Dem-on-Dem Contests Cost the Party $90 Million in 2016

democrat supermajority sacramento californiaA new report tallying the costs of running against members of your own party revealed that Golden State Democrats spent big in 2016 on races without a Republican.

This year, “Democrats raised or spent a total of $90.8 million on same-party races — a 67 percent increase from 2014 when Democrats spent $54.3 million,” according to the study, citing data from the California Secretary of State, California Fair Political Practices Commission and Federal Election Commission, and issued this week by Forward Observer. “The average budget for a same-party race between Democrats was $3.95 million in the 2016 cycle, up 30.7 percent since 2014,” the last year in the Congressional election cycle.

That means Democrats are now spending massive sums of money against other Democrats in political races due to the passive of Proposition 14, the California top-two primary law which went into effect in 2012.

Those figures struck a sharp contrast to spending for similarly situated candidates in the California GOP, which spent far less over the same two-year period. Those state Republicans “raised or spent $2.76 million on same party races in 2016,” Forward Observer observed. “This is a sharp decline (approximately 84 percent) in spending on same-party races since 2014, when Republicans spent $17.2 million.” One key to the big divergence between Democrats and Republicans, the report noted, was the lack of any Republican-on-Republican competition for a seat in the state Senate or the U.S. House of Representatives.

Jungle primaries

Intraparty fights between Democrats attracted more outside spending this year. $339,000 went “to support Assemblywoman Nora Campos, D-San Jose, who is running against state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, in the 15th Senate District,” as the Sacramento Bee reported earlier this year, while “several hundred thousand dollars” went to “help former Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra or oppose the incumbent, Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, D-San Fernando, in Los Angeles County’s 39th Assembly District.”

“And in the Inland Empire, a campaign committee funded by the grocery workers union has spent $75,000 to support Eloise Gomez Reyes, the Democrat running to unseat Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, in the 47th Assembly District.”

For Democrats, the shifting political sands have complicated what was seen by some as an implicit advantage in the so-called “jungle primary” system California voters ushered in six years ago through Proposition 14. That initiative inserted a constitutional amendment to afford Californians a single, nonpartisan primary election, pitting the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, against one another in the general election. But instead of making candidates’ lives easier — and the Democratic party’s — Prop. 14 has appeared to have cost them, demanding higher expenditures. “Democrats have spent a total of $194.2 million on same-party races since Prop. 14 first went into effect in 2012,” Forward Observer concluded. “Republicans have spent $34.5 million over the same period. Thus, for every dollar spent or raised by Republicans, $5.64 was raised or spent by Democrats.”

Ideological Fights Within the Democratic Party

Another effect of the new system, harder to quantify but possibly more serious, has been a sharpening differences between the more moderate and more progressive wings of the party, sparking sometimes thorny disagreements that could have been soften had all candidates vying for office run against Republican opponents. In some cases, such as Kamala Harris’ race against Loretta Sanchez, the challenger was too weak to force a bruising battle over political agendas. In others, however, a more moderate non-incumbent drew a clear line on policy and was rewarded at the ballot box. Last year, for instance, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer — a former aide to Gov. Jerry Brown who pitted himself against the BART strike and won support from Chuck Reed, the ex-San Jose Mayor spearheading public pension reform — bested Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, the far more liberal Democrat who initially had been widely expected to win the race to replace outgoing state Senator Mark DeSaulnier.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Democrats eye post-election transportation session

As reported by Politico:

SACRAMENTO — After a year of stalled negotiations on a multi-billion dollar transportation plan, Democratic legislative leaders are privately discussing reconvening the state Legislature after the Nov. 8 election to take up road funding in a special session, legislative sources said.

In a lobbying effort supported by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, state Sen. Jim Beall and Assemblyman Jim Frazier, chairman of the chamber’s Transportation Committee, have reached out to colleagues in recent days to seek support for a transportation bill.

Frazier and Beall helped craft a $7.4 billion transportation proposal this year that would have included a 17-cent-per-gallon increase in the gas tax, though that measure would likely be amended before lawmakers take it up. Gov. Jerry Brown, who previously called for a smaller, $3.6 billion transportation package, remains resistant to the lawmakers’ more expensive proposal, sources said. …

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17-Cent Gas Tax Hike on the Horizon

gas prices 2The Democratic member who has led the push in the Assembly for a gas tax hike to pay for transportation improvements is teaming with the Democratic senator who has played the same role in his chamber. And the pair want to be far bolder that Gov. Jerry Brown was in his 2015 proposal.

Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, and Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, propose a 17 cent per gallon tax increase to fund a $7.4 billion transportation program, with likely additional annual hikes after adoption because the rate is indexed to inflation. They also want to increase the tax on diesel fuels by 30 cents a gallon, with the same indexing provision, and to make it easier to get approvals for transportation infrastructure improvements.

Brown’s proposal — which went nowhere in a special session — was built on a 6 cent per gallon tax increase and other provisions that would have funded a $3.6 billion transportation plan.

Bitterness over 2010 gas tax swap hangs over debate

The huge problem facing any proposal to raise taxes of this sort is the need for two-thirds approval, which means Republican votes in both the Assembly and Senate are necessary. And Democrats lobbying for GOP support don’t just have to overcome traditional Republican opposition to higher taxes. There continues to be deep bitterness over the gas tax swap that GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic lawmakers pulled off in 2010 to plug a $1.8 billion hole in the 2010-11 budget. Republicans aware of this history would struggle to believe that the tax hikes that Frazier and Beall seek for road repairs might not at some future date be used to pay for state salaries, pensions or other needs unrelated to potholes and aging bridges.

The background: Irate over previous diversions of gasoline sales taxes from road repairs to other uses, California voters twice this century passed ballot measures — Proposition 42 in 2002 and Proposition 1A in 2006 — that banned such use of gas sales tax revenue.

But gasoline excise taxes can be spent on general fund obligations. So in 2010, gas excise taxes were sharply raised and gas sales taxes sharply reduced. Because the move was revenue-neutral, Schwarzenegger and Democrats successfully argued that the maneuver only needed to pass on a simple majority vote — not the two-thirds vote needed for tax hikes.

As a result, each year, the state Board of Equalization announces whether it is raising or cutting state excise taxes on gasoline to honor the deal’s requirement that the 2010 gas tax swap be roughly revenue-neutral.

Recent coverage of the Frazier-Beall initiative has not detailed whether the 17 cent per gallon tax hike would be entirely in the gas sales tax or entirely in the gas excise tax or a combination of increases in each.  If it were in the gas sales tax, that would nominally mean the money could only be spent on road repairs and infrastructure improvement because of Propositions 42 and 1A. But another gas tax swap could enable the money to be diverted to the general fund by a simple majority of the Legislature in the future, at least if the governor was amenable.

Republican lawmakers are also likely to be wary of another part of the Democratic lawmakers’ proposal: a $165 yearly fee for owners of zero-emission vehicles to help pay for road improvements. While that’s higher than what most states with such fees charge, it’s only half of what the average U.S. car owner pays in gas taxes a year, according to data from 2013.

The argument that zero-emission vehicles should pay more toward road maintenance is dismissed by greens who cite the environmental benefits of the vehicles. But as such vehicles become more common — and as states push gas taxes higher — owners of regular vehicles and free-market advocates are likely to cry foul.

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Gas tax hike of 17 cents per gallon part of new transportation funding plan

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Two Democratic lawmakers unveiled a $7.4-billion transportation plan late Wednesday, the latest effort to break through a yearlong logjam over the state’s funding woes.

The plan, highlighted by an increase of 17 cents per gallon in the gas tax, comes from Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) and Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) in an attempt to unify the disparate proposals the pair had previously introduced in their respective houses.

The combined plan is more than double Gov. Jerry Brown’s $3.6-billion proposal, which calls for a 6-cent gas tax hike.

“We need to be able to have a big plan to be able to be effective and catch back up,” Frazier said.

Last summer, Brown called a special session of the Legislature to highlight the $130-billion backlog in state and local road repairs, as well as the billions more in other transportation budget deficits. But lawmakers have made little progress, especially with gas tax hikes — which would require a bipartisan supermajority vote — on the table. …

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Senators share their doubts about bullet train financing with rail officials

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

California’s plan to pay for construction of the $64-billion bullet train has many unanswered questions and shaky assumptions, senators from across the state told rail officials Monday.

“We want you to beef up your financing package,” Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), a longtime supporter of the high-speed project, said at a hearing of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, which he chairs.

Republican lawmakers were even tougher. “I think the financing is shaky here,” said Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber). “It seems like it is careening down the tracks.”

The committee was responding to a draft business plan the California High-Speed Rail Authority released in February. The authority said …

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More Pain at the Pump

Gas-Pump-blue-generic+flippedSacramento is about to launch a new attack in its ongoing war on drivers.

California’s 48.6 cent gas tax already ranks second out of 50 states –- the feds take another 18.4 cents — and when the hidden carbon tax, part of the cap-and-trade program, is factored in, our state leads the pack by a wide margin. But this is not nearly enough, according to the political class.

Sen. Jim Beall is building a coalition of both Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature to hike gas taxes along with vehicle license fees and registration.

The San Jose lawmaker’s Senate Bill 16 slams taxpayers in three ways. First, it would raise at least $3 billion annually by increasing the gas tax by another 10 cents a gallon.  Second, it would hike the vehicle license fee, which is based on value, by more than 50 percent over 5 years. Third, it would increase the cost to register a vehicle by over 80 percent.

Although the backers of the SB16 tax increase say it is vital to make up the claimed $59 billion backlog in roadway maintenance, some of the funds are slated to go to repaying transportation bonds that, when passed, were to be paid from the general fund. This means that not all of the new revenue will go to the stated intent of fixing roads and highways.

Whatever the actual dollar amount of the backlog in roadway maintenance, this shortfall is the result of previous diversions of gas tax and truck weight revenue to budget items that have no direct impact on road improvement, and Beall’s bill would allow this practice to continue.

It should not go unnoticed that the $59 billion estimated backlog approaches the $68 billion that the governor and Legislature want to spend on the bullet train. Quentin Kopp, former chairman of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, has become a strong critic, characterizing it as “low-speed rail” due to the changes that have been made to the original plan that voters were promised to convince them to provide seed money for the project in 2008. He adds that to be financially viable, high-speed trains need to run from 10 to 20 trains per hour, but due to the current plan, called a “blended system,” slower trains and bullet trains must share the same track, reducing the number of fast trains to about four per hour. And even supporters of the project as currently envisioned concede that the Los Angeles to San Francisco trip that voters were told would take about two-hours and forty minutes for a $50 fare, will likely take closer to 5 hours at nearly double the cost to the rider.

So, while Sacramento politicians and special interest insiders, including unions and construction companies, continue to push for billions of dollars of new spending on a high-speed rail system that is not expected to be completed before 2029, they expect drivers, fed up with bumping along on crumbling roads and highways, to pay more.

Gas prices in California are already tops in the nation. If taxes are increased again, every motorist should be given a railroad engineer’s cap compliments of Sacramento lawmakers and the governor because the extra they pay will free up money, which could have been used for roads, to be spent on their pet train.

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.

Originally published by the HJTA.org