricity from renewable sources – in the state or from outside sources.
California utilities already pay 50% more for electricity than other states, which will lead to exorbitant cost increases for rate payers. Some experts say that parts of California will experience only a 19 percent increase, while Los Angeles will see a 74 percent increase.
As I wrote in Green Energy Bill Headed to Gov., in the entire history of energy in California, the state has never been able to create enough electricity to keep up with our own usage. This means that California buys 20 to 30 percent of its energy on the energy market from out-of-state energy sources, which leads to criticism of the stringent renewable energy standards. Many in the state say that increasing renewable energy standards will kill private business, as well as investor owned utilities.
“The other catch is that California legislators have imposed regulations on how much of the renewable energy is purchased outside the state, leaving many in the energy business to say that it can’t be done given how much energy we already purchase from other out-of-state sources, and because wind and solar power are not reliable,” explained an energy expert who asked to remain unnamed.
The California delegation visiting Texas legislators and Gov. Rick Perry are meeting with former California businesses now located in Texas. In a meeting with the Governor, California Assemblyman Dan Logue (R-Linda), organizer of the trip, said that businesses risked uprooting families along with the business, to move to Texas where they can compete nationally and globally, at a lower cost. “Last year California lost 1.2 million jobs while Texas created 163,000 new jobs,” said Logue.
“There’s a saying amongst business people,” said Logue, “ABC – anywhere but California.” And the reason for the trip said Logue, “is that in order to fix our budget and economy, California must address how to create jobs.”
I’ve written about Joe Vranich, The Business Relocation Coach, who helps businesses relocate. And unfortunately, too many of those businesses are exiting California. Vranich keeps track of the departures and writes, “Texas remains the top destination for departing California companies, as it has for several years. Experts at Site Selection magazine have awarded Texas the 2010 Governor’s Cup for most new and expanded corporate facilities announced over the year. Texas had the nation’s top ranking with 424 projects while California ranked 15th with 127 projects.”
Vranich lists the 69 companies that have left California so far just this year, and notes that the list doesn’t include businesses that remain in the state but choose to expand or open additional locations in other states.
According to Vranich, some of the reasons businesses leave California:
10. Energy costs
9. High and unfair tax treatment
8. Regulatory burden
7. Unfriendly legal environment for business
6. Most expensive place to do business
5. Provable savings elsewhere
4. Public policies and taxes create unfriendly business climate
3. Uncontrollable public spending
2. More adversarial toward business than any other state
1. Poor rankings for California on lists ranging from taxes to crime rates to school dropout rates.
Let’s hope the Texas delegation is able to get the attention of the other members of the Legislature. Because if this week is any indication of whether they can be shaken into reality, it’s not going to happen. Before breaking for their Spring Recess, legislators spent the last couple of weeks passing some really bad legislation through committees.
I’ll collect the bills and highlight some of the worst. This is where the shrinking Republican legislative membership is wreaking havoc on the future of the state – Republicans just are not able to stop bad bills in committees because there aren’t enough of them. And Gov. Jerry Brown has already demonstrated his willingness to sign legislation that will only further the devastate the state’s economy.
Gov. Perry’s website has video of the meetings.
The California delegation includes:
· Assemblyman Dan Logue
· Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom
· Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway
· Assemblywoman Diane Harkey
· Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani
· Assemblyman Martin Garrick
· Assemblywoman Shannon Grove
· Assemblyman Brian Jones
· Assemblyman Steve Knight
· Assemblyman Mike Morrell
· Assemblyman Donald Wagner
· Donna Arduin – former California Finance Director, Arduin, Laffer & Moore Econometrics
· Julie Blunden – Executive VP of Public Policy/Corporate, SunPower Corporation
· Jeffrey Clark – State Government Affairs Southern Regional Policy Director, TechAmerica
· Carl Guardino – President, and CEO Silicon Valley Leadership Group
· Cynthia Guerrero – CG Consulting
· Jack M. Stewart – President, California Manufacturers & Technology Association
· Bryan Tucker – Senior Director, NA Operations/PMO Aviat Network
· Rock Zierman – President, California Independent Petroleum Association
We've Become a Nation of Takers, Not Makersy STEPHEN MOORE
If you want to understand better why so many states—from New York to Wisconsin to California—are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, consider this depressing statistic: Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.
It gets worse. More Americans work for the government than work in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining and utilities combined. We have moved decisively from a nation of makers to a nation of takers. Nearly half of the $2.2 trillion cost of state and local governments is the $1 trillion-a-year tab for pay and benefits of state and local employees. Is it any wonder that so many states and cities cannot pay their bills?
Activists Gear Up to Stop Tax Increase
MARCH 21, 2011 By JOHN SEILER
Opponents of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed $12 billion tax increase already are spoiling for a fight. They’re not waiting to find out the fate of the governor’s proposal to put the matter before voters in June.
“We always have to be prepared are starting to develop a campaign strategy,” Jon Coupal told me today; he’s president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and has fought many anti-tax battles in California.
However, Coupal added, “Today, it looks increasingly like there won’t be a vote.” Fresh from attending the weekend’s Republican convention, he said that he’s hopeful that the Democratic majority in the Legislature will not be able to peel off the two Republicans votes in each house, the Assembly and Senate, needed to put the matter before voters.
But he’s not taking any chances. “I think we’ll be ready the way were two years ago,” he said, referring the successful effort to defeat a nearly identical tax increase advanced by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
State budget rift grows between GOP, DemsPosted:
SACRAMENTO ---- Democrats angrily rejected a long list of demands ---- 53 issues in all ---- that Republicans made Friday in budget negotiations with California Gov. Jerry Brown, and are now amping up threats to go around the minority party to ensure a special election on tax extensions.
Senate Republicans turned in their proposal to Brown on Friday afternoon after he complained he had yet to see a "term sheet" outlining their wishes. With time running out to get a special election on the ballot, Brown has pleaded with Republicans to lower their asking price for an agreement to allow voters to decide whether the $26.6 billion deficit should be closed with a mix of spending cuts and taxes. But after getting a quick look at the GOP demands in a meeting with the governor, Democratic Assembly Speaker John Perez said he is convinced the two parties are farther apart than they've ever been.
So you think the California budget deficit is dire?
By Greg Lucas | 03/24/11It’s been called California’s other budget deficit. And it certainly hasn’t had near the attention of the state’s $25.4 billion budget gap between revenue and spending commitments.
But it’s almost as dire.
California’s employer-paid Unemployment Insurance Fund is insolvent.
The fund had a deficit of $10.3 billion in 2010, a deficit that is growing to what the state projects will be a $13.4 billion hole this year.Without increasing the amount of money businesses pay into the fund or reducing thebenefits paid to out-of-work former employees – or some combination of the two - the fund will stay insolvent.“For the foreseeable future,” says the Legislative Analyst in an October 2010 report.
California Republicans harden anti-tax stance
Monday March 21, 2011
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - After approving spending cuts in California Governor Jerry Brown's budget plan last week, state lawmakers this week will try to tackle its most nettlesome proposal -- a ballot measure that would ask voters to extend some temporary tax increases.
Standing in the measure's way are Republicans in the legislature's minority who oppose higher taxes or are facing pressure from supporters to oppose them.
Republicans at their state party convention over the weekend underscored their opposition by backing a resolution against a tax measure even if it was tied to policy changes they have long wanted.
A group of Republican state senators has been trying to negotiate some of those changes with Brown. They include proposals for a spending cap and an overhaul of the state's pension system for public employees.
Taxes, however, are trumping both.
Viewpoints: Be thankful for 'loyal opposition' by GOP
By Diane Harkey
Special to The Bee
Published: Saturday, Mar. 26, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 11A
To be "bipartisan" in Sacramento means following the Democrats' agenda, continuing down the same path of overspending, regulation, taxation and debt that created our financial woes. Other states are bouncing back while our Golden State continues to lag in recovery.
There is no need to spin from budget dance to budget dance every six months. Unless we deal with the fundamental structural problems, we will continue to sway to the music of deficits and debt.
Unfortunately, the Democrats' "fix" will only ensure that we bounce from deficit to deficit, hurt the most vulnerable and then go begging to the taxpayers for more money. The budget proposal increases state spending by 31 percent over the next three years, assuming tax extensions and sending our responsibilities to local government.
What is different this year is the resurgence of a "loyal opposition." Republicans have switched from "let's make a deal" of the Schwarzenegger era to ensuring that if we don't have a role in diagnosing the cure, we are not going to swallow the medicine.
The governor's budget adds more than 1,300 positions this year, many in "enforcement" and tax collections, to further "revenue" enhancement. Hence, the first divide: what stimulates revenue to pay for state services – hitting those paying or employing with more enforcement and new taxes and fees, or encouraging and increasing private sector employment?
Read more: http://www.sacbee.com/2011/03/26/3504671/be-thankful-for-loyal-opposition.html#ixzz1HkwFFaw1
Governor balks at GOP demands as budget talks teeter
Republicans give Brown a seven-page list of policy changes they say are needed before they agree to vote on his budget. They include ending seniority system for teacher layoffs and moving the 2012 presidential primary to March. A Brown aide calls it a 'hodgepodge.'
By Shane Goldmacher and Anthony York, Los Angeles Times
March 26, 2011
Reporting from Sacramento—
Gov. Jerry Brown accused GOP lawmakers of paralyzing budget negotiations by introducing dozens of new demands Friday.
The governor appeared to lose patience after Republicans gave him a seven-page document of policy changes they say need to be implemented before they would be willing to vote for his budget.
The dozens of items on their list include such wide-ranging proposals as ending the seniority system for teachers facing layoffs, moving next year's presidential primary to March and restoring funding to protect rural lands from development.
The document also asks Brown to abandon his push to eliminate redevelopment agencies, rewrite a tax formula favorable to corporations and ax a corporate tax break for businesses hiring workers in blighted areas.
Brown spokesman Gil Duran characterized the list as "a hodgepodge."
Senate leader ready to end budget talks
By Juliet Williams/ Associated Press
Posted: 03/26/2011 07:12:59 AM PDT
SACRAMENTO -- Democratic leaders in the state Legislature said Friday they were growing frustrated after weeks of failed budget negotiations and might seek a way to reach a deal without Republicans, who submitted a wish list of more than 50 demands to the governor's office.
Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, warned that he could schedule a vote soon to force GOP lawmakers to make a decision but would not give up on a deal as long as Gov. Jerry Brown wants to keep negotiating.
Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, dismissed the list of Republican demands as moving further away from what Democrats can accept, but GOP lawmakers emerged from the governor's office saying they were still talking.
The main point of contention is Brown's proposal for a special election to give voters a chance to extend temporary tax increases enacted two years ago.
If talks reach an impasse, Democrats could try to approve the special election on a simple majority vote, a move that would almost certainly be challenged in court because legislative ballot measures require a two-thirds vote.
Democrats, who have a majority in both houses, also could introduce an all-cuts budget that would take away billions of dollars more from schools or try to qualify an independent initiative on the tax extensions for a special election this November.
March 17, 2011
Legislature approves main budget bill without new revenues
Both houses of the California Legislature passed the main budget bill today and have now solved roughly half of the state's $26.6 billion deficit, mostly through cuts and taking funds from special state accounts. But nobody's celebrating yet.
The Legislature has left unsettled two of the thorniest issues in Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal -- the elimination of redevelopment agencies and a special election asking voters to extend higher taxes on sales, income and vehicles.
Without those changes, the Legislature will have to cut deeper or find new pots of money other than taxes. So far, Brown and Democrats remain focused on finding enough GOP votes to place taxes on the ballot.
Thursday didn't provide much hope for an immediate bipartisan solution. Tempers flared in both houses Thursday, and the partisan divide was as evident as ever.
Democrats amended various budget bills to require only a majority vote, using powers granted to them by voters in last year's Proposition 25. That led to party-line votes throughout the day.
Meanwhile, debates in both houses led to Republicans asking for apologies from Democrats. In the Senate, rhetoric overheated during debate on a bill redirecting inmates from state prisons to local jails and shifting parole functions to local governments.
Read more: http://blogs.sacbee.com/capitolalertlatest/2011/03/legislature-approves-main-budget-bill.html#ixzz1GyFii4x2
CA BUDGET TARGETS THE VULNERABLE AND PROTECTS PERKS
Oh, and we'll see less spending on transportation...i.e. The freeways and roads we depend on for jobs and commerce.
But, wait. What about the public employee unions? Oh, yah, they are safe from cuts. No pension reform. No cutting the workforce via outsourcing, etc, etc.
BOTTOM LINE: $12 billion in tax increases and only $8 billion in "cuts" (transfers).
Lawmakers cash in during long weekends
Meeting for a few minutes Friday, they get four days' pay
BY MICHAEL GARDNER
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2011 AT 6:59 P.M.
Per diem For local lawmakers, 2010
Mark Wyland, R-Solana Beach $27,095
Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego $27,655
Mimi Walters, R-Lake Forest $27,095
Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego $29,081*
Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Temecula $28.934*
*Budget negotiations kept them in Capitol more days. Ducheny and Hollingsworth termed out in 2010.
Nathan Fletcher, R-San Diego $27,804
Marty Block, D-San Diego $28,372
Joel Anderson, R-La Mesa $28,372
Mary Salas, D-Chula Vista $27,520
Martin Garrick, R-Solana Beach $23,406
Lori Saldana, D-San Diego $28,513
Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point $28,230
Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore $28,513
*Anderson elected to Senate in November. Salas and Saldana were termed out in 2010.
Source: Legislative records
Alabama: $3,958 a month, plus $150 a week while in session
California: $95,291 a year, plus $142 per day in session
Florida: Pays legislators $29,697 per year plus $133 per day for expenses, but requires receipts
Illinois: Lawmakers receive $67,836 per year plus $139 per day expense money
Maryland: $43,500 a year, plus $96 a day for lodging and $32 a day for meals
Ohio: $60,584 a year, no per diem for expenses
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures
By convening for less than a half hour on Friday, the 80 members of the Assembly and 40 members of the Senate entitled themselves to $568 each.
That’s almost a $70,000 cost to taxpayers.
The reason? On top of their $95,291 annual salary, lawmakers can collect $142 per day when the legislature is in session. Those daily payments halt if the legislature takes off four or more days.
By convening for a short time on Friday, the legislature kept the Presidents Day holiday as a three-day weekend, meaning they could collect the daily payments while on recess Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
“It’s abuse,” said Ted Costa, a longtime Capitol watchdog and leader of the group People’s Advocate.
The “per diem” payments are designed to offset the cost of maintaining two households. The expense payments can inflate member salaries by $25,000 to $30,000 a year, and in most cases it’s tax free. Even those who live within 20 miles of the Capitol and do not maintain two households can still collect the money, but they do pay taxes on it.
Cumulatively, taxpayers sent lawmakers about $3.2 million to cover their daily living expenses in 2010, according to legislative payroll records obtained by The Watchdog.
The short pre-holiday session was not an anomaly. Last month, for the Martin Luther King holiday, lawmakers also adjourned after 20-minute sessions.
Legislative leaders defend the practice, noting that on those Fridays work is still being accomplished: bills are introduced, and budget negotiations continue. This time, Assembly and Senate fiscal committees met to consider passing the first draft of a 2011-12 spending plan.
“There is a lot of business conducted, especially with the budget deadline,” said Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and the president pro tempore. “There are significant conversations going on that will only intensify in the coming weeks.”
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