Brown Leaves Newsom a Managerial Mess at DMV

dmvJerry Brown’s last days as governor have been filled with laudatory media accounts of his half-century-long political career.

Many of the plaudits were deserved. Some were not, such as claims that he single-handedly rescued California from the brink of a financial meltdown. Even he acknowledges that luck – eight years of unleavened economic expansion – played a big role in balancing a budget drowning in red ink.

Missing in the positive descriptions of Brown’s career was any mention of his penchant for shunning responsibility for shortcomings in the state government he managed for 16 years.

Infamously, he replied “shit happens” when asked about huge cost overruns and construction flaws in the project to replace a third of the San Francisco Bay Bridge – and that’s been pretty much his attitude on other problems.

He’s refused, for instance, to accept responsibility for whether a huge change in school finance he proposed and shepherded through the Legislature actually has its intended effect of improving the educations of poor and English-learner students.

In public statements, and even in responses to lawsuits, Brown has taken the attitude that having provided the extra money meant to help those kids, he should not be held responsible for whether it works.

Rather, he preaches a doctrine he calls “subsidiarity,” shifting the onus for what happens to local school officials – a handy rationalization since so far, the Local Control Funding Formula has not appeared to have much positive impact.

And then there’s the Department of Motor Vehicles, the state agency that Californians love to hate – with good reason.

The DMV and its director, career bureaucrat Jean Shiomoto, came under fire in the Legislature last year after revelations of hours-long waits at field offices for even the simplest of transactions.

The Legislature was on the verge of ordering State Auditor Elaine Howle to delve into the agency’s obvious managerial shortcomings when Brown intervened and privately persuaded members of the Legislature’s audit committee to back off. A critical report from Howle would have been a black mark on Brown’s gubernatorial legacy.

But no sooner had Brown dodged that bullet than it was revealed that the DMV had made many errors in automatically registering Californians to vote when they did business with the agency – errors so grievous that Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who oversees California’s election system, demanded a managerial overhaul.

It was embarrassing to Padilla and other Democratic politicians who had touted “motor voter” as a way of expanding voting in a state that has a very low participation level.

Late last year, Shiomoto saw the handwriting on the wall and announced her retirement. But then another DMV imbroglio surfaced.

The federal government had notified DMV in November that it was using a faulty process in implementing “Real ID” driver’s licenses, meant to defeat counterfeiting that would allow terrorists to board airliners.

California had already issued more than two million licenses or identification cards and the DMV claims – or hopes – that they will be honored even though the agency didn’t fully follow federal guidelines for confirming the identity of cardholders.

Beginning this year, DMV said, it will require applicants for Real ID to provide additional proof of legitimacy. Real ID will be required to board commercial aircraft in October 2020 and the agency was already way behind schedule on implementing the program.

The Real ID problem will fuel new efforts in the Legislature for a top-to-bottom audit of the agency’s managerial mess and how incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom deals with them will be revealing.

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

Gov. Newsom Will Face Intense Questioning on Bullet Train

High Speed RailWhen Gavin Newsom is sworn in as California governor on Jan. 7, he’s already indicated he will take criticisms of the state’s troubled $77 billion high-speed rail project seriously.

That’s in sharp contrast to outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown, who described project critics as “declinists” with no vision for what the Golden State could become. Brown only offered vague pronouncements when asked about giant cost overruns and the $50 billion or more gap between available funding and what’s needed to build the high-speed rail linking Los Angeles and San Francisco.

If Newsom lives up to his word, he’s going to need to respond to profound issues raised by project watchers in and out of the state government over the last two months.

In November, state Auditor Elaine Howle issued a harsh report on poor management practices in the California High-Speed Rail Authority, especially the billions in cost overruns due to the decision to launch construction of the project’s $10.6 billion, 119-mile first segment in the Central Valley before the authority was fully ready. Howle’s audit led Newsom to tell a Fresno audience that he might shake up the leadership of the rail authority.

Among the few specifically positive observations that Newsom has made in recent months about the project was that the first segment held promise to link Silicon Valley workers with less expensive housing in the Central Valley.

Project seen as ‘notoriously unpopular’ in Central Valley

But a Dec. 23 Sacramento Bee analysis found that even though the bullet train project was generating thousands of jobs in the agricultural region, it was “notoriously unpopular” among residents.

“They resent how construction has carved up their farms and scrambled their highways,” the Bee reported. “Completion of just a partial segment through the Valley is still years away, and residents doubt the project will ever get finished. They question the promises that high-speed rail will lift the Valley out of its economic doldrums.”

This skepticism is increasingly shared by elected Democrats both in the Central Valley and the rest of the state.

A Dec. 28 Los Angeles Times report quoted Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon as saying problems with the bullet train are so widespread that it should “be paused for a reassessment.” Rendon said the prospect that the project would run out of money before ever reaching the Los Angeles region left voters in the area feeling deceived.

Assembly Transportation Committee Chairman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, has made clear that he will work to have rail authority chairman Dan Richard ousted because of cost overruns and management issues.

The bullet train’s image has also deteriorated among state pundits.

When California voters approved $9.95 billion in bond seed money for the then-$45 billion project in 2008, the ballot initiative was broadly supported by newspaper editorial boards.

“Americans who visit Japan or Europe and hop a bullet train get a stunning reminder of how far behind much of the industrialized world we are in swift, clean, efficient transportation,” the San Jose Mercury-News editorial page declared on Oct. 18, 2008. “Californians can change that by approving Proposition 1A, a bond to begin construction of a high-speed rail system that would whisk passengers from Los Angeles to the Bay Area through downtown San Jose in a mere 2 1/2 hours. It will be a catalyst for the economic growth of California and this region over the next 100 years.”

An editorial printed last month in the Mercury-News showed a 180-degree swing in opinion: “The incompetence and irresponsibility at the California High-Speed Rail Authority are staggering. … It’s time to end this fiasco to stop throwing good money after bad.”

Decision on cap-and-trade funding may signal Newsom’s intentions

An early sign of Newsom’s level of enthusiasm for continuing on Brown’s path is likely in coming weeks as initial work is done on the 2019-20 state budget. The California Air Resources Board reported pulling in $813 million from its Nov. 14 auction of cap-and-trade air pollution credits – a heavy haul.

If Newsom opposes diverting 25 percent of cap-and-trade revenue to the bullet-train project – as has been done since 2015 – that will be the clearest indication yet that he is ready to back away from the troubled project.

Gov. Brown To Newsom: ‘Don’t Screw It Up’

Jerry Brown state of the stateDepending on how you interpreted Gavin Newsom’s campaign slogan “Courage For a Change,” he either has more courage than Jerry Brown — his campaign says that’s not what they meant — or that Newsom has the courage needed to bring about big changes.

For a man who often struggled to win Brown’s praise or even his attention, it’s an attempt to promise fresh ideas and perhaps a willingness to embrace issues the outgoing governor left for others, such as single-payer health care.

Either way, Newsom could be challenged by a possible economic downturn and a newly emboldened California Legislature with massive majorities in both houses.

“If you’re looking for timidity, I’m not your person,” Newsom said before the election. “If you’re looking for someone to be bold and courageous, lean into issues, change the order of things, I’m committing myself to that cause as the next governor.”

Newsom takes office Monday, bringing to the state capital a very different style and set of priorities. Journalists often referred to Gov. Jerry Brown as “the adult in the room” when he huddled with legislators to close their differences. It was not a label legislators much cared for. …

Click here to read the full article from NPR

Universal Government Preschool is a Bad Idea

preschoolBack in 2006, California voters decisively rejected liberal Hollywood director/activist Rob Reiner’s ballot initiative that would have provided government preschool to all four-year-olds. Yet, like a bad penny, efforts to resurrect universal government preschool keep turning up.

California’s newly elected governor Gavin Newsom campaigned on a promise to expand dramatically government preschool programs to younger children. He outlined his “California Promise” stating: “Our role begins when babies are still in the womb and it doesn’t end until we’ve done all we can to prepare them for a quality job and successful career.”

In December, Democrat California Assemblyman Kevin McCarty introduced several preschool-related bills, including one that would provide “high-quality universal preschool” through a combination of various programs “to all four-year-old children.”

California isn’t the only place pushing universal preschool.

In Chicago, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has rolled out a $175 million plan to offer government preschool to all four-year-olds by 2021-22. Interestingly, universal preschool proponents often cite the results of an earlier preschool program, the Chicago Child-Parent Center program for low-income children, to bolster their case for universal preschool. However, looks are deceiving.

It turns out that the Chicago Child-Parent Center program relied on extensive parent training, a feature notably absent from universal preschool proposals such as Assemblyman McCarty’s in California.

As psychologist Dr. Michael Thompson of Children’s Hospital in New Orleans noted, if policymakers mistakenly believe that preschool results in better life outcomes, “they may mistakenly invest in these programs when the money might be better invested in parenting-skill programs or other interventions to increase parental involvement.”

Overall, data do not support the call for increased taxpayer investment in government preschool.

Proponents claim that getting more young children into universal preschool programs will boost school performance and close alleged achievement gaps.

However, Vanderbilt University professors Dale Farran and Mark Lipsey, writing for the Brookings Institution, warn that the most-cited studies used to advocate for universal preschool are inadequate for claiming any long-term benefits of pre-K programs since the programs studied were so small and targeted.

“Contemporary preschool programs are not like these intensive small-scale demonstration programs,” say Farran and Lipsey.

“To assert,” say the Vanderbilt professors, “that these same outcomes can be achieved at a scale by pre-K programs that cost less and don’t look the same is unsupported by any available evidence.”

In fact, Farran and Lipsey point out that more in-depth studies of the lasting impact of public preschool programs, including the federal Head Start program for low-income children and Tennessee’s Voluntary Pre-K program, reveal that “early gains at the end of pre-K were not sustained as long as to the end of kindergarten.”

By second and third grade, the academic performance of children in the Tennessee pre-K program lagged the control group of children who did not participate in the program.

By third grade, the children in the Head Start program were found to be more aggressive and have more emotional issues than the children who did not attend the program.

Further, there is little evidence that universal preschool programs have lasting benefits for non-disadvantaged children.

Looking at available research at the time of Rob Reiner’s universal preschool initiative, RAND found that “children participating in preschools not targeted to disadvantaged children were no better off in terms of high school or college completion, earnings, or criminal justice system involvement than those not going to preschool.”

We all want to help children succeed and flourish. The messaging that surrounds expansion of universal preschool programs glowingly suggests that earlier schooling will close achievement gaps, improve academic performance and emotional health, and have an enduring, positive impact on a child’s life and livelihood.

Much evidence, however, suggests otherwise. Taxpayers should be wary of supporting pre-K expansion plans that may sound promising but fail to deliver desired results.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom Wants to Spend $2 billion on Early Childhood Education

School-education-learning-1750587-hSeeking to frame his new administration as one with a firm focus on closing the gap between children from affluent and poor families, Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom will propose spending some $1.8 billion on an array of programs designed to boost California’s enrollment in early education and child-care programs.

Newsom’s plan, which he hinted at in a Fresno event last month, will be a key element in the state budget proposal he will submit to the Legislature shortly after taking office Monday, a source close to the governor-elect’s transition team said Tuesday.

The spending would boost programs designed to ensure children enter kindergarten prepared to learn, closing what some researchers have called the “readiness gap” that exists based on a family’s income. It would also phase in an expansion of prekindergarten and offer money to help school districts that don’t have facilities for full-day kindergarten. …

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

Gavin Newsom Inherits California’s Troubled Bullet Train Project

High Speed Rail ConstructionGov. Jerry Brown has devoted half a century of political knowledge and power to advance the California bullet train construction project, but he leaves office with its future badly damaged by cost overruns, mismanagement and delays.

It hands incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom a tough decision: delay indefinitely the goal of a statewide bullet train system and salvage something useful out of the billions of dollars already spent, or stick with the original vision and find at least $50 billion in new money to keep it going.

Either option will probably lead to a clash between the project’s die-hard supporters and its skeptics. Almost every major engineering and construction firm has a big stake in the project, as do unions, small businesses and city governments. The outcome will depend on how much fiscal pain and risk Democrats are willing to accept.

So far, Newsom has only hinted at what he will do, saying at times the effort must continue in some form — though with less gusto than Brown exhibited as he championed what has grown into the nation’s largest infrastructure effort over the last eight years. …

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

Democratic State Senator Wants to Give CA Homeless a ‘Right to Shelter’

800px-Helping_the_homelessDemocratic lawmakers are already gearing up for brawls with Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom over costly efforts to expand state government with a single-payer health care system and a bold new push for subsidized pre-kindergarten education. Now, another ambitious bill with a huge price tag has emerged: one guaranteeing the state’s steadily growing homeless population an inherent right to government paid or provided shelter.

A 2017 federal estimate put the total number of California’s homeless at 134,000. If 100,000 took advantage of shelter at a cost of $100 per night, that’s a $3.65 billion annual outlay.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, is the lead proponent. He told the Bay City Beacon that his “right to shelter” Senate Bill 48 is inspired by the policy put in place by New York City in 1981 after New York courts interpreted the state’s constitution as creating such a right.

“Shelter isn’t the ultimate goal – permanent housing is the goal – but shelter is a critical step in helping people get back on their feet. Access to shelter shouldn’t depend on where you live, yet in California today, it does. Too many parts of California either have no shelters or inadequate shelters,” Wiener said in a statement about his measure.

Wiener won praise from some fellow Bay Area politicians for his framing of the homeless crisis as a state problem, rather than one that should be seen exclusively as a local headache – one that San Francisco has seemed overwhelmed by in recent years.

“Elevating this up above our internal San Francisco food fight is certainly good,” San Francisco Supervisor Rafael Mandelman said.

Proposal knocked for vagueness on details, funding

A 2017 report in The Urbanist online magazine found that while the focus had long been on San Francisco’s homeless population, officials in neighboring counties – Alameda, Oakland, San Mateo and Santa Clara – all struggled to come up with effective plans and funding to deal with their growing homelessness.

However, some of the coverage of Weiner’s bill paralleled the criticism that California Senate Democrats faced in 2017 when they passed Senate Bill 562. It would have committed the state to establishing a single-payer health-care system without offering such key details as how its $400 billion annual cost would be covered – or outlining how such a state law could overcome the obstacles to state single-payer that are well-established in federal law. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon knocked senators for expecting the Assembly to fix a bill that was “woefully incomplete.”

Similarly, San Francisco Chronicle columnist Heather Knight wrote last week of Wiener’s bill, “He doesn’t know exactly how it will work. He doesn’t know how much it will cost or how it will be funded.”

In interviews, Wiener offered a vague vision of a statewide network of “Navigation Centers” – friendlier, more supportive homeless shelters that offered access to health, substance abuse and other programs.

Inspired by New York City program with many critics

Yet even after Wiener begins fleshing out his proposal in substantive ways, California residents will learn that the history of New York City’s pioneering program is as problematic as inspirational. While the city’s program is widely praised on humanitarian grounds for sheltering more than 60,000 people a night, it has also long been a political punching bag that faces criticism from across the ideological spectrum.

A 2017 report by the Daily Beast website – normally sympathetic to liberal initiatives – was typical.

On the left, there are complaints about the shoddy, crime-ridden private facilities and residential hotels that the city contracts to handle some of the homeless.

Moderates worry that so much is spent on shelter that there’s not much money left to spend on programs to transition the homeless to jobs and productive lives.

Conservatives like the American Enterprise Institute’s Kevin Corinth say there’s statistical evidence that family homelessness is increasing much faster in New York City than nationally because once such families secure city shelter, parents lose their incentive to seek jobs or career training. The average stay in a shelter is more than a year.

But on his home turf, at least, Wiener is finding praise for thinking big.

“We can’t just have people languishing and dying in the streets as we wait decades to build enough affordable housing for everyone,” San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen told the Chronicle. “We need a safe, dignified place for people to be in the interim.”

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California State Board Votes to Restrict Water to Farmers

Drought water cropsCalifornia’s State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) voted Wednesday to approve the Bay-Delta plan, which will re-allocate water from farms and cities to the environment in an effort to restore dwindling fish numbers.

The plan will require tributary rivers within the San Joaquin watershed to maintain an average water level of 40% of “unimpeded flow” — that is, the flow that would exist without human activity — during the spring season.

The result is that less water — “billions of gallons,” according to the Fresno Bee — will be available to the farming communities of the Central Valley, as well as to San Francisco and its suburbs, which rely on water from the area.

Last month, outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown and incoming Gov. Gavin Newsom asked the SWRCB to delay its vote by a month to allow time for local water authorities to reach voluntary settlement agreements (VSAs) as an alternative to the new plan. In the interim, several local irrigation districts did, in fact, commit to investing in conservation and environmental projects that would theoretically help restore fish populations without giving up quite so much water.

But as the Bee reports, the SWRCB — all of whose members were appointed by Brown, and who are thought to be partial to environmental groups — passed the plan anyway “to put pressure on a group of holdout water agencies.”

The Trump administration has promised to take legal action to block the plan, which may be moot as a result. Some environmental groups have criticized the Bay-Delta plan for not going far enough.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Hints of California’s Democratic Agenda to Come

CapitolIt’s just the beginning.

California lawmakers kicked off a new two-year session Monday, a day full of pomp and ceremony and not a lot of substance. But a few eager legislators began putting bills across the desk, giving an early indication of some key policy fights that will shape 2019.

Some of the early legislation reflects policy priorities Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom championed on the campaign trail — calling for more housing, health care and early childhood education. (Newsom will be sworn in on Jan. 7.) Other bills amount to a take-two for lawmakers who saw their policies stall out or get vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

It’s too soon to say how these proposals will fare—a long road of compromises often separates a bill’s introduction from the gubernatorial signature that turns it into a law. But here are a few themes emerging in this first day of legislative action:

Disaster

California’s recent wildfires are clearly a preoccupation. Both chambers opened with a moment of silence for victims of the Camp and Woolsey fires. In one of the more gripping moments of the morning, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon listed, name by name, the many California counties that, just at the moment, are recovering from climate-driven natural disasters, and what Gov. Jerry Brown termed “the new abnormal” figured heavily into his and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins’ opening remarks.

On Monday, Democratic Assemblyman Jim Wood, who represents fire-scarred Santa Rosa—and who, as a forensic dentist, has been helping to identify remains in the Camp Fire — introduced legislation to hasten, broaden, subsidize and better codify local fire preparedness. As last session’s hard-fought wildfire bill demonstrated, though, the costs and liabilities associated with wildfires can politically be a hard sell.

Critics of Pacific Gas & Electric, whose equipment has been linked to many of last year’s fires, have been adamant in their demand that the state not give the massive utility a bailout. Assemblyman Chris Holden, a Pasadena Democrat, had planned to introduce language on Monday that would have expanded last year’s wildfire bill to give PG&E relief for potential liability for the Camp Fire, which killed at least 85 people, but over the weekend, Holden said he would wait.

Housing

Lawmakers introduced several bills aimed at alleviating the state’s housing crisis on the first day of the legislative session, including twin efforts to revive a controversial funding source for affordable housing.

Assemblymember David Chiu, Democrat from San Francisco, reintroduced a bill that would revive and reform redevelopment agencies across the state. Eliminated by Gov. Brown in 2011 to close the state’s yawning budget deficit, redevelopment agencies provided about $1 billion annually for the construction and preservation of low-income housing. Loathed by Brown, tax funds raised by these agencies were frequently used for questionable purposes.

Two of Chiu’s colleagues in the state senate unveiled their own version of “Redevelopment 2.0” on Monday. Senator Jim. Beall, Democrat from San Jose, and Sen. Mike McGuire, Democrat from Marin, announced they will be introducing a series of bills in the coming weeks to ease the state’s housing crisis, although the specifics of their redevelopment bill or other pieces of legislation were not yet made public. On the campaign trail, Gov.-elect Newsom made restoring redevelopment funding a cornerstone of his housing plan.

Lawmakers introduced a handful of other housing bills, including efforts to increase emergency funding to renters on the brink of homelessness and a major expansion of tax credits to low-income housing developers. But the biggest housing bill of the session will likely be announced tomorrow.

Sen. Scott Wiener, Democrat from San Francisco, plans to reintroduce his controversial bill that would allow taller, denser buildings around public transit, a measure that was widely admired and summarily trounced last year.

Preschool

If there is a sure bet this legislative session, the expansion of early childhood education is as close as it comes.

Stymied for years by Gov. Brown, who was wary of putting the state on the financial hook for an obligation as long-term and expensive as, say, universal preschool, Democrats have come to the table well-armed. Earlier this year, a Stanford-led team of academicians issued a massive study recommending that California spend much more on pre-K education. And Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, who has four young children, has been touting early childhood education for years.

On Monday, Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty of Sacramento was first out of the gate, with a package of bills worth nearly $2 billion that would add about 84,000 full-day preschool slots, mostly for students living in poverty; put a $500 million bond on the 2020 ballot for the construction of new preschool facilities; and increase reimbursement rates for private childcare and preschool providers that contract with the state.

The legislation effectively would increase the pool of eligibility for subsidized preschool to include more 3- year-olds and all 4-year-olds living in school attendance areas where at least 70 percent of kids are on free or reduced lunch, a poverty indicator. One of the bills also would raise preschool learning standards to align them better with K-12 curriculum. “

Take Two

Or three. For the last two years legislative Democrats have proposed expanding government-funded health care to undocumented adults, the largest segment of Californians who lack access to insurance. Doing that is expensive, and the proposals failed to make it into the final budget Brown signed in 2017 and again this year.

Now Democratic Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula of Fresno and Sen. Ricardo Lara are trying again, introducing bills on Monday to expand Medi-Cal to cover adults over age 19 who are in the United States illegally.

Also getting another go are some high-profile bills Brown vetoed last year, including one inspired by the #MeToo movement to stop sexual harassment. Assembly Bill 9 by Democratic Assemblywomen Eloise Gomez Reyes and Laura Friedman would give victims more time to file a claim—extending the deadline from one year to three years after an incident.

Brown vetoed the same policy this year, saying the one-year deadline “ensures that unwelcome behavior is promptly reported and halted.” Supporters counter that more time gives workers who are unfamiliar with the legal system enough time to hold predators accountable.

Brown also vetoed legislation to require colleges to provide abortion pills at campus health clinics, saying “the services required by this bill are widely available off campus,” and that students, on average, only have to travel a few miles to get it. Newsom quickly told reportershe would have signed the bill, so it was little surprise Monday when Democratic Sen. Connie Leyva came out with a second go in the form of Senate Bill 24.

Gig Economy

A major source of angst or ebullience—depending on your view—at the end of the last session was a state court decision that threw a monkey wrench into a legal pillar of the gig economy.

The so-called “Dynamex ruling” makes it harder for employers to classify workers as independent contractors. Cheered by organized labor, it impacted workers from Uber drivers to businesses to emergency room doctors, and sent Chamber of Commerce lobbyists scrambling for relief, or at least clarification.

On Monday, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, a San Diego Democrat and labor ally, said she will introduce a bill to put a statutory bulwark around the ruling. Business interests, meanwhile, are hoping to soften the blow. Touching on competing goods from across the political spectrum—jobs, tech, small business, fair pay—this is one of those vexing issues that could challenge even a super-duper-mega-majority.

CALmatters’ Ricardo Cano and Matt Levin contributed to this report.

 

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

Gov.-Elect Newsom’s Tax Reform Plans Will Face Bipartisan Risistance

Gavin newsomGovernor-elect Gavin Newsom says he hopes to amend the California tax code to lessen its dependence on income and capital gains taxes paid by the very rich. Yet the last two serious attempts at tax reform were both dead on arrival, and the political dynamics since their failure appear unchanged or even more unfavorable.

With the state overdue by historical standards for another recession, Newsom is well aware of the revenue nightmare that is looming. After the Great Recession hit a decade ago, state revenue plunged nearly 20 percent – leading to harsh budget cuts in education, public health and social services. Since income and capital gains taxes generate about two-thirds of state revenue, volatility is common.

The revenue decline a decade ago led then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to create a commission that in 2009 recommended slashing taxes on income and capital gains while imposing taxes on broad categories of services including legal work, haircuts and tickets to sports and entertainment events. The goal was a tax code rewrite that was initially revenue-neutral but that could end up creating considerable new revenue because of provisions designed to promote economic growth.

Democrats see income-tax cut as gift to rich

Yet while commission heavyweights like former Treasury Secretary George Shultz and many economists touted the wisdom of the proposal, the commission’s tax-overhaul blueprint was blasted by both parties from the moment it was released.

Democrats said the plan was a giveaway to the rich. Republicans knocked it for expanding government taxation to new areas.

The scheme – dubbed the Parsky plan because Rancho Santa Fe GOP businessman Gerald Parsky chaired the commission – never even came up for a committee hearing.

Six years later, in 2015, state Sen. Robert Hertzberg pushed a similar proposal, but with a twist. Instead of being revenue-neutral, has plan would yield $10 billion in new revenue a year. Yet Hertzberg’s plan was also DOA in the Capitol for the same reasons as Parsky’s.

Now, with the progressive wing in more complete control than ever of Democrats, their antipathy toward the idea of tax relief for the rich may never have been stronger. That was reflected in the recent Sacramento Bee story about Newsom’s interest in revamping the state tax code.

Jessica Bartholow, policy advocate at the Western Center on Law & Poverty, told the Bee that the tax code shouldn’t be changed to help the rich and big business.

“Capital gains is money earned by people who didn’t earn it,” Bartholow said. “If wealthy corporations and people are having an upswing in their interests, then why shouldn’t the poorest people?”

Republicans fear reform would prove bait-and-switch

The strongest voice in support of tax reform the Bee cited was Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable. But the basic sentiment conservatives expressed about the Parsky and Hertzberg plans – Sacramento wants to tax even more human activities? – is at least as intense as in 2009 and 2015. There is considerable suspicion that any reform plan would end up as a Trojan horse for much higher taxes.

This is fueled by evidence that Democrats are gearing up for a huge push to hike taxes even though state revenue is at an all-time high. The most high-profile gambit is qualifying a measure for the 2020 ballot that would end Proposition 13 protections against property tax hikes of more than 2 percent a year for commercial and industrial properties.

This tax-hike fervor is already evident in local governments, including some under Republican control. As CalWatchdog reported last month, more than 150 local governments asked voters to raise taxes in the June and November elections. While most of the tax hikes were adopted after campaigns depicting them as crucial to public safety and to maintaining government services, by far the fastest-growing category of local spending is on pension costs, which are predicted to roughly double for California cities from 2015 to 2025.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com