Single-payer health care could cost Californians $400 billion a year

Healthcare costsSACRAMENTO – During the California Democratic Party convention in Sacramento last weekend, the spiciest news was outgoing chairman John Burton dropping an f-bomb on a group of activists demanding that the party embrace a single-payer health system. It’s not really news when the notoriously foul-mouthed Burton says such things, but the fracas highlighted the pressure party leadership faces to embrace government-run medical care.

Yet the foulest rebuke to advocates for single payer this week did not take place at the convention. It took place nearby at the state Capitol, in the form of an appropriations committee report that found that a single-payer bill working its way through the state Senate would cost more than double the state’s total budget.

Senate Bill 562, which had previously passed the Senate health committee, was placed in the “suspense file” by the appropriations committee on Monday as legislators analyze the huge price tag. They have until the end of the week to move it out of the file, or it will die this year.

The committee made clear the size of the undertaking: “The fiscal estimates below are subject to enormous uncertainty,” it explained. “Completely rebuilding the California health care system from a multi-payer system into a single payer, fee-for-service system would be an unprecedented change in a large health care market.”

The appropriations analysts estimate an annual cost of $400 billion a year, which soars above the projected $180 billion state budget. Of that cost, the committee explained, about half of it would be covered by existing federal, state and local health care funding. That leaves a $200-billion hole, which the committee says could be covered by a 15 percent payroll tax. Even if the calculation includes reduced health care spending by employers and employees, the committee still estimates a $50-billion to $100-billion shortfall.

And, quite significantly, these costs could be understated given the kind of demand that would be created by this system. Its main advocates, Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, view health care as a “human right,” so the system the bill would create would provide nearly unlimited access to medical care. In fact, the Senate health committee report opined that “SB562 will change health care in California from commodity to a right.”

“Under the bill, enrollee access to services would be largely unconstrained by utilization management tools commonly used by health care payers, including Medi-Cal,” according to the committee report. “The ability for enrollees to see any willing provider, to receive any service deemed medically appropriate by a licensed provider, and the lack of cost sharing, in combination, would make it difficult for the program to make use of utilization management tools … . Therefore, it is very likely that there would be increased utilization of health care services under this bill.”

And the committee only is talking about predicted costs. It’s not its job to engage other policy debates, such as those touching on subjects including rationing, waiting lists for services if the demand overwhelms supply and the quality of care. The bill would apply to illegal immigrants, which raise critics’ concerns about the state becoming a worldwide magnet for “free” health care.

The bill is fairly short given the complexity of the subject. But the Mercury News captured the gist of the single-payer approach in a March news article: “Instead of buying health insurance and paying for premiums, residents pay higher taxes. And those taxes are then used to fund the insurance plan — in the same way Medicare taxes are used to provide insurance for Americans 65 and over.”

This bill would put control of health care in the state under the authority of a nine-member panel and essentially eliminate the role of insurance companies – thus replacing them with a government bureaucracy. But the size of the tax bill and state costs even have Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown expressing what the newspaper calls “deep skepticism.”

The analysis makes some other important points. For instance, it’s not clear that the federal government would go along with this, and it is totally discretionary whether the feds would grant the necessary waivers involving Medicare and Medicaid services. The bill’s funding is based heavily on the ability to divert federal funds from those programs.

The analysis also notes, “There are several provisions of the state constitution that would prevent the Legislature from creating the single-payer system envisioned in the bill without voter approval.” In Colorado this past November, voters defeated a single-payer initiative, Amendment 69, with an overwhelming 79 percent to 21 percent “no” vote.

Supporters of the measure claim that it will reduce “waste” by putting all health plans under a single umbrella, thus ending the duplication of multi-plan systems. But critics note that competition is the best way to keep costs low – not putting a system under one giant governmental entity. Advocates see it as a way to ensure proper health care for everyone, but the appropriations report confirms critics’ concerns that such a system could obliterate the state budget and kill job-creating private enterprise because of the high tax bite.

As the Democratic Party protests illustrated, we can expect the debate to become even more acrimonious and obscenity laden as the days go on.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

If taxpayers are ‘cheap,’ it’s because they aren’t stupid

tax signCalifornia’s already overburdened taxpayers are, once again, being blamed for being the problem, now that Gov. Jerry Brown has labeled those who object to his new $5.2 billion gas and car tax as “freeloaders.”

Taxpayers have become accustomed to being insulted by those who want more of their money. A few years back, Barbara Kerr, then-president of the California Teachers Association, said taxpayers who opposed new taxes were “cheap.” This was the same view echoed by high-tech billionaires who financed the successful effort to make it easier to impose new property taxes to pay for school bonds. (It should be noted that billionaires are often insensitive to new taxes that mean little to them, but which can require a significant sacrifice to average California families.)

Californians are already struggling with a heavy tax burden. We rank first in state sales tax and marginal income tax rates and, when adding in the carbon tax, our gas tax is already the highest — and it is about to go much higher. Even with Proposition 13, the per capita property tax burden in the state ranks in the top 20.

It should come as no surprise that average folks find these new taxes onerous, taxes that, conservatively, could cost them and their families many hundreds of dollars a year. Adding insult to injury, much of the new revenue will go to accommodate bicycles and for mass transit, perhaps even the governor’s pet bullet train. This, of course, represents the political elites’ refusal to recognize that, for most people, biking to work, even with bike lanes that crowd out motorists, is not practical. They are equally out of touch when supporting spending close to a hundred billion dollars on a bullet train that will help few, if any, get to work or do their shopping.

In Sacramento, they have no trouble coming up with millions of dollars to pay legal bills for illegal immigrants, billions for the train and gold-plated compensation for bureaucrats. But, somehow, we can’t get our roads fixed unless taxpayers come up with additional bribe money in the form of new taxes.

But wait, there’s more, as they say on those late-night TV commercials. When gas taxes were last raised in 1990, the Sacramento politicians promised the new revenue would be a panacea for all our transportation woes. But spend it all on fixing roads and bridges they did not. When, after a decade of overspending, the state found itself in the red during a declining economy, gas tax money was pilfered for other Sacramento priorities, priorities that did not include new highways or road maintenance. Even after voters approved two separate ballot measures to force lawmakers to spend the billions of dollars in annual revenue on the roads, the state found a way around these mandates, even going so far as to changing the definition of the gas tax so that it would be exempt from the voter-approved requirements.

Well, the governor, and the rest of the Sacramento gang that approved the new gas tax, can call taxpayers “cheap” and “freeloaders” if they want, but they can’t call us stupid. We see exactly what is going on.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This piece was originally published by at HJTA.org

Jerry Brown Embraces Pension Shell Game

Jerry Brown budgetLOOMING PENSION PAIN–The Jerry Brown administration last week released its revised May budget and, lo and behold, it has finally decided to (kind of, sort of) tackle the state’s massive and growing level of unfunded liabilities – i.e., the hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer-backed debt to fund retirement promises made to the state’s government employees.

It’s best to curb our enthusiasm, however. The governor didn’t have much of a choice. This was the first state budget that is compliant with new accounting standards established by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board that requires states to more properly account for retiree medical and benefits beyond pensions.

Because of those new standards and low investment returns, the state’s unfunded liabilities (including the University of California retirement system) soared by an astounding 22 percent since last year. But even this new estimate of $279 billion in liabilities is on the optimistic side. Some credible estimates pin California state and local governments’ pension liabilities at nearly $1 trillion, based on more realistic rate-of-return predictions.

The pension system invites eyes-glazing-over debates about the size of the liability. That’s because debts are calculated on guesswork about future investment earnings. The California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) recently voted to lower its predicted rates from 7.5 percent a year to 7 percent. The lower the predicted rate, the higher the liabilities, which is why CalPERS and the state’s unions are so bullish on Wall Street.

CalPERS’ latest investment returns were below 1 percent, but the agency insists there’s nothing to worry about and no need to do the unthinkable (reduce future benefit accruals for current employees.) That’s the same CalPERS, of course, that in 1999 assured the Legislature that a 50-percent retroactive pension increase wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime.  I suppose CalPERS was right. It didn’t cost a dime, although it did cost many billions of dollars. Their returns were then yielding 13.5 percent a year, and CalPERS figured the heyday would go on forever.

The other reason to be skeptical of the Brown administration’s commitment to solving the problem can be found in the May revise itself. The budget “includes a one‑time $6 billion supplemental payment” to CalPERS, according to the Finance Department. “This action effectively doubles the state’s annual payment and will mitigate the impact of increasing pension contributions due to the state’s large unfunded liabilities.”

Where is the extra $6 billion coming from in a budget that supposedly is so pinched that the governor recently signed a law raising annual transportation taxes by $5.2 billion?

Simple. The state is borrowing the money to pre-pay some of its debt. “The additional $6 billion pension payment will be funded through a loan from the Surplus Money Investment Fund,” according to the budget summary. “Although the loan will incur interest costs (approximately $1 billion over the life of the loan,) actuarial calculations indicate that the additional pension payment will yield net savings of $11 billion over the next 20 years.”

In other words, the state will be borrowing the money at fairly low interest rates and then investing the money and earning, it hopes, higher rates. The difference will help pay down some of those retirement debts. Even the well-known pension reformer, Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, lauded the administration for embracing that idea.

But it’s something of a shell game. It should work out well, provided the markets do as well as the state expects. In doing this, however, the state is taking out new debt that will need to be repaid. There’s no free money here. A number of localities have embraced a similar strategy with pension-obligation bonds, which are a form of arbitrage, in which the government is borrowing money and betting on future market returns.

This gimmick is similar to the one people will embrace in their personal lives. Are those credit-card debts crushing the family budget? Then borrow money from the home-equity line of credit at 5 percent and use it to pay down the 10-percent credit card loans. It makes sense, but it doesn’t deal with the real problem of excessive consumer spending.

“This is the Band-Aid,” said Dan Pellissier, a former aide to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and well-known state pension reformer. “The surgery everyone is trying to avoid is on the California Rule – changing the benefits public employees receive in the future.”

When it comes to pensions, everything comes back to that “rule,” which isn’t a rule but a series of court precedents going back to the 1950s. In the private sector, companies may reduce pension benefits for their employees in the future. An employee can be told that, starting tomorrow, she will accrue pension benefits at a lower rate. The California Rule mandates that public employees, by contrast, can never have their benefit levels reduced.

That limits options for reform. In 2012, Gov. Brown signed into a law the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act (PEPRA), which promised to address the pension-debt problem by primarily reducing benefits for newly hired employees. A reform that affects new hires will reduce contribution rates but won’t make an enormous difference until they start retiring.

“Gov. Jerry Brown’s attempt at pension reform has failed,” opined Dan Borenstein, in a recent East Bay Times column. The reason: the rapidly growing pension debt. “The shortfall for California’s three statewide retirement systems has increased about 36 percent. Add in local pension systems and the total debt has reached at least $374 billion. That works out to about $29,000 per household.”

CalPERS rebutted Borenstein by arguing that he “greatly oversimplifies and needlessly discounts the real impact that Governor Brown’s pension reform has had since it took effect in January 2013.” The pension fund insists, “PEPRA already is bending the pension cost curve – and will keep doing so with greater impact every year going forward.”

Yet the growing liabilities and the administration’s latest budget plan suggest that whatever minimal cost savings PEPRA is achieving aren’t nearly enough. Of course, union-controlled CalPERS’ goal isn’t protecting taxpayers or the state general fund – it is to enhance the benefits of the state workers whose pensions it manages.

As Calpensions explained, that $6 billion of borrowed money doubles the amount of general-fund dollars that the state is paying to deal with pension obligations. Meanwhile, as the state borrows money to pay that tab, it raises taxes to fund transportation. If Brown and the Legislature had trimmed pension costs, it would not have needed to raise gas taxes and the vehicle license fee. And the problem reverberates for local governments, too.

The May revise also showcased the same old issue with the administration’s priorities. Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton noted that “Brown’s entertaining rhetoric itself made him sound, as usual, like a skinflint, a penny-pinching scold. But the introductory document could have been written by Bernie Sanders, if not Depression-era Socialist Upton Sinclair, the losing 1934 Democratic candidate for governor who ran on the slogan ‘End Poverty in California.’”

The budget championed myriad big-spending programs, including higher pay for public employees. So the state has been spending like crazy, but can’t manage to deal with its pension problem – at least not without borrowing money to temporarily paper over its growing debt.

All these games are about avoiding dealing with the obvious fact that California’s public-employee pensions are absurdly generous, filled with costly and anger-inducing features (spiking, double-dipping, liberal disability retirements, etc.) and unsustainable.

In 2011, the state’s official watchdog agency, the Little Hoover Commission, argued to the governor that “Public agencies must have the flexibility and authority to freeze accrued pension benefits for current workers, and make changes to pension formulas going forward to protect state and local public employees and the public good.” Six years later, the governor is still just chipping away at the edges by embracing gimmicks.

Steven Greenhut is a contributing editor to the California Policy Center, on whose website this piece originally appeared. He is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.

Political Scams Are the Norm in California

Con artists deceive their victims by manipulating emotions and exploiting vulnerabilities. Some con artists are so skilled, their victims are unaware they’ve been scammed. Once a con artist gains your trust, it’s highly probable you’ll be the victim of a scam.

The same is true of some politicians.

Californians pay close to the highest amount of taxes in the nation and continue to demand better roads in return. Despite being overtaxed, we continue to drive on the worst roads in the nation. Politicians tell us they can improve our transportation infrastructure if we simply pay an additional $52 billion in taxes and fees.

Another egregious example is the state’s so-called Fire Prevention Fee — an illegal tax passed by the Legislature in 2011. The name indicates that taxpayers are getting fire prevention services in order to generate widespread support. However, in reality the tax only backfills a budget cut; no new fire prevention services have materialized. Sadly, these types of political scams have become common.

Consider the elimination of California’s Enterprise Zone Program in 2013. Although not without complications, the 42 enterprise zones provided economic incentives aimed at spurring job creation and business investment in economically distressed areas of the state.

At the time, I argued it didn’t make sense to eliminate these vital economic development zones. It made more sense to make the entire state an enterprise zone by promoting policies that would spur job creation and innovation. But like most good ideas in California politics, it was ignored. The Governor replaced the enterprise zones with his “Economic Development Initiative,” consisting of:

(1) Manufacturing sales tax exemptions

(2) New hiring credits

(3) The “CalCompetes” income tax credit

Governor Brown’s plan was touted as “revenue-neutral,” meaning higher taxes paid by businesses in the former enterprise zones would be offset by the new tax incentives. The California business community as a whole would pay no more taxes than before.

Sounds fair, right?

Yet as state revenues grew, something almost predictable happened. The revenue loss from the three new programs fell far short of the revenue gained by eliminating the Enterprise Zone Program. The net result is that Californians are paying more taxes than before; the estimated additional burden to taxpayers is $1.2 billion and growing.

That’s a massive tax increase – one that Californians never had a chance to vote on, despite Governor Brown’s promise to put tax hikes on the ballot.

Although state revenues have grown nearly 50 percent since 2008, there never seems to be enough money for the priorities of liberal politicians. Time and time again taxpayers who don’t receive value for their current tax dollars are asked to pay more.

Tax-and-spend politicians often make big promises to move their political agendas, then fail to act in the people’s best interests. Like con artists, they never seem to tire of finding new ways to extract money from their victims. But if their victims realize they’ve been had, perhaps they’ll be less likely to fall for the next scam.

 is a member of the California Board of Equalization.

This piece was originally published by FlashReport.org

Los Angeles Charter School Advocates Win School Board Majority

LAUSD school busCharter school advocates in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) won a major victory Tuesday as two of their candidates won seats on the school board, giving them the majority.

Steve Zimmer, president of the LAUSD – the nation’s second-largest school district – lost in District 4 to teacher and attorney Nick Melvoin. Kelly Gonez also won a tight race in District 6 over Imelda Padilla, who was backed by the teachers’ unions.

Gonez and Melvoin will join incumbents Monica Garcia and Ref Rodriguez, creating the first-ever four-member majority of charter-school supporters on the board, reports the CBS local affiliate.

The school board races involved millions of dollars in campaign spending, the Los Angeles Times reports, with the candidates expressing frustration at times over the amount of outside spending from charter school advocate groups and unions making an impact on the campaigns.

According to the Times report:

Outside groups funded by charter advocates painted Zimmer as a charter school foe. Anti-Zimmer mailers characterized him as a gun-happy militant, a protector of pedophiles and the mastermind of the school district’s iPads-for-all debacle.

Groups bankrolled by public employee unions tried to link Melvoin, 31, to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and President Trump, both of whom are extremely unpopular in Los Angeles.

Neither of these portrayals were accurate. Zimmer has voted many times to approve new charter schools and Melvoin is a Democrat who has been critical of the Trump administration’s education policies.

The unions reportedly spent some $2.5 million on Zimmer’s campaign and more than $2.34 million on that of Padilla. Charter school promoters spent upward of $5.69 million on Melvoin’s campaign and $3.3 million on that of Gonez.

Charter school advocate Netflix chief executive Reed Hastings – a Democrat – donated $5 million to California Charter Schools Association Advocates, which managed much of the spending for the charter candidates.

LAUSD has the highest number of charter schools and charter students of any other school district, though charters still only represent 16 percent of enrollment.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Small Business Bills Approach Deadlines: The Good, Bad and Ugly

CA-legislatureMay is a critical month for legislation to move through various policy and fiscal committees before the house of origin deadline. Any Assembly bill which does not make it to the Senate (or Senate bill to the Assembly) by June 2 is effectively dead for the remainder of the calendar year, but can be revived in 2018, during the second year of the two-year session. These are known as two-year bills.

While NFIB is tracking and lobbying a wide range of bills and we will not know their fate for another couple of weeks, we have released an updated list of our Good, Bad, & Ugly bills. These bills represent legislative proposals which will have the greatest impact, either positive or negative, on small businesses in California.

Running a small business in a state which enacts nearly 1,000 new laws and associated fees and penalties every year, it is absolutely essential that the business community is aware of these bills before they become law, and engage in the process. This is why we always have the latest version of The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly bills available at www.nfib.com/ca/gbu

Below are a few highlights of what we are working on the coming weeks. Following the house of origin deadline, we will update our full list and continue to advocate for policies that help small businesses survive in California.

Good Bills:

AB 1005 (Calderon): DCA Penalties: Right to Cure: The Department of Consumer Affairs oversees the licensure of businesses and professions. This bill would allow 30 days for abatement of the violation before the administrative fine becomes effective.

SB 524 (Vidak): DLSE Regulatory Compliance: Creates a “good faith” defense for employers that complied with written guidance on Division of Labor Standards Enforcement regulations.

Bad Bills:

AB 43 (Thurmond): Department of Corrections Contracting Tax: Imposes a 10% tax on businesses that contract with CDCR for the “privilege” of having a state contract in order to fund education programs designed to discourage future criminals. It sets a bad precedent by taxing businesses just for having a state contract.

SB 300 (Monning): Sugar-Sweetened Beverage Warnings: Requires all sugar sweetened beverages sold in California to have a health warning label, and creates new civil penalties for failure to do so. This is yet another example of nanny government.

Ugly Bills:

AB 5 (Gonzalez-Fletcher): “Opportunity to Work” Act: Requires employers with 10 or more total employees to offer more hours to their part-time employees before they can hire new workers, including temporary or seasonal staff. It creates a new right to sue your employer if you don’t get more hours.

SB 562 (Lara): “The Healthy California” Act: Creates a single-payer healthcare system in California. This would cost $250 billion annually, and would hurt the quality of healthcare for our citizens.

Tom Scott is the State Executive Director for NFIB California, which represents 22,000 dues-paying small business members across the state.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Compelled Speech is Not Free

At first glance, Senate Bill 226 may seem harmless. It is portrayed simply as an effort to provide voters with the comfort of additional “transparency” in the election process.

But we must look closer. The simple transparency that SB266 claims to provide will actually undermine our fundamental first amendment rights to political speech, and that’s why I opposed this bill on the Senate floor.

Our founders very wisely understood that self-government relies on an informed populace. As citizens, we rely on the free exchange of ideas so that we may sift through the information that comes our way and decide for ourselves which facts and opinions will inform our voting decisions. It is the responsibility of government to assure this free flow of information is not disrupted.

However, if the information we receive during that election is actually controlled or compelled by government, can we really call it a free exchange of ideas?

The answer is obvious, and it is exactly why government bureaucrats have no business micromanaging what information we are allowed to see, what information we must see, nor how information is presented to us.

Yet that’s exactly what SB226 will do. It compels those who produce political mailers to include specific information demanded by the government, and mandates precisely how that information will be presented.

SB226 requires that when “slate mailers” are sent by organizations representing the view point of public safety officials, the number of members the organization represents must be stated on the piece. SB226 also compels slate mailers to follow arbitrary mandates as to what font size, type face, formatting, and contrasting colors must be used.

Electoral-CollegeWhile the bill may not seem like a burden on free speech on its face, SB226’s mandates mean there is less room for the organization to share their message with voters. Thus, its impact in the free exchange of ideas could be limited when compared to others who are not subject to the same restrictions.

If the government can mandate the inclusion of specific information when it comes to one issue, such as public safety, what’s to stop it deciding it must craft similar restraints for other topics, such as climate change, or education? If government can restrict the messages on one medium, in this case slate mailers, we can reasonably anticipate the restrictions will eventually spread to other mediums, such as newspaper ads, or blogs, or social media posts.

Allowing government to decide for us what we can be exposed to, and in what manner, is a very dangerous threat to our First Amendment rights. It is similar to campus officials at public universities deciding which speakers and messages students are allowed to hear, and which messages they must be “protected” from.  It is the business of government to assure that all messages can be heard, not to decide for itself which messages are safe for us to hear, or what information must accompany the message.

Compelled speech is not free speech. True freedom, including freedom of expression, can be a messy business. But freedom sure beats the alternative. SB226 is the alternative.

Sen. Joel Anderson represents the 38th District in the California State Senate. 

Why the recall of Josh Newman is justified

Candidate for the US Senate Josh Newman speaks with supporters at his campaign rally Tuesday at Yardhouse in Brea.  - ADDITIONAL INFO/// - ROD VEAL/CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHER - 110916.Elex.Senate29 - 11/8/16 -  Candidate for the US Senate Josh Newman hangs out at his campaign rally Tuesday at Yardhouse in Brea.

State Sen. Josh Newman, who has been in office less than six months, is the target of a credible and well organized recall election. The recall effort was instigated by reform and taxpayer interests over the passage of Senate Bill 1 which imposes a permanent $5.2 billion annual tax on gasoline and vehicle registration. That tax increase, never approved by voters, has generated vocal public criticism.

But why Josh Newman? Shouldn’t all legislators who cast a yes vote for this regressive tax on California’s middle class be held accountable? That is arguably true and there may be more recall efforts launched in the near future.

Nonetheless, there are several legitimate reasons why Sen. Newman deserves to be at the top of the list.

Opponents of the recall have suggested that a recall is only justified in cases of gross malfeasance or corruption. While those are certainly good reasons to target a legislator in the middle of a term, they are not exclusive reasons. It wasn’t that long ago when Gov. Gray Davis’ attempt to increase the car tax — one of the very taxes at issue here — led to his successful recall. His opponent, Arnold Schwarzenegger, actually dropped a car from a crane in an illustration of how unpopular the car tax hike was. In short, some actions justify a severe political response.

Second, it is readily apparent that Josh Newman is a bad fit for the Senate district he represents. Yes, he was duly elected, but only by the slimmest of margins. This is a district that should have been relatively easy win for a fiscal conservative. However, as we know from the statewide vote, many voters expressed strong negative feelings for the Republican at the top of the ticket — Donald Trump — and even those Republicans and independents who weren’t thrilled with Hillary Clinton, many still couldn’t bring themselves to vote for Trump. But Donald Trump won’t be on the ballot in a recall election which vastly increases the chances for success.

Third, the 29th Senate District has a large contingent of middle-class voters. Much different from the West Side of Los Angeles or San Francisco, a lot voters in the 29th District have seen their housing costs and other cost of living items increase without a matching increase in their incomes. For them, a huge increase in the gas tax and vehicle registration tax hits the family budget hard. Coastal elites don’t care how much the cost of gas is — most don’t even bother looking at the price — but working Californians do. A recall election will make Newman explain to the voters of his district why he voted against their interests.

Fourth, in addition to sending a message to other tax-happy legislators about the consequences of big middle-class tax hikes, replacing a progressive with a fiscally responsible individual would deprive Democrats of the two-thirds supermajority they need to impose even more tax hikes without voter approval. The California Taxpayers Foundation has calculated that, in the first four months of the new legislative session, progressives have proposed $155 billion in new taxes. Depriving Democrats of the two-thirds supermajority they need to pass tax hikes is more than a legitimate policy objective — it is critical for saving the state from liberal lunacy.

Fifth, the anger among California voters has not subsided from the day Senate Bill 1 was jammed through the legislature. If anything, the more citizens learn about this attack on their pocketbooks, the more incensed they get. Grassroots taxpayer groups have legions of members who are angry drivers reaching for their pitchforks and torches. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association alone has several thousand active members in Senate District 29 and they haven’t been shy about wanting something done and done now.

It would have been preferable for the Legislature as body, and Sen. Newman in particular, to have not imposed a punishing tax hike on California drivers. But they did, so they have only themselves to blame for political retaliation.

Jon Coupal is the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This piece was originally published by the Orange County Register

Jerry Brown’s New Budget Includes Millions to Defend Illegal Aliens from Deportation

Jerry Brown state of the stateLast week, California Governor Jerry Brown unveiled his May revisions to the state budget proposal he rolled out in January. Buried deep among billions of dollars in proposed new spending are millions of dollars for the state to provide criminal defense for illegal immigrants in California who are facing deportation to their home country by our own federal government.

Apparently the governor is proposing to put taxpayer money where his mouth is, following up on his bold statement last January in his State of the State speech to the California legislature: “Let me be clear: 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.”

It is certainly controversial, to say the least, for a state government, within the United States, to start providing taxpayer dollars to fight efforts by the United States to deport people who have entered the country, or overstayed their visas, in violation of the law.

To find this controversial spending proposal, just in the summary document of the budget, you have to comb through to the Department of Social Services section, and then read all of the way through to page 38, in the Health and Human Services subsection – where you find under “Immigration Services” an increase of $15 million to $30 million “to further expand the availability of legal services for people seeking, “…deportation defense…”.

President Donald Trump ran and was elected on a platform of cracking down on illegal immigration. Trump’s Attorney General, former Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), has been carrying out the President’s promises by focusing federal law enforcement resources on cracking down on illegal immigration.

The Trump administration’s focus on this issue, conversely, has been a rallying cry for the progressive Democrats that control the levers of political power in California. Legislation authored by State Senate President pro Tem Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles) to make California a “sanctuary state” is rapidly advancing through the legislative process. In addition, the state legislature has produced stinging anti-Trump resolutions. Last week, it was announced that the California legislature extended a controversial contract for former Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder and his law firm, at $25,000 per month, focused on taking an aggressive posture against the Trump administration.

Sacramento Democrats are not the first to engage in this very aggressive funding of efforts to stymie federal immigration enforcement. Several large cities around California with Democratic mayors and city councils have already entered into this space.

Last December, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the creation of the “L.A. Justice Fund” to include $5 million in taxpayer funds, saying that the city would fight for and, “…reach out to people who are American by every measure except the papers they hold…”.

(Earlier this year, the Los Angeles City Council also unanimously passed a resolution calling on the President to be impeached.)

In February, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee allowed the city’s Public Defender’s Office to use more than $200,000 in savings from the city’s budget to hire additional staff attorneys for the defense of illegal immigrants facing deportation.

Most recently, earlier this month, at the request of Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, the city council of California’s capital voted unanimously to make $300,000 of city funds available to assist a network of legal, education and non-profit groups help illegal immigrants facing deportation.

In yet another example of the high priority that Governor Brown places in “taking on” the policies of the federal government and President Trump, he has also proposed increasing the budget of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra to support a stream of lawsuits challenging executive orders of the President. The revision to the Attorney General’s budget includes funding for 19 attorneys and 12 other staff members.

There is no doubt that Democrats in California are on the “tip of the spear” in taking on the policies and directives of the newly elected Republican president. Frankly, in and of itself, that is not so surprising.

But what is controversial to say the least is the fact that tens of millions of dollars are being spent, so far, by the State of California and some of the state’s largest cities to  wage public relations and legal battles against the federal government.

Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor for Breitbart California. His columns appear regularly on this page. Jon has been chronicling public policy and politics in the Golden State for nearly three decades. You can follow him on Twitter here.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Bay Area companies paying employees to protest Trump

While many conservative claims about paid protesters demonstrating against President Trump have been met with skepticism and dismissal — in the Bay Area — some of them might actually be getting money for being there.

Companies in the region are increasingly offering their employees paid time off to participate in protests, marches and other demonstrations as part of civic engagement policies.

“Democracy is a participatory institution; it’s not just something that takes place every four years when you have a candidate in a race,” Adam Kleinberg, CEO of San Francisco ad firm Traction, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

The company gives its workers two paid “Days of Action” per year.

Furthermore, tech giants like Facebook recently allowed their employees to take a day of paid leave to participate in the May Day immigration rights demonstration in San Francisco — a rally that was largely a protest of Trump’s agenda.

“At Facebook, we’re committed to fostering an inclusive workplace where employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions and speaking up,” a spokesman explained in an emailed statement. “We support our people in recognizing International Workers’ Day and other efforts to raise awareness for safe and equitable employment conditions.”

Major tech figures like Facebook COO Sharly Sandberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and co-founder Sergey Brin have all spoken out against the president, illustrating this administration’s frosty relationship with the industry.

And even those who showed a willingness to work with the White House have faced a wave of scrutiny. For example, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned from the president’s business advisory council earlier this year after facing intense backlash, seeing #DeleteUber trend at the top of Twitter over his decision to offer guidance on a job growth agenda.

The policies appear to reflect a growing discontent in the heavily liberal region that Trump presents more than just policy differences — but an existential threat to their well being and daily life.

“It’s a recognition of the fact that civic engagement is something that we should be doing not just as individuals but as a company,” Buoyant CEO William Morgan told CS Monitor about his software company’s policy. “I wanted to make it more clear that we could not be passive citizens in this world.”

While the policies aren’t new — as companies like Comcast have been offering such leave for years — they appear to be taking on new life in the Trump era.

“People were wishing that I was dropped off in an (Islamic State) territory, calling me an idiotic libtard, candy-ass, saying they hope we’ll go out of business. Really nasty stuff,” Kleinberg told the Chronicle about the backlash to the policy.

Overall, Trump’s policy proposals have been met with a particularly strong response in Silicon Valley due to his stance on issues like the controversial H-1B visa program that tech companies say they rely on to recruit top talent — but one critics say comes at the expense of American workers.

And the president’s rhetoric may be having some effect, as the number of H-1B applications dropped to under 200,000 in 2017 — a 15 percent decrease from a year earlier.

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com