New Overtime Rules Burden CA Small Businesses

Money

The Department of Labor’s new overtime rules come at a jarring time for California businesses which have seen recent changes in California laws to increase both the minimum wage and mandated leave. Small business employers can’t catch a breath before a new mandate comes down affecting their employees and ultimately their bottom line.

The Department of Labor’s new rule allows workers earning $47,476 annually time-an-a-half for every hour they work beyond 40 hours. The previous annual salary threshold for requiring time-an-a-half pay was $23,660.

National Federation of Independent Business California State Executive Director Tom Scott said in a release responding to the new rule, “We see this as particularly troubling here in California where the cost of doing business is already prohibitively high. Small businesses are still grappling with the news of a $15 minimum wage; now they have to go through each salary exempt position and decide which employees they have to shift to hourly workers. This will adversely affect workplace morale as many will view this adjustment as a demotion.”

However, there is a way for employees of all stripes to get a pay increase without affecting a businesses bottom line. Unfortunately, because of the increased burdens California businesses face more businesses are looking at this benefit for their employees: Move to a state with no income tax.

If an employee receives the same wage in, say, Texas or Nevada, which have no income taxes, more money stays in the employees’ pocket. It’s like a pay raise without the companies increasing payroll.

Too many California businesses are doing the math because of the constant attack on their bottom line.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Hurting Business Owners Is No Way To Help The Poor

PovertyWhen George Washington was on his deathbed, his doctors tried to save his life by bleeding him, which was considered good medicine at the time.

California businesses must feel like the father of our country did when he tried to stop the bleeding but the well-intentioned practitioners wouldn’t be stopped.

With California’s income taxes, sales taxes, energy prices and other costs at or near the highest in the nation, plus a regulatory and legal climate that escalates costs and creates high-risk uncertainties, many businesses have left the state, reduced hiring or cut hours and wages.

California’s poverty rate is 23 percent — 27 percent for children. There are now 12 million Californians enrolled in Medi-Cal, the safety-net health insurance program for low-income people.

This is a crisis, and California has to take action to address it. But we shouldn’t take actions that are inspired by the medical beliefs of George Washington’s doctors.

A proposed ballot initiative called the “Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Act” is exactly that kind of action. The measure would open a hole in Proposition 13 and start to draw money out of California real estate valued at more than $3 million.

The proposed mechanism is a property tax surcharge. It would begin at 0.3 percent on assessed property values over $3 million and rise to 0.8 percent on values greater than $10 million. Although it would apply to both residential and commercial property, its greatest impact would be on California businesses.

Property taxes bring in about $55 billion to the state treasury annually, and the state Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that the surcharge would collect between $6 billion and $7 billion in its first year. But the money would not go into the general fund. None of the cash would be available to pay for Medi-Cal and none of it would be allocated toward Proposition 98’s minimum funding requirement for education.

Instead, the billions would go into a new special fund called the Lifting Children and Families Out of Poverty Fund, which would be used to fund programs and make grants to organizations that provide services.

Which programs? What organizations? Where? These decisions would be made by the California Department of Education. The measure would put the CDE in charge of reviewing plans and annual reports submitted by communities that apply to become “California Promise Zones” eligible to receive money from the fund.

The ballot measure would increase funding for cash grants to the poor and for subsidized tax-refund checks to low-income workers. It would spend billions on subsidized child care, loans for child care providers, grants for students studying to be child care providers, and loan forgiveness for child development professionals. It would also pay for preschool in designated areas, and for home nursing visits to check on families with young children.

About 10 percent of the money raised would be spent on job training, including tax credits for businesses that participate in the training programs.

But education, training and child care, while important, are not going to lift people out of poverty unless they can find good jobs.

A true anti-poverty agenda would be focused on improving the conditions for business expansion and job creation throughout California. It would include tax cuts, an end to lawsuit abuse, and an effort to prune unnecessary regulations, as well as funding for education, job training and child care.

We’ll never cure poverty by bleeding job creators. That’s the medically proven path to the tomb.

###

Deceptive and Misleading Claims – How Government Unions Fool the Public

Unions pension public sectorCalifornia’s public sector unions collect and spend well over $1 billion per year. When you have that much money, you can hire thousands of skilled professionals to wage campaigns, litigate, lobby, negotiate and communicate. You can hire the best public relations firms money can buy. You can commission research studies that spin facts to support your agenda. You can silence voices of dissent, voices of reason, voices of reform, with an avalanche of misinformation. And it works.

Here, then, for what it’s worth, is a “top 10” list of some of the biggest deceptions and misleading claims made by California’s government unions.

1 – Government unions are protecting the middle class.

FALSE. Government unions are protecting government workers at the expense of the private sector middle class. The agenda of government unions is more wages and benefits for government workers, and more hiring of government workers. To adhere to this agenda, failure of government programs still constitutes success for these unions. More laws, more regulations and more government programs equates to more unionized government workers, regardless of the cost, benefit or need for these programs. The primary agenda of unionized government has nothing to do with the welfare of the private sector middle class, whose taxes pay for it.

2 – Government unions are a necessary political counterweight to “Wall Street,” big business and billionaires.

FALSE. When government is expanded to serve the interests of government unions, the elite and privileged special interests are relatively unaffected, and often benefit. Large corporations can afford to comply with excessive regulations that drive their emerging competitors out of business. When governments borrow to finance deficits created by an over-built unionized government, bond underwriters profit from the fees. Government pension funds are among the biggest players on Wall Street, aggressively investing hundreds of billions each year to secure their 7 percent (or more) per year returns. Billionaires can afford to pay taxes and fees – it’s the middle-class taxpayer who can be overwhelmed by them. When powerful special interests want favorable legislation passed in California, they go to the government unions and make a deal. Government unions are the brokers and enablers of special interest cronyism. They are allies, not counterweights.

3 – Government unions represent and protect the American worker and the labor movement.

union collective bargaining public sectorFALSE. For better or worse, government unions represent and protect government workers. Government unions and private sector unions have very little in common. Unlike private unions, government unions elect their own bosses, and their agencies are funded by compulsory taxes, not through profits earned by creating products and services that are voluntarily purchased in a competitive market. Moreover, government union members operate the machinery of government, giving them the ability to harass their political opponents under cover of authority. Private sector unions – properly regulated – have a legitimate role to play in American society. Government unions, on the other hand, exist to serve the interests of government workers, not the ordinary American citizen.

4 – Public employees are underpaid.

FALSE. In past decades, prior to the unionization of government, a public worker exchanged lower base pay for better retirement benefits and more job security. But today, not only have retirement benefits been greatly increased from what was normal back in the 1980’s and 1990’s, but in most cases the base pay of government workers exceeds the base pay for private sector workers performing jobs requiring similar skills. A 2015 study by State Budget Solutions estimated the total compensation of California’s government workers to exceed private sector workers by 31 percent. But these studies typically omit lower paid independent contractors who now constitute one in three workers. A California Policy Center study that examined 2012 data showed the average pay and benefits for California’s city workers was $124,058, county workers $102,312, and state workers $100,668. And this study did not take into account the value of additional paid vacation benefits, extra paid holidays, and generous “comp time” policies, which add significantly to the total value of annual compensation. Just how much public employee pay exceeds private sector pay for equivalent jobs is the topic of ongoing debate. But they’re not underpaid by any reasonable measure.

5 – The average public sector pension is only $25,000 per year (or some similarly low number).

FALSE. The problem with this profoundly misleading statistic is that this low average is the result of including participants who only worked a few years in state/local government, barely vesting a pension. Should someone who worked less than a decade (or two) in a job expect a pension based on a full career of service? When normalizing for 30 year careers and taking into account the uptick in retirement benefit formulas that rolled through California starting in 1999, the average state/local retiree in California collects a pension and retirement health benefit package worth over $70,000 per year. For a private sector taxpayer to collect this much in retirement, they would have to save at least $1.5 million. If public pensions weren’t so generous, these pension systems would not face severe financial challenges. Which brings us to the next myth …

6 – California’s state/local pension systems are being reformed and will be just fine financially.

FALSE. Virtually every official post-reform projection among California’s 80+ public sector pension systems are predicting eventual financial health based on a huge, extremely risky assumption – that the average annual returns of these funds over the next few decades will exceed 7.0 percent per year. Common sense should tell any unbiased observer that ongoing 7.0 percent average annual returns are not a safe bet. If they are, why are Treasury Bills only yielding 3.0 percent? What are mortgage bankers only able to get 3.5 percent on 30 year fixed mortgages? Why are bank CD’s only offering 2.0 percent? The spread between equity returns and truly risk-free returns has never been this large for this long. Pension funds are basing future performance projections on past results. The problem is that over the past 30 years, interest rates have been steadily lowered to allow people to borrow more. This borrowing stimulated the economy, creating corporate profits and driving up the price of corporate equities. But interest rates cannot be lowered any further. We are at the end of a long-term credit cycle, and pension funds are just beginning to deal with the consequences.

7 – The teachers unions care about student achievement more than anything else.

FALSE. The evidence simply doesn’t support this assertion. Consider the reaction of the California Teachers Association to the recent Vergara decision, in which a Los Angeles superior court judge agreed with student plaintiffs who challenged three union work rules. The CTA criticized the ruling and announced their support for an appeal. What does the Vergara lawsuit aim to accomplish? It would take away the ability for teachers to earn tenure in less than two years. It would end the practice of favoring seniority over merit when deciding what teachers to layoff. And it would make it easier to fire incompetent teachers. These are commonsense, bipartisan reforms that the teachers unions oppose.

8 – Billionaires are trying to hijack California’s public education system.

FALSE. To the extent wealthy individuals have decided to involve themselves in education reform and private education initiatives, they come from a diverse background of political orientations. But all of them share a desire to rescue California’s next generation of citizens from a union monopoly on education. And unlike the unionized traditional public school, public charter schools and private schools survive based on the choice of parents who want a better education for their children. And if they don’t do a great job, the parents can withdraw their children from the failing charter or private school. Introducing competition to California’s unionized K-12 education system is a healthy, hopeful trend that gathers support from concerned citizens of all incomes, ethnic groups, and political ideologies.

9 – Proponents of public sector union reform are “anti-government workers.”

FALSE. This sort of claim is a distraction from the reality – which is that public sector unions have corrupted the democratic process and have been attempting to inculcate public employees with the “us vs. them” mentality that is the currency of unions. Sadly, the opposite is the truth – government unions alienate the public from their government, and, worse, alienate government employees from the public. They have created two classes of workers, government employees who have superior pay, benefits, job security and retirement security, and everyone else in the private sector. They know perfectly well that this level of worker comfort is economically impossible to extend to everyone. Government unions have undermined the sense of common rules and shared fate between public and private individuals that is a foundation of democracy. Those who oppose government unions recognize this threat. It has nothing to do with their support and respect for the men and women who perform the many difficult and risky jobs that are the role of government.

10 – Opponents of government unions are “right wing extremists.”

FALSE. The problems caused by government unions should concern everyone, and they do. Conscientious left-wing activists who favor an expanded role for government expect positive results, not failed programs that were created merely to increase union membership. They realize that unionized government is expensive and inefficient, leaving less money or authority to maintain or expand government services: Public libraries and parks with reduced hours and curtailed maintenance; pitted, congested roads; after school recreation programs without reliable funding; public schools where students aren’t learning and apathetic teachers are protected from accountability. Government has to be cost-effective, no matter how big or how small. Opponents of government unions can disagree on the optimal size of government, yet passionately agree on the problems caused by a unionized government.

This list of 10 myths promulgated by spokespersons for government unions only begins to chronicle their many deceptions. But each of these myths offer strategic value to these unions – giving them the ability to put reformers on the defensive, change the topic of discussion, redefine the terms of the debate. Each of them has powerful emotional resonance, and each of them – along with many others – is continuously reinforced by a network of professional communicators backed by literally billions in dues revenue.

Compensation reform, pension reform, other fiscal reforms, reforming work rules, education reform – all these urgent reforms must first go through one powerful special interest that stops them in their tracks: Government unions. Reformers must confront not only the myths these unions promote, challenging and debunking them, but they must also redefine the role of government unions, if not question their very existence.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Government is hardly the solution to short-term bias

Hillary Clinton’s latest campaign salvo attacked “quarterly capitalism,” the supposedly irresponsible corporate focus on short-term results at the expense of long-term growth. She promised government fixes. But she is short on logic and history.

Is there too much short-termism in business firms? Look at participants’ incentives.

Shareholders own the present value of their pro-rata share of net earnings, not just present earnings. They do not discard good investments which raise that expected present value. Good short-term results raise stock prices not because of short-termism, but because of their implications for the likely future course of net earnings.

Share prices are a primary metric for managerial success and basis for their rewards. That makes their time horizons reflect those of shareholders, far beyond the present. Bondholders, who want to be paid back, incorporate future repayment risks into their choices. Worker and supplier relationships also reflect firms’ future prospects.

Beyond misinterpreting share price responses to short-term results, Clinton’s main evidence was increased stock buybacks, supposedly sacrificing worthwhile investments by returning funds to shareholders. She ignores that those funds will largely be invested elsewhere. But she also ignores that the buyback binge reflects the Fed’s long-term artificial cheapening of borrowed money, leading firms to shift toward debt financing. But a firm substituting debt financing for equity controls no fewer funds for investments.

Confusing business responses to Fed interventions as business short-termism only begins the list of such government-created biases. For example, constant proposals to raise corporate tax rates and worsen capital gains treatment reduce the after-tax profitability of investments. Regulatory mandates and impositions pile up, with more coming, doing the same. Energy policy threatens cost hikes, reducing investment returns. And so on.

That government will put more emphasis on the future than the private sector is also contradicted by political incentives. Owners bear predictable future consequences in current share prices, but politicians’ incentives are far more short-sighted.

An election loser will be out of office, and capture no appreciable benefit from efforts invested. So when an upcoming election is in doubt, everything goes on the auction block to buy short-term political advantage. And politicians’ incentives drive those facing the D.C. patronage machine. That is why so much “reform” meets Ambrose Bierce’s definition of “A thing that mostly satisfies reformers opposed to reformation.” The mere passage of bills in the political nick of time, even largely unread ones, can be declared victorious legacies, with harmful consequences never effectively brought to bear on decision-makers.
There is also a cornucopia of examples of government short-termism at the expense of the future, whose magnitude dwarfs anything it promises to reform.

Unwinding Social Security and Medicare’s 14-digit unfunded liabilities will punish future generations, caused by massive government overpromising to buy earlier elections. Other underfunded trust and pension funds threaten similar future atonement for earlier short-term “sins.” Expanding government debt similarly represents future punishment for short-term political payoffs. Foreign and military policy have similarly turned away from dealing with long-term issues. But serious long-run issues like immigration escape serious attention because “public servants” are afraid of short-run interest group punishment.

Political attacks on short-termism, and reforms to fix it, are beyond confused. They ignore financial market participants’ clear incentives to take future effects into account. They are clueless about what provides evidence of short-termism. They treat private sector responses to government impositions as private sector failures. They ignore far worse political incentives facing “reformers.” And they act as if the most egregious examples of short-termism in America, all government progeny, didn’t exist.
There is little to Clinton’s criticism and alleged solutions beyond misunderstanding and misrepresentation. We should recognize, with Henry Hazlitt, that “today is already the tomorrow which the bad economist yesterday urged us to ignore,” and that expanding government’s power to do more of the same is not in Americans’ interests.

Gary M. Galles is Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University

CA: Worst Place For Business, 11th Year In A Row

California’s economic recovery might be a little over stated, at least according to the people who actually create jobs.

Chief Executive Magazine has released its annual Best and Worst States for Business Survey and California ranked last – for the 11th year in a row. In the annual survey, completed by 511 CEOs across the United States, states are measured across three key categories to achieve their overall ranking: taxes and regulations, quality of the workforce and living environment, which includes things like, quality of education, cost of living, affordable housing, social amenities and crime rates.

California again placed 50th on the list, joining New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Massachusetts at the bottom. Texas remained in the number one slot followed by Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.

One CEO was quoted as saying, “the good states ask what they can do for you; the bad states ask what they can get from you.” Another CEO was quoted, “California and Oregon are essentially anti-business, whereas Texas and Tennessee do everything possible comfortable and more successful.”

Litigation and a state’s legal climate are one of the things weighing on the minds of CEOs as they consider states in which to do business and create jobs. California continues to be a “Judicial Hellhole,” and is tepid at best in its willingness to stop lawsuit abuse. Businesses will be discouraged from expanding and creating jobs in a state in which the lawsuit system mainly serves the interests of lawyers rather than ordinary people.

A single abusive lawsuit can cost a business tremendously. California’s leaders need to make this connection and make it a priority to enact meaningful reforms to our lawsuit system.

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

xecutive director, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

L.A. Minimum Wage Hike: How Will Businesses React?

Photo courtesy of channone, flickr

Photo courtesy of channone, flickr

The Los Angeles City Council tentatively voted to increase the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. The business community opposed the move. How business will react is unclear but there was much discussion during the debate over issues such as lost jobs and companies eyeing more business-friendly locations.

The wage increase is to be phased in over time, so the immediate impact may not be felt. But businesses ought to keep score when the effects hit so that officials will be cognizant of the consequences. If the wage increase does not cause economic disruptions and businesses do not actually leave Los Angeles, the business community’s credibility will suffer in the face of a mere exercise in rhetoric.

The vote to pass the minimum wage increase was 14 to 1. The council gets to vote once more on the measure after an ordinance is drafted by the city attorney, but the lopsided vote indicates there is no turning back. The council even set the wage above the recommended level offered by Mayor Eric Garcetti, who initially proposed an increase to $13.25 an hour.

The city council’s version contains an inflation clause and offers an extra year for small businesses and nonprofits to comply.

However, the business community does not consider these admissions enough. Ruben Gonzalez of the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce said, “There is simply not enough room, enough margin to absorb a 50 percent increase in labor costs over a short period of time.”

The chamber’s president and CEO Gary Toebben wrote to his members about the many small business owners who testified in various hearings on the measure. He wrote, “They also talked about the likelihood that in order to provide a wage increase for some employees, they would have to reduce hours for others.”

Toebben noted wryly, “Last week, there were banners hanging throughout City Hall celebrating Small Business Week. There are many small business owners in L.A. who don’t feel like the city is celebrating them today.”

Earlier on the day of the vote, the Los Angeles County Business Federation (BizFed) released a survey on business conditions in the area. According to a release from BizFed, “The city of Los Angeles stood out again as being cited most frequently by employers as unfriendly.  Santa Clarita and Glendale were ranked in the top 5 most business friendly cities, which is notable because officials from those two cities are actively courting city of Los Angeles businesses in light of the proposed city of Los Angeles minimum wage increase.” (Author’s emphasis.)

So what will Los Angeles businesses do? Once the minimum wage law takes effect will there be jobs lost or hours cut? How many businesses move to a different location? Business credibility is on the line. Crying wolf and not acting will damage efforts to turn around what many decry as unfriendly business policies.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

AB588 Could Save California Businesses Millions

California needs to make major progress when it comes to preventing abusive lawsuits. The state earned the title of “Judicial Hellhole” again this year, calling attention to the fact that California’s legal climate is out of balance, and things are getting worse each year.

California earned this title because of laws like the Private Attorney General Act of 2004 (PAGA), which allows employees to bring lawsuits directly against their employer for a variety of California Labor Code violations – no matter how trivial. No harm or damages must be shown in order for an employee to sue under PAGA, enabling trial lawyers to file expensive and abusive lawsuits against employers seeking quick settlements over trivial mistakes, such as typos on documents. These abusive lawsuits make California an even more difficult place to own and operate a business.

The current law allows trial lawyers to file multimillion dollar lawsuits over trivial paycheck violations, such as not listing the complete employer’s name and address on pay stubs properly. These minor mistakes have statutory penalties that can go back four years at a cost of $100/$200 per paycheck violation.

A handful of lawyers are currently making a killing finding minor mistakes on an employee’s paycheck stub to file multimillion dollar lawsuits. These lawsuits are not protecting the citizens of California as the law intended. Instead, the law benefits greedy personal injury lawyers who are jeopardizing California’s economy.

For instance, a recent story on KGET-TV in Bakersfield highlighted the case of B and L Casing, a local company that was hit with one of these lawsuits and settled for $1.5 million. The company is now planning to move out of California – taking jobs with it.

Thankfully, California has an opportunity to reverse some of the damage done by PAGA. AB 588 by Assemblywoman Shannon Grove would give businesses a chance to correct a paycheck error within 33 days before getting hit with a lawsuit. Currently, the law does not give businesses a chance to fix insignificant mistakes on their paychecks before getting hit with such penalties.

AB 588 is a reasonable and fair approach that would help stop shakedown PAGA lawsuits against California businesses while still encouraging them to fix issues of minor noncompliance with the California labor board. AB 588 will be heard in the Assembly Labor and Employment Committee on April 22nd.

Tom Scott is executive director, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

Originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

New Studies: CA Has 4th-Highest Taxes and 3rd-Worst Business Climate

The newest figures just released by the Tax Foundation show California continues to be one of the highest-taxes states in the country. According to “Facts & Figures 2015: How Does Your State Compare?” the Golden State now ranks fourth-highest for taxation. The only states with higher taxes are Connecticut and New Jersey, tied for the highest; and New York in third place.

A big problem was pointed out to CalWatchdog.com by Esmael Adibi, A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research and Anderson Chair of Economic Analysis at Chapman University: Three of our Western States competitors make the Top Ten list of the least-taxed states: Nevada in third place, Utah in 9th and Texas in 10th.

Overall, the state with the least taxes is Louisiana, followed by Mississippi, South Dakota and Tennessee.

Adibi pointed out that California’s high rank derives largely from it having the highest personal income tax in the country, 13.3 percent at the top marginal rate after voters passed Proposition 30 in 2012. “Prop. 30 really pushed us over,” he said.

He added that, despite the Proposition 13 tax limitation measure, California ranked only 14th-best for property-tax collections. If property here cost less, then California would rank much higher. “But property is so expensive, the taxes paid equal the tax rate times the amount you pay for the property,” he calculated.

California also scored low on the overall 2015 State Business Climate Index, with third-worst business climate. Worst of all was New Jersey, followed by Connecticut.

That’s similar to the finding of CEO Magazine’s survey of CEOs, who have ranked California the worst state in which to do business for eight straight years.

And the Kosmont-Rose Institute Cost of Doing Business Survey found, “California dominates the list of the most expensive cities, with a total of 12 cities – nine in Southern California and three in the San Francisco Bay Area. Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area are the two most expensive metropolitan areas in the western United States.”

Leaving the Golden State

California net population outflow“There’s no question high taxes at least affect some people on whether to stay in California or move to a state with lower taxes,” Adibi pointed out. He provided CalWatchdog.com a chart showing “Net Population Outflow and Destination” for California. “Net” means both those coming into the state and those leaving.

From 2005 to 2013: 279,000 Californians left for Texas, 222,500 for Arizona, 157,200 for Oregon, 153,200 for Nevada, 98,300 for Washington State, 76,900 for Colorado and 59,500 for Utah; all other states were 217,500.

Rankings

Some other rankings from the Tax Foundation “Facts & Figures”:

  • Sources of California state and tocal tax collections: 28.1 percent from property tax, 22.3 percent general sales tax, 30 percent individual income tax, 4.3 percent corporate income tax and 15.3 percent all other taxes.
  • Federal aid as a percentage of general state revenue: 25 percent. The national average is 30 percent. That is, California is a “donor state,” it pays more into the federal government than it gets back.
  • State individual income tax receipts per capita: $1,750, ranking fourth; Connecticut was highest, at $2,174.
  • State and local sales tax rate: 7.5 percent, highest of any state. (Some local governments add to that.)
  • State gasoline tax rate per gallon: 45.39 cents, second highest. Pennsylvania is highest, at 50.50 cents.
  • State spirits excise tax rate, per gallon: $3.30, 39th highest; California is Wine Country. The highest was Washington State, at $35.22.
  • Like most states, California exempts groceries from the sales tax. The highest grocery sales tax is Tennesse’s, at 5 percent.
  • California does not have a state inheritance tax, or “death tax.” The highest state rate is Washington State, at up to 20 percent.
  • California state and local debt is $11,094 per capita, 8th highest. At the top is New York, at $17,405.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Cap-And-Trade Costs California Businesses $1 billion

California businesses paid a whopping $1 billion this year buying permits to comply with the state’s cap-and-trade law — the largest sale recorded since the state began regulating carbon dioxide in 2012.

Even with record permit sales, the $1 billion raised was well below market expectations. But environmentalists sold the auction as a huge success, because now oil and gas companies have to buy permits.

“Despite the oil industry’s fear mongering, the sky did not fall,” said Merrian Borgeson, a senior scientist at Natural Resources Defense Council. “California’s carbon market continues to hum along as expected, with this auction’s price right in line with previous auctions.”

Carbon emissions permits for 2015 only sold for $12.21 per metric ton, and permits for 2018 sold for $12.10 per ton. In total, the state sold 73.6 million permits for emissions in 2015 and 10.4 million permits for emissions in 2018.

“We are making progress toward a cleaner future,” Borgeson said. “Our clean energy policies cut dangerous emissions, boost the state’s economy, and drive investment in our most disadvantaged communities.”

But the record permit sales may not be the harbinger of good news that environmentalists and state regulators argue. As of this year, California expanded its cap-and-trade system to cover transportation fuels — meaning oil companies will have to buy carbon credits for the fuel they sell.

Before that, the state’s cap-and-trade law only covered several hundred industrial companies, like food processors, cement makers and other energy-intensive industries. Basically, the state forced more companies to buy permits and expanded the pool of permits — which means prices are lower than they would have been otherwise.

Also, California’s cap-and-trade system has been linked to Quebec’s emissions trading scheme to limit the economic impacts pricing carbon dioxide has on California residents. California officials are trying to convince other states to join their cap-and-trade plan to further disperse costs.

California passed its cap-and-trade law in 2006 under Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. The point of the law is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2030. The law went into full effect in 2012, when the first carbon permit auctions were held.

State regulators are still in the process of implementing a second prong of the 2006 global warming law: a low-carbon fuel standard. This requires oil companies to reduce carbon emission from gasoline 10 percent by 2020 — though the rule is being rewritten in the wake of legal challenges.

But that’s not all. California lawmakers are intent on halving the use of petroleum in the next 15 years. State Democrats have proposed a highly contentious law which would remove 8 billion gallons of fuel from state markets.

The oil industry has come out swinging against the legislation, saying it’s nothing more than an attack on oil companies and jobs.

“Legislative mandates to force reductions in gasoline use are not climate change policies,” Catherine Reheis-Boyd, president of the Western States Petroleum Association, said in a statement. “They are attacks on an important industry in California designed to create conflict and controversy.”

“Achieving so radical a goal in so short a time will require the removal of 8 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel from our fuel supply – with no guarantees that something will be available to replace them,” Reheis-Boyd added.

Originally published by the Daily Caller News Foundation

Follow Michael on Twitter and Facebook

California Business Needs to Go Small or Go Home

NO ESCAPE FROM THE TAX VICE-Here’s the bitter reality for business in much of California: there’s no cavalry riding to rescue you from the state’s regulatory and tax vise. The voters in California have spoken, and with a definitive, distinctive twist, turned against any suggestion of reform and confirmed the continued domination of the state by public employee unions, environmental activists and their crony capitalist allies.

You are on your own, Southern California businesses, and can count on very little help, and, likely, much mischief, from Sacramento and various lower orders of government. To find a way out of stubbornly high unemployment and anemic income growth, the Southland will need to find a novel way to restart its economic engine based almost entirely on its grass-roots business, its creative savvy and entrepreneurial culture.

This shift poses a great challenge, both for California’s interior counties and parts of the coastal region. Unlike Silicon Valley and its hip twin, San Francisco, no one is investing much in the Southland. Among the nation’s largest metropolitan areas, the Los Angeles region has become a corporate stepchild, trailing in new office construction not only to world-beaters like Houston, but also New York, the Bay Area and even slower-growing Philadelphia or Chicago. In fact, although the second largest metro area in the country, LA-Orange County does not even make the top 10 regions for new building.

Nor can we expect much in the way of residential housing growth, particularly single-family homes, as the state’s planners continue their jihad against anything smacking of suburban expansion.

Traditional industries like aerospace, manufacturing and logistics face enormous regulatory barriers, ruinous taxation levels and huge energy price increases that will slow any potential growth, and could lead to yet more departures by existing large firms. Virtually all the region’s former major established aerospace companies have relocated their headquarters elsewhere, which hurts efforts to get them to expand or maintain facilities here.

Despite all this, the Southland is not without considerable assets. Perhaps most promising is the region’s status as the nation’s No. 1 producer of engineers – almost 3,000 annually. This raw material is now being somewhat squandered, with as many as 70 percent of graduates leaving the area to find work.

But there’s no reason for unmitigated despair; overall, Los Angeles-Orange has increased its ranks of new educated workers ages 25-34 since 2011 as much as ballyhooed New York, San Francisco and much more than Portland, Ore. For its part, the Inland Empire ranked fourth among 52 large metropolitan areas in terms of increased presence of bachelor’s degree-holders in this age group, adding almost 19,000 college-educated people since 2011.

There’s also a case to be made for Southern California as an emerging tech hub. As venture capitalist Mark Shuster points out, the region ranks third, just behind the Bay Area and New York, for its percentage of the nation’s tech startups, and is now the fastest-growing. The overall tech base, which includes aerospace, is still the largest in the country, with more than 360,000 employees. As tech moves from basic infrastructure to application, Shuster argues, the Southland’s time may come.

Despite producing MySpace, the region may have lost out in the social media wars, but shifts in tech trends could turn out to be far more advantageous. This relative optimism is remarkable given the losses in so many key engineering-driven industries over recent decades, from electronics and energy to aerospace.

Southern California’s technology community could well benefit from such things as growing demand for content among tech firms, as well as attempts to reboot space exploration. Indeed, investor Peter Thiel recently suggested that the region’s technology industry is the most “underestimated” in the nation.

“I’d definitely be short New York and long LA,” Thiel told the Los Angeles Times, citing both commercial space pioneer SpaceX and Oculus, the Irvine-based maker of virtual-reality headsets.

The case for a grass-roots rebound of tech in Southern California depends heavily on one key asset – the presence of the nation’s largest community of people in the arts. Roughly half of these workers are self-employed, according to the economic forecasting firm EMSI.

The Silicon Valley may be ideal as a place to nurture digitial technologies, but “nerds” as a whole are not cultural mavens or trend-seekers. They are better at transmitting messages than putting something worthwhile in them. In contrast, Southern California excels in filling messages with product.

The large existing base of television, movie and commercial producers has nurtured skills that are sought worldwide. Yet at the same time, with the studio system clearly in decline, as large productions go elsewhere, digital players such as Netflix, Amazon, Apple, as well as Los Angeles-based Hulu, have become more important. Indeed, when my Chapman students, many of them film majors, discuss their futures, it is increasingly these intermediaries, not the studios, that they identify as critical to a successful career.

This suggests a very different picture of the Southland’s industry than the one normally associated with large companies, studios and deep concentrations of talent. In the future, more production will be done by individuals, sometimes working out of their homes, scattered across the region. According to Kauffman Foundation research, the LA area already has the second-most entrepreneurs per 100 people in the U.S., just slightly behind the Bay Area. By necessity, Southern California’s economy will become more entrepreneurial and grass-roots; even as we have been losing large companies, our percentage growth in self-employed is among the highest in the country.

Not surprisingly, this activity appears concentrated not in the traditional bailiwicks in the San Fernando Valley, or in the hyped Downtown-adjacent areas, but along the coastal strip from Santa Monica to Irvine that some promoters have christened “the tech coast.” This epitomizes the growing role of young individuals and startups – as opposed to veteran engineers – in shaping the Southland’s emerging tech economy.

This pattern, however, is not just restrictive to digital entertainment. Southern California’s network of tested aerospace engineers – which, at 5,000 people, is second only to Seattle’s – is one reason why companies like SpaceX have located here. In an economy that relies more and more on individual expertise, this is a critical advantage.

One powerful caveat: We are not likely to see much blue-collar spinoffs of tech here, due largely to high land, regulatory and energy costs. Space X, for example, may have its key brain power in Southern California, but has chosen to construct its spaceport in lower-cost, business-friendly Texas. Another aerospace firm, Firefly Systems, this year decamped entirely for Texas, moving its headquarters to the Austin area and rocket engine facilities to rural Burnett County.

This pattern suggests that many of our emerging firms may remain somewhat limited in scope and largely focused on high-end functions, which reduces the positive impact for the region’s struggling local middle class and working class.

But the new grass-roots economy does not apply only to tech. Los Angeles has seen a huge rise in the number of people working from home, a percentage that since 1980 has more than tripled even as transit’s ridership share has dropped. Small, home-based businesses are common not only in such fields as real estate, but also in business consulting and even trade.

These home-based businesses, and small ones tucked into strip malls or small industrial centers – for example, in food processing – represent the last, best hope for a revived Southland economy. Our corporate community seems destined to continue shrinking, but this does not necessarily mean that the overall economy has to follow suit. Unable to rely on local officials to make things better, our best chance lies with relying on the entrepreneurial spirit and creativity of our people – the very thing that made us such an economic beacon in decades past.

This article was originally puslibhed on City Watch L.A.

(Joel Kotkin is executive editor of NewGeography.com and Distinguished Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University, and a member of the editorial board of the Orange County Register. He is author of The City: A Global History and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. His most recent study,The Rise of Postfamilialism, has been widely discussed and distributed internationally. He lives in Los Angeles, CA. This piece was posted most recently at newgeography.com.)