Proposition 13 is the original victim of ‘fake news’

prop 13As Proposition 13 approaches its 39th birthday, it is still subject to the same dishonest attacks in the media that were used against it when it was on the ballot in 1978. Proposition 13 was one of the first victims of “fake news.”

“The bigwigs in labor and business went all out to defeat 13,” said its principle author, Howard Jarvis. “They tried to outdo one another in issuing doomsday prophecies about what passage of 13 would mean.” The media slavishly supported the exaggerated and dishonest claims, often endorsing them through editorials and by giving prominent placement to negative stories on the tax revolt.

The politicians, including Gov. Jerry Brown, and government agencies from top to bottom weighed in. Here is a typical example: Before the election, Alameda County Transit told the public that passage of Prop. 13 would result in the termination of 80 percent of its 2,000 employees. Two months later, the Fremont-Newark Argus reported on the aftermath of the passage of Proposition 13, “To date, no one in the district has been laid off and officials now believe there will be no massive layoffs.” The paper added that three local fire districts that anticipated losing one-half to three-fourths of its staff, had not lost a single firefighter to Prop. 13.

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Gavin Newsom to pitch universal health care as California governor’s race grows crowded

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is drafting a health care plan for California that he plans to unveil as a core component of his gubernatorial run, based in part on the universal health care program he signed into law when he was mayor of San Francisco.

Newsom, seen as a strong contender in the increasingly crowded field of candidates vying to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018, is staking out an ambitious plan to rein in rising health care costs, expand universal access to people across the state regardless of income or immigration status, and preserve coverage for the estimated 5 million Californians who risk losing their insurance under President Donald Trump’s changes.

“I think we can learn a lot for the state of California from what we did with Healthy San Francisco,” Newsom said in an interview. “We had the resourcefulness, the resources, and the boldness and audacity to try something new. It’s not necessarily something that can be adopted in all 58 counties, but it can be adopted …. where the majority of California’s population is.”

The idea would likely require substantial state and federal funding. …

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Why California’s Dams are Breaking

Oroville Dam 2Here’s a study you may find interesting:

Among all states, California spends the lowest percent of its budget on infrastructure, according to a report last year from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Golden State invested only 3.3 percent of its budget in 2013 on infrastructure, one of only three states that spent less than 4 percent. Texas, the most comparable state in size and population, spent almost twice as much at 6.4 percent.

We can easily see the result of this neglect. California’s roads and bridges are among the worst in the country, and the Oroville dam’s two spillways, when finally called upon to work in February, were quickly rendered useless, creating the potential for a devastating flood.

Incredibly, the state was warned in 2005 that the emergency spillway at Oroville was totally inadequate. Three environmental groups pointed out that because the spillway is a hill of bare dirt and not covered in concrete, that dirt would quickly erode as soon as water hit it, creating a potential lake-draining catastrophe. And that is exactly what happened, forcing officials to evacuate nearly 200,000 people downstream.

Despite the warning, the state chose to do nothing for 12 years. For that matter, the state has done little over the years to capture more water to supply the increasing population. That means a good deal of the heavy rainfall from this winter is draining into the ocean.

To his credit, Gov. Jerry Brown did admit recently that the state has not spent what it should on infrastructure and there is now $187 billion worth of unmet needs. Continued failure to invest, he said, could lead to an “apocalypse and absolute disaster.”

And to their credit, the state’s business community has long pushed for more infrastructure investment, seeing it as the foundation for a sound economy.

So now everyone agrees that something needs to be done. The only real question is how it will all be paid for. You can almost predict where this is headed: The legislature will push for some kind of tax increase. Even though the state has a record general fund budget and even though legislators have diverted money from infrastructure for years, the statehouse gang will cry that they just don’t have the money to pay for it all. Lack of money. That’s the problem, they’ll say.

Well, here’s another study you may find interesting:

Among all states, California collects the sixth-highest amount of tax money on a per capita basis, according to the Tax Policy Center, a left-leaning think tank.

In other words, the state already taxes its people and businesses heavily. Money is not the problem. Spending is the problem.

ditor and publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California’s Bullet Train Could Be a High-Speed Fail Without Federal Funding

As reported by L.A. Weekly:

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump made what might be considered his first real move to screw over California, by delaying a $637 million grant, long thought to have been a lock, to pay for electrifying a Bay Area train route. That’s bad news for Caltrain, which will have to stick to diesel gas for the time being. But it’s also bad news for California Gov. Jerry Brown’s pet project, the bullet train, which plans to share that section of track. The delay has been interpreted, by some, to be an act of political retribution, to get back at California for, oh, take your pick — not voting for Trump, for having so many “sanctuary cities,” for declaring itself the vanguard of the resistance, and so on.

Lisa Marie Alley, a spokeswoman for the California High Speed Rail Authority, downplayed the significance of the grant delay.

“I would not characterize it as a big blow whatsoever,” she said. “It’s something that is not good. The bigger question is, to the Republican administration, why would you hurt something that is creating jobs, creating a system that’s better for the environment and providing a valuable service for the Bay Area?”

The worrying thing for supporters of the bullet train, which aims to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles by the year 2029 for the not-so-low price of $68 billion (and that estimate is probably low), is if the Trump administration is willing to delay a fairly uncontroversial grant, can the nation’s largest infrastructure project currently under construction expect any help at all …

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To Prioritize Infrastructure, Consider All State Spending

Infrastructure constructionNotable in the reaction to Governor Jerry Brown’s Friday press conference outlining money for dam and water infrastructure, while declaring the need for California to tackle all its infrastructure backlog, was the response from one of the leaders of the fight for improved infrastructure. California Business Roundtable president Rob Lapsley issued a release echoing the governor’s call on structural improvements and cost, but focused on “the real issue at hand” — state spending.

Everyone agrees that California infrastructure needs repair and the money to make those repairs happen. The debate is over how to fund repairs and build projects.

Negotiations on reaching a deal on funding infrastructure improvements have been going on for some time and business community leaders have been deeply involved. Meanwhile, the more open debate on infrastructure funding continues with the capitol generally separated into two camps, one headed by Democrats who want tax increases and the other by Republicans who want to redirect current funding for infrastructure purposes.

However, Lapsley broadened the debate by discussing overall state spending as part of a larger fix for funding the state’s priorities.

Laplsey wrote, “California is one of the highest taxed states in the nation and, even after passing even more taxes through Prop 55 last November, the state is effectively out of money. We have record general fund and special fund revenues, but it has been decades since infrastructure investment was a priority in our state budget.”

While pledging to support the Brown Administration’s efforts to secure infrastructure dollars from Washington, Lapsley wrote, “we need an honest rational discussion in the Legislature on how to pay for state salaries, pensions and pension debt, health care, dams, flood control, roads, transit, schools and other infrastructure needs while expediting solutions through real regulatory reform that apply to all economically important projects, and not just the politically favored few.”

California’s infrastructure, as California Chamber of Commerce president Allan Zaremberg noted in a release tied to the governor’s press conference, “is a key component of maintaining and improving California’s economy for everyone’s benefit.”

Simply put, infrastructure improvements must be a priority of state spending because the improvements benefit all Californians economically and on safety issues.

Lapsley rightly points out infrastructure has been a low priority for California lawmakers for some time. That has to change.

The change will have to include discussing spending on all other programs in this high tax state. We must consider the spending on pensions and salaries and debt and all the issues Lapsley raised if we are to focus attention on the paramount needs of infrastructure. In the end, improving infrastructure would advance the economy, which in turn would benefit all the other areas funded by the state budget.

Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

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