California Legislature to Make Obama-Era Environmental Regs State Law

CA-legislatureThe Democrat-controlled California Legislature is moving to memorialize into state law all of former President Barack Obama’s environmental rules and regulations.

Democrats in the California State Assembly and Senate are proposing legislation that, if passed and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, would codify the federal air, water and endangered species standards at the end of President Obama’s administration into state law, according to a report by Politico.

Led by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and other Democrats in his caucus, the bills would require California regulators to maintain air and water pollution standards that are at least as stringent as federal law required when President Obama left office last month.

The legislation would not only require that California mandate protections for the 1,276 species currently on the U.S. Endangered Species Act list, but it would also extend state protections to “threatened” species, Politico explains.

The proposed California state legislation would also seek to interfere with the Trump administration’s plan for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to begin leasing some of the 15.2 million acres of federal lands in California to private developers for oil drilling, logging and other purposes. To further frustrate those leasing efforts, Democratic lawmakers are also expected to propose that the California State Lands Commission shall have the first right of first refusal for any BLM transactions in the state.

De León and California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced in a joint statement on January 4 that the state legislature’s Democrats intended to litigate disputes with the incoming Trump administration by hiring former Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. as an outside legal counsel, according to NPR.

Governor Jerry Brown warned the incoming Republican administration, according to NPR, “We’ve got the scientists, we’ve got the lawyers, and we’re ready to fight. … We’re ready to defend. California is no stranger to this fight.”

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Race Against Rain: Oroville Dam Must Drain 50 Feet by Wednesday

Oroville DamOfficials are releasing water from the Oroville Dam, the nation’s highest, at the astonishing rate of 100,000 cubic feet per second, with the goal of lowering the lake’s elevation by 50 feet before a week of rain and snow hits the region Wednesday.

At a press conference Sunday night, law enforcement and California Department of Water Resources officials announced that they had released enough water to stop flow over the emergency spillway, reducing the risk of erosion and structural collapse. The lake dropped below its maximum height of 901 feet above sea level, and was continuing to subside, officials reported.

However, water was continuing to flow into the lake behind the dam at a rate of 40,000 cubic feet per second, the result of runoff and snow melt from weeks of heavy precipitation after five years of drought. As a result, the dam would need to be drained as quickly as possible over the next 72 hours. The maximum release rate is about 150,000 cubic feet per second, though officials are reluctant to release water down the main spillway at that rate because of the risk of structural damage.

Already, the main concrete spillway has developed a large hole, which officials estimate will cost $100 to $200 million to fix. The adjacent emergency spillway, which drains onto an unpaved hillside of soil, rocks and trees, has also developed a hole  that could result in structural failure and that officials may have to plug by dropping rocks from helicopters. If the emergency spillway does collapse, it could lose 30 feet in height, releasing a wall of water into the Feather River below, which drains into the Sacramento River. That poses a severe risk to communities below the dam, including the state capital of Sacramento.

Officials issued an emergency evacuation order Sunday afternoon, warning that the emergency spillway was expected to collapse within an hour. That led to massive traffic jams as residents drove northward towards Chico. Though the spillway remains intact for now, nearly 200,000 residents from Oroville and surrounding communities remain under evacuation.

California Gov. Jerry Brown issued an emergency order Sunday evening and indicated that the state was managing the relief effort.

Officials also said they were cooperating with the federal government. Separately, Gov. Brown had asked President Donald Trump for federal emergency relief funds to address damage to the state done by storms earlier this year.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

California: Time for a Major Change in Course

Governor Jerry Brown, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, legislative and other government officials are fixated on battling the new administration in Washington with almost total disregard for California’s major problems and unmet needs. Failure to address these pressing problems threatens the viability of a state whose status is rapidly being transformed from “golden” to “tarnished.”

To help the political class refocus on the important, here is a list of the most exigent problems accompanied by modest solutions, as compiled by a couple of veteran taxpayer advocates who speak with, and hear from, thousands of California taxpayers.

  • car highway roadRoads & Highways – Just about any road trip one drives on in California confirms that we have gone from a world leader in highway capacity and quality to barely a third world contender. Major changes are in order. Our gasoline tax must be dedicated to roads and highways alone, not to other general fund uses like paying off state general obligation bonds, as is now the practice. Also, Senator John Moorlach’s demands to reform Caltrans should be a top priority. California spends 4.7 times as much per mile of state highway than the national average, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and a 2014 government report concluded the transportation agency was over-staffed by 3,500 positions. Additionally, we should end the practice of requiring “prevailing wages” on public works projects, which are estimated to add up to 20 percent on every road and other public improvement.
  • Energy Costs – Gasoline formulation requirements, “cap and trade” and other responses to climate change must be revisited with demonstrable science and hard-headed realism to help low and middle income Californians who struggle with the costs of transportation and household energy. This is not climate change denial, but rather a recognition that it is patently unfair to burden the citizens of one state with the entirety of a global problem.
  • Business Regulations and Lawsuit Abuse – Manufacturing restrictions, wage and salary rules, workers’ compensation standards, frivolous lawsuits and “sue and settle” standards have driven the aerospace and most other manufacturing industries out of California. Time for tort and regulatory reform to establish a business-friendly climate that will encourage refugees to return and lure others to relocate here. Note: The Nestle Corporation has just announced it is moving its U.S. headquarters from Glendale to Rosslyn, Virginia taking hundreds of high paying jobs with them.
  • Land Development and Housing Costs – The mid ‘70s pioneering California Environmental Quality Act has created a nightmare for those seeking affordable, conveniently located housing, workplaces and shopping centers. It has been used as a weapon by environmentalists, competitors, “NIMBYs” and labor organizations to limit – and dramatically drive up the cost of homes, apartments and other needed facilities. Fortunately, despite the best efforts of some in Sacramento, Proposition 13 remains on the job protecting homeowners from runaway property taxes that could force them from their homes.
  • Public Transit – Gov. Brown’s “Bullet Train to Nowhere” is in a death spiral due to lack of public support, refusal of the federal government and the private sector to provide additional funds, and out of control costs due to mismanagement, malfeasance and insurmountable engineering hurdles. But fixed route/fixed rail transit remains part of the liberal social planners’ mantra. Other than in highly congested urban areas, public transit is unjustifiable in terms of both capital and operating costs. With the advent of Lyft, Uber, self-driving cars and even Elon Musk’s Hyperloop — that, within a few years, could move passengers at a faction of the cost of rail — private companies and entrepreneurs are offering answers to the mobility problem. This justifies placing renewed emphasis on fixing and expanding our highway system.
  • Education Improvements and Cost Control – “School choice” is the answer to improving K-12 student learning results. The political clout of the California Teachers Association and other teacher unions has blocked progress. Properly framed ballot initiatives may be the only realistic avenue to reform as we must stop the automatic and mindless Proposition 98 commitment of nearly half of general fund revenues – regardless of need – to K-12 and community colleges.
  • Public Employee Wages, Benefits and Pension Reforms – Public sector compensation costs for California, at both the state and local levels, are now clearly unsustainable. According to the Department of Labor, California state and local employees are the highest compensated in all 50 states. Pay, benefits and pensions of public employees have become disproportionate to their private sector counterparts who foot the bill. Adding to the approaching calamity is mismanagement – which has included criminal bribery – at CalPERS, the state’s largest public employee pension fund. Politically motivated investment strategies and fanciful predictions of return on those investments have left taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of billions of dollars in unfunded liability for current and future retirees. Consideration must be given to shuttering CalPERS and fairly allocating to each current employee their share of the retirement funds, arranging for the public employer to make up the difference for what has been promised to date, and move from “defined benefit” to “defined contribution” plans for all existing and future employees. Otherwise, this pension burden has the potential to grow so large that California will not be able to fund the most basic services and as residents flee to other states, the last one out will be asked to turn out the lights.

We call on our representatives to stop pursuing discretionary causes and pet projects and come to grips with these real problems facing all Californians.

Lewis K. Uhler is Founder and Chairman of the National Tax Limitation Committee and National Tax Limitation Foundation. He was a contemporary and collaborator with both Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman in California and across the country.

Jon Coupal is the President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. He is a recognized expert in California fiscal affairs and has argued numerous tax cases before the courts. 

This piece was originally published by HJTA.org

Gov. Brown Strong on Rage, Light on Solutions to State’s Problems

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

What is the state of the state in California? Apparently it’s under siege. Gov. Jerry Brown’s annual address sounded more like a commander rallying his troops to resist an occupying force than an informative report from the state government’s chief executive.

“The recent election and inauguration of a new president have shown deep divisions across America,” said Brown. “While no one knows what the new leaders will actually do, there are signs that are disturbing. . . . Familiar signposts of our democracy – truth, civility, working together – have been obscured or swept aside.”

He returned to the theme moments later, saying that “while we now face different challenges, make no mistake: the future is uncertain and dangers abound. . . . this is a time which calls out for courage and for perseverance.” He promised that as leader of the resistance, he would provide both.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon set the tone before Brown spoke. He railed about “the threats from the new administration to our state’s values and its people,” then declared himself to be “glad to have Gov. Edmund G. Brown fighting with us and for all of us,” as if Brown were preparing to lead soldiers into battle.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León followed, declaring that the California proposition that “every person should enjoy the right to be exactly who they want to be and have an equal opportunity to succeed” is “now under threat.”

And rather than take a more judicious path, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom continued the theme.

“In the last few months,” he said, “we have announced repeatedly and emphatically that we are unafraid to fight.”

Is this the way that the political leaders of a dynamic and influential state should be conducting themselves? These are the people that Californians elected to run the government and make the laws. Is creating an illusion that the state has to defend itself from invaders the best they can do?

Brown called California the “great exception,” which is what it once was, attracting opportunity seekers and tireless workers from across the country and all over the world. But now it’s the “great exception” because even as the Blue State model has been rejected elsewhere, California won’t let go of the government architecture that has caused breakdowns in Connecticut, New Jersey and Vermont – formerly rich states that strangled themselves with layers of government – and in big cities all over the U.S. map.

Entrenched issues that truly plague Californians were not addressed by Brown. The state’s broken, unreliable, unfair and punitive income tax system wasn’t mentioned. Neither was the pension crisis that threatens the economy; the housing crunch which jeopardizes the future; the high cost of energy and the coming energy crisis; the state’s hostile business climate;; and Sacramento’s taste for free spending.

Neither did the Governor talk about poverty.  As Assemblyman Dante Acosta wrote, “he missed the opportunity to call out his own party which has overseen the state for decades with a policy agenda that preaches compassion, but routinely ignores the problems that truly drive poverty.”

The only bright spot of Brown’s entire speech was his stated commitment to infrastructure improvement. California’s roads are a wreck, among the worst in the United States, and need attention. If the governor believes infrastructure is a priority, then he needs to take on that job. And that doesn’t mean leaning on Washington for more funds. It means using those fuel tax dollars Californians already send to Sacramento that should be applied to transportation projects.

It’s much easier to feign conflict with a nonexistent enemy than it is to do the hard political work of getting California back on track. That would require some grit and an abandonment of the old ideas that have brought the state to this creaky point. It takes less effort to oratorically stir up the masses and peel their eyes off the real problems, and refocus them on imagined hobgoblins.

California’s future is truly at risk, but not because the presidential candidate most voters in the state supported wasn’t elected.

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

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Will Taxpayers Be Mugged by Sacramento?

TaxesGovernor Brown has just released his spending proposal for 2017-18 and taxpayers should not be blamed if they feel like they are walking down a dark alley in a high-crime neighborhood.

While the governor’s proposed budget has been described as austere, it still represents a spending boost of 5 percent, a rate of increase only slightly smaller than last year’s 6 percent. Because the state is in the process of rewarding its employees with generous pay increases and covering an expanding requirement to fund their pensions — pensions that are currently subsidized by six percent of the general fund budget — more spending does not represent an increase in the quantity or quality of services for average Californians.

The Brown budget contains no major program increases except for transportation. But the kicker is that this would be contingent on higher taxes on gasoline and car registration. So, while state workers will be kept snug and comfortable, if commuters want those pot holes repaired, they must pay extra.

However, the governor’s budget should not be regarded as anything more than a place holder, as the ability to fund it is threatened from all directions. The new administration in Washington, as well as a majority of both houses of Congress, have made it clear that Obamacare is on the verge of elimination. There can be little doubt that federal funding for California’s massive expansion of Medicaid is in jeopardy. Because, to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, a government program is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth, no one will be surprised when Sacramento looks to average taxpayers to make up the nearly $16 billion-dollar difference.

Then there is uncertain tax revenue. The extension of the nation’s highest income tax rates renders California highly vulnerable to economic fluctuations. Although growth had been tepid, we have experienced 90 months of economic expansion and financial experts warn us to be prepared for the next downturn.

As if these threats were not enough, Brown will have to contend with elements in his own party who believe in the axiom of former Senate leader, David Roberti, “When you’ve got it, spend it,” to which they would add the corollary, “If you don’t have it, spend it anyway.”

Chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, Phil Ting, has already made it clear that he does not want to budget assuming the worst, that the Legislature must continue “investing in California,” a budgetary approach akin to Admiral David Farragut’s at the battle of Mobile Bay, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” While Farragut was successful, is it appropriate to put California taxpayers at dire risk through imprudent spending?

In May, the governor will issue a revised budget, no doubt with major changes, in advance of the June 15 deadline for final passage. If revenue is down, taxpayers may be treated to the spectacle of a cage match between those committed to spending, backed by their special interest allies, and those who advocate a slightly more cautious approach.

In Sacramento, fiscal sanity is relative. Ironically, our eccentric governor who thinks nothing of lavishing nearly $100 billion on a bullet train, may be the dwindling middle class’s best hope to fend off major increases to their already staggering tax burden.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

This article was originally published by HJTA.org

House GOP leader asks Jerry Brown: How would you replace Obamacare?

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has written to Gov. Jerry Brown and the leaders of other states soliciting their input for replacing Obamacare.

Dismantling President Barack Obama’s signature health care legislation has been central to debate in Washington since voters in November handed Republicans control of the White House and Congress.

“As Obamacare continues to saddle patients with less choice, higher costs, and mountains of mandates, it is clear that major health care reforms must be made to strengthen and improve health care for all Americans,” McCarthy wrote in the letter last month, which was signed by five other House Republicans, including Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas.

“Lawmakers, governors, and state insurance commissioners have a tremendous opportunity to achieve our shared goal of enacting health care reforms that lower costs, improve quality, empower states and individuals, and bring our health care system into the 21st century,” they added. …

Click here to read the full article

898 New California Laws Passed in 2016 – Most Start Jan. 1

jerry-brown-signs-lawsSACRAMENTO – California Gov. Jerry Brown signed 898 bills into law last year. Most start on Jan. 1, but others going into effect in coming years. The majority of new laws deal with minutiae that’s unlikely to affect most residents, but a number of them will have real-world consequences for broad numbers of people – on issues ranging from new driving rules to patients’ access to experimental medications.

Here’s a sampling of some of the significant new laws from last session:

Register your ammo purchases: Californian gun owners will need to deal with a variety of new gun-control limitations after the governor signed a broad package of bills – and voters approved Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s gun-control initiative on Nov. 8. The most potentially far reaching effects will come from the state’s approval of Proposition 63, which has various restrictions and a roll-out of implementation dates over a few years.

Beginning July 1, 2017, the state will implement a ban on high-capacity magazines and will require owners to report any lost or stolen weapons. The much-publicized requirement that ammo buyers pass background checks won’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2018.

Higher minimum wages and more unpaid leave: “The statewide minimum wage goes from $10 to $10.50 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees — a rate that will rise to $15 by 2022,” as the Mercury-News explained. That wage hike comes from Senate Bill 3. “Assembly Bill 2393 gives up to 12 weeks of paid parental leave to all K-12 and community college employees, including classified workers and community college faculty,” the newspaper reported.

Restrictions on police use of asset forfeiture: Senate Bill 443 was one of the last bills from last session that the governor signed, but it is widely viewed as one of the most significant changes in state law. Before the new law went into effect, police agencies had the ability to take the cash, cars and even homes from people even if they weren’t convicted of any crime. The authorities needed simply to claim the property was used in the commission of a drug crime. California had fairly tough restrictions in place, but local and state police agencies would partner with federal authorities under the “equitable sharing” program and then they would operate under looser federal law.

As the Drug Policy Alliance explains, “Starting on January 1, 2017, California law will require a conviction prior to forfeiture in any state case where the items seized are cash under $40,000 or other property such as homes and vehicles regardless of value.” If local or state agencies work with the feds, they could only share in the proceeds if an underlying conviction were obtained. The final compromise still allows law enforcement to keep proceeds of more than $40,000 in cash only – a provision which caused major law enforcement groups to drop their opposition.

Higher fees from the DMV … and more: Two new laws boost the fees for DMV registrations by $10 and for an environmental license plate by the same amount. Another DMV-related law requires drivers to restrain children 2 years or under in a rear-facing car seat unless they weigh 40 pounds or more. Drivers will need to pay attention to a new law dealing with hand-held devices. “Driving a motor vehicle while holding and operating a handheld wireless telephone or a wireless electronic communications device will be prohibited, unless the device is mounted on a vehicle’s windshield or is mounted/affixed to a vehicle’s dashboard or center console in a manner that does not hinder the driver’s view of the road,” according to the agency.

Gaining the ‘right to try’: California became the 32nd state to pass so-called “right to try” legislation, which allows terminally ill people to try experimental drugs that have yet to pass the federal Food and Drug Administration’s full battery of tests. Supporters argued that many people die while waiting for drugs to clear that long and cumbersome process. After Senate amendments, Assembly Bill 1668 includes the caveat that “a health benefit plan, except to the extent the plan provided coverage, is not liable for any outstanding debt related to the treatment or lack of insurance for the treatment.”

Beer and wine at barbershops: Assembly Bill 1322 passed overwhelmingly in both houses of the Legislature. This bill allows beauty salons and barber shops to serve their clients limited quantities of beer or wine at no extra charge without obtaining a license or permit from the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control,” according to the Assembly analysis. The new law still allows local governments to impose restrictions on this practice.

Rescuing Fido from a hot car: Assembly Bill 797 reduces liability for citizens who break a car window to save an animal that is closed in a hot car – provided they first try calling the authorities and the authorities haven’t responded quickly enough.

Legalizing lane-splitting: Anyone who drives on California’s vast network of freeways has noticed motorcyclists’ habit of “lane-splitting,” as they drive between the cars that occupy the lanes. The law had required motorcyclists to ride “as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane,” even though the practice has been widely accepted. Motorcyclists have long argued that this is safer than remaining in one lane and risk being hit from behind. Assembly Bill 51 “would authorize the Department of the California Highway Patrol to develop educational guidelines relating to lane splitting in a manner that would ensure the safety of the motorcyclist, drivers, and passengers, as specified,” according to the state Legislative Counsel.

Ignore those juvenile convictions: Assembly Bill 1843 “Prohibits employers from asking an applicant for employment to disclose information concerning or related to an arrest, detention, processing, diversion, supervision, adjudication, or court disposition that occurred while the person was subject to the process and jurisdiction of juvenile court law, or seek or utilize any such information as a factor in determining any condition of employment,” according to the Assembly analysis. This was a contentious issue that passed on largely partisan lines (Democrats supported; Republicans opposed) given business-community concerns about their ability to screen job applicants.

You must be 21 to smoke or vape: Earlier in the year, the governor signed a package of smoking bills that, most significantly, raises the smoking age to 21. It also raised the age for vaping to 21. That last provision was particularly controversial because some argue e-cigarettes are a safer way for smokers to break their dangerous habit. Those laws went into effect in June.

Offering showers for the homeless: Assembly Bill 1995 would require community colleges that have shower facilities to allow enrolled homeless students to use those showers.

More bathroom choices for the transgendered: California passed a law, Assembly Bill 1772, that requires all businesses and public agencies with single-toilet bathrooms to make them available to people of all genders – a bill viewed more as a symbolic measure offered in the thick of the national debate over bathrooms for transgendered people.

The new Legislature will be back in full swing after the new year.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This piece as originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Jerry Brown: California to Bypass Trump on Climate Change

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

California Gov. Jerry Brown has suggested that the state of California could bypass the administration of President Donald J. Trump and work directly with foreign governments in advancing the cause of climate change, the New York Times reports.

Last May, Gov. Brown signed a climate change deal between 12 regional and provincial governments in seven countries, committing to reduce the “greenhouse gases” that trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere and are thought to drive global warming. The aim was to show that California was committed to tackling the issue, even if Congress and the courts were not prepared to rubber-stamp President Barack Obama’s aggressive climate change agenda. He also played a prominent role at the Paris climate change talks last December (prompting speculation as to whether he was still clinging to presidential ambitions).

Brown had also been outspoken throughout the presidential campaign against the climate change positions of several Republican candidates. Last September, for instance, he sent Dr. Ben Carson a flash drive containing the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Earlier this month, Brown attacked President-elect Trump’s views on climate change and also attacked Breitbart News for describing methane regulations (accurately, if crudely) as rules on “cow farts.”

In an interview with the Times, Brown said: “California can make a significant contribution to advancing the cause of dealing with climate change, irrespective of what goes on in Washington. … I wouldn’t underestimate California’s resolve if everything moves in this extreme climate denial direction. Yes, we will take action.” The Times speculates that foreign governments might devote more effort to lobbying Sacramento than lobbying Washington under the Trump administration.

The Times adds that California Democrats are committed to their climate change agenda, even if the state loses in economic competition with other states as the Trump administration rolls back existing regulations.

Brown will serve two more years as governor.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

‘Public Servants’ or ‘Well-Paid Elite’?

MoneyOnce upon a time we called them “public servants.” Today, most taxpayers struggle to keep a straight face when this term is used to describe the well-paid, elite who govern us.

In a state where the median per capita income is just over $30,000, Gov. Brown, legislators and other state elected officials will celebrate the holidays with a 4 percent pay raise. The California Citizens Compensation Commission, whose members are appointed by the governor, decided the improved economy and healthy state budget justified the raise. California lawmakers, who were already the most generously paid in all 50 states, will now receive $104,115, earning them $14,774 more per year than the next highest. Of course, this does not count the additional $176 per day in “walking around money,” living expenses lawmakers receive for every day the Legislature is in session, amounting to an average of $34,000.

The governor, too, is now the highest paid at $190,100 — Pennsylvania’s governor is actually slated to make $723 more, but Gov. Tom Wolf does not accept the salary.

Do Californians pay their governor, the top executive of a state government responsible to nearly 40 million constituents, enough? The fact that there is never a shortage of candidates for this job is an indication that the pay is sufficient. So, the question arises, why do many government employees receive more than the governor?

At the local level, most cities have as their chief executive, a city manager. Of 479 cities – out a total of 482 – reporting to the state controller, 279 are paid more than the governor. Of these, 24 receive over $300,000 annually.

For some cities, paying their top administrator a high salary seems to be a matter of vanity. Council members, who approve generous compensation, will take the position that their city deserves a highly-paid manager, the same way some car buyers justify the purchase of a luxury vehicle. Just as the neighbors may be impressed by the new Mercedes, neighboring cities will be impressed with their city’s ability to overpay the help. This, of course, puts pressure on surrounding cities to keep up with the Joneses.

While some city hall insiders will argue that higher pay is justified by a larger population, there seems to be no actual correlation.

Escondido, California’s most generous city, has been compensating its manager $413,000 annually to serve a population of 151,000. In slightly larger Palmdale, the manager receives $138,000 to look after 160,000 residents. And then there is Garden Grove with a population of 177,000 where the city manager gets $89,000.

A few years ago, the city manager in Bell went to prison for illegally compensating himself $800,000 per year. However, although it may not be illegal, the city of Vernon stands out as a candidate for the most profligate in the state. Its top executive is paid more than $328,000. The city’s population is only 210, which means that each resident is responsible for over $1,560 to compensate the manager. (The rumor that Vernon’s top executive insists on being called “Your Majesty” could not be verified.) Another small city, Gustine in Merced County, with a population of 5,482 gets the award for most frugal. It pays its city manager $909 annually.

While there are other areas of government employee compensation that beg examination, the range of pay for city managers seems to be the most irrational.

Still, none of these local administrators is close to the state’s top salary of $3.35 million. But since the program generates the revenue to pay UCLA football coach Jim Mora, he is more likely to be criticized for his record more than his salary.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

This piece was originally published by the HJTA.org

Can California’s Legislative Supermajority Act Responsibly?

After a thunderstorm of post-election recounts across the Golden State, it appears that Democrats have reclaimed a supermajority in the California Legislature.

Whatever one’s political sway – and this applies to national election results, as well – it’s important for all voters to respect that “the people have spoken,” turn the page and hope for the best.

Having said that, as a proud entrepreneur, supporter of my community, rancher and surfer, I love the great state of California and want nothing more than to see our economy and future thrive for generations to come. To that end, I thought it might be timely to offer our new crop of Democrats in the State Capitol a few words of instructive advice before they settle in all too soon. 

First and foremost, think carefully about the consequences of your agenda. There are more than a few rumblings about the new Legislature and governor poised to tackle many big issues in the new year – issues for which the two-thirds vote, in my opinion, play a critically important role in assuring a level of caution and restraint. Transportation and infrastructure reform, climate change, affordable housing are some of the hot-button items that appear looming on the legislative horizon. To many, these may seem noble and venerable priorities and opportunities for an improved quality of life. But at what cost – literally? Will these trailblazing new policies be funded on the backs of small business owners, working families and future generations through taxes, fees, levies, assessments and other costs? Californians already pay the highest income tax, statewide sales tax, gas taxes, minimum wage and myriad fees to comply with onerous regulations. A bold agenda is one thing, but crippling our small employers and communities with hordes of new, unanticipated costs is another – and one that will further prolong our state’s economic and jobs recovery. Think before you act.

Second, don’t forsake your Republican colleagues in the Legislature – they represent voters, too. It may be easy for some to render the GOP irrelevant – but they’re not. And neither are the many, many voters in their districts who are looking to them for hope, help and a future bursting with promise. The Moderate Democrats are and will continue to be a vital bloc, focused on advancing a pro-business agenda within their party. I am hopeful that they will remain true to their words on the campaign trail and match their actions with their slogans – and inspire others within the Democratic Party to follow their direction. But no one should ever count the Republicans out in California – theirs is a party of ideas, individualism, and economic success. A one-party rule can have dire consequences if the majority fails to heed the thoughts, ideas and concerns of everyone in the electorate. Work across the aisle every day, respect the GOP, and it will result in better policy for everyone in the long haul.

Finally, it’s time to focus on making California government work more efficiently for the people. It’s time to clean up the still-obscene piles of waste, paper, logjams and errors that are ultimately treating taxpayers like a non-stop ATM. I hope our leaders and others will join me in making this a primary focus and priority in 2017 and beyond. I’m committed to this cleanup because I’ve heard from one too many small business owners, seniors, veterans and community leaders that our politicians and bureaucrats are still spending hard-earned tax dollars like drunken sailors (apologies, drunken sailors). Our new supermajority should halt discussions about new spending and first look to eliminate much of the inefficiencies and frivolity that have grossly infected our mammoth government beast. Our leaders should continue a bipartisan crusade for historic pension, workers’ comp and unemployment insurance reform – all costs that threaten to leave our children’s children with irreparable debt. And the new legislature must continue to insist on opening the books of every department, agency and operation, demanding answers to where our money is being spent, and seeking alternatives or reductions that will improve efficiency and keep more resources in the pockets of families, consumers and “mom and pops”?  We should all urge our legislators to push for increased transparency and accountability with every single program and activity so that Golden State government works for us, not for itself. We need to regularly audit our expenses. It’s something every job creator must do each day if they want to keep their doors open; why shouldn’t the “body politic” which we’re all funding be held to that same standard?

November 8th is finally behind us. The ads have stopped running, the polls have closed, and the people have, indeed, spoken. Now is not the time for protests, sour grapes, crossed arms or furrowed brows. Now is the time for our newly-electeds to take a breath, take their oath of office, and take their job seriously. I’m hopeful that the new supermajority will remember to think about the impact of their agenda, work with Republicans who still represent and serve many voters out there, and fight vigorously to make our government more efficient – and affordable – for all of us. That’s the California wave all of us will be proud to ride for many years to come.

Wayne Hughes, Jr. is a California businessman, philanthropist and founder of SkyRose Ranch and Serving California in Central California which treats veterans with PTSD and other disorders. Find out more atwww.bwaynehughesjr.com @BWayneHughesJr