Kevin McCarthy: Bipartisan effort needed to deal with drought

The current drought in California is devastating. The order from the governor should not only alarm Californians, but the entire nation should take notice that the most productive agriculture state in the country has entered uncharted territory. We have experienced extreme drought conditions in years past but thanks to the most sophisticated water system in the country that captured and stored water during the wet years for use during the dry years, our communities and farmers survived.‎ Unfortunately, state officials have turned their back on this proven infrastructure system.

The order is the culmination of failed federal and state policies that have exacerbated the current drought into a man-made water crisis. Sacramento and Washington have chosen to put the well-being of fish above the well-being of people by refusing to capture millions of acre-feet of water during wet years for use during dry years.

These policies imposed on us now, and during wet seasons of the past, are leaving our families, businesses, communities, and state high and dry. These rules and regulations must be changed.

My House colleagues and I have acted aggressively to enact legislation that would have helped protect us from the current situation. In 2011, and again in early 2014, the House passed comprehensive water legislation to increase the amount of water we could capture and store. Unfortunately, the Obama and Brown Administrations and Senators Boxer and Feinstein opposed these proposals. As the drought continued to worsen, the House passed emergency drought legislation in December of 2014 to allow us to capture storm and rainwater from early season storms. That too was blocked by the Senate.

I’m from the Central Valley and we know that we cannot conserve or ration our way out of this drought. It is time for action, and House Republicans are developing another legislative proposal to help put California water policy back on the path to commonsense. Given the announcement, this time I hope Governor Brown, Senator Boxer, and Senator Feinstein will join my colleagues and me in this effort.

Kevin McCarthy is the Majority Leader, United States Congress

Originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily

Don’t Break This Tax Promise

Voters passed Prop 30 as a temporary tax measure to avoid automatic cuts but now there is talk to extend it. Monday, December 1, 2014

Voters are right to be wary of “temporary” tax hikes, and California’s Proposition 30, which passed in 2012, is no exception. Democratic lawmakers are already talking about the possibility of an extension of the tax increase, either through legislative action or in the form of a 2016 ballot measure.

California fell into a significant budget deficit on the heels of the Great Recession. Between 2007 and 2008, state revenues fell by $25 billion, mostly due to decreases in personal income, corporate and other taxes. Social programs, K-12 and higher education were all headed for drastic cuts, so Gov. Jerry Brown helped place Proposition 30, or the Schools and Local Public Safety Protection Act, on the ballot.

The measure was a 0.25 statewide sales tax increase and an income tax increase for individuals making over $250,000 annually – set to expire in 2016 and 2018, respectively. If Proposition 30 had not passed, there would have been automatic “trigger cuts” to K-12, higher education and public safety. To be specific, K-12 funding would have been cut by $5.4 billion, the University of California and California state systems would have lost $500 million, and there would have been a $1 billion cut to public safety services.

After thoughtful consideration, the Valley Industry & Commerce Association decided to support Proposition 30 to avoid those devastating cuts, largely because of the measure’s sunset provisions. The measure passed with 55 percent of the voters’ approval.

Proposition 30’s passage stabilized school funding for the first time since the Great Recession, and prevented thousands of teacher layoffs. The Legislature balanced its budget after years of instability, and without cutting programs. Gov. Brown proposed a budget with a projected surplus of over $5 billion, and the year-to-year gaps between state spending and revenues have been erased for the time being.

Proposition 30 has wholly done its job, a rare outcome for tax increases. Recently, California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office reported that the expiration of temporary tax hikes over the next several years would not result in a ‘fiscal cliff’ as some have feared. Thanks to an economy reliably on the rebound, the state will be able to weather the major loss in tax revenue – Proposition 30 raised an extra $6 billion a year.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office also estimates that the state will have $4.2 billion in reserves at the start of the next fiscal year, which will begin in July. Proposition 2, which voters passed on Nov. 4, requires that $2 billion of that money be deposited into California’s savings account. A large chunk of the state’s surplus will be spent on public education, which should assuage any worries about schools running into trouble once Proposition 30 expires.

Gov. Brown, whose efforts got Proposition 30 placed on the ballot back in 2012, has indicated that when he said the tax hikes were temporary, he meant it. Still, there has been buzz from some Democrats – notably from Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and Senator Mark Leno. Sacramento Councilman-turned-Assemblymember Kevin McCarty has called Proposition 30 a “tourniquet,” and supports making the measure permanent.

With a huge budget surplus, a positive outlook from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, and Gov. Brown in favor of his own effort expiring, why are some legislators already campaigning for Proposition 30’s extension? Considering the electorate’s general skepticism toward tax increases, shouldn’t it be easier to find funding for education and public safety in our now-flush budget? It doesn’t seem like it would require much creativity.

VICA believes that temporary tax hikes should remain temporary. Extending Proposition 30 sets a dangerous precedent for tax increases, and is unfair to voters and Californians in general.

Stuart Waldman is president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association; a business advocacy organization based in Sherman Oaks that represents employers throughout the Los Angeles County region at the local, state and federal levels of government.

This article was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily

Immigration: A Power Grab that Exacerbates the Problem

The President doesn’t seem to get the point that he must work with the government he has, not the government he wants. But despite Congress and the American people’s resistance to President Obama’s unilateral action—action the President himself said would ‘violate our laws’ and be ‘very difficult to defend legally’—the President has decided to go it alone yet again.

As President Obama himself said, ‘there are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system.’

We urge the President to listen to his own words. America is a country of laws, and our Constitution does not grant the President the authority to legalize millions of immigrants with the stroke of a pen.

Not only is this action wrong, it does absolutely nothing to solve the underlying problems of our open border and broken immigration system. In fact, it may exacerbate the problem.

The President’s action is a prime example of Washington cynicism. He has responded to Congress and the public’s desire for positive change with an all-or-nothing approach that only damages the prospect of future cooperation. He did not even attempt to start on the right foot and work with us in the new year.

While House Republicans will still work to do everything we can to move the country forward, it is our obligation and responsibility to fight this brazen power grab that doesn’t solve the real problems.

Majority Leader, United States Congress

This article was originally published on Fox and Hounds Daily