Ten Questions for Jerry Brown

SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 27: California Governor Jerry Brown announces his public employee pension reform plan October 27, 2011 at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California. Gov. Brown proposed 12 major reforms for state and local pension systems that he claims would end abuses and reduce taypayer costs by billions of dollars. (Photo by Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

Tomorrow, Jerry Brown will deliver his 15th and final State of the State Address. It’s too bad California legislators can’t ask questions like our counterparts in the United Kingdom, who query their head of government during “Prime Minister’s Questions.” If we could, here are 10 questions I’d ask Governor Brown:

1.)     You recently chided Congress, “It’s never good to have one party vote one way, and the other party vote 100 percent the other way. That’s dividing America at a time when we need unity.” Does this mean you’ll no longer sign legislation that is supported by only one party in the Assembly, as you did with the Gas Tax and 20 other bills last year?

2.)     For children living in poverty, California is the worst place in America to get an education, ranking near the bottom for every academic performance measure. Your education plan has added almost $30 billion in yearly spending, yet our schools have if anything gotten worse at educating poor children. How do you explain this?

3.)     Shortly after taking office, you called reforming the much-abused California Environmental Quality Act “the Lord’s work.” Yet no CEQA reform has happened during your tenure even as the cost of housing has soared to the point that 1 out of 3 Californians is “seriously considering” leaving the state because of it. With less than one year left in your term, when is the Lord’s work going to begin?

4.)     While campaigning for Governor, you promised you would not raise taxes without voter approval. Yet last year you signed a $52 billion tax increase without giving voters a say – and now, you’re opposing an effort by voters to undo that tax hike. How should ordinary Californians respond when elected officials break their promises?

5.)     In California, the cost of building a mile of road is triple what it is in other states. One reason, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst, is that Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,500 positions. Yet you are proposing 400 new positions in this year’s budget. Why not learn from other states that build better and cheaper roads before making Californians pay higher taxes?

6.)     Under your watch, California’s unfunded pension liability has grown by over 100 billion, with public employees generally receiving greater benefits than workers in the private sector. You clearly recognize this as a problem, having just filed a commendable opening brief in what could be a landmark state supreme court case. So why did you allow this problem, which threatens vital services and future generations, to get so much worse?

7.)     You claim California is prosperous because it is the world’s “6th largest economy.” Yet adjusting for cost of living and population size, our economy actually ranks 37 out of 50 states in the country. Which statistic do you think more accurately reflects the well-being of ordinary Californians?

8.)     Since you became Governor, the State Budget has grown from $129 billion to $191 billion. What evidence can you point to that this new spending has improved the quality of life for ordinary Californians? Feel free to cite, for example, health outcomes, student achievement, housing affordability, infrastructure quality, workforce participation, poverty rates, family stability, or any other metric.

9.)     The projected cost of High Speed Rail now exceeds $67 billion, with new delays and cost overruns reported almost monthly. And many are doubting the bullet train will have any useful purpose. In the words of Elon Musk, “The train in question would be both slower, more expensive to operate and less safe by two orders of magnitude than flying, so why would anyone use it?” Why would anyone?

10.)     You recently accused others of “ripping the country apart” through partisan actions. Yet in the last few months you’ve called your political opponents “mafia thugs,” “political terrorists,” and “evil in the extreme.” Is this rhetoric bringing the country together?

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley represents the 6th Assembly District, which includes parts of El Dorado, Placer, and Sacramento counties.

This blog post was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Gov. Brown’s Budget and Legacy Priorities

Governor Brown released his 2018-19 Budget last week and the OC Register was kind enough to publish my first impressions in their commentary section.  Here is a link:

The good and bad of Jerry Brown’s budget

I also sent out an immediate reaction:

Governor Brown admits that the “last 5 budgets have significantly increased spending” and this budget proposal is no different. Coming in at just under $300 billion dollars of total spending, debt and poverty remain at all-time highs. Even worse, our balance sheet is massively short and unfunded liabilities are in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Our underfunded pension systems will get minimum payments of $6.2 billion to CalPERS and $3.1 billion for CalSTRS. These costs are directly related to policies Jerry Brown embraced 40 years ago during his first time as governor. While he’s sensitive to a possible economic slowdown and should be lauded for increasing our rainy day funds, he has been a spendthrift in Sacramento. We have to acknowledge that the $9.3 billion in pension payments won’t go to pay for more teachers or cut college tuition or build roads right now. And yet, we’re hoisting these liabilities on future generations at a higher cost unless we do more to address them now. I was wondering how seriously Governor Brown would be in his last budget about addressing our liabilities. It looks like he’s kicking the can down the road to the next governor. Oh well.

The primary focus for Governor Brown has not been that California has the worst balance sheet of all 50 states. Just look at the city of Oakland’s balance sheet, and you’ll see that being deep in a fiscal hole is not one of Jerry’s worries.

Brown’s focus has been climate change and converting California to an electric car state, relying on solar and wind to provide the energy. It’s covered in a lengthy and thorough manner by CALmatters here:

California’s climate fight gets harder soon, and the big culprit is cars

The irony is that electricity needs to be carried by power lines. These power lines have caused many of the wildfires in California. And, wildfires create more greenhouse gases than our state’s cars, by a long shot. So, where is the effort to address the cause of the biggest greenhouse gas source? It’s nonexistent. See: MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Safety Concerns.

Worse, being totally dependent on electricity for travel, communication, preserving food supplies, and dealing with occasional inclement weather, this state will shut down in a matter of days without it. This is also a scary proposition in a world where terrorism is the new norm. I’m just sayin’.

There’s the legacy. He’s funded the required Rainy Day Fund. He’s exposing residents to a different danger in the potential loss of power.  And he’s flown around the world to preach climate change. But, our balance sheet sucks and our wildfire zones went up in smoke this year and are now suffering from the damages that rain can cause.  Sometimes I just want to weep.

John Moorlach: 2018-2019 Budget Recommendations

The 2018 session started yesterday afternoon with a bang. Sen. Andy Vidak (R – Hanford) introduced Senate Resolution 69, a resolution to permanently expel Sen. Tony Mendoza (D – Artesia) from the California State Senate.  This caused the Democratic Caucus to immediately meet in a closed door caucus, for several hours, while the Republican Senators simply spent the afternoon and early evening waiting for them to conclude. A little after 6 p.m., the Senate reconvened and Sen. Mendoza gave an “I’m taking a one month leave of absence” speech. This is something he should have done when the President Pro Tem offered him this solution at the end of last year, during the recess. And then yesterday’s Floor Session closed with a quick thud. No comments allowed from anyone in the Chambers. The fun has begun.

I return next week for a boatload of work. I have four two-year bills to address before committees, SB 656, SB 681, SB 688 and SB 722 (see the 2017 legislative package on my Senate website). I will also have Public Employment and Retirement Committee, Judiciary Committee, and Governance and Finance Committee meetings. Plus there will be two joint hearings, where the Senate and Assembly combine, addressing sexual harassment and the Ghost Ship fire. And, if that was not enough, the Governor will be announcing the 2018-19 Budget on January 10th.

In anticipation of one of next week’s upcoming events, I decided to submit a snarky but extremely serious op-ed on the proposed budget to the San Francisco Chronicle.  Here’s a link:

http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Will-governor-propose-to-spend-or-save-12472049.php#photo-14786355

The year of our Lord 2018 is here and it’s game on, as we try to send a message to the Governor and the Legislature that California needs to turn its ship of state around. We issued an ICYMI yesterday that proves the necessity of minding the fiscal store here in Sacramento (also see my Senate website at http://district37.cssrc.us/).

Happy New Year!

Did You Ever See a Dream Walking?

First Donald Trump was deplorable: Sexist, racist, misogynist and a few other things. Crazy/Nazi. Then he was just incompetent. A that’s just on the left.

William F. BuckleyTrump’s critics on the right have focused on his loutish behavior. It disqualifies him for the presidency, according to one National Review pundit. Worse, he’s intellectually shallow. If you could be a fly on the wall of the National Review Editorial Board meetings, you can imagine hearing this: “If only he had read Did You Ever See A Dream Walking?’ by William F. Buckley, Jr.”

While the right continues to focus on Trump as an intellectual/moral manqué, the left is now trying to figure out Trump via Freudian analysis and ESP. But 33-year-old Michael Kruse has figured out that we have to take a close look at Trump’s theology. He’s on to something.

Politics is theology by different means. Always has been. Always will be. But Americans hate theology and we don’t notice it when our political ideas project our theological assumptions, which are mostly naïve and uncritical. Don’t need no Tri-ni-ty. Don’t need no salvation his-to-ry. Don’t need no A-tone-ment. Just need to know where Di-Maggio went.

Americans don’t go in for profound intellectual theories. We love dreaming dreams.

Trump’s personality and world view have been deeply influenced by Norman Vincent Peale. According to Kruse’s recent Politico article, Trump’s father was a personal friend and devoted follower of Peale and his lessons on the “Power of Positive Thinking.”  Trump inherited that devotion. Peale even officiated at Trump’s first wedding.

Do we have a duty to understand where a president is “coming from”? If so, you will get lost if you try to follow all of his conservative critics who try to trace and interpret his somewhat bouncy political allegiances in his past. The “dream a better future for yourself and for America” theology of the Rev’d Peale is the one constant.

The American experience has always included a strong dose of magic. If you dream dreams they will come true. Whether you are a New England Puritan dreaming of a religious utopia, or a hard scrabble pioneer farmer, or Martin Luther King, or, yes, even William F. Buckley, Jr., dreaming dreams and expecting them to come true is the essence of America. It’s still why half the planet wants to come here.

This explains most of what is Trump’s mystical connection with his supporters. In reaction to DACA, the response of Trump supporters is simple and clear and resounding: We have dreams too! But the Washington Swamp is robbing us of those dreams.

Trump is not an Aristotelian. He’s not a Randian. He has no ideology and this is what makes him incomprehensible to his critics on the right and the left and in the media/corporate/political complex.

He has a dream that something can happen. He focuses on it relentlessly. He repeats it to himself and others constantly. Until it comes true. This is why Scott Adams calls Trump a “Master Persuader.”

Dreams and visions don’t always square with facts. That’s why Aristotle ridiculed Plato. For his visions. If you think facts matter, read Aristotle and hate Trump. But Plato understood that it’s what moves people that counts. And facts and figures and analytical theories don’t move people. Visions do.

Remember the president that admitted not being so great at “the vision thing”? Trump is great at it. As a dreamer, as a visionary, he’s firmly within the American Tradition. It remains to be seen whether his magic contains more powerful juju than that of his enemies.

I have to add that I like Trump. And while I have to confess that from a theological and philosophical perspective I’m not big into the “dreaming dreams” definition of success, I can’t argue with the obvious takeaway: Donald Trump, far from being some political aberration, or someone who is outside of the American political and religious tradition, is profoundly situated at its center.

Owen Jones is a business owner whose first campaign was for Claude Kirk for Governor of Florida in 1966.  He’s moved slightly to the right each year since.

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 [email protected] or 714-662-6050.

John Moorlach – Scary Week Ahead

Early this week, Californians will enjoy two major events. On Tuesday, they will participate in handing out candy to the children in their neighborhoods for Halloween. The next day, Sacramento will provide its own version of “trick or treat” by increasing the gas tax. It should be a scary week.

Sacramento is to blame for neglecting the roads in California. Instead of addressing the symptoms, like bad management, budgeting and hiring, the majority party focused its attention on raising taxes (again!).

I have tried to research California’s Department of Transportation since I was elected on March 17, 2015.  The metrics suck. And my attempts to fix them have been voted down by the Democrats (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Caltrans Boondoggles).

A gas tax increase presents a real problem to a good number of Californians. Those who are wealthy and living near the coast won’t even notice. But, the following sampling of people will:

  • The 20 percent-plus of the population that are living at or below the poverty level (the highest percentage for any state in the nation – after four decades of Democrat control of the Legislature).
  • Those who have lengthy commutes into Orange County because they found affordable housing in the Inland Empire. Add to this those that commute great distances to get to their jobs in Silicon Valley. (And Sacramento wonders why its roads are in disrepair.)
  • Those who are spending nearly half of their disposable income on housing, thanks to increasing rents and home prices.

Expect plenty of editorials on the November 1st gas tax increase over the next few days.  Click here to read the article by the Napa Valley Register.

President Trump’s weekly address: 10/7/17

“When the worst of humanity strikes, the best of humanity responds.” – President Trump

 

John Moorlach: “Who’s Your Daddy?” bills

When assembling the 2017 top 20 worst bills going to the governor’s desk, there were some 15 that were “Who’s Your Daddy?” bills. I could only include a sampling (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 2017 Top 20 Veto Worthy Bills — ).
Nearly two years ago, I provided an extensive analysis of how the public employee unions run Sacramento (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Blame the Unions —
One of my biggest concerns in this posting was reiterated recently (see MOORLACH UPDATE — What Pension Crisis? — ). “The unions will say it wasn’t our fault. We didn’t vote for it. You guys [the elected officials] voted for it,” said Sen. Moorlach in an interview Monday.
.  In fact, it even became a segment of a TBS MLB Post Season show.
The bill that set this chant in my brain this session was AB1250, which would greatly increase the cost to counties of personal-service contracts, sharply reducing help given to citizens, especially the poor. We introduced the consequences of the bill to you in this posting: MOORLACH UPDATE — Who’s Your Daddy? — I provided the fun when I asked this very question in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee meeting
I provided my own editorial, on the premise that AB1250 was not being relegated to a two-year bill status and may be resurrected and show up at the last minute on the Senate Floor (it didn’t) in MOORLACH UPDATE: Who Runs Our Government?
By the final night of session, one Democrat Senator made Bingo cards. The squares were words that may be spoken on the floor. This is one way to while away the hours as this annual exercise drones on past midnight. I heard one square stated, “Sen. Moorlach says ‘Who’s Your Daddy?'” The chant had sunk in.
The OC Register provides the details of the union-assisting bills in my editorial submission.
A common union tactic is to twist something. The headline of a recent post did just that. As Sacramento is brimming with current and retired state employees, the headline was inflammatory, when not factually accurate.  So, I decided to provide a clarification. The good news?  It was printed.

John Moorlach: What Pension Crisis?

I sit on the Senate Public Employment and Retirement Committee, which held a joint hearing with its Assembly counterpart earlier this year. During the hearing I asked a very difficult question of Dane Hutchings, the legislative representative of the California League of Cities (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 37th in the 37th — August 9, 2017).

In shaping my question, I used the “F” word – “fraud” – and it caught the attention of CalPERS and its administration. This started a dialogue, which has been very helpful. So, I recently sent two letters, addressed to two separate CalPERS Board members, requesting very specific information (see  https://www.calpers.ca.gov/docs/board-agendas/201709/financeadmin/item-6c-02.pdf and https://www.calpers.ca.gov/docs/board-agendas/201709/financeadmin/item-6c-01.pdf).

Instead of writing back with an affirmative response and attaching the requested data, the matter was put on the agenda of this month’s CalPERS Finance and Administrative Committee meeting (see MOORLACH UPDATE — OC’s Newest Landmark Plaque — September 20, 2017).

The entire segment of the Committee meeting related to my requests is an amazing watch. To have city managers state that they are facing Chapter 9 bankruptcy and even providing the precise upcoming year they may be filing is a massive disclosure. You would think it would be headline news for the local papers where the cities are located. The California Policy Center certainly thought the discussion was disturbing and provides the piece below.

I’m trying to address the pension crisis in California. It’s getting noticed. Let’s hope the testimony of a dozen plan sponsors wakes up the super majority in the Capitol. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Pursuing Reforms — August 11, 2017.

BONUS:  If you happen to watch the linked video to the CalPERS meeting, you will observe the public employee unions testify as the concluding witnesses to strong arm those CalPERS Board members who just also happen to be public employee union members. The massive influence of public employee unions in Sacramento is evident and detrimental to the fiscal well being of our state. I discuss this in more detail on Rick Reiff’s most recent “Inside OC” program and it is worth a watch at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-rpMqqQJJE&feature=youtu.be.

DOUBLE BONUS:  I don’t want to be in the “me thinkest thou protesteth too much” category, but crime is going up (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Taken to Task — August 23, 2017). The FBI released the 2016 crime statistics on Monday of this week and the news is not good. Allow me to give you just one of the many links, as I spend a lot of time in Sacramento, at http://www.kcra.com/article/sacramentos-violent-crime-rate-was-higher-than-us-crime-rate-in-2016/12473362.

TRIPLE BONUS:  To date, the governor has not addressed any of the top 20 bills Assemblyman Harper and I have recommended he veto (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 2017 Top 20 Veto Worthy Bills — September 22, 2017).

President Trump’s weekly address: Four principles for tax reform

Transcript:

My fellow Americans,

The American Family has always been the heart of our great nation.  In homes across this country, families teach their children to work hard, to love each other, and to make the most of their talents in pursuit of their dreams.

Yet for too long, American families have been hurt by Washington’s policies that put the interests of other countries before the interests of our country.

That is why, in my Administration, we are pursuing tax cuts and reform that create jobs in America, for American workers – not foreign workers, but American workers.

Here are my four principles for tax reform:

First, we are going to make the tax code simple and fair so that families can spend more time with their children, and less time wading through pages of paperwork.  A staggering ninety-four percent of families use professional help to do their taxes – and that’s not fair, that’s not right.  That’s why under our plan, ninety-five percent of Americans will be able to file their tax return on a single page without keeping receipts, tracking paperwork, or filling out extra schedules.

Second, we are going to cut taxes for the middle class so that hardworking Americans can finally save more for their future.  We want to help families keep more of what they earn – and to be able to afford the costs of raising a family.  Our tax code should recognize that the most important investment we can make is in our children.

Third, we are going to restore America’s competitive edge by making our tax system more attractive for investment and job creation.  Our business tax rate is the highest in the world – pushing jobs to foreign countries.  That’s not what we want, that’s not what I’ve been talking about all these years – I’ve been talking about the exact opposite.  We need to bring down our tax rate so we can create jobs, wealth, and opportunity right here, in the United States of America, so we can bring our hobs back and bring our businesses back.  We want tax reform that puts America First.  We want tax reform that makes America great again.

Finally, we are going to bring back trillions of dollars in wealth parked overseas so that it can be invested in our country, where it belongs.

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform our tax code and pave the way to unprecedented prosperity.  By doing what we’re doing, we will see results like you’ve never seen before.  It will be the largest tax cut in our country’s history.  I am asking members in both parties to come together, to put aside partisan differences, and to pass historic tax reform and tax cuts for the great citizens of our nation.  That’s how we will all succeed and thrive together – as one team, one people, and one American Family.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America.

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