Progressives’ situational, self-serving, love of transparency

CapitolWe’ve all heard of “situational ethics.” This column is about “situational transparency,” a phenomenon among progressives who love transparency in matters of public policy, except when they hate it.

Let’s review the areas in which progressives support transparency: the salaries of CEOs, the race and gender of employees, the details of business supply chains and, of course, extensive disclosures about campaign finance.

But in other matters, particularly relating to their own interests, the same people are flatly opposed to transparency. For example, progressives claim to desire disclosure of who pays for political advertising, and they backed legislation such as Assembly Bill 249, a burdensome mandate to add confusing content to political ads. It was so burdensome, in fact, that an exception was made for ads paid for by labor unions, major backers of progressive politicians.

Progressives also campaigned hard against Proposition 54, the California Legislative Transparency Act, which voters approved despite liberals’ complaints. Prop. 54 requires that bills must be posted online in their final form for at least three days before lawmakers can cast a final vote on them. Proposition 54, which the voters approved in 2016, also requires the Legislature to make video recordings of all public hearings, and it allows any member of the public to record a legislative hearing.

Another example of how those in power resist having the public see what they are doing involves public employee compensation. For years, government agencies and departments have resisted disclosing how much their managers and employees are paid in both salaries and benefits. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association had to file numerous lawsuits — or threaten lawsuits — to get local governments to disgorge the data. After prevailing in all those actions, compensation data is now available for public inspections — a healthy development in countering government entities that constantly plead poverty and demand higher taxes.

Perhaps the most glaring example of progressive hypocrisy when it comes to transparency is revealed by the defeat of Senate Bill 1074, authored by state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, which would have provided California’s millions of motorists with valuable information about the price of gasoline. Titled “Motor Vehicle Fuel: Disclosure of Government-Imposed Costs,” SB1074 would have required gas stations to post near each pump a breakdown of all the different costs that go into the price per gallon of fuel, such as federal, state and local taxes and costs associated with environmental rules and regulations, including California’s hidden tax, the permit fees that fuel producers have to pay under the state’s infamous cap-and-trade law.

As you might expect, the progressives who control the state Legislature refused to provide the public with the true cost of government when it comes to driving our cars. The same folks who rail against the oil companies and who are quick to allege deep conspiracies about corporate profits have no interest in informing the public about government-imposed costs that dwarf the oil companies’ profit margin on a gallon of gas.

We can also expect them to oppose the government transparency that would be required by an initiative that recently met the signature requirement to qualify for the November ballot.

The Tax Fairness, Transparency and Accountability Act of 2018 would require that any law creating a new, increased or extended tax must contain “a specific and legally binding and enforceable limitation on how the revenue from the tax can be spent.”

Even if the tax revenue will be spent for “unrestricted general revenue purposes,” the law must say so.

California politicians often complain about “ballot-box budgeting” and requirements for voter approval before taxes can be raised. But progressives have earned a reputation for hiding the cost of their policies, and voters can’t be blamed for playing an aggressive defense.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register

Legislatures Kill Transparency Pricing at the Pump

gas prices 2Californians now pay as much as $1.00 more per gallon of fuel than the rest of the country. Shouldn’t the motoring public know why?

A bill in the California Legislature to do just that was Senate Bill 1074, by state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa. Called “Disclosure of government-imposed costs,” it would have required gas stations to post near each gas pump a list of cost factors, such as federal, state and local taxes, costs associated with environmental rules and regulations including the cap-and-trade tax.

Numerous folks and organizations spoke in support of the bill at an April 23 hearing before the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development. I testified myself. Absolutely no one from the public spoke in opposition.

But the Democratic-controlled committee didn’t want the public to know why we’re paying so much, and voted to kill the bill from future consideration.

I watched closely the action on the Senate floor. The senator who spoke most against the bill was Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton. But when the time of the vote came and it became clear the bill would fail, he voted Aye, which could help him in his close recall election bid this June.

Newman already had enough problems on the issue because he provided the key vote last year to pass Senate Bill 1, which jacked up gas taxes $5.5 billion a year. An initiative to repeal that gouging at the gouging at the pump just submitted more than 1 million signatures and also should go before voters this November.

It’s strange that almost every other product we buy comes with the price listed on the tag, with the taxes then clearly added to the receipt: clothes, computers, cars, furniture, office supplies, books, etc.

By contrast, the price at the pump is not broken down by tax or other cost, but actually includes a multitude of taxes, as well as costs from numerous environmental regulations.

In addition to the federal tax on fuels that applies to all states, California’s state taxes are among the highest in the country. Beginning last November, SB 1 alone added 12 cents to a gallon of gasoline and 20 cents to diesel.

SB 1074 specified the multiple taxes and regulatory costs that would have to be listed: a) The federal fuel tax per gallon; b) the state fuel tax per gallon; c) the state sales tax per gallon; d) refinery reformatting costs per gallon; e) cap and trade program compliance costs per gallon; f) low-carbon fuel standard program compliance costs per gallon; and g) renewable fuels standard program compliance costs per gallon.

That’s a lot of taxes and costs.

The cap and trade costs, by the way, now are the major funding source for outgoing Gov. Jerry Brown’s favorite boondoggle, the Choo Choo train project.

The high fuel taxes impact not just drivers, but almost everything in our economy, such as the food carried to grocery stores, materials to housing construction and clothing to children’s stores. Even Amazon.com and other online retailers will charge more for shipping as their costs rise.

Especially hurt by the high cost of fuel are the working poor, who often must commute an hour or more inland because coastal housing is so expensive. Aren’t such people supposed to be a key constituency of the Democratic Party?

No wonder we now have a better understanding of why California suffers the highest percentage of people in poverty and a homeless crisis so acute it shocks the world.

SB 1074 would have given motorists information on what’s really going on. But for the Democratic supermajority in the Legislature, bliss is keeping Californians ignorant.

ounder of PTS Staffing Solutions, a technical staffing agency headquartered in Irvine

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Gov. Brown’s Budget and Legacy Priorities

Governor Brown released his 2018-19 Budget last week and the OC Register was kind enough to publish my first impressions in their commentary section.  Here is a link:

The good and bad of Jerry Brown’s budget

I also sent out an immediate reaction:

Governor Brown admits that the “last 5 budgets have significantly increased spending” and this budget proposal is no different. Coming in at just under $300 billion dollars of total spending, debt and poverty remain at all-time highs. Even worse, our balance sheet is massively short and unfunded liabilities are in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Our underfunded pension systems will get minimum payments of $6.2 billion to CalPERS and $3.1 billion for CalSTRS. These costs are directly related to policies Jerry Brown embraced 40 years ago during his first time as governor. While he’s sensitive to a possible economic slowdown and should be lauded for increasing our rainy day funds, he has been a spendthrift in Sacramento. We have to acknowledge that the $9.3 billion in pension payments won’t go to pay for more teachers or cut college tuition or build roads right now. And yet, we’re hoisting these liabilities on future generations at a higher cost unless we do more to address them now. I was wondering how seriously Governor Brown would be in his last budget about addressing our liabilities. It looks like he’s kicking the can down the road to the next governor. Oh well.

The primary focus for Governor Brown has not been that California has the worst balance sheet of all 50 states. Just look at the city of Oakland’s balance sheet, and you’ll see that being deep in a fiscal hole is not one of Jerry’s worries.

Brown’s focus has been climate change and converting California to an electric car state, relying on solar and wind to provide the energy. It’s covered in a lengthy and thorough manner by CALmatters here:

California’s climate fight gets harder soon, and the big culprit is cars

The irony is that electricity needs to be carried by power lines. These power lines have caused many of the wildfires in California. And, wildfires create more greenhouse gases than our state’s cars, by a long shot. So, where is the effort to address the cause of the biggest greenhouse gas source? It’s nonexistent. See: MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Safety Concerns.

Worse, being totally dependent on electricity for travel, communication, preserving food supplies, and dealing with occasional inclement weather, this state will shut down in a matter of days without it. This is also a scary proposition in a world where terrorism is the new norm. I’m just sayin’.

There’s the legacy. He’s funded the required Rainy Day Fund. He’s exposing residents to a different danger in the potential loss of power.  And he’s flown around the world to preach climate change. But, our balance sheet sucks and our wildfire zones went up in smoke this year and are now suffering from the damages that rain can cause.  Sometimes I just want to weep.

John Moorlach: 2018-2019 Budget Recommendations

The 2018 session started yesterday afternoon with a bang. Sen. Andy Vidak (R – Hanford) introduced Senate Resolution 69, a resolution to permanently expel Sen. Tony Mendoza (D – Artesia) from the California State Senate.  This caused the Democratic Caucus to immediately meet in a closed door caucus, for several hours, while the Republican Senators simply spent the afternoon and early evening waiting for them to conclude. A little after 6 p.m., the Senate reconvened and Sen. Mendoza gave an “I’m taking a one month leave of absence” speech. This is something he should have done when the President Pro Tem offered him this solution at the end of last year, during the recess. And then yesterday’s Floor Session closed with a quick thud. No comments allowed from anyone in the Chambers. The fun has begun.

I return next week for a boatload of work. I have four two-year bills to address before committees, SB 656, SB 681, SB 688 and SB 722 (see the 2017 legislative package on my Senate website). I will also have Public Employment and Retirement Committee, Judiciary Committee, and Governance and Finance Committee meetings. Plus there will be two joint hearings, where the Senate and Assembly combine, addressing sexual harassment and the Ghost Ship fire. And, if that was not enough, the Governor will be announcing the 2018-19 Budget on January 10th.

In anticipation of one of next week’s upcoming events, I decided to submit a snarky but extremely serious op-ed on the proposed budget to the San Francisco Chronicle.  Here’s a link:

http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/openforum/article/Will-governor-propose-to-spend-or-save-12472049.php#photo-14786355

The year of our Lord 2018 is here and it’s game on, as we try to send a message to the Governor and the Legislature that California needs to turn its ship of state around. We issued an ICYMI yesterday that proves the necessity of minding the fiscal store here in Sacramento (also see my Senate website at http://district37.cssrc.us/).

Happy New Year!

Without Government Unions, there Would be No Gas Tax Increase

LA-Freeway-Xchange-110-105Nobody argues that California’s roads need huge upgrades. But the solution didn’t require the $0.12 per gallon tax hike that went into effect Nov. 1. The root cause of these neglected roads – and the reason even more taxes will never be enough to fix them – is the power of public sector unions, whose agenda is consistently at odds with the public interest. Let us count the ways.

1 – CalTrans mismanagement:

CalTrans could have done a much better job of maintaining California’s roads. One of the most diligent critics (and auditors) of CalTrans is state Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), the only CPA in California’s state legislature. Last year, Moorlach released a report on CalTrans which he summarized in “7-Step Fix for ‘Mismanaged’ Caltrans,” an article on his official website. Just a few highlights include the following:

  • In May 2014 the Legislative Analyst Office determined that CalTrans was overstaffed by 3,500 architects and engineers, costing over $500 million per year.
  • While to an average state transportation agency outsources over 50% of its work, CalTrans outsources only 10% of its work. Arizona and Florida outsource more than 80%.
  • 54% of CalTrans staff is at or near retirement age, so a hiring freeze would reduce staff merely through attrition, without requiring layoffs.

But Moorlach didn’t make explicit the reason CalTrans is mismanaged. It’s because the unions that run Sacramento don’t want to outsource CalTrans work. The unions don’t want to reduce CalTrans headcount, or hold CalTrans management accountable. Those actions might help Californians, but they would undermine union power.

2 – Bullet train boondoggle:

Money that could have been allocated to maintain and improve California’s roads is being squandered on a train that will do nothing to ameliorate California’s transportation challenges. A LOT of money. According to the American Road and Transportation Builders Association, California’s freeways can be resurfaced and have a lane added in each direction at a cost of roughly $5.0 million per mile in rural areas, about twice that in urban areas.

Meanwhile, the latest estimate for California’s “bullet train,” is $98 billion (that’s $245 million per mile), thanks to construction delays, and design challenges including nearly 50 miles of tunnels through seismically active mountains to the north and south. And hardly anyone is going to ride it. Ridership won’t even pay operating costs. But Sacramento pushes ahead with this monstrous waste when that same money could (at the urban price of $10 million per mile) resurface and add a lane in each direction to 10,000 miles of California’s freeways. Imagine smooth, unclogged roads. It’s not impossible. It’s just policy priorities.

But while bad roads destroy the chassis of millions of cars and trucks, and commuters endure stop-and-go traffic year after year, the California High Speed Rail Authority dutifully pushes on. Why?

Because that’s what the government employee unions want. They don’t want roads, with all the flexibility and autonomy that roads offer. They want to create a gigantic high-speed rail empire, with tens of thousands of new public employees to drive the trains, maintain the trains, maintain the tracks, and provide security, running up staggering annual deficits. But all of them will be members of public sector unions.

3 – All rapid transit boondoggles:

In a handful of very dense urban areas around the U.S., fast intercity trains make economic sense. But most light rail schemes, along with laughably absurd “streetcar” schemes that actually block urban lanes sorely needed by vehicles, do not achieve levels of ridership that even begin to justify their construction when the alternative is using that money for better, wider connector roads and freeways. The impact of ride sharing apps, the advent of non-polluting cars, and the option of using buses to accomplish mass transit goals all speak to the superior versatility of roads over rail for urban transportation.

So why do California’s cities continue to poor billions into light rail and streetcars, when that money could be used to unclog the roads?

To reiterate: The public sector unions that run California want tens of thousands of new public employees to operate the trains and streetcars, maintain them, maintain the tracks, and provide security, running up staggering annual deficits. But doing this means that public sector union membership – hence public sector union power – will increase.

4 – CEQA reform so people can live closer to the jobs:

The median home value in the United States today is $202,700. The median home value in California today is $509,600, 2.5 times as much! There is no shortage of land in California, and the alleged shortages of energy and water are self-inflicted as the result of policies enacted by California’s state legislature. But instead of reforming California’s Environmental Quality ActSB 375AB 32, and countless other laws that have made building homes in California nearly impossible, California’s legislature is doubling down on more government solutions – primarily to subsidize either extremely high density housing, or subsidized housing for the economically disadvantaged, or both.

None of this is necessary. Outside of California’s major urban centers, there is no reason homes cannot be profitably built and sold at a median price of $202,700, and there is no reason the people living in those homes cannot drive or ride share to work on fast, unclogged freeways.

But California’s public sector unions want more regulations on home building, and they want more subsidized public housing. Because those solutions, even though inadequate and coercive, enable them to hire vast new bureaucracies to enforce the many regulations and administer the public assets. Unleashing the private sector to build affordable homes in a competitive market would rob these unions of their opportunity to acquire more power. It’s that simple.

5 – Insatiable appetite for pension fund contributions:

According to a California Policy Center study, taking barely adequate annual employer pension contributions into account, the average unionized state/local government worker in California makes over $120,000 per year in pay and benefits. But to adequately fund their promised pension benefits, employers will need to pay at least another $20,000 per employee to the pension funds. This funding gap, which equates to over $20 billion per year, is the additional amount that is required to cover the difference between how much California’s public employee pension funds currently collect from taxpayers, and how much they need to collect to keep the promises that union controlled politicians have made to the government unions they “negotiate” with. That is a best-case scenario.

It could be much worse. A 2016 California Policy Center analysis (ref. table 2-C) estimated that under a worst-case scenario, the annual costs to fund California’s public employee pension funds could cost taxpayers nearly $70 billion more per year than they are currently paying.

And by the way, California’s pension funds are themselves almost entirely under the control of public sector unions – research the background of CalPERS and CalSTRS board directors to verify the degree of influence they have. Absent significant reform, funding California’s public employee pensions is going to continue to consume every dollar in new taxes for the next several decades. The cumulative financial impact of funding these pensions is easily triple that of the bullet train’s $100 billion fiasco, probably much more.

Let’s not mince words. Government unions control California. They collect and spend over $1.0 billion every year, and spend most of that money on either explicit political campaigning and lobbying, or soft advocacy via expensive public relations campaigns and sponsored academic studies. Their presence is felt everywhere, from local transit districts to the governor’s office. They make or break politicians at will, by outspending or outlasting their opponents. At best, California’s most powerful corporate players do not cross these unions, often they collude with them.

California’s public sector unions operate as senior partners in a coalition that includes left-wing oligarchs especially in the Silicon Valley, extreme environmentalists and their powerful trial lawyer cohorts, and the Latino Legislative Caucus – usurped by leftist radicals – and their many allies in the social justice/identity politics industry. The power of this government union led coalition is nearly absolute, and the consequences to California’s private sector working class have been nothing short of devastating.

Government unions force California’s agencies to over-hire, overpay, and mismanage, because that benefits their members even as it harms the public. These unions enforce absurd policy priorities that further harm the public in order to increase their power. They are the reason California has increased its gas tax.

This article was originally published by the California Policy Center

REFERENCES

Pump bump: California drivers to pay 12 cents more per gallon starting Wednesday – San Jose Mercury, Oct. 31, 2017
http://www.mercurynews.com/2017/10/31/pump-bump-california-drivers-to-pay-12-cents-more-per-gallon-starting-wednesday/

California’s gas tax increases Wednesday – Los Angeles Times, October 31, 2017
http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-gas-tax-increase-political-battle-20171031-story.html

How much you’ll REALLY pay in gasoline tax in California – San Diego Union Tribune, Apr. 23, 2017
http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/business/energy-green/sd-fi-california-gastax-20170413-story.html

What Californians Could Build Using the $64 Billion Bullet Train Budget – California Policy Center, Mar. 21, 2017
http://californiapolicycenter.org/what-californians-could-build-using-the-64-billion-bullet-train-budget/

American Road and Transportation Builders Association – FAQs, ref. “How much does it cost to build a mile of road?
https://www.artba.org/about/faq/

High-Speed Rail Delay More than Triples Planned Cost to San Jose – San Jose Inside, Oct. 2, 2017
http://www.sanjoseinside.com/2017/10/02/high-speed-rail-delay-more-than-triples-planned-cost-to-san-jose/

A 13.5-mile tunnel will make or break California’s bullet train – Los Angeles Times, Oct. 21, 2017
http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-bullet-train-tunnel-20171021-story.html

California Environmental Quality Act – Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Environmental_Quality_Act

State Senate bills aim to make homes more affordable, but they won’t spur nearly enough construction – Los Angeles Times, Aug. 11, 2017
http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-state-housing-deal-effects-20170811-htmlstory.html

California’s Public Sector Compensation Trends – California Policy Center, Jan. 2017
http://californiapolicycenter.org/californias-public-sector-compensation-trends/

What is the Average Pension for a Retired Government Worker in California? – California Policy Center, Mar. 2017
http://californiapolicycenter.org/what-is-the-average-pension-for-a-retired-government-worker-in-california/

The Coming Public Pension Apocalypse, and What to Do About It – California Policy Center, May 2016
http://californiapolicycenter.org/the-coming-public-pension-apocalypse/

John Moorlach — Government Union Costs

The California Policy Center is back with another well written piece on the power of public employee unions, Sacramento’s “Daddy” (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Secretive and Expensive Union Deals — November 3, 2017).

You know I’ve been ferreting out the disappointing data that makes California’s Department of Transportation, Caltrans, one of the most disappointing DOTs in the nation and that reform is preferred over a new tax; that I have opposed high-speed rail from the get go; that I have opposed trolleys in Orange County; that I tried a CEQA reform legislative effort last year; and you know I’ve been warning you about public employee defined benefit pension plan rising costs for more than 16 years. This piece addresses them all.

BONUS:  Recently, I have begun my own weekly podcast, “The O.C. – Sacramento Connection.” On these podcasts, I have and will continue to share my thoughts on  several issues including some of the ones in this update.

CLICK HERE to listen to my podcasts on iTunes free of charge.

INVITATION: My District Office has started a new Veterans Day tradition. Last year we had a simple afternoon ceremony at Crystal Cove State Beach to review the World War II history within its boundaries. Dan Worthington discussed the Fire Station, a WWII bunker that kept an eye on the California coast during the beginning of the war, pre-radar, to signal the alarm should the Japanese Fleet appear over the horizon. There is a similar location at Bolsa Chica and the west side of Catalina Island has ten such bunkers!

This year we have invited noted author Chris Epting to speak on the subject of “The Day the War Hit The Shore.” Orange County incurred civilian casualties stateside during WWII, an extremely rare occurrence. This tragic episode has been lost over time, but has many valuable lessons to this day.

Please attend your traditional Veterans Day ceremonies at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month on Saturday. If you want an afternoon break, join us at 3 p.m. We’ll meet at 21871 Newland Street in Huntington Beach. There should be some parking spaces at the neighboring wildlife center.

We will also have surviving family members present of those who were lost to this unique chapter in WWII local history. If you enjoy local Orange County history, this will be a relaxed setting to actually share war stories. Please RSVP with Aly Henderson at aly.john@sen.ca.gov or 714-662-6050.

California Gas-Tax Hike Hits Today

gas prices 2Call it the Stealth Gas-Tax Increase. Today California’s gas tax increases about 12 cents a gallon to pay for the newly budgeted $5.2 billion a year in supposed road repairs which the Legislature passed and Gov. Jerry Brown signed last April.

But few motorists will notice it. That’s because every Nov. 1 the state switches to what’s called the winter blend of gas, which is about 10 cents cheaper than the summer blend mandated from April 1 to Oct. 31. The summer blend costs more because it adds refinery steps to reduce pollution during the year’s hot, smoggy months.

The usual 10-cent reduction will be erased this year by the 12-cent increase, so the resulting 2-cent increase overall will hardly be on your radar. For a 15-gallon fill-up, it’s just 30 cents.

The “seeming” increase of 2 cents a gallon will appear to be a slight incline in cost for rebuilding the state’s roads, which TRIP, a national transportation research group, ranks as the worst in the nation.

But this respite from the nation’s highest gas taxes won’t last long.

The big impact will hit next April 1, when gas prices will have risen not just the 10 cents extra for the summer blend of gas, but also for the additional 12 cents for the new gas tax. Total: 22 cents per gallon. But of course, by then people for five months will have gotten used to the new, stealthy 12-cent gas tax. So they may only “feel” like gas went up 10 cents a gallon, as it always does on April 1.

Yet the new tax will be a collision to people’s wallets. Assume this for an average California family. Both spouses work. Together, they use 40 gallons a week driving to and from work, taking the kids to and from school and soccer practice and performing various errands. So the 12-cent new stealth tax totals $4.80 a week, or about $250 a year.

But what if the family, due to high housing costs, must commute long distances to work – say from Riverside to Orange County or Los Angeles. Then the cost of the stealth tax could rise to $500 or more a year.

But that’s not all. There’s also an additional Transportation Improvement Fee, which is really a tax, just to register your jalopy, bumping this annual ritual $25 to $175 a year, but averaging about $50.

All this detoured money could have gone for healthier food, schoolbooks, a college tuition savings plan, or just recreation for a family that works too long paying all the taxes that already hit them.

And there’s no guarantee the money will actually fix the roads the family drives on. The stealth taxes could be car-jacked during a recession, as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did with earlier tax hikes for transportation during the 2008-10 Great Recession. With the state’s pension crisis accelerating, I predict the new taxes will be too tempting a target for a future Legislature and governor.

Indeed, even the new taxes paid at the gas pump will not fully go to fix the roads the cars ride on. According to the Legislative Analyst, $270 million will go to the transit and intercity rail program, $44 million to commuter rail and intercity rail, $100 million to bicycle and pedestrian projects and $108 million for parks and agriculture. And train and bus ridership is declining.

Although today’s tax increase is stealthy, its effect on the personal budgets of Californians will be substantial. And the state’s national reputation for fiscal irresponsibility continues out of control. It’s time to hit the brakes!

John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, is a state senator representing the 37th District.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

John Moorlach – Scary Week Ahead

Early this week, Californians will enjoy two major events. On Tuesday, they will participate in handing out candy to the children in their neighborhoods for Halloween. The next day, Sacramento will provide its own version of “trick or treat” by increasing the gas tax. It should be a scary week.

Sacramento is to blame for neglecting the roads in California. Instead of addressing the symptoms, like bad management, budgeting and hiring, the majority party focused its attention on raising taxes (again!).

I have tried to research California’s Department of Transportation since I was elected on March 17, 2015.  The metrics suck. And my attempts to fix them have been voted down by the Democrats (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Caltrans Boondoggles).

A gas tax increase presents a real problem to a good number of Californians. Those who are wealthy and living near the coast won’t even notice. But, the following sampling of people will:

  • The 20 percent-plus of the population that are living at or below the poverty level (the highest percentage for any state in the nation – after four decades of Democrat control of the Legislature).
  • Those who have lengthy commutes into Orange County because they found affordable housing in the Inland Empire. Add to this those that commute great distances to get to their jobs in Silicon Valley. (And Sacramento wonders why its roads are in disrepair.)
  • Those who are spending nearly half of their disposable income on housing, thanks to increasing rents and home prices.

Expect plenty of editorials on the November 1st gas tax increase over the next few days.  Click here to read the article by the Napa Valley Register.

Take a scalpel to $345 million in California’s stem-cell research waste

Stem Cell researchJust as good scientists are drawn to conclusions by solid data, the decision whether to spend another $345 million by California’s state-run stem-cell research project should be based on an objective analysis as to whether it would be cost-effective. A rigorous cost-benefit analysis is not only fiscally prudent, it avoids being drawn into the moral dilemmas posed by stem-cell research, especially with respect to cells from human embryos.

Created in 2004 with the passage of Proposition 71, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine was authorized to spend $3 billion in bond proceeds. But as is typical with most bonds, the interest payments would double the cost to $6 billion. CIRM has made $2.4 billion in grants and used $255 million for administration and prepaid interest — leaving $345 million remaining to disburse.

Should CIRM distribute the remaining $345 million (which, with interest, would amount to $690 million in repayment costs)? Should this remaining pool of funds be doled out?

To read the entire column from the Orange County Register, please click here.

John Moorlach: “Who’s Your Daddy?” bills

When assembling the 2017 top 20 worst bills going to the governor’s desk, there were some 15 that were “Who’s Your Daddy?” bills. I could only include a sampling (see MOORLACH UPDATE — 2017 Top 20 Veto Worthy Bills — ).
Nearly two years ago, I provided an extensive analysis of how the public employee unions run Sacramento (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Blame the Unions —
One of my biggest concerns in this posting was reiterated recently (see MOORLACH UPDATE — What Pension Crisis? — ). “The unions will say it wasn’t our fault. We didn’t vote for it. You guys [the elected officials] voted for it,” said Sen. Moorlach in an interview Monday.
.  In fact, it even became a segment of a TBS MLB Post Season show.
The bill that set this chant in my brain this session was AB1250, which would greatly increase the cost to counties of personal-service contracts, sharply reducing help given to citizens, especially the poor. We introduced the consequences of the bill to you in this posting: MOORLACH UPDATE — Who’s Your Daddy? — I provided the fun when I asked this very question in the Senate Governance and Finance Committee meeting
I provided my own editorial, on the premise that AB1250 was not being relegated to a two-year bill status and may be resurrected and show up at the last minute on the Senate Floor (it didn’t) in MOORLACH UPDATE: Who Runs Our Government?
By the final night of session, one Democrat Senator made Bingo cards. The squares were words that may be spoken on the floor. This is one way to while away the hours as this annual exercise drones on past midnight. I heard one square stated, “Sen. Moorlach says ‘Who’s Your Daddy?'” The chant had sunk in.
The OC Register provides the details of the union-assisting bills in my editorial submission.
A common union tactic is to twist something. The headline of a recent post did just that. As Sacramento is brimming with current and retired state employees, the headline was inflammatory, when not factually accurate.  So, I decided to provide a clarification. The good news?  It was printed.