Left and Lefter in California

california-flagThe California Democratic Party’s refusal to endorse the re-election of Senator Dianne Feinstein represents a breaking point both for the state’s progressives and, arguably, the future of the party nationwide. Feinstein symbolizes, if anyone does, the old Democratic establishment that, while far from conservative, nevertheless appealed to many mainstream businesses and affluent suburban voters. The rejection of Feinstein reveals the eclipse of the moderate, mainstream Democratic Party, and the rise of Green and identity-oriented politics, appealing to the coastal gentry. It offers little to traditional middle-class Democrats and even less to those further afield, in places like the industrial Midwest or the South. In these parts of the country, bread-and-butter issues that concern families remain more persuasive than gestural politics.

To its many admirers back east, California has emerged as the role model for a brave new Democratic future. The high-tech, culturally progressive Golden State seems to be an ideal incubator of whatever politics will follow the Trump era.

Certainly, California is an ideal place to observe this shift, as radicalism faces no restraints here. The Republican Party has little to no influence in politics and culture and not much even among business leaders. For the Democrats, this vacuum allows for a kind of internecine struggle resembling that of the Bolsheviks after the death of Lenin. And just as happened then, a new Stalinism of sorts seems to be emerging—in this case, to the consternation not only of conservatives but also of traditional liberals and moderates of the Feinstein stamp.

Yet as California Democrats exult in what they see as a glowing future, they are turning away from the models that once drove their party’s (and the state’s) success — a commitment to growth, upward mobility, and dispersed property ownership. California’s current prosperity is largely due to the legacy of Governor Pat Brown, who, a half-century ago, built arguably the world’s best transportation, water, and power systems, and created an incubator for middle-class prosperity. Ironically, the politician most responsible for undermining this achievement has been Pat’s son, Governor Jerry Brown. Long skeptical of his father’s growth-oriented, pro-suburban policies, Brown the Younger put strong constraints on growth, especially when these efforts concerned the fight against global warming — a quasi-religious crusade. Battling climate change has awakened Brown’s inner authoritarian; he has lauded the “coercive power of the state” and embraced “brainwashing” on climate issues.

Brown’s stridency on climate, however, does not extend to all leftist issues. Like Feinstein, Brown has some appreciation of the importance of infrastructure, such as the need to increase water supplies, and he exercises at least a modicum of caution on fiscal matters like the state’s gargantuan pension debt. He is not a strict identitarian, having vetoed an attempt to enact Title IX standards of evidence for campus sexual-assault cases, a measure embraced by the state’s vocal feminist leaders.

As Brown prepares to depart, and Feinstein struggles to retain office, a new dominant coalition — led by tech oligarchs, identity politicians, and Greens — is rising to usurp control of the party. This new coalition of the privileged and aggrieved marks a departure both from Pat Brown’s social democracy and his son’s more elitist but still measured politics.

State senator Kevin de León, the emergent leader of this new configuration and cat’s paw of billionaire Tom Steyer, the San Francisco hedge-fund billionaire epitomizes the new approach. Having made much of his fortune in oil sands and coal, Steyer is now the Democratic Party’s prime bankroller, and his largesse extends to the drive to impeach President Trump. He has made common cause with hard-Left politicians like de León, and even embraced unionism—as long as labor follows his extreme position on climate change.

Steyer and other oligarchs are working to eliminate the last vestiges of the old Democratic Party. Climate activists have been targeting, with some success, the so-called Mod Squad — centrist Democrat legislators from the state’s less-prosperous interior and working-class suburbs. This shrinking group, occasionally financed by energy, homebuilding, and other pillars of the old economy, sometimes holds the balance of power in Sacramento, and has managed to slow some of the most draconian climate measures.

De León’s enthusiastic embrace of climate-change dogma may seem odd for a politician whose impoverished district suffers from Los Angeles’s continued de-industrialization, hastened by strict environmental regulation and high energy costs. Instead of backing policies that would create more high-wage jobs, de León’s priorities are largely redistributive. This jibes with his support among public employees and from the militant California Nurses Association. He endorsed the union-backed single-payer health-care plan, a measure that assembly speaker Anthony Rendon tabled as impossibly expensive (it would more than double the state budget). Immigration is another key de León issue. He is a fervent supporter of illegal immigrants, in a state that houses one in fourof the nation’s total, bragging about his own relatives’ use of false IDs.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor and frontrunner in the governor’s race, also embraces these policies. After briefly trying to appeal to mainstream business, Newsom has fallen into line with Bay Area-dominated progressives and the big public unions on virtually every issue, including single-payer. His likely election suggests a continuation of California’s current drift, but without Brown’s occasional restraint and intelligence.

The Golden State’s progressive tilt would not be possible without demographic change. The state’s majority-minority makeup has made the capture of middle-class and moderate voters less important. As middle-class families leave California, the electorate is increasingly dominated by racial minorities — with whites, 70 percent of the population in 1970, now less numerous than Hispanics and destined to be roughly one-third of the population by 2030. California’s demography is more and more dominated by the poor and near-poor (roughly one-third of the population), the young and unattached, and a residual population of older whites, many luxuriating on generous state pensions or inflated property values.

What makes all this work is the growing power of the tech oligarchs and their more glamorous cousins in the Hollywood glitterati. The tech boom of the last decade has obscured the decline of California’s basic industries, such as energy and manufacturing. California’s above-average job performance since 2010 is almost entirely a combination of high-income employment growth in the Bay Area and the swelling ranks of low-wage service workers who serve them. The oligarchs, including tech investor Sam Altman, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of the late Apple founder, have lined up behind de León. Tech will likely bankroll the pliable and well-heeled Newsom, who already gets cash from Airbnb, Twitter, and Salesforce.com.

This marriage of the poor and the new rich appears to be the dominant theme emerging in California. The oligarchs, as Greg Ferenstein has reported, don’t even pretend to believe in upward mobility for the masses. Instead, they favor policies — such as forced densification — that will house their largely young, childless workers, including the nation’s largest population of H1-B visa-holders. Measures such as State Senator Mark Wiener’s SB 827 would largely strip cities of their ability to control development anywhere near transit stops. Civil rights groups, mainstream environmental organizations, neighborhood associations, and cities themselves have come out in opposition, and even Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, a dedicated densifier, fears a backlash in the city’s remaining single-family neighborhoods. Yet the oligarchs and their YIMBY (“yes in my backyard”) allies, whom they generously fund, have backed the bill.

At its core, the oligarchs’ vision for California represents a kind of high-tech feudalism. Tech companies are starting to dominate sectors like electric and autonomous cars, even seeking monopolies in dense urban areas. They support limiting ownership and consumer choice, even as the bulk of automobiles remain gas-powered. In the longer term, the oligarchs have little interest in creating blue-collar jobs and would prefer to replace employment with algorithms. Deprived of work and unable to pay for housing, the working class and an ever-shrinking middle class would be bought off with income-maintenance payments — twenty-first-century alms for the poor.

Opponents of this new gentry agenda should appeal to the remnants of the middle class and the unsubsidized portions of the working class. Feinstein could win reelection by rallying such voters; her name recognition and ample campaign war chest could help her fend off de León this year. But even if she wins, it will likely be a last hurrah for the old Democrats. Tech oligarchs and activist CEOs have committed themselves to extreme environmentalism, identity politics, and open-borders immigration policy. California’s bevy of clueless celebrities, now celebrated by Time as “suddenly serious” for following the identitarian party line, have also climbed aboard.  As anyone knows who has suffered through awards shows or listened to interviews with stars, the entertainment industry—much like tech — has become homogeneous in its views.

The key issues for the glitterati are not income inequality, upward mobility, or the preservation of middle-class neighborhoods but the feverish pastimes of the already rich: gender and racial issues, climate change, guns, and anything that offends the governesses and schoolmarms of intersectionality. To the ranks of these over-exposed but influential voices, you can also add California’s media and most of its intelligentsia, who seem to get their talking points from progressive sources and work assiduously to limit the influence of moderate (much less conservative) views. With Silicon Valley increasingly able to control content and ever more willing to curb debate, the policy agenda of the state’s new elite may well become reality — a nightmarish one for millions of ordinary Californians.

Tax agency rejects 4-cent gas tax increase

Gov. Jerry Brown’s office has to find another $617 million for his next budget because a tax-collecting agency he gutted last year has used some of its waning authority to reject a 4-cent increase in fuel taxes.

Normally, the Board of Equalization’s annual requirement to set fuel tax rates is almost automatic. It has tweaked recommendations, but it has not rejected them.

This time, two Board of Equalization members said they did not want to hike fuel taxes so soon after the Legislature’s adoption of a separate 12-cent per gallon gas tax that took effect in November.

“I’ve never voted for a tax increase on gasoline for my constituents. It hurts them,” said board member Diane Harkey, a Republican who is running for Congress. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Allowing Markets To Allocate Water Can Stave Off “Day Zero” in California

Drought water cropsCape Town, South Africa, a city of 450,000 in a metropolitan area of 3.7 million, is experiencing a catastrophic drought. Capetonians have been dreading the arrival of July 9, or “Day Zero”— when taps in private homes will be switched off and residents will have to go to collection points for rationed allotments of water.

Some version of Day Zero could one day come to parts of California, where water woes continue to bedevil government officials and citizens. From 2011 to 2015, the state experienced the driest four-year period in recorded history (though geologic evidence indicates there have been worse droughts in the past). A robust rainy season in 2017 replenished many reservoirs, but the winter of 2018 has been dry. As of February 1, the snowpack, which provides much of the state’s water during the dry season, was only 21 percent of its normal size. The 2011–2015 drought led Governor Jerry Brown to mandate a 25 percent reduction in water use, but mandating it doesn’t mean that it will happen. Mandated reductions that require homeowners to spend money and time irrigating with non-potable water and replacing old toilets are unlikely to meet their targets, given the low nominal cost of water.

A number of remedies have been suggested, one of which is to allow markets, rather than politics, to allocate water. At a recent conference at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, scholars focused on the importance of market signals in getting people to change their behavior in the face of climate uncertainty. Economist Gary Libecap noted that when prices signal the real value of water, they encourage “agricultural users to switch to water-saving irrigation technologies or to water-saving crops.” (Agriculture accounts for 80 percent of California’s water consumption.) The same is true for urban users, who pay much more per unit of water than agricultural users.

In the absence of water markets, prices don’t reflect the full cost of using this precious resource, resulting in inefficient use. The best example: organic farming. Organic agriculture produces lower yields than traditional agriculture and uses disproportionately more inputs—especially low-cost, high-value water. Lower yields in organic farming mean less output per unit of water used.

Plant pathologist Steve Savage analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2014 Organic Survey, which measures productivity from most of the nation’s certified organic farms, and compared them with those at conventional farms, crop-by-crop and state-by-state. His findings are extraordinary: of the 68 crops surveyed, organic farms showed a “yield gap”—poorer performance—in 59. Many of the shortfalls were large: organic strawberries yielded 61 percent less than conventional farms; fresh tomatoes, 61 percent less; tangerines, 58 percent less; cotton, 45 percent less; rice, 39 percent less; peanuts, 37 percent less. “To have raised all U.S. crops as organic in 2014 would have required farming of 109 million more acres of land,” Savage concludes. “That is an area equivalent to all the parkland and wildland areas in the lower 48 states, or 1.8 times as much as all the urban land in the nation.”

One reason that inefficient organic agriculture uses more water is that it excludes the cultivation of crop varieties crafted with molecular genetic-modification techniques—so-called GMOs—that can be made to withstand droughts and to be irrigable with brackish water. For example, more than a decade ago, Egyptian researchers showed that transferring a single gene from barley to wheat allows the wheat to grow with far less irrigation than conventional wheat; it can survive on meager rainfall alone. Similar genetic modification has created drought-tolerant corn varieties, and more such crops are in the works.

Genetically engineered crops also conserve water by allowing cultivation in salty soils. Fully one-third of irrigated land worldwide, including much of California, is unsuitable for growing crops; every year, nearly 500,000 acres of irrigated land are lost for cultivation due to salt accumulation. Scientists have enhanced the salt tolerance in crops as diverse as tomatoes and canola, and made them irrigable with brackish water, thus conserving fresh water for other uses. Another innovation: by making no-till cultivation possible, the genetic engineering of crops for herbicide tolerance helps trap soil moisture (and also releases less CO2into the atmosphere). Under drought conditions, this can mean the difference between a harvest and a crop failure.

The best solution to California’s water problems would be to encourage water markets and end water subsidies for farmers. A second-best approach is to tax the most egregious examples of waste—and organic products are at the top of the inefficiency list. Placing a tax on already outrageously priced, water-wasting organic products would lessen the demand for them and alleviate some of the pressure on California’s uncertain water supplies. And such a tax would be progressive, falling disproportionately on wealthy consumers. In short, reducing California’s organic agricultural production in favor of more efficient, modern techniques would deliver “more crop for the drop.”

Trump threatens to yank immigration enforcement from California, warns crime would explode

From CNBC:

President Donald Trump angrily said Thursday that he is considering withdrawing immigration and border control enforcement agencies from California because of what he called the state’s “protection of horrible criminals.”

Trump said crime would explode in California if he took such an action — and predicted that the Golden State would be “begging” for the return of federal immigration authorities within two months.

CNBC has reached out to the office of California Gov. Jerry Brown for comment on Trump’s threats. In his state of the state address late last month, Brown issued a strong rebuke to Trump’s previous threats over how California deals with immigration.

“Let me be clear,” Brown said at the time. “We will defend everybody — every man, woman and child who has come here for a better life and has contributed to the well-being of our state.”

In January, California became the nation’s first “sanctuary state,” which restricts to what degree state and local authorities, as well as employers, can cooperate with federal immigration agencies. …

Click here to read the full article from CNBC

Housing bill with $230 million cost estimated to save renters only $20 per month

Housing apartmentState Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, and 16 co-sponsors have introduced legislation that sounds like a bold move to address the high cost of housing. Glazer’s Senate Bill 1182 would double the state tax credit for renters. But that turns out to only mean a maximum annual savings of $240.

The last time the rental tax credit was increased, in 1979, it set the credit at $10 per month for an individual filer and $20 a month for joint filers, with eligibility capped by total income. Senate Bill 1182 would increase the cap to $20 per month for individuals and $40 per month for joint filers. To be eligible, individuals have to have gross incomes of $40,078 or less and joint filers have to have incomes of $80,156 or less.

One-bedroom apartments routinely go for $1,700 or more per month in most metropolitan areas and the average home sale is above $500,000 in most of Southern California and over $1 million in the Bay Area. Glazer’s credit would mean that joint filers paying the average rent go from spending $20,160 in a year to spending $19,920 – a 1.2 percent savings. Individual filers paying the average rent would drop from $20,280 a year to $20,160 – a 0.6 percent savings. The percentage savings on a typical mortgage would be much lower.

In his news release announcing the legislation, Glazer noted attempts by the Legislature on many fronts to make it easier to build more housing, starting with streamlining regulations and giving qualified projects guaranteed approvals. He said these efforts could take years before they began helping Californians.

“None of those measures directed relief to the monthly budgets of struggling renters,” Glazer said. “The renter’s tax credit does.”

Three Republicans among co-sponsors

The news release listed these lawmakers, including three Republicans, as co-authors: Sens. Jim Beall, D-San Jose; Steve Bradford, D-Gardena: Bill Dodd, D-Napa; Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton; Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo; Ben Hueso, D-San Diego; Connie Leyva, D-Chino; Josh Newman, D-Fullerton; Janet Nguyen, R-Fountain Valley; Richard Pan, D-Sacramento; Anthony Portantino, D-Glendale; Richard Roth, D-Riverside; Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont; Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita; and Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale.

Glazer’s office said the higher renters’ tax credit would cost the state $230 million in annual revenue.

There are other restrictions on eligibility for the renters’ tax credit besides income caps, the Franchise Tax Board’s website notes. They include:

– Tax filers need to have paid rent for at least six months for shelter that served as their principal residence.

– The rented property was not on a parcel exempt from state property tax.

– The property was not shared for more than six months with a parent or a guardian or any individual who could claim the tax filer as a dependent.

– The tax filer was not a minor living with a legal guardian, parent or foster parent.

Glazer, 60, a former political and development consultant and aide to Gov. Jerry Brown, won a May 2015 special election to fill the final 19 months of Mark DeSaulnier’s state Senate seat after DeSaulnier was elected to Congress in 2014. He won a full four-year term in 2016.

This articles was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Cap and trade is looking more and more like a tax

cap-and-trade-mindscanner-sstockThe veneer that keeps everybody from seeing that the cap-and-trade program is really just a tax is coming unglued.

Mayor Eric Garcetti blasted out an email newsletter happily announcing that the Jordan Downs public housing development in Watts will be refurbished with money from the hidden tax you’re paying for gasoline and electricity.

Watts will receive a $35 million grant of cap-and-trade funds, which Garcetti said will help make “dreams come true” with “improved quality of life, a renewed focus on public health, and better access to affordable housing.”

The city said the work on Jordan Downs will include rebuilding “distressed” units, creating recreational programs, and opening “about 165,000 square feet for retail.”

The funds will also pay for solar panels, a food waste prevention program, and 10 electric buses.

The cap-and-trade money comes from the state’s Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which takes in revenue from the sale of allowances to emit greenhouse gases. The allowances, sold at state auctions, are purchased by companies that generate electricity, refine petroleum, make cement and process food. The prices of those things in California now include the cost of buying these permits to emit greenhouse gases.

Other states don’t do this, but in 2006, to save the planet from global warming, California passed a law to require a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Under the mandate now set in current law, greenhouse gas emissions statewide must be 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

To achieve this goal, the California Air Resources Board developed the cap-and-trade program. It puts a statewide limit on GHG emissions, and businesses that are under the law are required to have a permit for each ton of GHG emitted. Every year fewer permits are issued, and the minimum price is a little higher.

The money that’s paid to the state for these permits looks a lot like a tax. But a state appeals court ruled that it’s not a tax, because it’s not compulsory. Any business that doesn’t want to pay it, the court reasoned, could simply go out of business.

Now you know why other states don’t do this.

For California politicians, the cap-and-trade funds are like a gift from heaven. Gov. Jerry Brown is spending them on the bullet train, which is barred by law from being funded with a tax increase. And the Legislature can hand out the rest of the loot to local governments and organizations seeking funding for pet projects.

To help spend the money, lawmakers created a committee called the California Strategic Growth Council and tasked it with advancing the revitalization of local communities. The SGC oversees the Transformative Climate Communities program, which considers grant applications from community groups, like the Watts Rising Collaborative, an advocacy organization made up largely of departments of the city government.

So your city tax dollars are being spent to lobby for cap-and-trade funds that come from the extra money you’re paying for electricity, gasoline and anything that’s made or moved in California.

Some of the $35 million grant for Watts will be spent to connect residents with new jobs created by TCC projects, and in a hint of how the spending will work out in practice, the funds will also be used for a “displacement avoidance plan” which will provide resources to “educate residents about their housing rights.” In other words, gentrification.

But nobody’s admitting that. It’s all under the banner of fighting climate change.

The president and CEO of the Housing Authority of the city of Los Angeles, Douglas Guthrie, said the Housing Authority is “proud to be leading this transformational initiative to build a healthier Watts” with “greenhouse gas reduction strategies.”

It’s just a tax. All of California accounts for only 1 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, so cutting emissions to 40 percent below 1990 levels is an exercise in futility, if what you’re really worried about is climate change.

Politicians are not really worried about climate change.

The cap-and-trade program is turning into a tax for community redevelopment and for a plain old slush fund. It doesn’t help Earth’s climate, but it does real damage to California’s business climate. Cap-and-trade is a hidden tax on energy that is making everything in California more expensive than in other states.

The biggest challenge for regulators is to prevent the prices of the allowances from going up too sharply. It might bring the game to a crashing end if people noticed the economic damage they’re enduring. When the voters put two and two together, things can heat up fast.

Columnist and member of the editorial board of the Southern California News Group, and the author of the book, “How Trump Won.”

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California is collecting so much of your money it can’t save it all

California’s swelling budget reserves are approaching a point where the state by law can’t save any more money ‑ but don’t expect a tax rebate.

The state is quickly filling up its so-called rainy day fund, the budget stabilization account voters created in 2014 when they passed an initiative that forced lawmakers to save money in flush years. Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal puts the state on pace to fill it with $13.5 billion by July 1, 2019, but the milestone could come even sooner.

By law, the fund can only hold 10 percent of the state’s projected general fund revenue as a hedge against the cuts that would come in a recession. Any additional revenue has to be spent on infrastructure.

If the revenue keeps pouring in, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor told senators earlier this month they’ll have a lot of options. The money “will be there for you do whatever you want to do with it, build reserves, tax cut, whatever you want to do.”

But, in one of those only-in-California budget formulas, filling the rainy day fund presents a different kind of problem for legislators. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Gov. Brown Bows Out in Last State of the State Address

Jerry Brown state of the stateIn his 16th and final State of the State address, California governor Jerry Brown made a case that his policies have charted a glorious future for the Golden State. Californians may not be convinced, but for longtime observers, Brown succeeded in summarizing and encapsulating his political career.

“Learning takes place in the classroom,” Brown said, “and that’s why our first job is to support teachers and give them the training and freedom to teach as they know best.” Brown did not cite the state’s stagnating, subpar test scores in math and English proficiency, but he did note that “spending has dramatically recovered.” In 1975, Brown signed the Rodda Act, which authorized collective bargaining by teachers’ unions such as the powerful California Teachers Association. Brown stumps for tax increases on behalf of poor minority students, then looks the other way as educrats spend the money on salary increases, a process he calls “subsidiarity.” Teachers’ unions can deliver miserable results and still get whatever they want. Indeed, the state’s government-employee unions are so powerful that they gather outside the capitol and proclaim, “this is our house.” Brown rewards them with bonuses; the state payroll is up $1 billion.

Brown beat the drum on climate change and called for incentives to produce 5 million zero-emission vehicles by 2030. In that cause, he said, the new $5.2 billion tax on gasoline and diesel fuel—and a new annual fee on all vehicles—was “essential,” adding, “I will do everything in my power to defeat any repeal effort.” Brown thus rehearsed his well-established fondness for punitive taxation. When the tax-limiting Proposition 13 appeared in the late 1970s, Brown attacked it as a “fraud” and a “rip-off.” After it passed, Brown declared himself, unpersuasively, a “born-again tax cutter.” He leaves behind a state with the highest marginal income-tax rate, at 13.3 percent, and the highest base sales tax, at 7.5 percent. And he blasts those who protest high taxes as “freeloaders.”

“I like trains,” Brown said, “and I like high-speed trains even better,” referring to the state’s beleaguered high-speed rail project. “Yes, it costs a lot of money,” Brown said—and he provided no overall cost estimates—but in the long run, it would prove “cheaper and more convenient than expanding airports and building new freeways.” The bullet train would be “fast, quiet, and powered by renewable electricity and last 100 years,” and it was already employing 1,500 construction workers. (By the logic of using infrastructure projects as jobs programs, California could equip the workers with spoons instead of tractors and thereby eliminate unemployment.) Brown neglected to add that the rail project also has a Sacramento headquarters and three regional offices, or that its board serves as a sinecure for washed-up politicians such as former congresswoman Lynn Schenk, once chief of staff to California governor Gray Davis. By some accounts, the bullet train will be more expensive than air travel, but Brown has always made things work for bureaucrats.

Brown conceded that crime remains a problem, and he outlined reforms in the state’s prison system and promoted “more mental health and drug treatment programs.” Even before he signed sanctuary-state legislation, Brown’s outlook on crime has tended to veer out of the mainstream, even for California. During his first governorship, in the 1970s, Brown refused to extradite American Indian militant Dennis Banks, who had fled to the Golden State after his conviction on riot and assault charges. Brown’s pick for California Supreme Court chief justice, Rose Bird, overturned every death sentence that came before her, including the one given to Ted Frank, who tortured and murdered two-year-old Amy Sue Sykes. Voters booted Bird off the court in 1986, along with Brown appointees Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin.

Brown talked up his $17 billion WaterFix tunnel project, but he leaves behind a state with crumbling infrastructure. Last year, spillway failures on the Oroville Dam forced the evacuation of more than 180,000 people. Brown teamed with state water bosses to block access to the dam’s design specifications, federal inspection reports, technical documents, and other crucial information. In similar style, when asked about safety issues on the new $6.4 billion span of the Bay Bridge, Brown responded: “I mean, look, shit happens.”

Still, Brown’s audience in the legislative chamber was chanting “Jerry! Jerry!” yesterday. “As my father used to say, I accept the nomination,” Brown responded, reminding any who don’t already know that his father, Edmund G. “Pat” Brown, was governor before him. That paternal legacy was the key to the son’s first gubernatorial election victory, in 1974. For some Californians, the career of Brown fils may recall Edward Gibbon’s observation: “Of the various forms of government which have prevailed in the world, an hereditary monarchy seems to present the fairest scope for ridicule.”

Ten Questions for Jerry Brown

SACRAMENTO, CA - OCTOBER 27: California Governor Jerry Brown announces his public employee pension reform plan October 27, 2011 at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California. Gov. Brown proposed 12 major reforms for state and local pension systems that he claims would end abuses and reduce taypayer costs by billions of dollars. (Photo by Max Whittaker/Getty Images)

Tomorrow, Jerry Brown will deliver his 15th and final State of the State Address. It’s too bad California legislators can’t ask questions like our counterparts in the United Kingdom, who query their head of government during “Prime Minister’s Questions.” If we could, here are 10 questions I’d ask Governor Brown:

1.)     You recently chided Congress, “It’s never good to have one party vote one way, and the other party vote 100 percent the other way. That’s dividing America at a time when we need unity.” Does this mean you’ll no longer sign legislation that is supported by only one party in the Assembly, as you did with the Gas Tax and 20 other bills last year?

2.)     For children living in poverty, California is the worst place in America to get an education, ranking near the bottom for every academic performance measure. Your education plan has added almost $30 billion in yearly spending, yet our schools have if anything gotten worse at educating poor children. How do you explain this?

3.)     Shortly after taking office, you called reforming the much-abused California Environmental Quality Act “the Lord’s work.” Yet no CEQA reform has happened during your tenure even as the cost of housing has soared to the point that 1 out of 3 Californians is “seriously considering” leaving the state because of it. With less than one year left in your term, when is the Lord’s work going to begin?

4.)     While campaigning for Governor, you promised you would not raise taxes without voter approval. Yet last year you signed a $52 billion tax increase without giving voters a say – and now, you’re opposing an effort by voters to undo that tax hike. How should ordinary Californians respond when elected officials break their promises?

5.)     In California, the cost of building a mile of road is triple what it is in other states. One reason, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst, is that Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,500 positions. Yet you are proposing 400 new positions in this year’s budget. Why not learn from other states that build better and cheaper roads before making Californians pay higher taxes?

6.)     Under your watch, California’s unfunded pension liability has grown by over 100 billion, with public employees generally receiving greater benefits than workers in the private sector. You clearly recognize this as a problem, having just filed a commendable opening brief in what could be a landmark state supreme court case. So why did you allow this problem, which threatens vital services and future generations, to get so much worse?

7.)     You claim California is prosperous because it is the world’s “6th largest economy.” Yet adjusting for cost of living and population size, our economy actually ranks 37 out of 50 states in the country. Which statistic do you think more accurately reflects the well-being of ordinary Californians?

8.)     Since you became Governor, the State Budget has grown from $129 billion to $191 billion. What evidence can you point to that this new spending has improved the quality of life for ordinary Californians? Feel free to cite, for example, health outcomes, student achievement, housing affordability, infrastructure quality, workforce participation, poverty rates, family stability, or any other metric.

9.)     The projected cost of High Speed Rail now exceeds $67 billion, with new delays and cost overruns reported almost monthly. And many are doubting the bullet train will have any useful purpose. In the words of Elon Musk, “The train in question would be both slower, more expensive to operate and less safe by two orders of magnitude than flying, so why would anyone use it?” Why would anyone?

10.)     You recently accused others of “ripping the country apart” through partisan actions. Yet in the last few months you’ve called your political opponents “mafia thugs,” “political terrorists,” and “evil in the extreme.” Is this rhetoric bringing the country together?

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley represents the 6th Assembly District, which includes parts of El Dorado, Placer, and Sacramento counties.

This blog post was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

California Needs Voter ID Laws

Voter fraud is real, pervasive, and purposed. But don’t take it from me. Listen to Alabama Democratic Rep. Artur Davis.

Davis is a unique Democrat who acknowledges voter fraud is a reality that his party deliberately ignores, and pushed back against progressives claiming that worries over voter fraud are rooted in prejudice toward minorities.

“What I have seen in my state, in my region, is the most aggressive practitioners of voter-fraud are local machines who are tied lock, stock and barrel to the special interests in their communities — the landfills, the casino operators — and they’re cooking the [ballot] boxes on election day, they’re manufacturing absentee ballots, they’re voting [in the names of] people named Donald Duck, because they want to control politics and thwart progress.”

Davis argued that voter identification would protect minorities, including non-citizens, from politicians who are lobbied by special interests groups to resist anti-fraud measures.

“If you believe in more transparency around connections in politics and money in politics, how can you not believe in transparency when it comes to the core of politics which is voting?”

My state of California is not so fortunate to have Democrats like Artur Davis, who admits Democratic Party bosses benefit from voter fraud, but rather those who teeter between outright denying voter fraud happens and fostering an environment conducive to non-citizen voting. In January 2015, California became a state that allows illegal immigrants to obtain a driver’s license by revoking the need for applicants to establish proof of legal presence in the United States. Then in October 2015, under the false pretense that it’s “still too hard for Californians to register to vote,” Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown signed a law to register all eligible drivers license holders as voters unless they “opt out.”

But that wasn’t far enough. …

Click here to read the full article from the Daily Caller