Democrats return to Sacramento, without their supermajority

Both houses of the California Legislature will convene Wednesday afternoon for the formal beginning of an eight-month session to craft a state budget and consider hundreds of proposed laws.

And they will do so with three fewer lawmakers, two having resigned after being accused of sexual harassment.

The national conversation over sexual misconduct —  including the decision by women in California politics to decry what they call a culture of harassment around the state Capitol —  has taken place during the almost four months in which the Legislature has been in recess.

Two Democrats —  former Assemblymen Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) and Matt Dababneh (D-Woodland Hills) —  resigned in the wake of allegations by women about incidents during their political campaigns and while in office.

A third legislator, Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles), resigned last week, citing serious health issues. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

Will change in recall rules protect Democrats in Legislature?

State Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, left, listens as Senate President Pro Tem Kevin del Leon, D-Los Angeles, right, urges lawmakers to approve a measure to change the rules governing recall elections, Thursday, June 15, 2017, in Sacramento, Calif. Democratic lawmakers approved the bill that would let people rescind their signatures from recall petitions and let lawmakers weigh in on potential costs. Newman is facing a recall campaign over his vote to increase the gas tax. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Compared to citizens of other states, Californians are pretty laid back. But while Californians may have a reputation for being “chill,” in the political realm, they can act with surprising intensity and speed.

In 2003, when newly re-elected Gov. Gray Davis revealed that the budget was in much worse shape than he had admitted and announced a sharp hike in the car tax, Californians signed recall petitions at such a rapid pace that the recall qualified for the ballot on July 23. The election was held on October 7, and a new governor was sworn in on November 17.

Fast forward to, 2017. On April 6th, state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, cast the deciding vote to pass Senate Bill 1, a $5.2 billion annual increase in the gas and car tax. A recall effort was launched against him, and by the end of June, more than 80,000 voters in Senate District 29 had signed petitions to recall him. Only 63,593 signatures were needed to qualify the recall for the ballot.

Failing to learn the lessons of the past, the Legislature and the governor decided to change the rules for recall elections, enacting SB96 as a last-minute budget “trailer” bill. (Trailer bills are supposed to be “budget related” but that’s another legislative abuse).

SB96 included new rules to slow down the recall and removal process that the state constitution and accompanying statutes had made speedy and immediate. The law required the verification of every signature, instead of a random sample. A new waiting period was added to allow petition signers to consider whether they wanted to withdraw their signatures. The law added a new requirement for an analysis of the cost of the recall election, along with a review of the cost by the legislature. And the law applied the new rules retroactively to any recall efforts that were underway at the time.

Where the previous rules had strict time limits to ensure a speedy election, allowing voters to immediately remove a state official from office, the new rules made the time period for recalls not only longer, but indefinite.

The law prohibits the secretary of state from certifying the recall petition until the governor’s Department of Finance and the Legislature have had an opportunity to estimate and examine the costs of a recall election. There’s no time limit to complete the cost estimate, effectively allowing an endless delay. That’s on top of the extra 40 working days that the law added for petition signers to consider withdrawing their signatures.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association sued to get SB96 overturned as unconstitutional, and a judge agreed, preventing the law from taking effect. But again our clueless Legislature rushed to pass a new law, SB117, that worked around the judge’s objections and reinstated the lengthy and costly new recall procedures.

As a result, voters have effectively lost the right to recall elected officials, just when they need it most.

It seems that every day brings new allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct by lawmakers in Sacramento. The Assembly Rules Committee’s chief administrative officer, Debra Gravert, told Capitol Weekly that outside law firms are conducting seven investigations, and Senate Leader Kevin de León’s office confirmed two investigations on the Senate side.

Voters may not be happy with Sacramento’s system of protecting lawmakers. It starts with a byzantine process that discourages victims from reporting incidents, and then, when misconduct becomes public, hides the facts behind a cloak of attorney-client privilege. And voters may not want to wait around for lawmakers to decide when they feel like resigning.

But under the new recall rules passed to protect Josh Newman from the rage of voters in his district, sexual harassers are likely to have a free ride, at taxpayer expense, all the way until the next regularly scheduled election.

In twice changing the recall rules to protect one tax-loving politician, the Legislature and governor have not only revealed their disdain for the tools of direct democracy but they have made it easier for abusive and predaceous politicians to escape the wrath of voters.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register

How California’s new laws could change your life in 2018

Every year, the California Legislature passes hundreds of bills, ranging from technical clarifications to funding proposals that keep the state running. How have they changed your world this time? Here are some of the new laws – the useful, the controversial, and the downright quirky – taking effect on Jan. 1, 2018.

Hiring

A prospective employer will no longer be able to decide how much money to offer you by asking what you made at your last job. Under Assembly Bill 168, the salary history of job applicants can only be disclosed voluntarily. Supporters say the law could help women close the persistent gender pay gap. Assembly Bill 1008 aims to improve employment prospects for formerly incarcerated job seekers by banning the box on applications that asks about criminal conviction history. It builds on a 2013 law for public employment in California, expanding the policy to cover most private companies in the state as well. Employers will still be able to conduct a background check once a conditional offer has been made, but the law, which is part of a national ban-the-box movement, is meant to give former convicts a better opportunity to be considered on their merits before they are judged for past mistakes.

Elections

Get ready for a new era of voting in California: Senate Bill 450, which passed in 2016, does away with neighborhood polling places and replaces them with elections conducted primarily by mail. It represents another effort to boost sagging voter participation. Under the system, which Sacramento is among the first counties to adopt, every registered voter will receive a mail ballot. Drop-off locations will be available up to four weeks before election day, and temporary regional “vote centers” will open 10 days ahead of time to register voters and accept ballots. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Another Democratic Assemblyman Abruptly Retires

Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas abruptly announced his resignation from the California Legislature on Wednesday, citing health reasons.

Ridley-Thomas, a Democrat from Los Angeles, informed Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) Tuesday night.

“The reason for this difficult decision is that I am facing persistent health issues,” Ridley-Thomas, 30, said in a written statement on Wednesday. “On December 18th, I underwent surgery for the fifth time this year. Although I expect a full recovery, my physicians advise that I will need an extended period of time to recuperate.”

Earlier this year, Ridley-Thomas was absent from work for more than two weeks. Staff members initially said the absence was a personal leave, then said the time off was due to unspecified medical reasons. His resignation letter on Wednesday offered no additional details. …

Click here to read the full article from the Los Angeles Times

New California law could give free rides to those too drunk to drive

It’s an all-too-familiar scene in Sacramento. A group of friends heads to midtown for a night of partying and drinking, but one friend has to miss out on the fun and stay sober to be the designated driver.

A new law that takes effect Jan. 1 may not only let everyone join in on the fun, but it’ll also mean more money for the bubbly.

Under Assembly Bill 711, alcohol manufacturers and licensed sellers can offer free or discounted rides to transport drinkers home safely through ride-sharing services, taxicabs or other ride providers.

Vouchers or codes can be given to alcohol sellers or directly to consumers, but cannot be offered as incentives to buy a company’s product. Current law restricts alcohol licensees from offering discounts of anything more than inconsequential value to consumers, though liquor and wine manufacturers have been temporarily allowed to pay for rides for people attending private, invitation-only events. …

Click here to read the full story from the Sacramento Bee

California Legislature denies another request for harassment records

The California Legislature has refused to release additional information on sexual harassment complaints requested by the Los Angeles Times in the wake of widespread scrutiny on how the Capitol handles such matters.

Officials representing the Senate and Assembly each said late Tuesday that they were denying a request by The Times, submitted on Nov. 3, for data beginning in 2006 for “all cases involving current and former employees of the [Legislature], current or former members, or any other person who was the subject of an inquiry by the [Legislature] where the charges were found to be true, discipline was imposed or the complaints were judged to be well-founded.”

Daniel Alvarez, the secretary of the Senate, and Debra Gravert, the chief administrative officer of the Assembly, cited the Legislative Open Records Act in denying the request. The act says certain records are exempt from mandatory disclosure, including personnel files and records of complaints to or investigations conducted by the Legislature.

The Times has sent three requests to each chamber seeking aggregate data and other information about sexual harassment complaints. The officials responded earlier this month with “summary data” on the number of investigations conducted, but left other parts of the request unanswered. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

Lawmakers to Californians: Do as we say, not as we do

CA-legislatureWith a declaration that “public servants best serve the citizenry when they can be candid and honest without reservation in conducting the people’s business,” lawmakers passed the California Whistleblower Protection Act in 1999.

The idea was to protect workers who report misconduct, so that they can blow the whistle on bad actors without losing their jobs. The bill at that time covered workers at state agencies and California’s two public university systems. Lawmakers expanded it in 2010 to cover employees of the state’s courts.

But one group of California government workers has never had whistleblower protection under the law: those who work for the lawmakers themselves. It’s an example of how the Legislature sometimes imposes laws on other people that it doesn’t adhere to itself.

“Lawmakers make laws that affect all of us, including them, and they are softening the blow of regulations for themselves,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School who chairs the Los Angeles Ethics Commission.

“It feels like double talk.”

The Legislature’s exemption from the Whistleblower Protection Act has garnered attention in recent weeks, as a groundswell of women complaining of pervasive sexual harassment in the state Capitol publicly call for such protections for legislative employees.

But the whistleblower act isn’t the only area of the law in which the Legislature has demonstrated a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality:

Public records

Want to know whom government officials are meeting with, talking to or emailing? Or how officials were disciplined after an investigation found them culpable of wrongdoing?

State agencies and local governments must release such information — calendars, emails and disciplinary records — under the California Public Records Act, which the Legislature created in 1968. But the same information is nearly impossible to get from state lawmakers because the Public Records Act does not apply to the Legislature.

Instead, lawmakers are covered by the Legislative Open Records Act, which they passed in 1975 in the wake of the Watergate scandal. The act that applies to them is riddled with exceptions, effectively keeping secret many documents that other branches of government must disclose.

“The Legislature has created in many areas a black box where the public can’t see records it would be entitled to see if the public officials at issue weren’t in the Legislature,” said David Snyder, executive director of the First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit organization advocating government transparency.

The Legislature’s open-records law allows it to withhold investigations of wrongdoing, even when they led to disciplinary action. It also keeps secret correspondence by lawmakers and their staff, as well as officials’ calendars. The Legislature even refused to give reporters the calendars of two senators undergoing federal prosecution on corruption charges, until media companies sued and won a court order compelling their release.

Another difference: As more government agencies began storing information electronically, the Legislature updated the Public Records Act in 2000 to compel disclosure of digital records. Now state agencies and local governments must provide public records in any format in which they exist. That gives the public access to electronic records, such as databases, in their original digital format.

But the Legislature has never made the same update to its own open-records act. “It was a non-starter,” former Assemblyman Kevin Shelley told the Sacramento Bee in 2015.

Open meetings

The idea that government meetings should be open to the public, and designed to welcome public input, has been enshrined in California law for more than 60 years. In 1953 the Legislature passed the open-meeting law that applies to local governments, and in 1967 it passed a similar one for state agencies.
Yet the 1973 law it passed requiring open meetings of the Legislature does not follow the same rules. One major difference: It allows legislators to gather secretly in partisan caucuses.

When contentious issues hit the floor of the Assembly or the Senate, it’s common for one political party or the other to pause proceedings and call for a caucus. Legislators file out of the chamber and into two private meeting rooms where Democrats and Republicans separately gather for conversations that exclude the public and the press. They can hash out disagreements or craft strategy behind closed doors, then return to the chamber to publicly cast their votes.

Local governments, such as city councils, cannot do this. With a few limited exceptions, state law forbids a majority of a local board from gathering privately precisely because it shuts the public out of the decision-making process.

“I always remember county supervisors being rankled,” said Peter Detwiler, a retired long-time staffer to the state Senate’s local government committee. “‘You guys put these rules on us and you don’t ever put rules like that on yourself.’”

The same laws also slow down decision-making by local governments and state agencies so that the public can weigh in. Local governments must give at least three days’ notice before taking action, while state agencies have to post agendas 10 days in advance.

Legislators, until this year, did not have the same constraints. Though most bills go through a months-long process of public deliberations, a handful of bills each session were written just hours before lawmakers cast votes on them, leaving the public no time to offer their input. Democrats who control the Legislature said the last-minute lawmaking allowed them to put together sensitive compromises that could have blown up with more public scrutiny.

But voters grew frustrated with the secrecy. A Republican donor worked with non-partisan good-government groups to put Proposition 54 on last year’s ballot, requiring that bills be written and posted online for at least three days before lawmakers can vote on them. The result: voters put a rule on legislators that the politicians wouldn’t put on themselves.

Out of state travel

With culture wars raging nationally over transgender rights, California’s liberal Legislature last year passed a law banning state-funded travel to states with laws that discriminate against gay or transgender people. Eight states are now on California’s no-go list. Some have laws that could forbid LGBT people from adopting children or exclude gay students from some school clubs; others have banned anti-discrimination policies that would allow transgender people to use the bathroom that matches their identity.

Yet while legislators have banned state-sponsored travel to Alabama, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee and Texas, they haven’t stopped traveling to those places themselves. In June, Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara traveled to Texas for a conference of Latino government officials. Soon after, Democratic Sen. Bob Hertzberg went to Kentucky to study the state’s bail system.

Hertzberg was working on legislation to overhaul bail in California, and “felt it critical to observe first-hand the impact of bail reform in (Kentucky), which has a very well-established system of pretrial release,” his chief of staff Diane Griffiths wrote in an email.

The travel-ban bill does not exempt lawmakers — a late amendment actually specifies that it also applies to the Legislature — so how are these trips taking place? Lawmakers are getting around the law by using campaign funds (not tax-dollars) to pay for them.

The Legislature’s leaders declined to defend the exemptions, but in the past lawmakers have contended that they are justified because of the unique role of a law-making body and the need to protect legislators’ security. As far as critics are concerned, legislators get away with making exceptions for themselves because their hypocrisy doesn’t attract enough notice to generate mass outrage.

Right now there’s plenty of attention on the Legislature over its policies for dealing with sexual harassment — and some debate about whether extending the whistleblower act would help remedy the problem.

As is, the Legislature has internal personnel policies that forbid retaliation, and legislative employees are also covered by a different state law that prohibits retaliation for complaining about discrimination or harassment. But the whistleblower act goes even further, laying out a process for workers to confidentially file complaints to the independent state auditor.

Lawmakers will yet again consider a bill giving whistleblower protection to legislative staff when they return to Sacramento next year. GOP Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore plans to re-introduce a measure that has stalled in the past. And — in a nod to some who have say that her bill wouldn’t apply to employees reporting sexual harassment — she said she’ll add language explicitly stating that it does.

This article was originally published by CalMatters

Which legislators stood up for California taxpayers this session?

CapitolIn 2017, the California Legislature launched a sustained and withering assault on middle-class taxpayers. Its victories were numerous and significant: A $75 per document recording tax was approved, affecting up to 400 different transactions; a gas and car tax, which takes effect November 1, will cost California households another $600 a year; and an increase in environmental regulations, known as cap-and-trade, could increase the cost of fuel by an additional 70 cents/gallon by 2030.

In the face of such devastating policies, it is easy for taxpayers to question whether legislators will ever be held accountable. However, a useful tool to assist taxpayers is the annual legislative Report Card published by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Introduced back in 2007, the point of the report card is to document how lawmakers have voted on issues important to taxpayers. Lawmakers tend to hide behind statements, often of dubious veracity, to justify their votes. The report card sets aside motives, politics and party affiliations and simply asks one question: did legislators stand up for the interests of taxpayers?  While politicians may obfuscate, the numbers don’t lie.

HJTA’s 2017 scorecard featured a list of 22 bills which, represents a broad sample size, making it easy to see who is either a friend to taxpayers or beholden to the special interests that pervade the state Capitol. Beyond the obvious tax increases listed above, other bills include those that make it easier for local governments to increase sales taxes, and allow for San Francisco Bay Area residents to increase bridge tolls. Attacks on the initiative process are another common theme highlighted in the scorecard.

Given the policy breadth of the bills listed above, it should come as no surprise that the 2017 scorecard was nothing short of abysmal. A record 79 legislators failed the scorecard while only 24 got a grade of “A.” Ten legislators received the coveted and difficult to get perfect score in 2017: Assembly Members Travis Allen, Brian Dahle, Vince Fong, Jay Obernolte and Jim Patterson. They were joined by State Sens. Joel Anderson, Patricia Bates, Jean Fuller, Mike Morrell and Jeff Stone. These legislators should be commended for their diligence on behalf of taxpayers. …

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

Sexual misconduct in the California Legislature – Outside firm hired to investigate

Nancy Skinner

State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, is among more than 140 women who signed the letter detailing sexual harassment in politics and demanding that it end. (Bert Johnson/KQED)

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, announced on Tuesday that the state Senate will hire outside firms to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct at the Capitol in Sacramento – allegations referenced in an open letter signed by women claiming widespread harassment while working in California politics.

“There’s always more employers can do to protect their employees,” de León said. “Everyone deserves a workplace free of fear, harassment and sexual misbehavior and I applaud the courage of women working in and around the Capitol who are coming forward and making their voices heard.”

The open letter was published on wesaidenough.com.

“The time has come for women to come together, to speak up and to share their stories,” part of the letter read. “The time has come for good men to listen, to believe us, and to act as strong allies by speaking out against harassment in all its forms.”

Below the text was a box to share and submit a story of your own to the group.

“If you see – or experience – inappropriate behavior, don’t sweep it under the rug. Speak up, speak loud, and know there is a community of people who will support you. Let’s work on the solution together,” the letter added.

In particular, the writing criticized the Legislature’s procedures for dealing with such complaints, with some women arguing they fear speaking out over concerns that it will put their professional life in jeopardy.

“If you hang someone out to dry as a Weinstein of the Sacramento community, that sort of gives folks the political cover to say look we got the bad guy, we fixed this,” lobbyist Samantha Corbin told the Sacramento Bee. “That’s not true. We want long-term culture change where men are held accountable and there is a system where woman can work and feel safe.”

Assembly leaders also said this week that they will launch public hearings, prompting some speculation that the claims are being given a heightened sense of attention in wake of the Harvey Weinstein sex scandal that has rocked Hollywood.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, issued a joint statement with with Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale.

“First, we must change the climate that has allowed sexual harassment to fester,” the statement read. “Second, we must ensure victims have a safe and dependable environment to come forward and discuss complaints no matter who the perpetrator is and without detriment to their career or environment. Third, we must ensure that sexual harassment is dealt with expeditiously and that the seriousness of consequences match the violations committed.”

The move by de León comes just days after he announced his primary challenge to longtime incumbent U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., likely creating a sense of urgency to quell any criticism that he presided over a toxic and abusive culture while in leadership in Sacramento.

The Law Offices of Amy Oppenheimer will conduct the investigation and CPS HR Consulting will “review the Senate’s policies and practices against harassment, discrimination and retaliation,” according to de León.

One of the more explosive allegations comes from lobbyist Pamela Lopez, who described to several papers an incident where a current lawmaker, who has not been named, shoved her into a bathroom and masturbated in front of her.

The actions come in conjunction with the #MeToo campaign, which is spreading across social media, where victims are documenting their experiences with harassment.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Is California’s Tax Burden “Fair”?

TaxesA recent report by the highly regarded Calmatters.com found that the State of California has been on a “taxing binge” over the past few years, having enacted a whole slew of recent tax increases such as the “gas tax,” the “cap and tax” energy taxation scheme.

The Calmatters.com analysis found that the recent state tax increases “plus a slew of new local government levies and hikes in personal income and taxable retail sales, will raise total tax collections to just under $300 billion, or $50 billion more than they were just two years ago,” according to the report.

“Nearly $200 billion will go to the state and more than $100 billion to schools and local governments,” states the report, which concludes that California likely has the “highest” tax burden in the nation.   (Note:  As good as the original Calmatters.com revenue analysis is, there appears to be several major revenue sources excluded such as “fee” revenue, county revenue sources, and “special district” revenue to name a few.  Based on my rough estimations the total state and local burden is likely closer to $400 billion, possibly more, if “all” revenue sources are included) 

That puts the state’s total estimated tax burden at an estimated $300 billion, which is roughly 11.5% of the state’s economy, based 2016 California Dept. of Finance figures that peg the state’s total economic activity at about $2.6 trillion.

To put this into perspective, the federal budget recently approved by the Senate proposes about $4 trillion in spending, which is about 21% of the nation’s $19 trillion in estimated gross domestic product (GDP), according to figures produced by the Trump Administration.

It must also be noted that these figures fail to adequately account for significant “deficit spending” and “mounting debt” at all levels of government, which have the effect of pushing an increasing tax burden into the future.

Thus, while the federal government is considering a dramatic reduction in tax rates, California government continues on a “taxing binge.”

A new updated report by the California Taxpayers’ Association (Cal-Tax) found that the Democrat-run California Legislature has proposed “more taxes and fees in the first half of the 2017-18 legislative session than in all of 2015 or 2016,” states the report.

The Cal-Tax report found that California Democrat lawmakers have collectively introduced 89 proposals that “cumulatively would cost taxpayers more than $373 billion annually in higher taxes and fees,” states the report.

This “taxing binge” at the state level, has been copied at the local level of government in California in recent years with a record amount of tax and bond measures being proposed in the June and November 2016 elections.

According to a report by CaliforniaCityFinance.com, there was an “unprecedented” 452 tax increases and 184 separate bond measures placed on the November 2016 ballot by California local governments and school districts.  More than 80% of the local tax increases passed and more than 97% of the bond measures passed.

But these overall figures, don’t tell the whole story. The key policy questions that emerge are what are the factors driving this “acceleration” in the California tax burden? And how are California state and local governments spending all this additional tax revenue?

A third question that I believe must be asked yet often is not, is who is paying all these additional state and taxes?

As an expert in state and local finance, I have extensively studied the facts and evidence on all of these questions and drawn some overarching conclusions.

First, the key factor driving the recent “acceleration” in the state’s tax burden is “unchecked” and “unsustainable” increases in the “cost of government” in California at both the state and local levels.

The state’s “public employee pension crisis” is the biggest single driver of the “cost of government,” combined with significant baseline expenditure increases in current and retired public employee health care costs.

Given that labor costs typically compose more than 80% of public sector budgets, and more than 90% of the cost increases, the “cost of government” cannot be addressed without significant mitigation of public employee compensation cost increases.

Second, how are state and local governments spending this additional tax revenue?  This issue is connected to the first question and touches on perhaps one of the most disturbing trends in California public finance—this money is primarily being squandered on “unsustainable” increases in the cost of government, not on improving government services and infrastructure.

Unfortunately, the complex nature of public budgets makes it very easy to hide the nature and extent of cost increases.  But my overall conclusion is simple, the “driving forces” behind both the underlying “need” for the tax increase as well as the actual expenditures themselves are caused primarily by “unsustainable” increases in public employee compensation costs.

In short, baseline public employee compensation costs are rising at rates that far exceed average revenue growth for public agencies.  Based on my review of local and state budgets, during economic expansions stand and local revenue growth averages about 4-7% per year, compared to increases in public employee compensation costs that average between 10-25% of total agency costs.

Thirdly, who pays this increasing state and local tax burden?  This is also a complex question, but there is no question that the heaviest tax burden falls on average Californians and small businesses, particularly the poor.

A 2015 report by the California budget project, found that California’s lowest-income families pay the largest share of their income in state and local taxes, with the bottom 1/5 of all taxpayers paying 10.5% of their income in taxes.

Incidentally, these same low-income and poor families are paying nearly 70% of their income in housing costs, according to the California Legislative Analyst.

That is why the recent tax increases approved by the California Democrat Legislature are so “offensive” because they take a bad problem and make it even worse.

The $5-6 billion increase in the “gas tax” and vehicle fees is highly regressive, and so is the “cap and tax” scheme which creates a new energy tax burden that will be the heaviest on poorer individuals and families, along with small businesses.

As for the whole slew of local taxes, those also tend to fall disproportionately on “average” taxpayers, small businesses, and homeowners, as opposed to special interests who can afford to mount major opposition campaigns, thereby preventing such proposals in the first place.

Ironically, there continues to be calls for “tax reform” in California, but if you look behind these “tax and spend” efforts such as the “Make it Fair Campaign,” they all propose billions in additional taxes, particularly on individuals and small businesses.

But to truly make the state’s tax system “more fair,” that would require limiting future tax increases and lowering taxes on “average” Californians, homeowners, and small businesses.

Unfortunately, there are very few “well heeled” interest groups in Sacramento who are willing to champion that cause.

David Kersten is the president of the Kersten Institute for Governance and Public Policy—a Bay Area-based public policy think tank and consulting organization. Kersten is also an adjunct professor of public budgeting at the University of San Francisco. 

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily