Neel Kashkari: Returning CA to Path of Prosperity

When I started thinking about running for governor more than a year ago, it was in large part because I was frustrated by the Democrats’ ascension to one-party rule in Sacramento. Their big-government policies have continually failed millions of middle-class families across the state; that was no surprise. Since then, we’ve also seen a culture of corruption revealed in Sacramento that underscores the urgency of electing new leaders to guide our state.

The truth is, California is in desperate need of fresh, bold leadership that is unafraid of taking our state in a new direction. California has the potential to be the best place to live, but the fact of the matter is that we have been in a downward spiral for years. If you were to listen to Governor Jerry Brown, however, you would think that things have never been better in the Golden State. But his claims of a “California comeback” ring hollow for families, businesses and communities up and down the state.

In fact, Governor Brown has completely lost sight of California’s priorities. At a time when the state ranks 47th in jobs, 46th in education and 1st in poverty, his focus continues to be on his legacy: A $68 billion high-speed rail project that Californians don’t want and can’t afford.

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California is perennially listed as one of the worst places to do business – Chief Executive Magazine awarded us the dubious honor again just a few weeks ago – yet Sacramento politicians turn a blind eye to these troubling statistics and continue to pass laws and regulations that make it more and more difficult for small businesses to grow. It sometimes feels as though a California company talks about moving to, or expanding in, Texas every other day. Businesses should be flocking to the Golden State – not from it.

California has some of the highest taxes in the nation, yet the tax-and-spend culture in Sacramento continues to thrive. Politicians can’t wait to get their hands on taxpayer dollars to waste on frivolous government programs. I recently called on Governor Brown to repeal the sales tax increase portion of Proposition 30 in order to bring relief to middle-class Californians who are working tirelessly to make ends meet – but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

We know our state’s taxes are too high, they’re poorly designed and we’re not getting our money’s worth for the taxes we pay. And the ones who are struggling most as a result? Millions of middle-class families – and it’s time we held Governor Brown accountable.

The good news is that we know how to turn this around. We know how to unleash the private sector and to improve our schools. All across the nation, Republican leaders have implemented bold reforms that have produced remarkable results. We know that this can work – but it does require a willingness to challenge the status quo.

My first order of business as governor will be to cancel the high-speed rail project and instead invest it in water storage to help prepare for our state’s next, inevitable drought. I want to create incentives for companies that open manufacturing facilities and create jobs here. By safely tapping into our state’s natural resources, we can create thousands of jobs. Regulatory reform can make a huge difference in making our state friendlier to job creators.

Reforming our education system starts by giving control back to parents and teachers. Our kids aren’t all one size, so our policies shouldn’t be either. Giving schools and parents much more control over their budgets and how they educate their students provides them the opportunity to innovate in ways that can lift student achievement. Likewise, making higher education more accessible opens up doors to social mobility that can help close the inequality gap that’s grown ever larger in recent years.

As Election Day approaches, I am more convinced than ever that Republicans can take back Sacramento. Californians are fed up with the same tired rhetoric from career politicians who have run this state into the ground. The task won’t be easy, but I am up for the challenge. With voters’ support, we can win in November and return California to the path of prosperity.

Neel Kashkari, Republican candidate for governor, previously served in the U.S. Treasury Department during former President George W. Bush

Editor’s note: A column by state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, Republican candidate for governor, will be published Saturday on CAPoliticalReview.com

Out in the coal: New EPA regs for power plants could mean higher bills

MINNEAPOLIS – In November 2010, President Obama stood before reporters in the White House briefing room and offered a frank description of his administration’s chances of getting heavy-duty environmental regulations through Congress.

That was in the final days before Republicans seized control of the U.S. House in Obama’s first mid-term. Unable to get greenhouse gas emissions rules through a Democratic Congress, Obama acknowledged it would be far less likely in the soon-to-be divided government.

“I think there are a lot of Republicans that ran against the energy bill that passed in the House last year,” Obama said. “And so it’s doubtful that you could get the votes to pass that through the House this year or next year or the year after.”

Photo courtesy of lydiashiningbrightly, flickr

Photo courtesy of lydiashiningbrightly, flickr

It’s now the year after the year after, but the situation is the same.

Next week, the administration will see what it can accomplish without congressional approval. The Environmental Protection Agency plans to announce new policies designed to cut carbon emissions at American power plants.

The announcement is scheduled Monday, but some details have already slipped into the media. The new regulations will vary by state, but each state will have to hit targets for carbon emissions — rather than previous EPA regulations that have set limits for specific facilities but never for an entire state or the whole nation — in a two-step process intended to reduce carbon emissions by 25 percent by 2030, the Washington Post reported.

Those mandatory reductions will be a heavy drag on the economy, according to a report issued this week by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and several other groups representing energy companies.

“They are working on really the most signification EPA regulation, or any regulation, in American history. Certainly, it’s EPA’s costliest regulation,” Matt LeTourneau, director of communications for the U.S. Chamber, told Watchdog Radio on Wednesday.

The new report uses a combination of sources in an attempt to determine what the Obama administration might have up its sleeve. The chamber relied on a comprehensive emissions plan published by the National Resources Defense Council, which is working closely with the EPA to craft the new rules, and took into account international agreements the administration has made, such as the Copenhagen Accords.

If their prognostications are true, the chamber expects the new EPA regulations to cost 200,000 jobs per year and as much as $51 billion in annual GDP. The changes would also cause electricity prices to skyrocket for individual consumers and businesses.

The high costs are due primarily to the fact the new regulations would target not only new power plants but also require existing plants are retrofitted or closed in favor of new forms of energy.

LeTourneau said nearly all coal-fired plants would be shut down, and even some natural gas power plants could face the axe.

Even with all those cutbacks, global emissions would be reduced by just 1.8 percent, the chamber says, because most of the growth in emissions is coming from places such as China and India.

Tom Reynolds, a spokesman for the EPA, took to the agency’s blog Wednesday to respond to the chamber’s report.

Reynolds said the EPA had gathered testimony from hundreds of groups, including many that are members of the U.S. Chamber, and promised more meetings after the new rules are announced. He said the chamber’s report had significant holes because the group was working off assumptions and other sources, not the actual EPA regulations.

“The chamber’s report is nothing more than irresponsible speculation based on guesses of what our draft proposal will be.  Just to be clear — it’s not out yet. I strongly suggest that folks read the proposal before they cry the sky is falling.”

If the new regulations are as onerous as business groups believe, and if they are adopted into law without congressional approval, expect lengthy court battles over the issue. The chamber was one of several groups to sue over the Affordable Care Act — which did have congressional approval — showing they are not afraid to take on the administration in court to delay or defeat costly new rules.

It will likely be years before any new carbon emissions standards for power plants are a reality, but punch and counter-punch from the chamber and the EPA shows that the battle over messaging has already begun.

(Erik Boehm is a reporter for Watchdog.com, and operates out of Minneapolis. Story originally posted on Watchdog.com)

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Fracking moratorium dies in California Senate

From Capitol Alert:

An effort to halt the oil extraction process known as fracking failed in the California Senate as lawmakers rejected a bill that would have banned the practice until a state-commissioned study proves it is safe.

Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, argued that her measure amounted to hitting “pause” on an oil extraction method that has raised concerns among environmentalists as it’s become more common in California and across the nation. Opponents argued that Senate Bill 1132 didn’t make sense because California passed a law last year to regulate hydraulic fracturing. Abandoning the practice, they said, would cause some people to lose their jobs.

(Read Full Article)

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VA IG finds ‘systemic’ problems

From Politico:

At least 1,700 veterans waiting for health care at the Phoenix Veterans Affairs medical facility were not included on the facility’s wait list, and patients there waited an average of 115 days for their first appointments, according to a preliminary review by the Veterans Affairs inspectorgeneral.

In the review, released Wednesday, the inspector general said it has “substantiated serious conditions” and has expanded its review to 42 VA facilities, more than the 26 initially planned. While the the interim IG report says the agency’s scheduling problems are “systemic,” it says it would be premature to link those delays to allegations that dozens of veterans died waiting for care.

(Read Full Article)veterans

Joe Mathews: Living in Texas can be a lot like California

From UT San Diego:

I pulled my rental car over to a curb in Plano, Texas, next to the site of Toyota’s future North American headquarters, to be staffed by thousands of workers transplanted from Southern California.

I had flown into Dallas the previous evening on Virgin America (headquarters: Burlingame) and had a full tank of gas, from a Chevron (San Ramon) station. Pulling my iPhone (from Apple of Cupertino) out of the pocket of my Gap (San Francisco) pants, I Googled (Mountain View) food options in Plano and learned the town had a new Trader Joe’s (Monrovia). But the iPhone also told me that there were two In-N-Out Burgers (Irvine) nearby — one 10 minutes away on the other side of Plano, and the other just four minutes away, in the city of Frisco.

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Report: Obamacare Benefits Healthier College Grads Most

At least one major Obamacare provision is only improving health in college graduates, but failing to provide any health benefits to those with less privilege, according to a new report.

A study in the National Bureau of Economic Research found “striking gains’ in healthy behaviors for college graduates who remained on their parents’ health insurance plan until age 26; but even though some adults without a college degree are taking advantage of the Obamacare requirement, it’s led to virtually no health benefits, Vox explains.

(Read Full Article)

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CalSTRS fix budget at a cost

From UT San Diego:

The long-overdue decision of Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature to shore up the badly underfunded California State Teachers’ Retirement System has all sorts of painful long-term budget ramifications — and not just for schools.

The governor proposes a fix in which contributions from school districts (which are state-funded) and the state and, to a lesser extent, from teachers would gradually be ramped up through 2020, when CalSTRS would get an additional $5 billion a year. Ninety percent of that amount — $4.5 billion — would come from the state general fund. That’s equivalent to about 4 percent of the 2014-15 budget proposed by Brown.

(Read Full Article)

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#HashtagIdiocy

From Politico Magazine:

It takes a nearly impenetrable obtuseness to conclude that the most salient thing to know about University of California Santa Barbara killer Elliot Rodger is that he was a white male who didn’t like women.

Yet many liberal commentators have managed it in the painful festival of stupidity that has followed his horrific act of mass murder. The reaction, headlined by the feminist hashtag #YesAllWomen on Twitter, has featured rants about sexism, white privilege and Hollywood, all of which are absurdly detached from the reality of what happened at UCSB.

(Read Full Article)

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California’s Primary Dilemma

Next Tuesday, Californians go to the polls to vote in the gubernatorial primary elections. Although the system was in effect in 2012, this year marks the first time that new rules also apply to California’s seven partisan statewide offices.

The principal rationale behind 2010’s Proposition 14 was to increase ideological moderation in California politics, hence alleviating partisan bickering and legislative gridlock. So far, Californians aren’t so enamored by the new system. According to the recently released May Golden State Poll (click here to read the results), a plurality of self-identified registered voters (45 percent) said the open primary will not “lead to progress on important public policy issues” in California.

While the Golden State Poll reinforces the narrative of Brown cruising to re-election, it also suggests his strong showing masks issues Californians want seriously discussed. In his quest for a historic fourth term, Brown is 24 points ahead of his nearest competitor, State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly. Donnelly, in turn, leads his main Republican opponent, former Treasury official and businessman Neel Kashkari, by 7 points. By over a 2-to-1 ratio, pro-Brown supporters say they’re voting for the governor rather than against his Republican opponents.

Electorally, this is great news for Brown; he’s sailing to re-election and, regardless of who his opponent will be in November, he’ll have plenty of resources against a lesser-known, lesser-established candidate.

Still, a nonstarter of a governor’s race may not be good news for California. In the absence of a competitive, high-profile contest at the top of the ticket, many important and challenging issues the Golden State faces will continue to go unacknowledged or even without debate.

Earlier this month, Brown confidently told the California Chamber of Commerce, “California is definitely back.” But as described in the essay “What California Comeback?,” there’s a serious disconnect between Sacramento leaders and Californians. This latest Golden State Poll backs that up: twice as many Californians say they’re financially worse off than better off versus a year ago. Among California’s financially most vulnerable (those making less than $40,000), that ratio increases to 3-to-1.

Looking prospectively, the news doesn’t get much better. Most Californians think their family’s financial situation will be the same six months from now. As described in January’s Defining Ideas piece, it’s as if Californians feel stuck in neutral while they’re trying to drive uphill.

This malaise regarding California’s economy comes into view when respondents address their policy priorities. For instance, the December Golden State Poll found 71 percent of respondents saying Sacramento’s top priority should be “strengthening the state’s economy.” And when asked how the state’s projected budget surplus should be spent, two of the four most cited priorities were economic in this most recent Golden State Poll: “taxpayer refunds” (20 percent) and “rainy-day fund/state cash reserve” (12 percent).

Without a competitive gubernatorial race to draw these issues into the public forum, Californians will be left with just legislative debates. And here, the issues being pushed by Sacramento’s legislative leaders are not in sync with the public’s concerns. For instance, a top priority of outgoing state Senate President Pro Temp Darrell Steinberg is using the state’s budget surplus to advance universal preschool in California. His way to get it is by using high-speed rail, one of Brown’s top priorities, as leverage in June’s budget negotiations. However, in December’s survey, high-speed rail was last among respondents’ top priorities for Sacramento (a mere 10 percent). In the latest survey, universal pre-school received all of 2 percent as a preferred use of the budget surplus.

After three Democratic state Senators were suspended by their colleagues, the state legislature has been quickly passing ethics reform legislation. Yet, these only tinker around the edges and are not likely to stymie future violations. In this latest survey, 56 percent of respondents named either “a culture of corruption within the state legislature” or a “personal lack of character” as the reasons behind the recent corruption. Without a competitive gubernatorial race, a full-throttled debate on Sacramento’s political culture will go largely unnoticed despite valiant attempts by down-ballot candidates, like many running for Secretary of State, to bring it to the fore.

And with the state facing a prolonged drought, voters are left with a water-shortage discussion focused on how expensive and expansive a November water bond ballot proposition should be; largely missing is a debate on how to strike a balance between California’s competing priorities: agriculture, residential, commercial, and environmental. Yet, more than half of the survey’s respondents (53 percent) said they’d support relaxing environmental laws to address future water shortages.

As Sacramento leaders continues to talk platitudes about a “California comeback” and headlines scream of lower unemployment and a rising budget surplus, residents of the Golden State continue to be wary. In three straight surveys, Californians appear disconnected to these so-called better economic times. In this latest survey, they are neither thrilled by the new voting system, nor on the same budgetary page with lawmakers. And they are cautious of their elected representatives.

The bottom line is that it’s good to be the Governor of California. But not so good if you live and vote in his Golden State.

(Carson Bruno, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, primarily focuses on California economic, electoral, and public policy analysis. Originally published on Fox and Hounds.)