Democrats release plan to make California public college free

College debtCalifornia Democrats are making a push to offset the cost of higher education, releasing a sweeping plan to increase student aid that would be perhaps the most favorable in the nation for students – but one that may be unfavorable for the taxpayer.

“Lower-income students … are able to many times, through our great programs in California, get help to pay for tuition. But they’re still graduating with a tremendous amount of debt,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento.

The plan, unveiled earlier this month, would cover not just tuition but living expenses as well, making it different from other similar proposals in states like New York.

“California is taking the boldest step in the nation for making college debt-free,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, said in a recent press conference.

The cost for the program would come at a price tag of $1.6 billion per year, phased in over five years, and would be paid for using money from the state’s General Fund, lawmakers say.

Proponents say existing tax revenues will cover the cost, but other projections to provide universal college came in at a much higher cost of $3.3 billion annually.

Some lawmakers are skeptical of the effectiveness of the plan, especially as California confronts a wide range of other issues like infrastructure and entitlement spending.

“I think it’s well intentioned,” Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chavez said of the plan. “But I don’t think it recognizes the economic reality or really addresses the challenges we have to address.”

Additionally, the plan comes at a time when the effectiveness of Cal State schools is being called into question due to poor graduation rates.

For example, under 20 percent of full-time CSU freshmen graduate in four years, much less than the 34 percent national average for public universities.

The “Degrees Not Debt” program would affect around 400,000 students at UC and Cal State institutions.

It’s just one of over a dozen student-aid related bills already proposed in Sacramento this year alone to offset the cost of college, as the average student loan debt per graduate in the Golden State is $22,191.

For example, Assembly Democrats last month pushed forward a plan that would grant in-state tuition for individuals in the state as refugees.

Currently, around 60 percent of Cal State students and about half of University of California and community college students already have their tuition fully covered by existing grants and aid programs.

Student aid and college reform has come into increasing focus, partly spurred by former Democratic Bernie Sanders’ push to make all at public universities tuition-free.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Suffocating Regulations Driving California’s Housing Crisis to the Brink

urban-housing-sprawl-366c0Stories about the desperate living arrangements of highly compensated California tech workers sound like tales of Third World misery. One newspaper reports that a Silicon Valley engineer pays $1,400 a month just to live in a closet. He’s squeezing his wallet for the privilege of having a “private room” in a house where five adults live in bunk beds in a single bedroom. Another media outlet reported that a Google engineer moved into a “128-square-foot truck — in the company’s parking lot” because the cost of living in a real house was just too much.

Housing is so expensive across California that Joel Singer, CEO of the California Association of Realtors, said last fall that “only about one-third of our fellow citizens can afford to buy a median-priced home in the Golden State, down from a peak of 56 percent just four years ago.” Californians who own their homes spend more than a quarter of their total income on housing, the highest ratio in the nation. In 2014, Golden State renters paid 33.6 percent of their income on housing — third-highest in the nation. Despite rent-control laws — actually, in part due to those laws — San Francisco has the most unaffordable rental costs in the world, according to Nested, an international real estate service. Los Angeles is tenth on the list. Three of the five costliest housing markets in North America are found in California: San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles.

The housing crisis isn’t confined to the state’s elite coastal enclaves. In Riverside County, part of a region east of Los Angeles known as the Inland Empire, only 39 percent of households “are able to purchase a median-priced home, which in February was $334,440 for a single-family home,” the Desert Sun reported last March. The national average is 58 percent.

The California housing crunch is the product of a dire shortage of homes. Over the last decade, developers have built an average of 80,000 homes each year. But that number is about 100,000 units short of what’s needed to keep up with demand. According to the California Department of Housing and Community Development, the state will need to build roughly 1.8 million units between 2015 and 2025 “to meet projected population and household growth.” That would be like building more than 10 new Oaklands or nearly six new San Joses over that time.

Developers aren’t fools. They know that there is a great demand for housing in California. The profit motive would make them happy to build all those additional Oaklands. But California’s regulatory climate and development policies have eaten away at that incentive. The hurdles to building homes are high and solidly rooted: the most imposing is the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which allows opponents of development to shut down projects in the courts, often with no environmental basis. But because the lawsuits can disrupt and suppress projects, the law has become, as the Hoover Institution’s Loren Kaye says, a “tool for abuse.”

Other barriers include the steepest impact fees in the nation, in some cases nearly $25,000 per unit; affordable-housing mandates in more than 170 jurisdictions that require developers either to choose between building units at below-market value or face government fines; local anti-growth policies; and rent control.

The regulatory regime even includes parking mandates that require, for example, a development to have at least one parking space for every bedroom in the project — a formula that absurdly still applies when only one driver lives in a three-bedroom apartment housing five people. A Southern California Association of Governments report says that sometimes housing units are removed from a project just to accommodate these local minimum-parking mandates.

Californians have raised NIMBYism virtually to a level of first principles. Golden Staters don’t mind housing development, as long as it’s “not in my backyard.” The state has an ugly history of established residents pressuring local officials to build policy walls that make development too costly to pursue. The result of all this government is a shortage that has produced the most distorted housing market in the country. It’s so warped and battered that it can hardly be called a market.

Layers of government housing policy have been settling on top of one another for decades, creating a deep regulatory bog that is exceedingly difficult to dredge. So it’s reasonable to ask if California will ever become livable again. And with state and local policymakers seemingly less attached to reality every year, it’s reasonable to give up and move, as many have already done.

There’s No Other Choice for California – America Has to Lead The World

Syria has become the disaster for a generation and Iran wants to lord over the Middle East along with anywhere else it can get its grips into a region or government by whatever means necessary. In Eastern Europe a resurgent Russia continues seizing Ukraine and Putin still believes the downfall of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical disaster of the 20th century. Make no mistake; Russia seized Ukraine and South Ossetia illegally by force – against the post-World War II order where disputes are more than likely settled at the United Nations or through recognized diplomatic channels. In this regard California policymakers, elected officials and high-ranking commission members need to stop the anti-Trump campaign.

China still flexes its muscles in the South China Sea and only the U.S. steps up to lead through the chaos. The Pacific Ocean and East Asia are in California’s economic and security backyard. South America is also seeing disaster unfold with ungovernable regions in Central America, and Mexico’s disastrous narco-drug wars are directly affecting southern California. Venezuela is also on the brink of collapse. If Venezuela falls, South America could be looking at what Libya has become in North Africa – a breeding ground for this hemisphere’s version of ISIS – and ISIS is still on the march. It’s also not unheard of to think the ruthlessly sophisticated Mexican drug lords could use Venezuela’s oil the way Axis powers used fuel from conquered countries to further their ambitions. The ramifications of Venezuela falling are truly damning for California, and now Russia wants to claim Venezuelan oil assets (CITGO) in California over unpaid loans to Russian oil company, Rosneft.

NatoAnders Fogh Rasmussen, the former Prime Minister of Denmark and Secretary General of NATO, argues effectively in his new book, “The Will to Lead” that only one country can lead the world out of the abyss – the United States of America – and I’d add only one state has the engineering ability and technological know-how to lead a renaissance in defense weaponry so America can lead – California. Mr. Rasmussen states, “There is only one nation (U.S.) in the world capable of putting out these fires.”

Californians will argue this isn’t fair. Why can’t other nations take the lead against tyranny? But after the Obama administration’s “leading from behind” policy and the isolationist tendencies of the U.S. before WWII these two historical facts illustrate why America and California can’t leave the world stage. According to Mr. Rasmussen, “Only America has the diplomatic reach, financial resources, and military firepower to lead the world against the Autocrats, rogues states, and terrorists.” When America doesn’t lead and confront evil, World War I & II, 9/11 and the failed Libyan invasion transpire. Does any credible source, organization or government believe anyone, but America, could’ve stopped the Soviet Union during the Cold War? It was California factories, manufacturing and technology, which led this victory for the world. The facts are overwhelming in favor of America and California leading the world, otherwise the human rights California believes in, as epitomized by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, won’t be realized.

Forget ideology and regime type and purely on a military and intelligence reach – only America – has the means and necessary resources to defeat worldwide alliances, failed MENA nations, and worldwide powers like Iran, China, ISIS, al-Qaida and Russia. Unless these terrorist entities and nation-states are defeated, deterred, isolated or balanced by the U.S., then freedom will give way to despotic, autocratic rule. If you are skeptical about American power or exceptionalism, then research the governing possibilities that exist in Africa, the Middle East, East Asia and South America to defeat today’s problems. Moreover, the world has a refugee problem because of brutal, stifling regimes in the MENA region and Central America. Not because these people want to leave their homelands for no reason at all. There literally aren’t opportunities for most of them and if you are a child or women you have almost zero human rights. When confronted with these facts do the California legislature, local policymakers and Governor Brown still want this vitriolic, anti-Trump rhetoric to continue? As Tom Brokaw said, “Rage isn’t a policy.”

Mr. Rasmussen further extrapolates what happens when America doesn’t lead. Moral greatness of other European nations wither, rising powers with hegemonic ambitions take the forefront, and refugees proliferate the EU. In March 2014 when Russia invaded Ukraine that was the first European land-grab since the end of WWII, and was during the popular heyday of America shrinking back from her global responsibilities. Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry decried the invasion in these terms: “Unbelievable act of aggression. And you just don’t, in the 21st century, behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on a trumped-up pretext.” Those forceful words (but only words) didn’t coax the Russians into different behavior, or return Crimea. If anything the Russians have only grown more emboldened to misbehave.

This type of thinking by the former secretary of state is dangerously naïve, though admirable, speaking those words publicly. Yet admiration and feel-good statements didn’t help the Ukrainians. Now Syrians, Iranians, Chinese, Venezuelans and many African people’s can also relate to feel-good sentiments that never help them leave poverty or other hopeless circumstances. And in today’s global world, California and the technological prowess of Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach in Los Angeles have to step to the forefront and confront these challenges while working with the Trump administration whether they like it or not.

Wars such as WWI and WWII – where approximately 77 million people died – could’ve been avoided with forceful American leadership. Only America led by California’s manufacturing and aerospace industries defeated Germany twice, routed Imperial Japan, crushed the Soviet Union during the Cold War and with California leading America can defeat the above-mentioned tyrannies devastating billions worldwide.

The post WWII order will cease to exist unless America leads, and California stops its fascist-like hatred of the president. Here’s why: Europe is too weak and divided and no Asian power is strong enough or has the diplomatic clout to balance and deter China. Additionally, the Libya mess is a direct result of America not taking the leading role, and the Europeans retreating after overthrowing the Libyan government.

Only America has the understanding of leading while not taking land, crushing people’s dreams, and being a power than just wants to be left alone. America conquers, and then gives back its conquests. This reason means America is the only country in the world with the moral authority and military might to confront today’s evils: sex trafficking, terrorism, and nuclear proliferation by powerful regimes. Again I ask, who else will lead like America  – and does it for the sake of peace and prosperity – no one. And California could then be at the forefront of environmental issues that are important to California citizens. This is an opportunity to confront evil and make the world environmentally cleaner at the same time.

Most world powers today don’t agree with or even seem to understand the supposedly archaic ideas that come from balance of power, deterrence and preemption. In the exact opposite way of thinking currently happening from California’s elected officials they need to work with President Trump while acting with conviction to hold the President’s and Congress’ feet to the fire when it comes to enforcing redlines against murderous governments and terrorists that want to attack California.

Our freedom loving culture will rue the day if we don’t confront bad actors in our Pacific coast neighborhoods. If California wants stability, and vast worldwide economic expansion that has lifted billions out of poverty since WWII, then California has to use their economic might, and engaged citizenry to resist the urge of raging at the president for the sake of rage. The fires blazing in our hemisphere and globally won’t be put out if America continues turning inward and not forcefully taking hold of their world policeman responsibilities. And California would be prudent to support those actions.

Unfortunately for California where reason can prevail (unlike in most of the world) policymakers can’t just sit down with Premier Xi or Ayatollah Khomeini and quote the likes of Voltaire, Montesquieu and Locke while espousing the virtues of European enlightenment, and believe they will take a quantum leap forward in diplomatic affairs. The world is more medieval than we care to admit, but if we don’t return to American realist political enlightenment backed up by American military hardware that Californians built and supported for decades then we will return to that state of man decried by the Dark Ages.

Todd Royal is a geopolitical risk and energy consultant based in Los Angeles.

Janet Nguyen’s removal from state Senate floor stirs free speech debate

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Phat Bui seethed with anger when his hometown senator was removed last month from the state Senate floor.

State Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) was pulled out of the chamber by two sergeants-at-arms as she tried to criticize the late state Sen. Tom Hayden over his opposition to the Vietnam War, saying the liberal stalwart had sided with a communist regime responsible for countless deaths.

The action made Nguyen a political hero to people like Bui, a Garden Grove councilman, and many of his constituents in the heavily Republican Vietnamese American community of Orange County.

“Shutting down her voice is shutting down the voice of the Vietnamese Americans that she represents,” Bui told reporters at a rally in Westminster. “The very fact that we are here in the United States is because we value freedom.”

Click here to read the full article

What Californians Could Build Using the $64 Billion Bullet Train Budget

California’s High-Speed Rail project fails to justify itself according to any set of rational criteria. Its ridership projections are absurdly inflated, its environmental benefits are overstated if not actually net detriments, and its cost, its staggering cost, $64 billion by the latest estimate, overwhelms anyone with even a remote sense of financial proportions. To make this final point clear, here is an assortment of California infrastructure projects that could be paid for with a $64 billion budget.

If these projects were built, instead of the bullet train, Californians would have abundant, cheap electricity, abundant fresh water, and upgraded roads and freeways capable of handling all the traffic a surging economy could possibly dish out.

What Californians Could Build on a $64 Billion Budget

20170321-what-we-can-do-w-64B-1

(1) Build 10 natural gas power plants generating 6.2 gigawatts of electrical output for $5.7 billion.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, a modern natural gas power plant generating 620 megawatts can be built at a capital cost of $568 million. Someday, when electricity storage technologies are inexpensive and safe, the solar age can ripen to maturity, but in the meantime, California’s private energy companies can tap abundant in-state natural gas reserves, enabling California’s public utilities to provide cheap electricity to the public.

Since California’s peak demand rarely exceeds 50 gigawatts, increasing capacity by 12 percent will drive the price for electricity way down, making California competitive again with other states. Cheap electricity will also obviate the need to force consumers to purchase extremely expensive “energy sipping” appliances that are internet enabled, monitor your behavior and penalize you if you run your dryer at the “wrong” time, break down a lot, are unnecessarily complex, and require ongoing warranty and software upgrade payments forever.

Who needs that? Build natural gas power plants and develop natural gas.

(2) Build plants to desalinate 1.0 million acre feet of seawater per year, supplying 1/3 of ALL California’s residential (indoor and outdoor) water requirements for $15 billion.

Desalination plants are being developed all over the world, and California, with only one major desalination plant operating (Carlsbad in San Diego), is way behind. Desalination requires no more energy today than the amount of energy already being used to transport water from California’s northern regions several hundred miles south (and over the Tehachapi mountains) to Southern California’s coastal cities. The California current, second in flow volume only to the legendary Gulf Stream, can easily disperse the brine left over after extracting fresh water. The energy and environmental issues surrounding desalination have been addressed, and nobody would ever build these plants more responsibly than Californians.

While desalinating water from the sea, at a capital cost of $15,000 per acre foot of annual output, is the most expensive means of increasing California’s water supply, it has the unique virtue of being the only way to actually create fresh water, as opposed to reuse or redistribution. It is a technology that has been proven at large scale for decades and is a necessary part of California’s strategy to increase water security as the state alternates between wet and dry multi-year weather cycles.

(3) Build plants to reclaim and reuse 2.0 million acre feet of sewage per year, supplying 2/3 of ALL California’s residential (indoor and outdoor) water requirements for $10 billion.

Californians produce about 3.0 million acre feet of sewage per year, and today only a small fraction of that sewage is treated to “potable” (drinkable) standards. In California’s huge coastal urban centers this sewage is treated sufficiently to be released into the environment where it wasted as outfall into the ocean. A recent installation in Orange County, the “Ground Water Replenishment System” (GWRS) plant, reclaims as indirect potable water 70,000 acre feet of sewage per year, at a capital cost of only $350 million (not much when compared to the bullet train budget). This equates to a capital cost of $5,000 per acre foot of annual output, which is one of the most cost-effective ways to increase the supply of fresh water for Californians.

Sewage reuse combined with desalination not only have the potential to fulfill 100 percent of California’s residential water requirements for a combined price of $25 billion, but the treated water can be injected into coastal aquifers, combating saltwater intrusion. Currently these aquifers are often replenished with water transported from rivers hundreds of miles to the north, at equal or greater cost.

(4) Build the Sites Reservoir for $4.4 billion.

Anyone who has taken a look recently at the San Luis Reservoir in Central California, now 100 percent full, can appreciate the beauty of off-stream storage. Fed by surplus run-off water that is delivered there by aqueduct, and available for farms and urban use, this reservoir minimizes environmental harm because it doesn’t block the flow of any river. Like San Luis and just as big, the proposed Sites Reservoir, with a planned capacity of 1.8 million acre feet, will be situated in the semi-arid foothills of California’s Central Valley. Unlike San Luis, the Sites Reservoir will require almost no aqueduct, because it will be up in the northern Central Valley, immediately west of the Sacramento River. If the Sites were available today, it would already be filled up with runoff from this year’s many storms, and filling it would have taken pressure off of levees from Sacramento all the way to the delta.

The vast, 100% full San Luis reservoir, 84 square miles, holding 2.0 MAF.

(5) Build the Temperance Flats Reservoir for $3.3 billion.

While this proposed reservoir is in-stream, and would dam the San Joaquin River, it nonetheless has virtues that make a strong argument for its construction. First of all, there are already dams on the San Joaquin River, which would be submerged beneath the larger Temperance Flat dam. With planned storage of 1.3 million acre feet, the Temperance Flat reservoir would guarantee more water to farmers in the dryer reaches of the San Joaquin Valley even during droughts. It would also ensure a reliable flow into the San Joaquin river, to protect its riparian habitats during droughts.

(6) Widen and resurface every major interstate (and then some) in the entire state.

Are you tired of risking your life on Interstate 5 when it’s only two lanes in each direction, and trucks clog the slow lane and speeding tailgaters own the fast lane? Then spend $15.4 billion to add lanes and resurface the entire length of Highway 101 (807 miles), Interstate 5 (796 miles), Route 99 (415 miles), Interstate 15 (294 miles), Interstate 10 (243 miles), Interstate 80 (204 miles), and Interstate 8 (172 miles). According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, this will cost $5.25 million per mile, and the freeways just listed total 2,931 miles.

(7) Fix the Potholes.

With everything noted so far, we have only used up $53.8 billion. That is, for only 84 percent of the bullet train budget, we have delivered to Californians cheap, abundant energy, abundant water, and unclogged our major freeways. But we still have $10.2 billion left. What to do? Why not fix the potholes? For $10.2 billion, we can resurface 8,160 miles of 4-lane roads, or, presumably, an even greater length of 2-lane roads. Isn’t that the first thing that goes when governments go astray, and prioritize pet (and useless) environmentalist mega-projects ahead of serving the public? Potholes?

Apart from the fact that a few farms have been purchased in Fresno County, and a few pylons have been stuck in the ground, and a handful of extremely well-paid bureaucrats are doing everything they can to preserve their jobs, why is high-speed rail still being pushed? The reasons are a disappointing example of our dysfunctional democracy here in California. Because you could accuse every project on the above list of being susceptible to cronyism and cost-overruns, and you’d be right. Just as the Bullet Train will never get built for a mere $64 billion, it is likely these projects will also, in aggregate cost more than $64 billion. But we’d have abundant energy, abundant water, and a 21st century network of wide, upgraded freeways. If you’re going to play the innately corrupt game of public works, build things that help people live better, more prosperous lives!

Instead, California contends with an alliance of financial oligarchs whose pecuniary interests depend on Californians paying punitive prices for energy and water. Their green energy and high-tech ventures depend on forcing Californians to completely retool their homes with new, upgraded appliances (all of them – washer, dryer, dishwasher, air-conditioner, furnace, refrigerator) that are efficient to the point of diminishing returns. As mentioned, these appliances now double as surveillance devices that will force us to live our lives according to utility company algorithms. Utility companies, of course, no longer make profits based on the quantities of energy or water they deliver, but rather on fixed percentages over cost, which means to please their shareholders, units of energy and water have to cost more. Much more. And manufacturers are thrilled to design all this frippery into their appliances so they can sell them as a service requiring perpetual payments, instead of a durable good.

Our household has a washer that we bought, already used, for $25 in 1999. It has never broken down. No ongoing warranty payments. No ongoing “software update” payments. Do you think you’ll be able to say any of that about any appliance purchased in the last few years?

For anyone who wants this lucrative, exploitative party for the oligarchs to continue, high speed rail is a good place to put what remains of California’s public financing capacity. The environmentalist lobby, firmly in the pocket of these oligarchs, offers up high speed rail to private construction unions, who lack the clout or the vision to demand something that might actually adhere to their ideals – i.e., the projects listed above, that would help ordinary working families in California.

Ed Ring is the vice president of policy research for the California Policy Center.

REFERENCES

(1-a) Cost for modern natural gas power plant generating 620 megawatts
Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration
https://www.eia.gov/outlooks/capitalcost/

(1-b)  Peak megawatt demand in California (July 24, 2006) just over 50 gigawatts
Source: California ISO, California Peak Load History 1998 through 2016
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_in_California

(2) Cost for desalination plants – global comparisons:
Source: California Policy Center, Rebuilding California’s Infrastructure – Desalination
http://californiapolicycenter.org/rebuilding-californias-infrastructure-desalination-part-4-of-6/

Recently constructed desalination plants in Israel, rest-of-world, and California:

(2-b) Annual water consumption in California (million acre feet):

Source: Public Policy Institute of California – Uses and Value of Water, Table 2.2
http://www.ppic.org/content/pubs/report/R_211EHChapter2R.pdf

(3) Cost for sewage reuse plants:
Orange County GWRS IPR Project (2008) Fountain Valley
Source: California Policy Center, Rebuilding California’s Infrastructure – Water Reuse
http://californiapolicycenter.org/rebuilding-californias-infrastructure-water-reuse-part-2-of-6/

(4) Most recent and highest cost-estimate for Sites Reservoir:
Source: KCRA News
http://www.kcra.com/article/5-things-to-know-about-the-proposed-sites-reservoir/8593792

(5) Highest cost-estimate for Temperance Flat Reservoir (estimates range from $1.2 billion to $3.3 billion):
Source: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
https://web.archive.org/web/20120316022146/http://www.valleyvoicenewspaper.com/vv/stories/2009/vv_temperanceflat_0164.htm

(6 and 7 – a)  Cost to add lanes and resurface freeways:
Source: America Road & Transportation Builders Association
http://www.artba.org/about/faq/ 

(6 and 7 – b) Length of California’s principal highways and freeways:
Source: CaHighways.org
http://www.cahighways.org/itypes.html

Google Maps already tracks you; now other people can, too

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

Google Maps users will soon be able to broadcast their movements to friends and family — the latest test of how much privacy people are willing to sacrifice in an era of rampant sharing.

The location-monitoring feature will begin rolling out Wednesday in an update to the Google Maps mobile app, which is already installed on most of the world’s smartphones. It will also be available on personal computers.

Google believes the new tool will be a more convenient way for people to let someone know where they are without having to text or call them. The Mountain View, California, company has set up the controls so individuals can decide with whom they want to share their whereabouts and for how long — anywhere from a few minutes to indefinitely.

But location sharing in one of the world’s most popular apps could cause friction in marriages and other relationships if one partner demands to know where the other is at all times. Similar tensions could arise if parents insist their teenagers turn on the location-sharing option before they go out. …

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Democrats Want to Exempt California Teachers from State Income Tax

Ashs-teacher-and-studentsIn a surreal political moment, California State Senators Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles) and Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) have introduced the “Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act of 2017” which offers a novel incentive for teachers to remain in the profession. Senate Bill 807 would exempt California educators from paying the state income tax after five years on the job, in addition to allowing a tax deduction for the cost of attaining their teaching credential. If passed, the bill is estimated to cost the already burdened California taxpayers an additional $600 million a year. All this is transpiring because of an alleged teacher shortage.

So, let’s see – if we indeed have a shortage, why exactly are districts laying off teachers? In Santa Ana, 287 teachers were just pink-slipped, essentially because the school district couldn’t afford to keep them. Seems that the Santa Ana Educators Association had pushed for and received an across-the-board 10 percent pay raise in 2015. The money had to come from somewhere, and it’s going to come from what would have been used to pay 287 of the newest hired, now soon to be laid off teachers. San Diego, facing a major deficit – much of it due to spiraling pension costs – is about to lay off about 900 recently hired teachers.

In fact, these types of fiscal issues are burdening more and more school districts across the state. So I suppose one could argue that we have a teacher shortage because we are laying them off. But however you identify the problem, the way to solve it is to rejigger teacher union orchestrated state laws and teacher work rules that are mandated in a typical union contract, thereby attracting and maintaining the most talented teachers, rather than giving older, more senior ones – competent or not – more money.

On the state level, defined benefit pensions for teachers, a union must, are causing school districts to go deep into the red and now the Golden (State) Goose is beginning to dry up. A great way to keep young teachers in the field – and ultimately save school districts and the state billions of dollars – would be to offer them a higher salary rather than way-down-the-road retirement benefits that many will never see.

Also, a state issue, the union’s hideous seniority or  “last in, first out” law, one of the statutes that Vergara judge Rolf Treu said “shocks the conscience,” is clearly a deterrent to promising young teachers. Why should a bright, enthusiastic, skilled 20-something enter a field where her worth isn’t appreciated? She knows that no matter how good she is, come tough fiscal times, her job may very well disappear. So she would rather go into a field where her abilities are truly appreciated, and the quality of her work matters more than the number of years she has been employed.

Locally, the unions keep talented teachers from entering and staying in the profession by insisting on a quality-blind way of paying them. In just about every district in the state, public school teachers are part of an industrial style “step and column” salary regimen, which treats them as interchangeable widgets. They get salary increases for the number of years they work, and for taking (usually meaningless) professional development classes. Great teachers are worth more – a lot more – and should receive higher pay than their less capable colleagues. But they don’t. Also, if a district is short on science teachers, it’s only logical to pay them more than other teachers whose fields are over-populated. But, of course, stifling union contracts don’t allow for this kind of flexibility.

Another local way to promote and pay great teachers is to get beyond the smaller-classes-are-always-better myth. To be sure small class-size does help some kids, but for most it matters not a whit. In fact, some kids – like me – did better in bigger classes. But, thanks to union lobbying for more dues-paying members, class sizes are kept small. In fact, as Mike Antonucci writes, “Since 1921 (nationally) we have almost quintupled the number of teachers, more than quintupled the average teacher salary in inflation-adjusted dollars, and also cut the student-teacher ratio in half.” In California, the student-teacher ratio is currently under 20:1. Yet on the 2015 NAEP test, California’s 4th graders ranked 49th in the country in reading and 48th in math. So school districts should be able to give great teachers a stipend and add a few kids to their classes. That would net more quality teachers and higher achieving students at a lower cost to the taxpayers, but the unions won’t allow it.

To achieve badly needed education reforms in California, state legislators and local school board members must stand up to the powerful teachers unions. Until then, all we are doing – SB 807 being the latest example – is putting a heavy coat of lipstick on a bloated tax-sucking pig.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

This piece was originally published by UnionWatch.org

California may test all young kids for lead exposure

Three months after a Reuters study of national lead exposure data showed eight communities in California faced worse contamination than Flint, Michigan – the poster city for U.S. lead risks –Assemblyman Bill Quirk is moving to address the potential public health crisis. The Hayward Democrat has introduced a bill that would require all children from 6 months to 6 years old to be tested for lead contamination.

Early exposure to lead has long been associated with cognitive problems. Writing last year in Mother Jones, Irvine journalist Kevin Drum said such exposure has been linked to lower IQs, violent crime and attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder. The gradual increase in IQ across the world has been linked to new laws against lead-based paint and piping.

But in California, state law only requires lead testing for children who live in or frequently visit buildings built before the crackdown on lead-based paint began in the 1970s and for those who get benefits under government welfare programs.

“Given the ages of California’s infrastructure, lead exposure risks are ubiquitous,” Quirk told Kaiser Health News. “The current screening process only tests certain children. Better data can help us better identify clusters and arm the state with a thorough, more comprehensive response.”

In Flint, national media have focused for two years on the problems with water supplies created when Flint city leaders stopped using water piped in from Detroit’s water system to save money by using cheaper water from the polluted Flint River and other local sources. That led to a public health emergency being declared after the supply change apparently sent the number of children with elevated exposure to lead in blood tests soaring to 5 percent, twice the national norm. In December, Congress appropriated $120 million to help Flint deal with the problem. …

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Proposition 13 is the original victim of ‘fake news’

prop 13As Proposition 13 approaches its 39th birthday, it is still subject to the same dishonest attacks in the media that were used against it when it was on the ballot in 1978. Proposition 13 was one of the first victims of “fake news.”

“The bigwigs in labor and business went all out to defeat 13,” said its principle author, Howard Jarvis. “They tried to outdo one another in issuing doomsday prophecies about what passage of 13 would mean.” The media slavishly supported the exaggerated and dishonest claims, often endorsing them through editorials and by giving prominent placement to negative stories on the tax revolt.

The politicians, including Gov. Jerry Brown, and government agencies from top to bottom weighed in. Here is a typical example: Before the election, Alameda County Transit told the public that passage of Prop. 13 would result in the termination of 80 percent of its 2,000 employees. Two months later, the Fremont-Newark Argus reported on the aftermath of the passage of Proposition 13, “To date, no one in the district has been laid off and officials now believe there will be no massive layoffs.” The paper added that three local fire districts that anticipated losing one-half to three-fourths of its staff, had not lost a single firefighter to Prop. 13.

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Proposed CA Bill Would Cause Massive Tax Increase and Potential International Trade War

TaxesDespite multiple tax increases being adopted by voters just last November, SB 567 (Lara) was introduced that, if enacted, will result in another multi-billion dollar tax increase on businesses and individuals. And, the bill could once again raise the ire of major international trading partners, including Great Britain and Japan.

With the newly acquired super-majority status of Democrats in both the state Assembly and state Senate, the business community has been concerned about potential tax increases brewing in the Legislature. SB 567 represents the biggest threat so far.

SB 567 would make four major changes to California tax law. According to the bill’s author, this measure “will close four popular loopholes that benefit millionaires and ensure high income earners making above one-million-dollars annually, pay their fair share in taxes.” Senator Lara also claims, “Millionaires have mastered our tax code to take advantage of popular loopholes. As a result, the super-rich and the largest corporations in California do not pay their fair share in taxes.”

The approach of seeking new sources of revenue, such as that contained in SB 567, seems counter-intuitive after the electorate adopted multi-billion tax increases just a few months ago by passing Prop. 55 (12-year extension of the Prop. 30 personal income tax increases), Prop. 56 (a $2 tax imposed on each pack of cigarettes), and Prop. 64 (which includes several tax increases on marijuana and marijuana products).

What is different for the 2017 session is that Democrats have achieved the necessary 2/3 majorities in the state Senate and Assembly to pass tax increases without any Republican involvement under the requirements of Prop. 26 (amending Article XIIIA, Section 3(a) of the California Constitution), assuming signature by the governor – or enough votes to override a gubernatorial veto. California is one of just a handful of states that requires a 2/3 majority for increasing taxes by a vote of the Legislature.

What does SB 567 propose? As introduced, the bill contains four significant tax increase provisions. First, for tax years beginning January 1, 2018, SB 567 would require charitable remainder trusts (CRTs) to be at least 40 percent of the initial fair market value of all of the property placed in trust. Existing state law exempts from state tax any charitable remainder trust including that the value of the trust must be at least 10% of the initial fair market value of all the property placed in trust.

A CRT is an irrevocable trust that generates an income stream for the donor to the CRT with the remainder of the donated assets going to charity. Unfortunately, proponents claim CRTs benefit charities but allow taxpayers to avoid paying taxes. The bill would raise the amount going to the charity by 300 percent. It would make a CRT less attractive and adversely impact charitable giving. It would also take California out of conformity with federal law, which creates administrative burdens for both taxpayers and the Franchise Tax Board in administering the law.

Second, for persons who died on or after January 1, 2018, SB 567 would revise the law so that no adjustment is allowed where the person who acquires the property has an adjusted gross income or net income over a specified amount. Existing state law, for the purpose of calculating the gain or loss upon the disposition of property, generally the basis of property acquired from a decedent is the fair market value at the date of death.

California conforms to federal tax law on the “step-up in basis” for appreciated property that has been inherited. SB 567 would eliminate this provision of federal law for those with income above $1 million, once again targeting those upon whom the State of California is ever dependent upon financially. As a result, the bill would create different rules for California taxpayers complying with federal law and force those individuals to pay capital gains on inherited property that has appreciated in value.

Third, SB 567 would retroactively to January 1, 2017 eliminate the deduction for compensation paid to CEOs for pay based on commission or on meeting certain performance goals. Retroactive tax law changes are fundamentally unfair to taxpayers as they change the rules midstream. This creates undue hardship and confusion for residents.

Existing state law, in conformity with federal tax law, provides that a publicly held corporation may not deduct remuneration paid to the CEO to the extent the amount of compensation exceeds $1 million, except where the amount is based on commission or on meeting certain performance goals. As such, a deduction for that compensation is permitted on that basis even if it exceeds $1 million. This change in law would take California out of conformity with federal income tax law by disallowing the deduction for publicly-traded corporations.

Fourth, SB 567 would retroactively to January 1, 2017 remove the water’s-edge election and specify that all existing electors would be unable to file using the water’s-edge method for tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2023, thereby forcing all corporations to file on a worldwide unitary basis. Existing state law allows corporations to elect whether their income is determined on a water’s-edge or worldwide unitary basis.

While the U.S. Supreme Court upheld California’s use of “worldwide combined reporting,” the state allowed a “water’s-edge election” beginning in 1987 due to pressure from foreign governments and multinational corporations, as well as sound tax policy. SB 567 would re-open this debate and cause countries like England and Japan to again propose retaliatory measures against U.S. corporations.

The claim by proponents of this tax law change is that corporations stash money in tax haven countries and worldwide combined reporting is the only way to tax those revenues. SB 567 would repeal the water’s-edge election and force all corporations to pay much more in corporate taxes to California. Under this approach, California companies would end up paying taxes on foreign income earned outside the U.S. which would be inappropriately apportioned to California. The bill would represent a massive tax increase disguised as “fairness” in taxation.

Moreover, SB 567 would grant California the ability to tax income earned outside of the water’s-edge of the United States, a practice which is not followed by any other state in the nation. The practical effect would be to allow the state to tax income that has already been subject to taxation by a foreign jurisdiction. And California-based companies would be subject to retaliatory tax measures by other countries in which they are conducting business.

As the Legislative Counsel has correctly determined, SB 567 makes multiple changes in state statutes that would result in a taxpayer paying a higher tax within the meaning of Article XIIIA, Section 3 of the California Constitution and thus requires a 2/3 majority vote of both houses of the Legislature in order to reach the governor’s desk. Hopefully, the Legislature will reject this measure.

Chris Micheli is a lobbyist with the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc. He can be reached at cmicheli@apreamicheli.com.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily.