Political Water Scams Back on the California Ballot

RB DroughtMy 2016 article, Why Can’t California Farmers Get the Water They Need?, exposed Gov. Brown’s shadow government appointees at the State Water Resources Control Board that ordered the release of massive amounts of water from the New Melones Reservoir and Lake Tulloch, to save a dozen fish, and how Gov. Brown systematically booted a number of qualified people off of the California Water Commission, the body that is deciding how to spend $2.7 billion in public funds for Prop. 1 Water Bond water storage projects.

Also revealed was Gerald Meral – a shadowy figure continuously involved in a series of dubious parks, natural resource and water bond ballot initiatives. Meral is also the highly controversial Natural Resources deputy secretary who famously claimed, “BDCP [Bay Delta Conservation Plan ] is not about, and has never been about saving the Delta. The Delta cannot be saved,” as, in April 2013, he directed the BCDP for Gov. Jerry Brown’s effort to build the peripheral Delta tunnels.

Immediately following Meral’s statement, five Congressional members called for Meral’s immediate resignation. They warned “that the Administration’s plan, if unchanged, will devastate the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and the communities that rely on it, a concern that Northern California Lawmakers and other stakeholders have voiced throughout the process.”

In 2016 I wrote:

Gerald Meral, director of the Natural Heritage Instituteformer top water official for Jerry Brown, author of a controversial plan to build water tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, also authored eight competing water bond ballot initiatives submitted this election cycle. He notably has a long record of Fair Political Practices Commission violations for past ballot measure “logrolling,” the unethical practice of soliciting money to support and fund ballot measure campaigns based for political favors.

Meral found himself in hot water in 2014 when Restore the Delta, opponents of Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels project to drain the California Delta, filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission charging former Brown Administration Bay Delta Conservation Plan point man, Gerald Meral, with “illegal lobbying.”

Meral’s Back …With a New Ballot Initiative … and a New Associate

Gerald (Jerry) Meral and Joseph Caves (Tom Steyer’s Proposition 65 money man) both submitted proposition language for water bond ballot initiatives a couple of weeks apart, in July 2017. The two initiatives are remarkably similar — even have the same wording in numerous places — and suggest coordination to ensure passage. Meral’s ballot initiative would raise $8.4 billion, while Cave’s is for $7.5 billion.

Remarkably, in California’s Legislature, there’s also Assembly Bill 18, by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D- Coachella), a Parks and Water Bond bill, and Senate Bill 5, by Senate Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles). AB18 is a more “modest” $3.1 billion bond measure and SB5 is for $3.8 billion. Like the Meral and Caves citizen initiative proposals, they share supporters, sponsors and some language.

All four measures broadly benefit a shared group of non-profit and quasi-governmental green conservation organizations.

Shadow Government = No Transparency, No Accountability

This important to remember: The non-profit groups behind Meral’s, Caves’, Garcia’s and de Leon’s ballot initiatives have been feeding at the government money trough, doing little or nothing to actually help improve water storage or delivery issues, while the water deficit in California only got worse during the drought.

Droughts are naturally occurring; water deficits are government-created and political. UC Davis water experts estimate California’s annual structural water supply deficit at 4.5-5.0 million acre-feet annually, in years of drought and those with plenty of precipitation. California lacks a more developed water supply to serve the needs of its 40 million citizens, its farms and the environment.

One additional note that might explain the four ballot measure proposals’ similarities is the cluster of coordinated groups surrounding their authors, a group relationship deeply entwined in state water politics.

The Water Education Foundation, California Waterfowl Association, Natural Heritage Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, Audubon California, Ducks Unlimited, Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the River and California Sportfishing Protection Alliance … all have financial and personnel connections to a trio of shadowy organizations, the Resources Legacy Fund, its related tax-exempt foundation Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, and for-profit legal services firm Resources Law Group, founded by Michael Mantell, President of the Resources Legacy Fund and Resources Law Group.

Michael Mantell was Undersecretary for the Natural Resources agency for the State of California, 1991 – 1997, and is a close associate of Jerry Meral. Numerous attorneys from the for-profit Resources Law Group also are staff members of the non-profit Resources Legacy Fund, its foundation and the Resources Law Group.

Making Your Head Explode

Resources Legacy Fund also runs the California Water Foundation as an internal project under the direction of former California Natural Resources Secretary Lester Snow (2010 – 2011), another Jerry Brown appointee with close ties to Gerald Meral, who served as his deputy secretary from 2011 to 2013. Meral now leads the Natural Heritage Institute, a benefactor of theResources Legacy Fund’s grants that, in turn, makes grants to the other green groups listed as supporters of one or both of the legislature’s bond bills.

The revolving doors at the Natural Resources Agency, Resources Legacy Fund and its Foundation show its employees move in and out of the government, knowing that when they are inside, they will grant favors to those outside in exchange for secure positions and comfy salaries when they are back outside again. All of them dance to the tune of Packard Foundation, the Rockefeller Bros. Fund, Tides Center, Pisces Foundation and S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, which shower them with millions of dollars.

Gerald Meral retired his state position at theNatural Resources Agency to assume a leadership role the following day at the Natural Heritage Institute, as director of NHI’s California Water Program. Meral’s fingerprints also are all over the language of Proposition 1, the water bond measure passed in 2014.

Also implicated is The Nature Conservancy, a named supporter of the De Leon bill. Jay Ziegler, the Conservancy’s California Water Program Director for Policy & External Affairs issued a joint press announcement with Meral in February 2016 to withdraw his eight ballot measures submissions, saying “The Legislative leadership has expressed an interest in natural resources bonds, and we are committed to working with them to place a measure on the 2016 ballot through the Legislative process. If this effort is not successful, we plan to place a water bond initiative on the November 2018 ballot. …We plan to refile our water bond initiative early next year depending on what is accomplished in the legislative arena this year.”

Meral conceived and was a long time cheerleader for the peripheral canal when he served as a Deputy Director of the California Department of Water Resources during the 1970’s for then-Governor Brown, who hired Meral, a former Environmental Defense Fund leader whom Brown had met when Meral was running an anti-dam campaign… And Brown did this despite voters resounding rejection of Brown’s 1982 plan to build the Canal through the Delta. “The Peripheral Canal has always been a project for the next century,”William Kahr wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 1990. “The fact that the issue came up at all in the late 1970s had more to do with then-Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr.’s political ambitions than any actual water shortages.” Kahr was the editor of “The California Water Atlas.

Brown now supports an updated version of the peripheral canal, euphemistically renamed “WaterFix.” The twin tunnels would be 40 feet in diameter, located 15 stories beneath the Delta to move water from the Sacramento River 35 miles around the eastern edge of the delta.

The anti-WaterFix group, Restore the Delta, filed a complaint against Meral with the Fair Political Practices Commission in 2014 noting his coordination with groups that would receive direct and indirect funding from Meral’s earlier proposed bond initiatives. Restore the Delta submitted evidence of sharing of Meral’s initiative drafts between various members of the participating groups. In one case, the California Waterfowl Association published on its website that its legal counsel had participated in drafting language for the initiative that would benefit the Association’s goals.

Gerald Meral’s checkered past may explain in part his relationship with all these players. He was found guilty of “logrolling” by the FPPC on Prop 50 some years ago — the unethical practice of soliciting money to support and fund ballot measure campaigns based for political favors.

But Meral is back. His fingerprints are all over every one of the water bonds passed since 2000, in addition to the eight measures in 2016, and the latest. And he’s working in the shadows to control California’s water future, with a lot of groups licking their lips at another big payoff, perhaps to permanently fund a “green wall” that would blunt any counter-conservation efforts here and now, or in the future.

This article was originally published by the Flash Report.

Republicans didn’t have to vote for cap and trade

Chad Mayes2Last month, eight Republicans in the California Legislature made the unfortunate decision to vote for an extension of cap and trade that will increase the cost of fuel by as much as 71 cents a gallon by 2031. The primary justification was that the market-based cap-and-trade solution was preferable to any option controlled solely by the powerful and hostile California Air Resources Board. While that argument can’t be discounted, it is nonetheless useful to speculate what would have happened if no Republicans supported the deal.

Historically, Republicans have been the primary defenders of California’s middle-class taxpayers. They almost always vote against any proposal to weaken Proposition 13 and for that they deserve our thanks. But there is no debate that the cap-and-trade legislation will increase gas prices. The only debate is over how much.

Republicans in the Legislature should also be thanked for providing the lion’s share of votes against the cap-and-trade bill. But now they are in a situation where they have to explain why eight of them voted for the bill which has created a significant messaging problem. Voters don’t understand cap and trade and they don’t understand what “saving them” from a $2 fuel price increase looks like because they’ve never experienced it. Compounding the messaging problem is the inevitable political fallout. Republican support gave Democrats and Gov. Jerry Brown acres of political cover. Democratic legislators in at least two marginal seats were protected against having to cast a vote for higher energy costs and Gov. Brown secured a relatively stable source of funding for high-speed rail.

So what would have happened if no Republican legislators voted for cap and trade? Conceivably, Gov. Brown could have demanded Democratic allegiance and, using both carrots and sticks, may have secured it. But that would put Democrats in marginal districts at tremendous risk. At a minimum, Republicans could have leveraged their opposition for policies that actually are friendly to citizen taxpayers including, but not limited to, a rebate or broad based sales tax reduction for consumers to offset the added cost of gas over the next decade.

Republican refusal to give in to the type of extortion reflected in the cap-and-trade bill may very well have forced the Democrats into approving a CARB-style bureaucracy with a simple majority vote — which, by the way, might still happen. The far-left of the Democratic Party may have cheered but, for Republicans, it would open up vast new demographics — working Hispanics, other ethnic groups and recent immigrants — for whom just a few more cents in a gallon of gas is a big deal.

Unfailing opposition to the deal by Republicans would have provided something else almost always absent from California politics — clarity and accountability. When gas prices go through the roof — which they surely will — there would be no doubt which party to blame.

But we’ll never know as it will be difficult, if not impossible, to repair the damage and restore the Republican brand. Thus the odds of Republicans gaining seats in any of the next four election cycles (thanks to redistricting in 2022) are now in doubt. And for what? So Republicans can now adopt the losing argument that they voted for increased fuel costs to save taxpayers from even higher prices? What ordinary voting taxpayer is going to buy that argument?

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register.

California Legislature abandons state’s middle class

taxesCalifornia’s middle class, who pay the bulk of all taxes in California, are constantly under attack from Sacramento politicians. Already this year, the Legislature approved Senate Bill 1, to add 19 cents per gallon to the cost of fuel beginning in October and an average of a $50 increase in the car tax. This translates into at least $400 in additional taxes for the average California family.

Now, Sacramento politicians have compounded the damage by imposing another fuel cost increase by extending the state’s cap-and-trade program, a market-based regulatory system for controlling greenhouse gas emissions. Under this program, impacted industries buy credits at auction which are then used to incentivize decreases in pollution levels.

Surprisingly, many industries forced into the “cap-and-trade” auctions supported the extension because they were threatened by Gov. Brown, environmental extremists and powerful regulators with an alternative program run completely by the government bureaucrats at the California Air Resources Board. And those were not idle threats.

Be that as it may, some legislators are using the “it could have been worse” argument to claim that they’ve won some sort of victory for taxpayers. Without cap and trade, they say, your fuel costs would have increased by nearly two dollars a gallon. Even if completely true — which is doubtful — cap-and-trade advocates won’t tell you the whole story. The non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office has said that under the legislation just approved, fuel prices could go up by 21 cents in 2022 and 71 cents by 2030. Only in the Alice in Wonderland world of Sacramento politics does a 71 cent fuel price increase constitute a victory for taxpayers.

So what’s the ultimate impact on working Californians? If the new legislation is added into April’s gas tax increase, consumers will see their price at the pump increase as high as 40 cents per gallon by 2022 and 90 cents by 2031. Overall household fuel costs will likely eventually increase by over $1,000 a year per household. And all this is occurring so that liberal Democrats can reach an arbitrary threshold of a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emission levels by 2030.

While the handful of Republicans in the California Legislature — who make up less than a third of the members in each house — are usually the reliable opposition to the punishing policies inflicted on the middle class by the majority party, that did not prove to be the case last week. Eight Republicans voted for the extension.

But could they argue they received something in return which benefits their voting constituents? Nope. The vast majority of California taxpayers will receive no direct financial relief in exchange for their thousand dollars a year they will pay for goods and services. Perhaps it would be easier to share in the cost of climate change if California wasn’t going it alone on cap-and-trade in the United States, while we emit only one percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

The extension of cap-and-trade ensures one thing, that funding for high-speed rail will continue. The legislation dictates that at least 25 percent of the new funding will be spent on a train that a majority of Californians have made it clear they would reject if given another chance on a statewide ballot. Ironically, high-speed rail has proven to be a net increaser of greenhouse gas emissions. So much for trying to save the world.

A hollow victory at best is the suspension of the infamous fire tax against those living in rural unincorporated areas of California. Some 800,000 property owners will no longer have to pay this fee, which remains the subject of a class action lawsuit commenced several years ago by Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association lawyers. While the suspension (not repeal) of the tax is welcome relief for rural property owners, it does not include any rebates for the millions of dollars already paid. For that reason the HJTA litigation will continue over the issue of refunds.

As is common with complex legislation that ultimately hurts the middle class, special interests suffered little or no harm and, in many instances, negotiated for a financial windfall. Most got a piece of the revenue from the higher gas prices that consumers will be paying. The governor got more funding for high-speed rail and corporations got significant tax breaks. But legislators couldn’t even fight to give citizen taxpayers a rebate for the higher gas prices they’ll be paying. Will any legislator fight for them? Is there anyone left in the Capitol who will put the middle-class taxpayer before their next political deal that results in another crushing financial burden? For the sake of this once Golden State, we hope so.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register

L.A. Port Authority Pushing $14 Billion ‘Zero-emissions’ Plan

Los Angeles PortTwo of the nation’s busiest ports, Los Angeles and Long Beach, released a $14 billion “zero-emissions’ plan Wednesday that could include a regional cap-and-trade system.

The move came on the heels of the passage of a ten-year extension to the existing statewide cap-and-trade program.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the ports’ plan would go one step beyond the state policy:

The new proposal is being billed as “the largest environmental investment ever undertaken by a port complex” — one that cannot be successful without huge investments from the state and federal governments.

It calls for stricter federal emissions standards for trucks, trains and other leading freight pollution sources, an idea seemingly at odds with the Trump administration’s moves to roll back air quality regulations and other environmental protections.

The plan lays out very ambitious goals, which set ambitious targets that mirror Gov. Jerry Brown’s cap-and-trade program.

But criticism is coming from all sides, and the obstacles are significant.

John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, told the Timesthat the costs could put the L.A. ports at a competitive disadvantage.

When asked how they plan to pay for the plan, port officials reportedly say they plan to pursue state and federal subsidies, tapping into the huge revenue stream from the state cap-and-trade program.

Another major obstacle is that “zero-emission” short-haul trucks necessary for the plan to succeed do not exist yet, the Times notes.

For the L.A. and Long Beach ports, which process almost half of all U.S. imports, a change of this magnitude could affect hundreds of thousands of jobs and the economy of one of the most significant regions in the country.

Tim Donnelly is a former California State Assemblyman and Author, currently on a book tour for his new book: Patriot Not Politician: Win or Go Homeless.  He also ran for governor in 2014.

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/tim.donnelly.12/

Twitter:  @PatriotNotPol

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

GOP Votes Give Jerry Brown Big Win on Cap-and-Trade

jerry-brownThe “shadow presidency” of California Governor Jerry Brown scored a win Monday night as eight Republican legislators crossed the political aisle and voted with most Democrats to extend a key component of the “cap-and-trade” program that has literally shifted $4.42 billion from the private sector to the government since mid-2012.

While a lot of politicking went into rounding up the votes for the cap-and -trade extension among both political party caucuses in both chambers, it was clear that Governor Brown had enough political capital, along with a willingness to “strategically target” the spending of cap-and-trade tax dollars to woo Democrats.

So in the final days preceding a vote, much of the attention was focused on Republican legislators. Because it is a tax increase, the bill required a two-thirds vote to pass. Democrats have barely over two-thirds in either chamber and so, in theory, could have passed it without a solitary GOP vote. But Democrats were not 100% unified, and also at least one Democrat in the State Assembly was going to be absent this week on a long-planned family vacation, meaning at least one GOP vote would be needed in the lower house.

On the GOP side it was a David vs. Goliath situation, with a small coalition of small business and taxpayer advocates, as well as GOP groups like the Orange County Lincoln Club. They were out-gunned and out-spent, up against many well-heeled interests, including the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Manufacturing and Technology Association, and others. (Big businesses can handle navigating a cap-and-trade system, and largely pass along the costs to consumers. The small- and medium-sized businesses suffer the most, and of course taxpayers in general.) Those billions and billions in taxes paid to the California Air Resources Board drive up the costs of so many products — most notably gas and electricity prices: it is estimated that by the early 2020s, cape-and-trade will be adding over 70 cents to the price of a gallon of gasoline. In the end Goliath won, with more than enough Republicans voting for the extension.

Ultimately eight Republican legislators voted to extend the multi-billion dollar tax: State Senator Tom Berryhill (R-Stanislaus), and Assemblymembers Catherine Baker (R-Walnut Creek), Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside), Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo), Health Flora (R-Modesto), Devin Mathis (R-Visalia), Mark Steinorth (R-Rancho Cucamonga), and Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley), the latter being the Assembly Republican Leader.

While much attention will be paid to the “Crazy 8” (as they are already being called) Republicans who voted to extend this draconian program, it is significant to note that 34 GOP legislators voted against it, with a good number of them speaking out on the floors of their respective legislative chambers. Perhaps none spoke as eloquently as State Senator Andy Vidak (R-Hanford), who said, in part, “I represent the poorest district in the state. I cannot, in good conscience, vote for yet another bill that will raise gasoline and electricity rates on the poorest of the poor.  Let’s be honest, this is a tax — and a regressive one at that! Then where does the money go? It goes to rebates for rich folks who buy a Tesla. Billions go to the boondoggle that is high-speed rail, which is a gross polluter, now and for decades to come — again, off of the backs of the poor who currently live in energy poverty.”

Interestingly, the political win for Assembly Democrats wasn’t just in passing the cap-and-trade extension, but also the fact that so many Republicans voted for the bill that Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) was able to let three of his targeted members, who are occupying seats the GOP would like to pick back up, either not vote at all or vote no. A big strategic blunder for Assembly Republicans.

After the vote was held, despite the fact that over two-thirds of Assembly Republicans voted against the bill, a gleeful Assembly GOP Leader Chad Mayes spoke in a press conference with Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders as they celebrated the passage of a package of the legislation. Mayes could hardly contain himself as he touted that with this legislation “we lowered taxes, we reduced costs, we reduced regulations – and at the same time we are going to protect our environment.”

You may ask how a two-thirds vote to raise taxes for this program for another decade could lower taxes, reduce costs and reduce regulations? Apparently Mayes and other Republicans justified their votes by imagining what it would be like if, in the absence of cap-and-trade, Democrats implemented a different and worse system. The “lowering” and “reducing” Mayes refers to are the imaginary savings achieved because the other, allegedly worse regimen of regulation, was averted.

Mayes went on to say: “We believe that markets are better than Soviet style-command and control. We believe that markets are better than the government coercing people into doing things they don’t want to do… .”

Apparently Mayes believes that when the government creates Soviet-style limits on resources but leaves people with the freedom to exist in a world of artificial scarcity on their own terms, that is not command and control.  This is analogous to having a hundred people but food for only ten, and choosing which ten get the food, versus simply putting ten meals in the room and letting the hundred people figure it out themselves.

With the cap-and-trade vote now in the rear-view mirror, it remains to see what the political fallout will be. If 2009 is any guide, which was the last time a small group of six GOP legislators crossed party lines to vote for a massive tax increase, all six legislators ended up paying a steep political price. Both legislative leaders lost their leadership posts.

Either way, the California GOP has a unique messaging problem for next year, having provided support for a multi-billion dollar carbon emissions tax.

Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor for Breitbart California. His columns appear regularly on this page. Follow Jon on Twitter here.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

‘Cap and Tax’ Would Slam High-Tax, High-Poverty California

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes, flickr

The craziest story of the moment is the Governor’s insistence on passing even more draconian legislation on the topic of climate change in the form of extending what is known as cap and trade (or, in this iteration, cap and tax) (also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Surprise! — July 11, 2017).

Gov. Brown believes that “climate change is real” and that California has to be the guinea pig in the world stage on addressing it. Therefore, Californians have to make certain financial sacrifices now to protect those who follow us 100 years from now. And that is only if his postulation that “climate change is real.”

With “quiet dignity and grace” (a line from “Young Frankenstein”), the Governor claimed that on Monday the Legislature would be making “the most important vote of our lifetimes.”

Is the vote to disallow collective bargaining a la Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker?

Is the vote to abolish the California Rule, and modify pension formulas going forward?

Is the vote for establishing a hybrid pension plan that includes a defined contribution component?

Is it a plan to make state government more efficient, since California has the highest tax rates and still can’t deliver decent services and roads to its residents?

Is the vote to address the highest poverty rate of any state in the nation?

No.

It’s about one man’s personal crusade to supposedly “save the planet,” when the science may not support his claims.

His comments culminated with the hysterical claim no one else in the country seems to believe enough to enact mitigating policy: “Climate change is a threat to organized human existence.” Pop some corn and enjoy his harangue.

No doubt, everyone is concerned about our planet.  But, at a cost of some 90 cents per gallon of gas? Most people don’t think so.

tate Senator representing the 37th Senate District

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Jerry Brown, California Legislature, Reach Cap-and-Trade Extension Deal

carbon-tax-1California Governor Jerry Brown announced Tuesday evening that he had reached a deal with both chambers of the state legislature to extend the Golden State’s “cap-and-trade” program beyond its original expiration date in 2020.

Brown, Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) announced “a legislative package that will launch a landmark program to measure and combat air pollution at the neighborhood level – in communities most impacted – and extend and improve the state’s world-leading cap-and-trade program to ensure California continues to meet its ambitious climate change goals,” according to a statement released on the governor’s website.

The statement adds that the deal “includes AB 617 by Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) and Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) and AB 398 by Assemblymember Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) and is the product of weeks of discussions between the administration and legislative leaders with Republican and Democratic legislators, environmental justice advocates, environmental groups, utilities, industry and labor representatives, economists, agricultural and business organizations, faith leaders and local government officials.”

The cap-and-trade system sets an upper limit for carbon dioxide emissions, and then issues emissions permits that can be bought and sold by producers. The system applies an effective tax on emissions (one that some businesses would prefer to leave the state to avoid). Companies that are more energy-efficient can sell their permits for profit — a model that Tesla, for example, has used to pad its bottom line.

The legislation will have to proceed in the absence of former Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, who will be sworn into Congress on Tuesday — more than a month after winning a special election to replace Attorney General Xavier Becerra in the 34th congressional district. Gomez had delayed the ceremony partly to make his vote available for a cap-and-trade extension deal.

The deal, as noted by Bay Area public radio station KQED, will include provisions to allow local communities to monitor air quality and industrial air pollution, without allowing them to regulate carbon dioxide emissions. Climate change activists often confuse the two phenomena, though one has little to do with the other: carbon dioxide is an odorless, colorless gas that is not harmful.

KQED adds that the deal also ends “a fire prevention fee largely paid by residents living in rural, Republican areas of the state.” That could indicate that Democrats struck an agreement with Republicans to vote for the bills.

Without Gomez, the Democrats will not have the two-thirds majority required to renew cap-and-trade without facing a state referendum. But with Republican votes, that obstacle will disappear.

Following last year’s passage of Proposition 54, which requires bills to be on public display for 72 hours before a vote, that could mean a vote on cap-and-trade could come as early as Thursday.

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. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California 

California Budget: Balanced and progressive or out of control?

Jerry Brown Budget 2017SACRAMENTO – The California Assembly and Senate have until Thursday to approve the budget deal announced by Gov. Jerry Brown last week, but there’s little uncertainty about the outcome. The general-fund budget is a record-setting $125 billion – something Brown describes as “balanced and progressive,” given that it spends more on social programs, but doesn’t bust the bank.

In fact, the budget plan conforms almost exactly to the governor’s longtime fiscal approach. He wants to fund social programs as much as possible, but not create new, permanent spending programs that cannot be curtailed when fiscal times are bad. He talks repeatedly about frugality, yet his budgets continue to ramp up state spending to record levels. He did set aside $8.5 billion for the rainy-day fund to prepare for any downturn.

Even the governor’s approach to the state’s unfunded pension liabilities is prototypical Brown. The governor speaks regularly about the size of the state debt to pay for pensions and retiree medical programs, but he typically addresses the problem with small-scale solutions that trim debt levels without antagonizing state workers and the unions that represent them.

This particular deal would borrow money from a state fund that pays a low interest rate, and pay down some of the state’s pension debt by investing it with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, which predicts a fairly high rate of return (7 percent). Brown says this plan will save the state $11 billion over the next two decades simply because of the difference in interest rates.

In terms of spending, the budget uses $1.2 billion in new revenues from the state’s recently passed tax increase on tobacco to help pay for growing costs to Medi-Cal, the state health program for low-income residents. But about half of those new revenues will be earmarked to health care providers and to family-planning entities like Planned Parenthood. It expands spending on the state’s K-14 educational system.

The budget also expands spending for both of the state’s university systems (the University of California and California State University), but the nearly $300 million combined in increased higher education spending comes with some conditions. The plan withholds $50 million from the University of California until the Office of the President fulfills the recommendations made earlier this year by a state auditor. It also requires California State University officials to “find space for students denied entry to their preferred campus or program,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

The budget increases spending on subsidized affordable-housing programs by $400 million. The budget also will allow more people to take advantage of the state-level Earned Income Tax Credit. Under new criteria, low-income people earning up to $22,000 a year will qualify for state EITC payments, up nearly $8,000 from previous standards. The new eligibility standards also apply to people who work for ridesharing companies or are involved in other forms of self-employment, according to various news sources. The budget doesn’t include an extension of the cap-and-trade system, although the system is likely to be extended in separate legislation.

Furthermore, the budget spends $100 million to set up a new agency to deal with the legalization of recreational marijuana sales, including the creation of a tax office along the Redwood Coast in the heart of marijuana-growing country.

The whole budget, which includes all spending (from bonds, etc.) totals $183.2 billion. But the biggest controversies are not around the amount of money the state will spend. The Legislature used the trailer-bill process – normally reserved for technical amendments to budget matters – to pass some controversial, nonbudget-related matters.

For instance, Democrats are fighting a recall measure against state Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton. Republicans targeted him because of his vote on the recently passed gas-tax increase. One trailer bill in the budget would extend the timelines for the recall, making it more likely that the election would be put on a regularly scheduled ballot timeframe that would be more favorable to the Democratic incumbent. Another trailer bill would reduce the power of elected officials in the state Board of Equalization, a tax board. Yet another creates new dam-safety rules, following problems at the Oroville Dam spillway last winter.

Still, what Democrats described as responsible drew some rebuke from Republicans, who note that general-fund spending is nearly $40 billion higher in this budget than it was six years ago. Balanced and progressive or out of control? It depends on which side of the aisle one sits on. But everyone at least agrees that it’s basically in balance.

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

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

CA Budget & Fiscal Policy is Unsustainable

May Revise 2017While the governor’s leadership has been the key to keeping California in the black and paying down debt, the Legislature continues to grow permanent spending based on an increasingly volatile revenue stream. The Legislature’s highest priority for environmental policy is sustainability. Yet today their highest priority for budget and fiscal policy is unsustainability.

Since the economic recovery began in 2010, taxpayers and the business community have grown the General Fund by $41 billion and special funds by $28 billion, representing an overall revenue increase of $69 billion or 63 percent. In addition, we have also grown local property tax revenues for Prop. 98 more than $10 billion, which is equal to a 72 percent increase.

While California is already the highest taxed state in the nation, the Legislature introduced bills to authorize more than $370 billion in new taxes and fees in 2017 — more than double the state revenues contained in the budget bill.  For example:

  • During this same period in 2017, state funding for K-12 education is set to grow $17 billion, or roughly 50 percent, while state employee pension and health benefit payments are set to nearly double to more than $14 billion.
  • There also is considerable growth in spending for health care and social services expansion.  Since 2009-10, Medi-Cal spending has increased by $9 billion in the General Fund and by $64 billion in state and federal funds.  California is committed, even under existing federal law, to picking up an increasing share of the federal portion.
  • In 2022, the hastily approved minimum wage increase of 2015 will be at full implementation, impacting General Fund costs by $3 billion and all funds by $10 billion.
  • The series of labor agreements approved this year-to-date commit the state to another $4 billion in permanent spending increases.

The passage of these spending priorities required the state to pass $5 billion in new taxes to fund critically needed road and infrastructure repair. Now it is time to prioritize major structural reforms that create long-term economic stability before another recession occurs, the impacts of which could be even more devastating than what we witnessed during the economic downturns in either 2001 or 2008. We must work towards a budget that better protects all Californians and our economy for our long-term future.

resident, California Business Roundtable

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

What Will It Take For California Voters To Change Their Minds?

VotingIn Malcolm Gladwell’s famous book, “The Tipping Point,” his central thesis is how events collate together to form a “tipping point,” that changes individuals, companies, governments and society. Has California reached a tipping point? Seemingly it has. Then why do voters keep electing the same Democrats, and allow the Republican Party to fade away into oblivion?

Moreover, apathetic voters don’t care that the Democratic governor and Legislature say one thing, and do something completely opposite as long as the hot causes are in line with the media and Democratic Party’s narrative of gay marriage, abortion and global warming. Those three shibboleths of California public policy have overtaken the central tenets of state government: infrastructure, public safety and education – since all three are in shambles or disarray at best.

For Democratic voters, independents who lean conservative, but never hear an organized message, along with Republican voters who still long for Reagan, here are issues to consider along with our downward trajectory. Your apathy and unrealistic expectations are taking California to a brutal tipping point that could easily mirror the disaster being ignored by the mainstream media (LA Times, NY Times, ABC, CBS, NBC) about Venezuela since it doesn’t fit their false narrative that socialism espoused by Bernie Sanders should be emulated.

The next number of paragraphs will begin showing the current path for California this year and decades ahead. It is sobering to envision what California will look like for our children if changes in voting patterns and the domination of the Democratic Party aren’t broken.

Gov. Brown and the Democratic supermajority Legislature raised taxes again, and openly misappropriated the funds giving middle-class families and businesses additional reasons to flee the state. If these two trends push forward in the future and the CRP does nothing about this with candidates who can explain what’s taking place in California – versus not supporting a Republican President during election seasons – then the CRP will be relegated to the dustbin of history. Translated, California will remain having the worst environment in the nation for job creation and business friendliness.

Unfortunately, Democrats are now job killers and only believe in the above-mentioned public policy shibboleths along with hating Trump. The days of Gov. Brown’s father, FDR, Truman, JFK and Scoop Jackson are over – Democrats who believed in strong defense, single-family homes, infrastructure, education and two-parent families as the backbone of stable, thriving societies. Imagine a California Democrat who didn’t back abortion-on-demand, gay marriage and global warming and was pro-life instead, questioned the sanctity of marriage and was against global warming – even doubted the veracity of the environmental movements claims? That person wouldn’t win a City Council race against a dead person in San Francisco.

Pensions as currently configured are 100% unsustainable, no matter what the stock market achieves in the near future using historical rates of return. Democrats and Republicans who don’t make a case for pension reform will bankrupt California, and don’t expect Trump or Pence to rescue us. Even Sacramento has ominous pension problems. Hundreds of billions, even trillions are owed, yet voters are only concerned about the three shibboleths?

Unions now run California’s education standards, and three new bills (AB450, AB1209 and SB63) would further influence the destruction of our economy and labor practices all in the name of being progressive Democrats. Yet voters keep voting for these measures and legislators, instead of sensible, business-friendly, moderate Republicans like David Hadley (though I disagreed with him about not supporting Trump during the Presidential election).

Social issues that have nothing to do with California’s upward trajectory are en vogue by Democratic legislators and their supporters: a former teacher at Diablo Valley College was arrested for attacking a Trump supporter with a bike lock at the Berkeley protests and AB1576 would tax items and their price equivalent based on gender for businesses who don’t price items exactly the same throughout California. Litigation for consumers and businesses will skyrocket costs.

Republicans who only want to be moderates and worry about taxes, business growth and strong defense should understand that gender, class and race are additional shibboleths added onto the social diagram of how Democrats beat Republicans in this state. The days of not articulating reasonable social policies are now over since President Obama introduced all three into public policy and the national media to win elections and fragment the United States.

While Gov. Brown and the Democratic-controlled legislature obsess over nothing, Joel Kotkin states:

“In the coming years, California’s claim of being the economic exemplar of the country may be further undermined by legislative overreach. The statewide rise in the minimum wage will hit the lower-wage sector, particularly outside the coastal enclaves. Various plans to boost the welfare state, such as a single-payer health care system (costs $400 billion annually) that includes the undocumented, and a host of union-driven initiatives, seem certain to drive up costs and impose an ever-heavier tax burden on the state’s struggling middle class. Perhaps most threatening, over time, may be a host of new environmental laws which will impose enormous burdens on affordable housing, energy prices and industrial growth.”

This warning is coming from a self-described, “Truman Democrat,” and not a Tea Party Republican or Trump supporter. Somehow, Los Angeles believes receiving an Olympic bid in 2024 or 2028 will alleviate these concerns, without considering what prior cities have done with billion dollar stadiums in bankruptcy, disrepair and out-of-use? What our society should care about and attempt to alleviate before the Olympics being awarded is dropping the homeless rate in Los Angeles – which surged 23% according to the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count.

San Francisco has taken the illegal-immigrant debate to a new level. Mayor Ed Lee stated in his 2017 State of the City address, “We are a sanctuary city, now, tomorrow, forever,” without understanding the implications of H.R. 2431 that punishes sanctuary cities by withholding federal monies. In 2016 San Francisco received $509,260,129 in federal grants and direct payments. And Democrats who control all levers of state government want to burden businesses with immigration policy, which will only drive more of them out of the state.

California isn’t in a shots-fired civil war, but we are dangerously close to moving in that direction when the mayor of California’s most prominent city so openly defies the federal government. The Civil War decided that federal laws supersede state laws whether we like it or not.

State, county and local monies for mobility are allocated towards public transportation that the public either doesn’t want or use commiserate to cost, or the cost-to-benefit ratio is negative when you consider as an example, the miniscule affect on traffic that bike sharing produces. Meaning, billions are wasted on transportation projects that don’t improve pedestrian safety or traffic mobility. Whereas a better use would be the construction of quality-of-life infrastructure: schools, roads, highways, sidewalks, bridges and water systems.

The biggest killers to California are environmental issues that strictly pertain to global warming as fact and the regulations that will kill this state. As an example, President Obama’s last year in office, he produced regulations that totaled $2 trillion according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The Clean Power Plan was just one type of environmental regulation that California wholeheartedly embraced along with the Paris Climate Agreement without understanding the costs or zero affect either would have on cleaner air, efficient use of environmental resources or how China and India would negate any gains by California adhering to these onerous regulations and agreements since both are still building coal-fired power plants.

Moreover, renewable energy and electric vehicles (EVs) don’t currently work now or in the near future as envisioned by Gov. Brown and State Senator Kevin de Leon. Both (EVs and renewables) have vast unanswered questions and technologies that need to be solved before either is scalable the way fossil fuels and the combustible engine is at this time. Since all environmental strategy and policy is based on man-made global warming in California through the Democratic-controlled Legislature then the questions raised here need to be answered before moving forward with global warming-centric political hysteria. That’s not how good policy is made, or to truly answer the questions about the climate changing and what that means for California, the U.S., industrialized nations and the developing world.

As a former Republican State Assembly nominee (43rd State District) I call on the CRP to begin soberly asking why they can’t win elections anymore? Particularly, Los Angeles County (as goes L.A. County so goes this state) when candidates like Pete Peterson should’ve been embraced, his campaign funded by the party, and should currently occupy a top CRP leadership position while gearing up to either run for Governor, Lieutenant Governor or Secretary of State again. Imagine if now, Dean Peterson (Pete is the Dean of Pepperdine University’s School of Public Policy where I am a December 2015 graduate) were Secretary of State?

Dean Peterson ran on a platform of transparency, efficiency and effectiveness for the office, instead of the politicized entity it currently is that knowingly has illegal immigrants on its voter rolls. Anyone who believes there aren’t differences in a Democrat or Republican begin trying to clean up voter rolls, and the mess that brings up to find out the differences. Dean Peterson would’ve have accomplished that task, or at least wouldn’t have added to the disaster. The CRP and national party should embrace him and others vibrant candidates like him as well.

California has gotten lucky economically through Silicon Valley exploding, Los Angeles exploding home prices and the popular presidency of Barack Obama protected by and prodded forward by the media. A narrative not unlike Pravda during the Soviet Union’s days, but still we have the highest poverty rates, welfare usage, income inequality and fleeing of citizens over the other 49 U.S. states. We’ve created a system that is no longer sustainable in the long-run and unless voters change their minds, character or sources of voting information then the words of Samuel Johnson, in Oliver Goldsmith’s The Traveller, will come true: “How small, of all that human hearts endure, That part that laws or kings can cause or cure.”

Todd Royal is a geopolitical risk and energy consultant based in Los Angeles.