Democrats in Sacramento Should be Honest in Tax Policy

Tax reformThe tax plan announced by Speaker Paul Ryan is a positive move towards simplifying our tax code and making taxes more transparent to working families.

While some Californians will be adversely affected by an elimination of the deductions that currently exist for state and local taxes paid, a bigger question arises:  Why don’t we just lower the tax burden on California’s hard working families in the State to offset the impact that comes with the removal of federal deduction for state income taxes?

It’s never made sense that we’re able to raise taxes on California’s working families to pay for big social programs and then just say that it won’t really cost anything because families can write the state income tax off on their tax returns.  All that policy does is allow California’s big spenders to have the federal government ultimately pay the bill for our own state’s costly programs.

After all, the Governor campaigned for Proposition 30 which raised income taxes on Californians.  The tax was supposed to be temporary, but as is usually the case, there is no such thing as a temporary tax in the State of California.

It seems clear the proposed tax plan unveiled yesterday is upsetting California’s entrenched liberal Legislators heartburn because it’s going to force the State to finally be honest with constituents about how much their pet programs and social engineering are really costing the State.

If the Democrats in control of Sacramento want to keep spending, they should be honest and just own up to the fact that the federal government isn’t responsible for the fiscal mess we’re in.  The Democrats keep raising taxes in California – it’s about time the federal government stops letting them off the hook by giving them cover with an overly complicated federal tax system.”

There will be a lot of work done over the coming weeks in Congress, but I’m hopeful that the discussion on taxes is less about what the federal government is doing to California and focuses more on what big spending liberals in the Legislature are really doing to the taxpayers of California.

California State Senate, representing the 28th District.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily 

Rep. Issa Now Opposes Republican Tax Reform Bill, Saying It’s Bad for California

After blaming Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown last week for high California taxes, Rep. Darrell Issa on Tuesday backed away from a Republican plan to end the exemption for state income taxes and large mortgages.

“I cannot endorse changes that may make the tremendous burden felt by California taxpayers even worse,” Issa said. “Tax reform should lower taxes for all taxpayers — regardless of where they live.”

He said he cannot support the Republican tax reform bill in its current form, which would limit the mortgage interest deduction to loans under $500,000 and end the deduction for state income taxes.

“My overriding concern with the current House tax reform proposal is that many Californians who need and deserve tax relief won’t benefit from the current framework, or at worse, may see their tax burden rise as a consequence of certain changes including, but not limited to, the elimination of the state and local income tax deduction,” he said. …

Click here to read the full article from the Times of San Diego

California Dems Push Pension Funds to Divest from Guns, Oil Pipeline

PensionsSACRAMENTO – California’s two major pension funds, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS), control more than $500 billion in total assets, making them two of Wall Street’s most influential investors. They also are government entities, and some California leaders want to use their investment muscle to achieve public-policy outcomes.

This often comes in the form of divestment, by which the funds are encouraged – or even required – to sell their assets in industries that are viewed negatively by the people who push these efforts. These efforts tend to work against the goals of the funds’ professional investment staff, which are charged with getting high investment returns to fund pensions for the systems’ retirees. Both funds have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize their return on taxpayer dollars.

Yet estimates from a consulting firm suggest that CalPERS has lost approximately $8 billion in returns because of previous efforts to divest from coal-related and tobacco industries. That’s become a particularly contentious issue as funding levels have fallen to 68 percent for CalPERS and 64 percent for CalSTRS. That means they have only around two-thirds of the assets needed to make good on all the current and future pension promises made to government retirees.

Despite the troubling numbers, there’s a new push for divestment from some politicians. Following the October massacre in Las Vegas, by which a gunman murdered 59 people at a country music concert, state Treasurer John Chiang has called for the teachers’ fund to sell its assets in weapons firms and sporting-goods companies that sell any guns that are illegal in California.

“Neither taxpayer funds nor the pension contributions of any of the teachers we represent, including the three California teachers slain in Las Vegas should be invested in the purveyors of military-style assault weapons,” said Chiang, a 2018 candidate for governor and member of both pension boards. Chiang also told the Sacramento Bee that he plans on making a similar request to the CalPERS board.

The newspaper also noted that both funds “this year have faced calls to divest from companies that do business with the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline,” which would transport oil underground from North Dakota oilfields to Illinois. It has prompted protests from a variety of environmental and Native American activists.

Critics of these proposals say they are largely symbolic and would do little to influence gun sales or the pipelines. Divestment from these relatively small industries wouldn’t have much impact on the massive funds’ financial returns, either.

On Oct. 30, 12 members of California’s Democratic congressional delegation sent a letter to CalPERS chief executive officer Marcie Frost urging the pension fund to divest from a fund that has acquired a hotel owned by Donald Trump’s organization. This move is more directly political than many divestment efforts, which tend to focus on the social implications of investing in the pipeline, weapons manufacturers, coal-related industries and tobacco companies.

Divestment advocates sometimes argue that these controversial products may be poor long-term investments. For instance, the Public Divestiture of Thermal Coal Companies Act of 2015 and similar efforts by the state insurance commissioner were based in part on the notion that these coal-related companies may face diminishing values as the world shifts away from carbon-based fuels – a point rebutted by those who note that the current price of the stocks already reflects that risk.

But the Trump-related divestment call, led by U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu of Torrance, is designed to target the president. The members of Congress expressed their disappointment that CalPERS “has not divested its interest” in that fund “nor has taken any actions to ensure that its fees are not being transferred to President Trump,” according to their letter. They criticized CalPERS for taking a “wait-and-see” approach toward the matter.

These members of Congress claim that this CalPERS investment could be in violation of the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which states that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” This would be an unusual interpretation of an arcane clause.

Meanwhile, the pension funds have been expanding other divestment and socially motivated investment efforts. Last December, the CalPERS investment staff “recommended that the board remove its 16-year ban on tobacco investments in light of an increasing demand to improve investment returns and pay benefits,” according to a Reuters report. But instead of removing the ban, the board “voted to remain divested and to expand the ban to externally managed portfolios and affiliated funds.”

And last year CalPERS adopted a five year Environmental, Social and Governance plan that focuses on socially responsible investing. The fund has long used its financial clout to push companies it invests in to promote, for instance, board diversity and other social goals.

Whatever their chances for approval, the latest efforts are not out of the ordinary. But they will rekindle the long-running debate between political and financial goals, and whether the former imperils the latter given both funds’ large unfunded liabilities.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Without Government Unions, there Would be No Gas Tax Increase

LA-Freeway-Xchange-110-105Nobody argues that California’s roads need huge upgrades. But the solution didn’t require the $0.12 per gallon tax hike that went into effect Nov. 1. The root cause of these neglected roads – and the reason even more taxes will never be enough to fix them – is the power of public sector unions, whose agenda is consistently at odds with the public interest. Let us count the ways.

1 – CalTrans mismanagement:

CalTrans could have done a much better job of maintaining California’s roads. One of the most diligent critics (and auditors) of CalTrans is state Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), the only CPA in California’s state legislature. Last year, Moorlach released a report on CalTrans which he summarized in “7-Step Fix for ‘Mismanaged’ Caltrans,” an article on his official website. Just a few highlights include the following:

  • In May 2014 the Legislative Analyst Office determined that CalTrans was overstaffed by 3,500 architects and engineers, costing over $500 million per year.
  • While to an average state transportation agency outsources over 50% of its work, CalTrans outsources only 10% of its work. Arizona and Florida outsource more than 80%.
  • 54% of CalTrans staff is at or near retirement age, so a hiring freeze would reduce staff merely through attrition, without requiring layoffs.

But Moorlach didn’t make explicit the reason CalTrans is mismanaged. It’s because the unions that run Sacramento don’t want to outsource CalTrans work. The unions don’t want to reduce CalTrans headcount, or hold CalTrans management accountable. Those actions might help Californians, but they would undermine union power.

2 – Bullet train boondoggle:

Money that could have been allocated to maintain and improve California’s roads is being squandered on a train that will do nothing to ameliorate California’s transportation challenges. A LOT of money. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, California’s freeways can be resurfaced and have a lane added in each direction at a cost of roughly $5.0 million per mile in rural areas, about twice that in urban areas.

Meanwhile, the latest estimate for California’s “bullet train,” is $98 billion (that’s $245 million per mile), thanks to construction delays, and design challenges including nearly 50 miles of tunnels through seismically active mountains to the north and south. And hardly anyone is going to ride it. Ridership won’t even pay operating costs. But Sacramento pushes ahead with this monstrous waste when that same money could (at the urban price of $10 million per mile) resurface and add a lane in each direction to 10,000 miles of California’s freeways. Imagine smooth, unclogged roads. It’s not impossible. It’s just policy priorities.

But while bad roads destroy the chassis of millions of cars and trucks, and commuters endure stop-and-go traffic year after year, the California High Speed Rail Authority dutifully pushes on. Why?

Because that’s what the government employee unions want. They don’t want roads, with all the flexibility and autonomy that roads offer. They want to create a gigantic high-speed rail empire, with tens of thousands of new public employees to drive the trains, maintain the trains, maintain the tracks, and provide security, running up staggering annual deficits. But all of them will be members of public sector unions.

3 – All rapid transit boondoggles:

In a handful of very dense urban areas around the U.S., fast intercity trains make economic sense. But most light rail schemes, along with laughably absurd “streetcar” schemes that actually block urban lanes sorely needed by vehicles, do not achieve levels of ridership that even begin to justify their construction when the alternative is using that money for better, wider connector roads and freeways. The impact of ride sharing apps, the advent of non-polluting cars, and the option of using buses to accomplish mass transit goals all speak to the superior versatility of roads over rail for urban transportation.

So why do California’s cities continue to poor billions into light rail and streetcars, when that money could be used to unclog the roads?

To reiterate: The public sector unions that run California want tens of thousands of new public employees to operate the trains and streetcars, maintain them, maintain the tracks, and provide security, running up staggering annual deficits. But doing this means that public sector union membership – hence public sector union power – will increase.

4 – CEQA reform so people can live closer to the jobs:

The median home value in the United States today is $202,700. The median home value in California today is $509,600, 2.5 times as much! There is no shortage of land in California, and the alleged shortages of energy and water are self-inflicted as the result of policies enacted by California’s state legislature. But instead of reforming California’s Environmental Quality ActSB 375AB 32, and countless other laws that have made building homes in California nearly impossible, California’s legislature is doubling down on more government solutions – primarily to subsidize either extremely high density housing, or subsidized housing for the economically disadvantaged, or both.

None of this is necessary. Outside of California’s major urban centers, there is no reason homes cannot be profitably built and sold at a median price of $202,700, and there is no reason the people living in those homes cannot drive or ride share to work on fast, unclogged freeways.

But California’s public sector unions want more regulations on home building, and they want more subsidized public housing. Because those solutions, even though inadequate and coercive, enable them to hire vast new bureaucracies to enforce the many regulations and administer the public assets. Unleashing the private sector to build affordable homes in a competitive market would rob these unions of their opportunity to acquire more power. It’s that simple.

5 – Insatiable appetite for pension fund contributions:

According to a California Policy Center study, taking barely adequate annual employer pension contributions into account, the average unionized state/local government worker in California makes over $120,000 per year in pay and benefits. But to adequately fund their promised pension benefits, employers will need to pay at least another $20,000 per employee to the pension funds. This funding gap, which equates to over $20 billion per year, is the additional amount that is required to cover the difference between how much California’s public employee pension funds currently collect from taxpayers, and how much they need to collect to keep the promises that union controlled politicians have made to the government unions they “negotiate” with. That is a best-case scenario.

It could be much worse. A 2016 California Policy Center analysis (ref. table 2-C) estimated that under a worst-case scenario, the annual costs to fund California’s public employee pension funds could cost taxpayers nearly $70 billion more per year than they are currently paying.

And by the way, California’s pension funds are themselves almost entirely under the control of public sector unions – research the background of CalPERS and CalSTRS board directors to verify the degree of influence they have. Absent significant reform, funding California’s public employee pensions is going to continue to consume every dollar in new taxes for the next several decades. The cumulative financial impact of funding these pensions is easily triple that of the bullet train’s $100 billion fiasco, probably much more.

Let’s not mince words. Government unions control California. They collect and spend over $1.0 billion every year, and spend most of that money on either explicit political campaigning and lobbying, or soft advocacy via expensive public relations campaigns and sponsored academic studies. Their presence is felt everywhere, from local transit districts to the governor’s office. They make or break politicians at will, by outspending or outlasting their opponents. At best, California’s most powerful corporate players do not cross these unions, often they collude with them.

California’s public sector unions operate as senior partners in a coalition that includes left-wing oligarchs especially in the Silicon Valley, extreme environmentalists and their powerful trial lawyer cohorts, and the Latino Legislative Caucus – usurped by leftist radicals – and their many allies in the social justice/identity politics industry. The power of this government union led coalition is nearly absolute, and the consequences to California’s private sector working class have been nothing short of devastating.

Government unions force California’s agencies to over-hire, overpay, and mismanage, because that benefits their members even as it harms the public. These unions enforce absurd policy priorities that further harm the public in order to increase their power. They are the reason California has increased its gas tax.

This article was originally published by the California Policy Center

REFERENCES

Pump bump: California drivers to pay 12 cents more per gallon starting Wednesday – San Jose Mercury, Oct. 31, 2017
http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/10/31/pump-bump-california-drivers-to-pay-12-cents-more-per-gallon-starting-wednesday/

California’s gas tax increases Wednesday – Los Angeles Times, October 31, 2017
http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-gas-tax-increase-political-battle-20171031-story.html

How much you’ll REALLY pay in gasoline tax in California – San Diego Union Tribune, Apr. 23, 2017
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/energy-green/sd-fi-california-gastax-20170413-story.html

What Californians Could Build Using the $64 Billion Bullet Train Budget – California Policy Center, Mar. 21, 2017
http://californiapolicycenter.org/what-californians-could-build-using-the-64-billion-bullet-train-budget/

American Road and Transportation Builders Association – FAQs, ref. “How much does it cost to build a mile of road?
https://www.artba.org/about/faq/

High-Speed Rail Delay More than Triples Planned Cost to San Jose – San Jose Inside, Oct. 2, 2017
http://www.sanjoseinside.com/2017/10/02/high-speed-rail-delay-more-than-triples-planned-cost-to-san-jose/

A 13.5-mile tunnel will make or break California’s bullet train – Los Angeles Times, Oct. 21, 2017
http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-bullet-train-tunnel-20171021-story.html

California Environmental Quality Act – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Environmental_Quality_Act

State Senate bills aim to make homes more affordable, but they won’t spur nearly enough construction – Los Angeles Times, Aug. 11, 2017
http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-state-housing-deal-effects-20170811-htmlstory.html

California’s Public Sector Compensation Trends – California Policy Center, Jan. 2017
http://californiapolicycenter.org/californias-public-sector-compensation-trends/

What is the Average Pension for a Retired Government Worker in California? – California Policy Center, Mar. 2017
http://californiapolicycenter.org/what-is-the-average-pension-for-a-retired-government-worker-in-california/

The Coming Public Pension Apocalypse, and What to Do About It – California Policy Center, May 2016
http://californiapolicycenter.org/the-coming-public-pension-apocalypse/

John Moorlach — Government Union Costs

The California Policy Center is back with another well written piece on the power of public employee unions, Sacramento’s “Daddy” (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Secretive and Expensive Union Deals — November 3, 2017).

You know I’ve been ferreting out the disappointing data that makes California’s Department of Transportation, Caltrans, one of the most disappointing DOTs in the nation and that reform is preferred over a new tax; that I have opposed high-speed rail from the get go; that I have opposed trolleys in Orange County; that I tried a CEQA reform legislative effort last year; and you know I’ve been warning you about public employee defined benefit pension plan rising costs for more than 16 years. This piece addresses them all.

BONUS:  Recently, I have begun my own weekly podcast, “The O.C. – Sacramento Connection.” On these podcasts, I have and will continue to share my thoughts on  several issues including some of the ones in this update.

CLICK HERE to listen to my podcasts on iTunes free of charge.

INVITATION: My District Office has started a new Veterans Day tradition. Last year we had a simple afternoon ceremony at Crystal Cove State Beach to review the World War II history within its boundaries. Dan Worthington discussed the Fire Station, a WWII bunker that kept an eye on the California coast during the beginning of the war, pre-radar, to signal the alarm should the Japanese Fleet appear over the horizon. There is a similar location at Bolsa Chica and the west side of Catalina Island has ten such bunkers!

This year we have invited noted author Chris Epting to speak on the subject of “The Day the War Hit The Shore.” Orange County incurred civilian casualties stateside during WWII, an extremely rare occurrence. This tragic episode has been lost over time, but has many valuable lessons to this day.

Please attend your traditional Veterans Day ceremonies at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month on Saturday. If you want an afternoon break, join us at 3 p.m. We’ll meet at 21871 Newland Street in Huntington Beach. There should be some parking spaces at the neighboring wildlife center.

We will also have surviving family members present of those who were lost to this unique chapter in WWII local history. If you enjoy local Orange County history, this will be a relaxed setting to actually share war stories. Please RSVP with Aly Henderson at aly.john@sen.ca.gov or 714-662-6050.

California NAACP wants to remove ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ as national anthem

From the San Luis Obispo Tribune: 

When California lawmakers return to the Capitol in January, the state chapter of the NAACP will be seeking their support for a campaign to remove “The Star-Spangled Banner” as the national anthem.

The organization last week began circulating among legislative offices two resolutions that passed at its state conference in October: one urging Congress to rescind “one of the most racist, pro-slavery, anti-black songs in the American lexicon” as the national anthem, and another in support of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who launched a protest movement against police brutality among professional athletes by kneeling when “The Star-Spangled Banner” was played before games.

“We owe a lot of it to Kaepernick,” California NAACP President Alice Huffman said. “I think all this controversy about the knee will go away once the song is removed.”

The kneeling protests have drawn attention to an infrequently-sung third verse from “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which includes the passage:

Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.

No refuge could save the hireling and slave

From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave

Some interpretations of the lyrics conclude that they celebrate the deaths of black American slaves who joined British troops during the War of 1812 to gain their freedom. Francis Scott Key, who wrote the lyrics of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was a slave owner and fierce opponent of abolition who may have sparked the first race riot in Washington, D.C. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Luis Obispo Tribune

California’s High Pot Taxes – A Teachable Moment

Buds are removed from a container at the "Oregon's Finest" medical marijuana dispensary in Portland, Oregon April 8, 2014. Over 20 Oregon cities and counties are moving to temporarily ban medical marijuana dispensaries ahead of a May deadline, reflecting a divide between liberal Portland and more conservative rural areas wary about allowing medical weed. Portland, Oregon's largest city, already has a number of medical marijuana clinics and has not moved to ban them. Picture taken April 8, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Dipaola (UNITED STATES - Tags: DRUGS SOCIETY POLITICS HEALTH) - RTR3KMHE

Do higher tax rates affect human behavior?

As the nation considers tax reform, according to a report, taxes on pot in California could reach as high as 45% for the consumer. Combined with the slew of regulations on the way, suddenly the libertarian fervor of buying and selling pot doesn’t seem so, well, free.

The question is: Will those pushing for the sale of pot and those buying, finally get a lesson in basic economics?

In 2016, California voters legalized the sale of recreational pot.  Many voters felt they were striking a blow for personal freedom with their vote. Since that day, all levels of the California governments have been coming to grips with how to implement the voter’s choice.  Of course, that really means how to regulate the sales and how to tax those sales.

Keep in mind that, at the time of the vote, California already had the largest pot market in the country – although its size is disputed because most of the market is illegal sales. Some have said, that as of 2015, “California  . . . has the largest legal cannabis market in the U.S., at $1.3 billion.” On the other hand, others have reported that over $7 billion in illegal crop has been seized in California. Given the Feds think they seize only around 10% of the illegal crops, you can see how large the market could well be.

On the regulatory front, local governments are setting the bar for obtaining local licenses, while at the state level, something called the Bureau of Cannabis Control, claims it is “the lead agency in developing regulations for medical and adult-use cannabis in California. The Bureau is responsible for licensing retailers, distributors, testing labs and microbusinesses.”

Little wonder that Time reports that “Operators have complained about what they see as potential conflicts in various laws and rules, or seemingly contradictory plans.”

As for taxes, a Fitch Ratings report taxes on pot may reach as high as 45% in parts of the state.

“Consumers will pay a sales tax ranging from 22.25% to 24.25%, which includes the state excise tax of 15%, and additional state and local sales taxes ranging from 7.25% to 9.25%.” Beyond that, “Local businesses will have to pay a tax ranging from 1% to 20% of gross receipts, or $1 to $50 per square foot of marijuana plants, according to the Fitch report. In addition, farmers will be taxed $9.25 per ounce for flower, and $2.75 per ounce for leaves.”

Welcome to the freedom to smoke marijuana in California. It turns out that freedom isn’t free in route to the State’s desire to collect over $1 billion in taxes.

As this unfolds, the question remains whether California consumers, regulators and legislators will study the effects of the high taxes and costs of those regulations.

Let me help them. As Calvin Coolidge would say, high taxes are not paid – they are avoided.

The evidence of that is everywhere.  As my colleague at Forbes.com, Brian Domitrovic, recently wrote: “In the 1950s and early 1960s, IRS data was clear that the 91% marginal rate produced essentially no revenue, that about 80% of earners who should have been subject to it by ordinary definitions legally avoided it. Same thing for 70% in the 1970s and 50% in the early 1980s.”

Even the Democrats who oppose tax reform know that when they tell you that the current top corporate tax rate is meaningless because the “effective” corporate rate is lower.  Corporations that can avoid that high tax by taking legal deductions.*

But that is not the only way to avoid taxes.  There is also the black market.

According to that same Fitch Report, “California’s black markets for cannabis were well established long before its voters legalized cannabis in November 2016 and are expected to dominate post-legalization production.”

Will that black market continue?  Perhaps the 650 billion black market cigarettes sold around the world could be instructive. Here in the United States, according to the Tax Foundation:

“New York is the highest net importer of smuggled cigarettes, totaling 58.0 percent of the total cigarette market in the state (a slight increase since last year’s edition of the report). New York also has the highest state cigarette tax ($4.35 per pack), not counting the local New York City cigarette tax (an additional $1.50 per pack). Smuggling in New York has risen sharply since 2006 (+58 percent), as has the tax rate (+190 percent).”

Can you see through the smoke of it all?

High taxes are quite often avoided. The same will be true for the sale of marijuana in California. With such high taxes, the black market in pot in California will continue to thrive.

Please note two final points about irony in all of this. That Bureau of Cannabis Control that is regulating nearly every aspect of pot in California? Well, it is part of the California Department of Consumer Affairs. Apparently, it is quite the affair to raise the price of pot for consumers in California.

Finally, in 2016 when Californians legalized recreational marijuana, they also raised the taxes on cigarettes – all in an effort to reduce people from smoking. A sin tax they call it. I wonder if in 2018, there will be a ballot measure to raise more taxes to stop people from smoking pot.

Of course, the real sin is that people don’t understand that simple economic law: the more something costs, the less of it you get. That includes the legal sales of pot, jobs and income.

One has to wonder whether there will be a tax reform effort for pot sales once consumers in California learn their lesson – and whether they will support tax reductions on income when they finally do understand that lesson.

Originally published at Forbes.

ormer chairman of the California Republican Party and current candidate for U.S. Senate.

California Gas Prices Now Officially Highest in America

As of Nov. 7, GasBuddy.com puts the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $3.231 in California, nearly 8 cents per gallon more expensive than the next-most-expensive state, Hawaii.

Left-leaning Politifact California notes that California’s rapid rise to the top spot fulfills the prediction of Republican George Runner, who serves on the State Board of Equalization, and who warned in April that the gas tax would make California’s gas the nation’s most expensive.

Politifact writes:

Republican George Runner predicted in April that California’s gas tax hike would catapult the Golden State’s already high fuel prices to the “highest in the nation,” after the increase went into effect on Nov. 1, 2017.

It appears his prediction was spot on. …

A spokesman for Runner, who is a former state lawmaker and sits on the state’s Board of Equalization, told us by email: “We are saddened that George’s prediction was correct so soon.”

Politifact notes that there are other factors in California’s high price, such as a “mystery surcharge” of 20 cents per gallon that was applied after a refinery explosion in Southern California.

However, it notes that California surged past Hawaii on Nov. 3, a mere two days after the new gas tax went into effect.

Republicans are mustering their political forces to campaign for a referendum overturning the gas tax in 2018. They are also targeting freshman Democrat State Senator Josh Newman of Fullerton, who voted for the new tax and who will now face a recall election next year.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

Politicians try to mask pain of gas tax hike

Gas-Pump-blue-generic+flippedHave you ever had a tooth extracted without Novocain or some other pain killer? When facing something painful, it’s always helpful to apply a numbing agent and, when administered by competent medical personnel, anesthesia provides effective relief. But when politicians try to mask pain, be skeptical.

The 12 cent increase in California’s gas tax which took effect this week has garnered a great deal of media attention, much of it negative. That explains why California Democrats have tried to mask the pain of the tax hike.

In perhaps their most deceptive move ever, California Democrats chose the same day that gas prices traditionally go down by 12 cents to increase them by 12 cents. Nov. 1 was the first day California’s cheaper “winter blend” gas can be sold which costs about 12 cents less a gallon. Nov. 1 was also the day that the 12 cent per gallon tax goes into effect statewide.

But this is just phase one of a yearly $5 billion tax hike on California families.

The largest gas tax hike in state history means drivers will pay a total of 50 cents a gallon in taxes to the state when they fill up. By 2019 it will have risen to 57 cents a gallon. Diesel truck drivers are getting hit too. Their price per gallon will jump 20 cents a gallon and will also include a 4 percent sales tax increase. Note that these figures do not include the excise tax from the federal government, another 18 cents per gallon.

Phase two will hit when you re-register your vehicle next year. The average driver will pay $50 more than last year due to a brand new “transportation improvement fee,” though some could pay up to $175. Electric car owners aren’t off the hook either. They’ll pay $100 more a year to register starting in 2020. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register

Watergate doesn’t predict what will happen to Trump

trump-debateAs Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues to investigate possible Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential race, there are distinct echoes of the Watergate scandal that cost Richard Nixon his presidency.

Last Monday’s indictments of former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and protege Rick Gates – along with disclosure that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos confessed to lying to the FBI – come after the president fired the FBI director and three key Trump associates failed to initially disclose interactions with Russians.

That’s led many to compare today’s investigation with Watergate.

However, there are no signs so far of two landmark aspects of Watergate that proved to be tipping points: White House attorney John Dean breaking ranks to deliver incriminating testimony and “Deep Throat” source Mark Felt leaking otherwise secret FBI developments.

“Any time you have an issue, you look for a model or precedent — and with the current investigation, there aren’t very many,” said Nixon biographer Luke Nichter, explaining the frequent comparisons to Watergate. “But we don’t even know if Trump is being investigated. Nixon was clearly being investigated.”

Raphael Sonenshein, who runs CSU Los Angeles’ Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs, also warns against drawing too many comparisons at this stage. At the same time, he’s among those who see the Mueller’s investigation picking up steam. …

Click here to read the full story from the Orange County Register