Can Taxpayers Be Grateful This Thanksgiving?

As inflation takes a bigger bite out of your turkey than you do, it may be hard to find reasons to be grateful. But the truth is we still have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Here’s a few reasons why.

In the Legislature, success is often measured not in how many pro-taxpayer bills are passed but by how many anti-taxpayer bills are stopped. And, in that regard, this past year was better than expected.

A bill that would create a California Universal Basic Income and proposed to pay for it either through a value-added tax, raising corporate taxes or implementing a tax on services died in committee. Another bill that would have created a wealth tax failed to receive a hearing before deadline. An attempt to raise the already highest in the nation income tax rate for Californians making over $1 million to as high as 16.8%, was held in its first committee. A bill to create a single-payer healthcare system, and double the state budget in the process, was tabled.

In all, eleven bills HJTA opposed failed to make it out of the legislature. Five bills we supported were signed by the governor. One bill we opposed was vetoed by the governor. Five bills we supported failed to get out of the legislature. Eleven bills we opposed were signed by the governor and one bill we supported was vetoed by the governor.

HJTA went 17 for 34 this legislative session. We batted .500. Not bad for a taxpayer group in California. For that, we should be grateful.

Click here to read the entire article at the Press Telegram

‘Flash Mob’ Loots California Nordstrom, At Least Two people Arrested

At least two people were arrested at gunpoint after a flash mob of shoplifters robbed a California department store late Saturday night, a report said.

The incident happened at the Walnut Creek Nordstrom store, according to NBC Bay Area reporter Jodi Hernandez.

Some two dozen cars blocked the street as throngs of robbers rushed the store, made off with merchandise and sped away, the reporter tweeted.

Cops with guns drawn arrested two suspects, she said.

Click here to read the full article at NY Post

California Receives Initial $58 Million from DOT for High Speed Rail Transit, Cycling ‘Infrastructure’ Projects

Funding ‘was really supposed to repair and maintain current infrastructure’

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Alex Padilla (D-CA) announced on Friday that the Department of Transportation (DOT) has given its first grants from the recently passed $1 Trillion infrastructure bill to California, with $58 million going to transportation projects in Northern California and to the California High-Speed Rail Authority.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority was the biggest recipient of the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity Grant Program, receiving $24 million to expand state route 46 in the Kern County city of Wasco to be a staging and storing area. Another $18 will go to the San Francisco County Transportation Authority (SFCTA) for an earthquake retrofit of the Yerba Buena Island west side bridge, as well as greater access to the bridge for cyclists.

Oakland will receive $14.5 million to enhance their civic hub by improving walking, cycling, and public transportation projects, with a special focus on connecting Oakland with San Francisco via rail lines such as BART and Amtrak. Finally, the Yolo County Transportation District (YCTD) will get $1.2 million to fill in gaps of their current transportation system, as well as to improve bike and walking networks.

Both Senators noted on Friday the importance of these early infrastructure funding blocks.

“My thanks to Secretary [Pete] Buttigieg and the Transportation Department for these grants that will help California continue to modernize our transportation infrastructure,” said Senator Feinstein. “These projects include providing safer, more connected bikeways and walkways in San Francisco; assisting the City of Wasco with creating safer railway infrastructure; and connecting biking and walking paths in Oakland and Yolo County. Promoting cleaner, safer modes of transportation is a key part of improving California’s infrastructure.”

An initial $58 million in infrastructure funds

Senator Alex Padilla (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

Senator Padilla, who has served less than a year as Senator, also noted that “From day one, I have worked to ensure that we use our infrastructure investments to help reconnect our communities, and I am proud to see federal efforts to do just that. From San Francisco to Wasco, this critical funding will help make our roads and bridges safer, help decongest our highways, and allow for more Californians to access our outdoor trails. As we continue to make significant investments in our state and nation’s aging infrastructure, I will continue to advocate for funding that serves our most in-need communities.”

However, many critics and experts criticized the funding on Friday for favoring bike projects over safety and repair projects.

“Whether you wanted the bill to pass or not, the point is we have it now,” San Diego-based urban planner and transportation planner Michael McGuiness Jr. told the Globe Friday. “But that was really supposed to repair and maintain current infrastructure, or build new pieces as needed. Instead, California gave a hint at where its money would be going today by putting most of it into mass transit and cycling. There was a needed bridge project in San Francisco, but that’s really about it. The largest chunk even went into the high-speed rail project, which is billions over budget and years behind schedule. So a lot is going into a future white elephant.”

“Plus, they largely ignored huge swats of the state, including all of California south of Bakersfield and north of the Bay. At first glance, these grants don’t look like they’re fairly going out.”

More grants and funding coming into California for infrastructure projects are expected to be announced soon.

This article originally published in the California Globe

California Analyst Predicts $31 Billion Budget Surplus

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California is on track to have so much money that state officials will likely have to give even more of it back to taxpayers to meet constitutional limits on state spending, according to a new forecast from the state’s independent Legislative Analyst’s Office.

The state’s annual “Fiscal Outlook,” released Wednesday, predicts a $31 billion surplus for the 2022 budget year that begins July 1. The analyst’s office says state is on pace to have so much money that it could exceed a constitutional limit on state spending by $26 billion over three years. That could require Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers to either cut taxes, spend more money on infrastructure or — perhaps the most popular choice in an election year — give rebates to taxpayers and spend more on public schools.

“We think it will … turn out to be a pretty significant issue for the Legislature to consider in this coming budget process,” Legislative Analyst Gabe Petek said.

Newsom won’t reveal his budget proposal until January. But on Wednesday, the governor indicated his favored giving some of the money back to taxpayers. That’s what he and the state Legislature did earlier this year, approving rebates totaling $12 billion for some taxpayers in a state budget that was also projected to exceed the spending limit.

“How we framed that historic surplus last year, similarly, we will frame our approach this year,” Newsom said during a news conference at the Port of Long Beach. “I’m very proud of the historic tax rebate last year, and I look forward to making the decision that I think is in the best interests of 40 million Californians.”

California’s tax collections have continued to soar despite the pandemic. From April through June of this year, California businesses reported a record high $216.8 billion in taxable sales — a 38.8% increase over the same period in 2020 and a 17.4% increase over those months in pre-pandemic 2019. Nick Maduros, director of the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, said it is “a sign that business owners found creative ways to adapt during a difficult year.”

Click here to read the full article at AP

What Can We Expect in a Frackless California? Economic Devastation, More Energy Imports.

Care to guess the last time the governor’s office issued a new fracking permit? It was February.

Now that’s a meaningless fact without context, so let’s put it perspective: Even though “Newsom endorsed an end to fracking” while running for governor in 2018, says California political legend Dan Walters, his administration early on increased the flow of fracking permits.

But then Newsom later “came under heavy pressure to match his words with action,” Walters continues.

By November 2019, Newsom had set ​a moratorium on fracking projects. Before permits would be issued, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers would review plans to ensure they met regulatory requirements. Yet it wasn’t terribly long before “the state issued 48 new permits for hydraulic fracturing,” according to the Associated Press.

Then the recall collar got tight in April. The governor’s response was to ban new fracking anywhere in the state by 2024. Even though he previously said he didn’t think he had the authority to prohibit the process and asked the Legislature to do it for him. And even though a legislative attempt never made it out of committee.

So can we expect in a frackless California?

Energy analyst and author Michael Shellenberger says Newsom’s fracking prohibition is simply “​​bonkers.” Assemblyman Rudy Salas, a Bakersfield Democrat, called it “an abuse of power” that will “put the lives, economy and well-being of thousands of California families in jeopardy.” Western States Petroleum Association President and CEO Catherine Reheis-Boyd says it’s an “arbitrary” action that will impose “big impacts on Californians.”

Both the Western States Petroleum Association and the board of supervisors in oil-rich Kern County, which produces roughly two-thirds of the crude that California doesn’t import – making the county the seventh highest oil-producing region in the U.S. – have sued the governor over his order. It’s an existential matter for each party.

In “The Killing of Kern County,” Joel Kotkin, presidential fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University and executive director of the Urban Reform Institute, usefully explains for the many in Sacramento who are missing the point that oil (and agriculture) are the foundations holding up the county’s economy. Despite what’s at stake, Kotkin believes Newsom is more “interested in flattening the area’s aspirations” than unlocking its potential, which the governor once pledged to do.

Regulators, for instance, turned down 21 fracking applications in Kern County in a single month over the summer. With one of every seven workers in the county either employed by or reliant on the oil industry, the denial of so many jobs is not an insignificant blow to the economy.

The energy producers of the WSPA are also at risk. Court rulings in Newsom’s favor make the next step – the complete shutdown of oil production across the state – much easier to take.

Maybe the oddest part of any California energy story is the fact that officials and activists seem to have no reservations about importing what they consider “dirty” energy from other states. That reliance is only going to grow as long as Sacramento is at war with fossil fuels.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute

California Plans to Throw More Money at Homeless Despite Homelessness Rising

During the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness in California tripled, meaning that only 36% of homeless people lived that way before the pandemic. Now, the Golden State is attempting to turn the situation around with a $12 billion spending package to create more permanent housing and mental health centers for the homeless. This is by far the largest spending spree California spent on this crisis, but as always, big spending doesn’t mean big solutions.

One solution goes towards providing each homeless person a bed to sleep on, as across California, the ratio of beds to people is 1. 3. The bill created two projects which give homeless people temporary housing in hotel and motel rooms (Project Roomkey) and created roughly 6,000 new units (Project Homekey).

However, creating new short-term shelter options doesn’t help get people into permanent homes. Additionally, many homeless people don’t want to return to shelters where they are in danger of theft and violence by other destitute there.

Click here to read the full article at San Diego News Desk

Parents Taking on the Leviathan

17th-century theorist Thomas Hobbes argued that members of any distinct society must subject themselves to an absolute sovereign as the only way to preserve their own lives and security. His book, “Leviathan,” reflected the political world view of the age. Proving him wrong was a small group of Puritans who established a tiny colony near what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The term Leviathan as used today in political discourse simply means a large, oppressive government or force, much like the Old Testament monster from which it derives its name. And even though the United States is based on the anti-Hobbesian theory of consent of the governed, there remain large forces that demand submission from citizens.

One of those large forces is the education establishment found both at the state and federal level. Large bureaucracies backed by powerful labor organizations have a vice-like grip on how our children are taught and what they are taught.

But things may be changing. The election earlier this month, more than anything, demonstrated that parents are angrily rejecting the education Leviathan. Republican Glenn Youngkin artfully deflected Terry McAuliffe’s claim that he was a Trump clone. And most pundits believe the deciding factor in the race was McAuliffe’s gaffe saying parents shouldn’t have a say in what their kids are taught. McAuliffe’s terminal case of political tone-deafness is replicated here in California, where the California Teachers Association and its affiliated local branches are increasingly viewed negatively by voters across the political spectrum.

As reported in the Los Angeles Times, the head of the United Teachers of Los Angeles, Cecily Myart-Cruz, claimed that there is “no such thing as learning loss” for students who were forced into remote learning during the pandemic, saying the children learned “survival” and “the difference between a riot and a protest.”

The arrogance revealed by Myart-Cruz might explain why the Los Angeles Unified School District has seen its steepest enrollment decline in 20 years, dropping by more than 27,000 students. Disaffected parents are discovering that, while escaping the Leviathan isn’t easy and sometimes requires sacrifice, the benefits to their children are worth the cost. Charter schools, private schools and homeschooling options have exploded throughout the state.

Click here to read the full article at Daily Bulletin

$1.4 Million in Bogus Workers’ Comp Insurance Premiums Collected by Unlicensed OC Agent, Prosecutors Say

Workers’ Compensation form with pen and glasses

A former Costa Mesa resident, who was arrested in October on suspicion of collecting over $1.4 million from companies paying for bogus workers’ compensation insurance coverage, made her first court appearance in Orange County last week to face multiple felonies.

Karyl Lynn Reed, 57, was taken into custody in Seabrook, Texas and then brought before a judge in Santa Ana during an arraignment hearing on Oct. 27, California Department of Insurance officials said in a news release. She was accused of multiple felony counts of grand theft, embezzlement and forgery, according to court records.

Reed worked as an unlicensed insurance agent and ran two companies called Envoy Business Partners and Allenn Specialty Group, CDI officials said. Prosecutors accuse her of using those companies to produce fraudulent certificates of insurance to fool her victims and collect premiums for non-existent coverage from them.

Click here to read full article on ocregister.com

California Needs Details on Hydrocarbon-Free Future

Well, that was awkward.

Gov. Gavin Newsom stalled for weeks on attending last week’s global conference on climate change in Glasgow, then announced at the last moment that he would, only to just as suddenly announce that he wouldn’t “due to family circumstances” which were never explained.

Instead, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis led a couple of dozen administration officials and legislators to the conference, and they were largely confined to the sidelines.

Newsom’s last-minute decisions stymied California reporters who had planned to cover his performance on the international stage, because they came too late to apply for press credentials.

Journalists could only monitor from afar, which rendered California’s tertiary participation to almost a non-event, from a news standpoint.

Kounalakis told CalMatters reporter Emily Hoeven, who had planned to accompany Newsom to Glasgow: “The overall message is the strength of California’s subnational leadership and the power of our innovation economy to help the world scale up on climate solutions.”

Kounalakis took that message to one of the panel discussions in which she participated, saying that “California has been the tail that has wagged the dog on environmental protection.” She cited Newsom’s order to ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035, contending that “We are the largest consumer market in the United States, and this standard is most certainly already shaping the future.”

Having the lieutenant governor travel all that way, by hydrocarbon-powered transport at no small expense, to merely echo what Newsom has been saying for the past three years was pretty lame.

That said, it’s high time that Newsom put some meat on the bones of his sweeping promises that California will lead humankind into a brave new hydrocarbon-free future.

If California is to ban sales of gasoline-powered cars in the next 14 years, how will it be done? While California leads the nation in the sale of battery-powered vehicles, they still are only a tiny percentage of overall auto purchases.

Will California have an adequate infrastructure of charging stations? Will it even have enough electrical power available for charging, given that it sometimes cannot meet current demand during hot summer days?

Simultaneously, Newsom wants to eliminate all power generation from natural gas and other hydrocarbon sources, so what’s the plan for that conversion? Can we develop enough solar and wind power to meet all demands for juice?

What will we do when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow? We would need immense banks of batteries or other storage facilities to take up the slack. Will there be enough lithium to construct those batteries without depending on other nations?

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Newsom also wants to stop oil and gas production in the state by 2045? Where are the details and how will the impacts on the petroleum industry’s thousands of workers — in the fields, in the refineries and in the gas stations — be mitigated?

If California is to be hydrocarbon-free in just a few decades, will that mean banning diesel-powered ships from California’s ports and jet planes from the state’s airports? Will we even have airports anymore?

If we can no longer buy gasoline-powered lawnmowers and other tools, how will we do the work they now perform? Will homes, hospitals, schools and other vital buildings be left without backup power from standby generators when the grid goes down? Will firefighters no longer have chain saws and bulldozers to battle wildfires?

These are serious questions and issuing sweeping decrees without telling us how hydrocarbons will be eliminated and what the effects will be on our lives is political malpractice.

This article originally appeared on CalMatters.org

The High Cost Of Driving In California Is No Accident

How about some gas facts?

In late October, the highest price for gasoline in the country was a “mind-numbing $7.59 a gallon” for regular, $8.50 for premium in Gorda, on California’s central coast.

The average prices for regular, mid-grade, and premium are highest in California, $4.60, $4.78, and $4.90 a gallon, respectively, according to AAA. Prices are rising nationwide, but those numbers are still far in excess of the U.S. average of $3.40 a gallon.

The average gasoline price in Los Angeles had risen for 18 straight days through Oct. 29.

Late October was also when gasoline prices in San Francisco reached an all-time high, passing “the previous record of $4.743 per gallon, set over 3,300 days ago in 2012,” says Gas Buddy.

California shows up as an outlier far out of sync with the rest of the nation in the Gas Buddy price heat map.

Two days before Halloween, “parts of California,” most of them in the northern half, “recorded their highest average gas prices ever,” KTLA reported.

None of this is due to bad luck or unhappy coincidences. Nor can “profiteers” or speculators be blamed for the surge. The high prices are by design. The factors driving prices them are the products of deliberate policymaking:

  • California has the highest motor fuel taxes in the country – 67 cents a gallon, says the Tax Foundation, using American Petroleum Institute data. Second highest are in Illinois, 60 cents a gallon. The national median is about 30 cents a gallon.
  • Due to “big-government energy policies,” California drivers pay a 37% premium for gasoline compared to the national average. Backing off these mandates would have saved drivers $9.6 billion in 2020 over 2019.
  • Carbon cap-and-trade policy adds more than 14 cents a gallon to the cost of gasoline in California.
  • The state’s low carbon fuel standard increases prices 22 to 24 cents per gallon.
  • As requirements of cap-and-trade and the low carbon fuel standard become more demanding, their costs will continue to add up, reaching a range from 89 cents to $2.10 a gallon.

Let’s end with a quiz. Who said: “Somehow, we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe”?

No, it wasn’t a California official. It was Steven Chu, a Berkeley-trained, Nobel-winning physicist who taught at Stanford, and was serving as the Obama White House’s secretary of energy when he made the statement. The words just happen to sound a lot like those a Sacramento lawmaker would string together.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.