“Just Cut Taxes!” Jim Lacy on Fox Business

In this video segment airing on Fox Business News Channel’s “Varney & Company” on August 23, California Political Review publisher Jim Lacy offers his opinions and answers the question about what Senate Republicans and the Trump Administration need to do to get along better by saying “Just Cut Taxes!”

 

Milton Friedman’s Legacy Lives On

milton-friedmanMilton Friedman was a world-class economist, won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1976, and passed away in 2006. Friedman championed repeal of the death tax (estate tax) for years. In 2001 he wrote an open letter on the subject and convinced 276 economists to sign on. This week the national Family Business Coalition, of which the Family Business Association of California (FBA) is a member, has announced the letter now has 723 economists signed on including four winners of the Nobel Prize. Here are a few excerpts from Dr. Friedman’s letter:

“Spend your money on riotous living – no tax; leave your money to your children – the tax collector gets paid first. That is the message sent by the estate tax. It is a bad message and the estate tax is a bad tax.

The basic argument against the estate tax is moral. It taxes virtue – living frugally and accumulating wealth. It discourages saving and asset accumulation and encourages wasteful spending. It wastes the talent of able people, both those engaged in enforcing the tax and the probably even greater number engaged in devising arrangements to escape the tax.

The income used to accumulate the assets left at death was taxed when it was received; the earnings on the assets were taxed year after year; so, the estate tax is a second or third layer of taxation on the same assets.

Death should not be a taxable event. The estate tax should be repealed.”

The current federal death tax comes into play when an estate is valued at over $5.49 million and is then 40% of anything over that. It doesn’t take long in California for an estate to get to that size if there is real property and equipment involved. Farmers are particularly hard-hit as many are “land rich and cash poor” meaning they have to sell some or all of the property to pay the death tax bill, saying goodbye to some or all of the family farm.

Just when California families saw some hope as the President and Congress are looking at eliminating the federal death tax in the current round of tax reform proposals, State Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco introduced a bill that would put the creation of an equal tax, just for Californians, on the state ballot in the event the federal tax is eliminated. It must go to the voters because two initiatives passed by the voters in 1982 prohibit an estate tax in California, and that can only be changed by the voters. Family businesses vigorously oppose a death tax for Californians. FBA leads a coalition of 40 associations opposed to the bill. To again quote Dr. Friedman, “It is a bad message and a bad tax. Death shouldn’t be a taxable event.”

Executive Director of the Family Business Association.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Taxpayers pay for lobbying in Sacramento

Pension moneyThe latest lobbying reports are out in Sacramento, showing how much special interests are spending to influence lawmakers. After reading the reports, you can’t blame taxpayers for feeling like the man who has been unjustly condemned to the gallows and is compelled to pay for the rope that will hang him.

When asked who spends the most currying favor with members of the Legislature, many folks will say “Big Oil” or maybe drug or insurance companies. Not even close. Those who name government employee unions as the big spenders would be wrong, too, but at least they would be getting warmer. (Unions, which thrive on involuntary “contributions,” have a huge influence on the activities of the biggest spender of all).

Far and away, the lobbying champs are California’s myriad of local governments. Through the first six months of this year, cities, counties, schools and other special districts have spent $24.3 million on influencing Sacramento lawmakers. And it is a safe bet that these governments are not spending this taxpayer money to promote tax cuts for average citizens. In fact, in many cases, they are spending tax dollars to advance their objective of wringing even more out of already beleaguered taxpayers.

Local government officials use high-sounding rhetoric to justify not spending these millions of dollars on fixing potholes, hiring first responders or addressing other pressing needs of the local community. To best serve their constituents, they will argue, it is important that they have a voice in lawmaking that may impact local jurisdictions.

Closer to the truth would be that local governments want to make sure they get a share of the “spoils” in our very high-tax state. And sometimes they seek more than a share of state revenue, they want special exemptions to allow them to increase local taxes beyond what state law allows.

A number of jurisdictions have sought and received exemptions from laws limiting the local sales tax, and in one case, nine Bay Area counties asked for, and received, an OK to create a huge taxing district to impose a parcel property tax on all residents, even though some lived many miles from the improvements for which they are being charged.

However, one of the motivators that keeps local government officials constantly scrounging for more revenue is, just like their brethren in Sacramento, so many are beholden to the most powerful political force in California, the government employee unions. Just like many state legislators, they owe their election to union support. These unions provide campaign cash and boots on the ground in election season. So, when it is time to sit down and discuss pay, the unions are represented on both sides of the table and taxpayers, if they are considered at all, are an afterthought.

With this constant pressure to raise funds for pay, benefits and pensions for local government workers, it should come as no surprise that local officials are willing to spend millions in the hope that state government will funnel more money back into local coffers and smooth the way for increasing the already exorbitant taxes locals are paying. Of course, savvy taxpayers understand that debates about where tax money comes from — be it state, local or even federal dollars — are a ruse. Every penny comes from the same location, our pockets.

The question local taxpayers must decide is whether or not money that could be used to solve local problems should continue to be spent “wining and dining” the Sacramento politicians. Certainly, the government employee unions think that this investment in Sacramento by local officials is a good deal for them.

Jon Coupal is the president of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California GOP Calls For Resignation of Assembly Minority Leader Chad Mayes

Chad Mayes2In an unusual move for the California Republican Party — which has long staked its comeback on moving toward the center — the state board of the party voted to call for the resignation of one of it’s own, who was presumably sticking to the establishment script, Assembly GOP Minority leader Chad Mayes.

The results of the vote of the 20-member board, which took place Friday evening, was posted on the FaceBook Page of Harmeet Dhillon, who is former Vice Chair of the party, becoming National Committeewoman in 2016.

The vote was 13 in favor, 7 opposed with one abstaining.

Dhillon, who made the motion calling for Mayes to resign, included the text and results in her post:

“Given the uproar over recent decisions and actions by Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes and the fact that those decisions and actions have acted to divide the California Republican Party, the Board of Directors of the CAGOP urges Leader Mayes to resign his leadership position immediately, and if he fails to do so, urges the members of the Republican Assembly Caucus to select a new leader at the earliest opportunity.”

The vote was 13 for, 7 against, one abstention (Team Cal, the donor representative). The seven against were mainly regional vice chairs, which is interesting. McCully, Caro, Wilder, Willmon, Guerra, Mayes, and Olsen voted NO. The rest of the board voted yes.

Tony Kravaric, a board member and Chair of the powerful San Diego County GOP also posted the results on his Facebook, offering a glimpse into the internal conflict confronting the California Republican Party:

It is done. The California Republican Party (CRP) board voted to ask Assemblyman Chad Mayes to step down as Leader, and if he doesn’t, for the Assembly Caucus to force new leadership. It saddens me that it had to come to this but it had to be done. I pray that Chad does the right thing and steps down…

[having earlier posted]

(…”I take no pleasure in casting this vote but dangit I volunteer over 1000 hrs per year for our Party and expect more from our leaders.)”

The Los Angeles Times reports that:

Mayes said he has no intention of stepping down, and he believes he has enough support to remain in his position.

“I am not going to capitulate,” he said. “I’m going to continue to keep pushing forward.”

What the Times did not report is that both Assembly Minority Leader Chad Mayes and current CRP Vice Chair Kristin Olsen, who are rumored to be having an affair, both voted “No” on the motion calling for Mayes to resign.

The first opportunity for an actual vote to “vacate the chair” — which is necessary for anyone to put their name forth to replace Mayes — will take place Monday when the Republican Assembly Caucus reconvenes after their summer recess.

So far two candidates have expressed interest in the leadership position: Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore), who announced her interest on Thursday and was promptly endorsed by the Riverside County GOP, and Assemblyman Jay Obernolte (R-Big Bear Lake), who has been quietly building support behind the scenes.

Tim Donnelly is a former California State Assemblyman and Author, currently on a book tour for his new book: Patriot Not Politician: Win or Go Homeless.  He also ran for governor in 2014.

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/tim.donnelly.12/

Twitter:  @PatriotNotPol

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Water Wars Rage Over Where to Spend Bond Money

Lake Shasta Water ReservoirAfter a 35-year stalemate stalled new California water storage projects, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders agreed in 2014 to include $2.7 billion for such needs as part of Proposition 1, a $7.5 billion water bond approved in a landslide by voters later that year.

The then-raging drought persuaded Democrats to go along with major water storage creation plans after blocking new projects since California completed its last dam in 1979. Many Republicans saw the opposition as a back-door way for environmentalists to squeeze state farmers to limit agricultural pollution and protect native species, and to slow growth in urban areas.

Groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council scoffed at these claims. They say encouraging water conservation is always a good goal in an arid state, and argue that state and federal laws that protect threatened species need to be fully followed.

This sharp disagreement reflects how water politics have long been fraught in the Golden State. And now that the California Water Commission must choose which of 12 qualified proposed projects to fund with the $2.7 billion kitty, officials’ decisions are sure to be buffeted once again by regional interests (Northern vs. Southern California), economic interests (farmers vs. developers) and environmentalists’ interests. With the 12 projects estimated to cost about $13.1 billion – $10 billion-plus more than what is available – some key water stakeholders are sure to end up unhappy. Some districts will be forced to seek all or nearly all funding from other sources, starting with their customers.

Greens quick to start push for preferred project

The 12 projects were unveiled last week. The water commission must make its final decision by June 2018.

Environmentalists wasted no time identifying their favorite project: The Contra Costa Water District’s proposal to increase the storage capacity at its Los Vaqueros reservoir by more than 70 percent – going from 160,000 acre-feet to 275,000 acre-feet. Contra Costa officials say the additional capacity could meet the yearly needs of 1.4 million people.

But that isn’t why the $914 million project already has the strong support of several environmental groups – including the Planning and Conservation League, the Audubon Society and the Nature Conservancy. It’s because a chunk of the water would go to threatened Central Valley wetland refuges to shore up their fragile ecosystems, long a goal of state greens.

To boost the case for the proposal, Contra Costa water officials have lined up the formal support – and promises of funding help – from 12 other Bay Area water districts, which see the additional storage as “drought insurance.”

The most costly proposed projects are to build a $5 billion dam in Colusa County and a $3 billion dam in Fresno County.

Most of the projects proposed for Southern California are less ambitious. The exception is from the city of San Diego, which is asking for the water commission to help cover the $1.2 billion cost of a plant to recycle wastewater with advanced technology that makes it fully safe to mix with conventional water supplies. Officials believe the plant can supply one-third of city needs by 2035.

The project won final approval at San Diego City Hall in 2014, two weeks after Proposition 1 passed.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Remembering Ross Johnson – The Last Lion

Editor’s Note: Ross Johnson passed away earlier this week. This column originally appeared on CPR in 2004 when he retired from the California Legislature.

Senator Ross Johnson on his last night as a Senator at the Capital in Sacramento, California on Friday August 27, 2004. (Photo by David Paul Morris, For the Register)

Monday, December 6th will mark the end of an illustrious political career and of an era. State Senator Ross Johnson will officially leave the Legislature. He will be the last of the class of 1978 – the “Proposition 13 babies” – to depart.

1978 also marked my first election cycle as director of the Gun Owners PAC, and since virtually all of the Prop. 13 supporters were also strong on the 2nd Amendment, I got to know most of them while supporting their campaigns. There was one supporter of Prop. 13 whose primary race I stayed out of.  Much as I liked what I heard about the candidate, common sense told me he couldn’t win his race against much better known and better financed local elected officials. His name was Ross Johnson.

An attorney at the time, Ross believed in himself and his philosophy enough to mortgage the family house to finance the campaign. Latching onto the coat tails of Prop. 13 and of Bill Dannemeyer (the hugely popular but officially neutral incumbent assemblyman who was running for Congress), Ross routed the local officials and their money. Like most of the Prop. 13 supporters who won that year, Ross outworked the opposition and effectively delivered a message people were aching to hear.

Ross’s victory taught this PAC director the folly of being overly cautious and not following my gut. It was the first of many things I learned from Ross Johnson.

Though derided by liberals as “cavemen,” the Prop. 13 class as a group was in fact much better educated and versed in classical governing theory than most Democrats. They could talk about Jefferson, Friedman and Cicero, and know that they weren’t referring to Sherman Hemsley (look him up!), a local Deli owner and a town in Illinois.

In a class full of exceptionally bright and thoughtful people, Ross stood out as a star. He was better than anyone I’ve ever met at analyzing a problem or situation and coming up – usually on the spot – with the best way to deal with it. His political instincts are as good as anyone I’ve ever worked with. In the interests of modesty and avoiding a laundry list, let’s just say that covers a lot of ground.

Though it would be a decade before he actually became leader of the Assembly Republicans, Ross was always one of the prime movers for the innovative policy ideas, political stratagems and anti-Democrat guerrilla warfare that helped the GOP wield influence far beyond anything their numerical strength would justify. His core principals were sacrosanct and unchanging, and his refusal to support Pete Wilson’s huge tax increase in 1991 cost Ross his post as Assembly GOP leader.

He did not suffer fools lightly, could be a ferocious taskmaster, and had his “blue funk” days when you knew you really didn’t want to approach him. That being said, he made politics fun. He had an infectious sense of humor, a seemingly endless supply of new jokes, and a laugh distinctive enough that I can hear it as I write these words. In announcing on the Assembly floor his opposition to the above mentioned tax hike (which Wilson had tried to camouflage as fee increases), he said “I say it’s a tax increase, and I say to hell with it!” As fiercely partisan as any, his character and humanity was such that he easily made friends across the aisle, and counts many Democrats as friends and admirers.

While during the day there was no doubt who was a legislator and who was staff, after hours he was as warm, approachable and solicitous as anyone’s best friend. The Republican haunt for the decade of the 80s was Eilish’s. This was Cheers before anyone had ever heard of the tv show. Everyone knew your name at Eilish’s, with the eponymous owner – all 5’4” 120 pounds of her – playing waitress, mother hen, bouncer, sooth-sayer (“He’s just filling your mouth with an empty spoon”), peace-maker (Democrats were allowed in), and all around Irish yenta. Ross was the undisputed Mayor and emcee of Eilish’s, asking how your day went, how your family was, “did you hear the one about…” and ensuring that a Hank Williams song (junior or senior would do), was never more than 5 minutes away on the juke box.

Ross is self-effacing enough and sufficiently intolerant of political hokum that he declined the standard “tribute” ceremony in the state Senate and forbade farewell functions in his district. He will surely disapprove of this column. But I could not let him go gentle into that good night without acknowledging his decades of service to causes I cherish. Thank you Ross Johnson. Well done, good and faithful servant.

Happy trails to you, old cowboy.  Happy trails.

Bill Saracino is a member of the Editorial Board of CA Political Review.

San Diego mayor hopes to lead state GOP out of its morass

Kevin Faulconer 2SACRAMENTO – Even Republicans admit the state GOP is something of a rudderless ship these days. The party doesn’t control any constitutional offices. Democrats have supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature. Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley, is the target of a grassroots effort to force him from his leadership post after he backed a Democratic bill to expand the cap-and-trade system for 10 years.

Meanwhile, the national Republican Party has become anathema to ethnically diverse California, especially after President Donald Trump doubled down on his initial comments about Saturday’s white-supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia. On Tuesday, the president assured the media that there were some “very fine people on both sides” at the protests. Yes, the California party’s predicament is dismal, especially from a recruitment standpoint.

Yet Tuesday night, one prominent GOP official detailed a positive direction for the party. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer says he isn’t running for governor, but gave a major speech to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco regarding the future of the California Republican Party. He wasn’t there “to offer suggestions about what we ought to do,” he said. “I’m here to tell Republicans what we’ve already done in San Diego.”

He described it as a call to action – an opportunity to rebuild the party centered on the theme of “fixing California.” Faulconer detailed five themes on which the party should unite as a way to win over new generations of voters. The first of them involves freedom. “Not only is individual liberty part of California’s heritage, it’s a classic conservative principle – one that Republicans have watered down to our own detriment,” he said. “People have stopped seeing the GOP as the party of freedom. They see it as the party of ‘no.’”

He even singled out a freedom theme that could be controversial in a socially conservative party: freedom of sexual orientation. But he contrasted his vision with that of the Democratic Party, “which has organized itself around the proposition that an individual’s most defining qualities are gender, sexuality and race.” He calls that a party based on differences, whereas he envisions a “New Republican Party” built around a set of common ideas.

“One of our biggest failures is that Republicans do not communicate our shared values to underrepresented communities,” Faulconer said. He pointed to his successful San Diego mayoral race: “Facing a Hispanic candidate in a city where just 25 percent of voters are registered Republican, I won more than 57 percent of the total vote – and close to 40 percent of the Latino vote. … Why? Because I campaigned in communities Republicans wrote off as lost – and Democrats took for granted.”

His second theme involved immigration. Faulconer said that Republicans are doing a poor job inviting new Americans to join the party of freedom and limited government. In fact, he said he wouldn’t even need to give such a speech if the GOP weren’t failing at that message. He called for welcoming immigrants, while acknowledging that the party can’t ignore the issue of illegal immigration. “We must push for efficient ports of entry and get smarter about border security,” the mayor said, while emphasizing the importance of treating nearby Mexico as “neighbors and economic partners.”

Faulconer’s third theme involved the environment, about engaging responsibly on conservation and climate-change issues with “plans that don’t plunder the middle class.” He again used his city as an example. “San Diego is now on a path to slash greenhouse gases in half and shift to 100 percent renewable energy – without a tax increase,” he said.

His fourth theme is for California leaders to focus on California issues, rather than “chasing the latest soundbite out of Washington, D.C.” He chided Sacramento Democrats, who he says “are suffering from what I like to call ‘outrage FOMO’ – a Fear Of Missing Out on the latest controversy that will allow them to score political points on social media and TV.” By contrast, Faulconer said the “New Republicans” need to focus on “the fundamentals of government service.”

That includes infrastructure. “The fact that 50 percent of California’s roadways are in poor condition is an absolute failure,” he said. “We have the nation’s second highest gas tax but some of the worst roads, with no guarantees that the taxes we pay at the pump will actually go toward fixing the problem.” But, for his fifth and final point, he focused on the overall need for “reform.” This theme involved the role of the state’s powerful unions in resisting reform.

“Too often Sacramento politicians are unwilling to say ‘no’ to entrenched special interests – at our expense,” he said. “California ranks in the bottom 20 percent of K-12 schools nationwide. Yet Democrats continue to side with unions against meaningful changes to improve student achievement.” He noted that “California falls dead-last in housing affordability in the continental United States” but “Democrats are blocking revisions to housing rules that were designed to protect the environment but that labor has hijacked for its own gain.”

He noted that California was “rated the worst state for business” because “lawmakers keep layering regulation on top of regulation until budding entrepreneurs are crushed, and only the biggest businesses survive.” He also pointed to the state’s massive pension debt and, again, used San Diego as an example, given that city’s successful voter-approved pension reform.

These reform themes echo talking points Republican leaders have traditionally made. And he was predictably pointed in his critique of Democrats, noting that their policies have resulted in “economic inequality; troubled schools; sky-high housing costs; failing infrastructure; and crippling pension debt.” Those problems have festered, he added, while Sacramento “pursues the kind of political fantasies that grip a party when it gains complete and total control.” But his approach signified a break from typical Republican efforts.

To break that one-party control, Mayor Faulconer’s blueprint focuses heavily on repackaging the party’s long-held ideas and reaching out to communities that the party hasn’t successfully appealed to in the past. He envisions a day “when San Francisco’s Republican mayor is standing before you, she isn’t talking about how California Republicans are endangered, but rather how we are ushering in a government that is uniting our people and looking out for the middle class.” It’s a bold challenge for a party that seems to be collapsing, but his ideas received a warm reception.

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

Political Water Scams Back on the California Ballot

RB DroughtMy 2016 article, Why Can’t California Farmers Get the Water They Need?, exposed Gov. Brown’s shadow government appointees at the State Water Resources Control Board that ordered the release of massive amounts of water from the New Melones Reservoir and Lake Tulloch, to save a dozen fish, and how Gov. Brown systematically booted a number of qualified people off of the California Water Commission, the body that is deciding how to spend $2.7 billion in public funds for Prop. 1 Water Bond water storage projects.

Also revealed was Gerald Meral – a shadowy figure continuously involved in a series of dubious parks, natural resource and water bond ballot initiatives. Meral is also the highly controversial Natural Resources deputy secretary who famously claimed, “BDCP [Bay Delta Conservation Plan ] is not about, and has never been about saving the Delta. The Delta cannot be saved,” as, in April 2013, he directed the BCDP for Gov. Jerry Brown’s effort to build the peripheral Delta tunnels.

Immediately following Meral’s statement, five Congressional members called for Meral’s immediate resignation. They warned “that the Administration’s plan, if unchanged, will devastate the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and the communities that rely on it, a concern that Northern California Lawmakers and other stakeholders have voiced throughout the process.”

In 2016 I wrote:

Gerald Meral, director of the Natural Heritage Instituteformer top water official for Jerry Brown, author of a controversial plan to build water tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, also authored eight competing water bond ballot initiatives submitted this election cycle. He notably has a long record of Fair Political Practices Commission violations for past ballot measure “logrolling,” the unethical practice of soliciting money to support and fund ballot measure campaigns based for political favors.

Meral found himself in hot water in 2014 when Restore the Delta, opponents of Governor Jerry Brown’s Delta Tunnels project to drain the California Delta, filed a complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission charging former Brown Administration Bay Delta Conservation Plan point man, Gerald Meral, with “illegal lobbying.”

Meral’s Back …With a New Ballot Initiative … and a New Associate

Gerald (Jerry) Meral and Joseph Caves (Tom Steyer’s Proposition 65 money man) both submitted proposition language for water bond ballot initiatives a couple of weeks apart, in July 2017. The two initiatives are remarkably similar — even have the same wording in numerous places — and suggest coordination to ensure passage. Meral’s ballot initiative would raise $8.4 billion, while Cave’s is for $7.5 billion.

Remarkably, in California’s Legislature, there’s also Assembly Bill 18, by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D- Coachella), a Parks and Water Bond bill, and Senate Bill 5, by Senate Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles). AB18 is a more “modest” $3.1 billion bond measure and SB5 is for $3.8 billion. Like the Meral and Caves citizen initiative proposals, they share supporters, sponsors and some language.

All four measures broadly benefit a shared group of non-profit and quasi-governmental green conservation organizations.

Shadow Government = No Transparency, No Accountability

This important to remember: The non-profit groups behind Meral’s, Caves’, Garcia’s and de Leon’s ballot initiatives have been feeding at the government money trough, doing little or nothing to actually help improve water storage or delivery issues, while the water deficit in California only got worse during the drought.

Droughts are naturally occurring; water deficits are government-created and political. UC Davis water experts estimate California’s annual structural water supply deficit at 4.5-5.0 million acre-feet annually, in years of drought and those with plenty of precipitation. California lacks a more developed water supply to serve the needs of its 40 million citizens, its farms and the environment.

One additional note that might explain the four ballot measure proposals’ similarities is the cluster of coordinated groups surrounding their authors, a group relationship deeply entwined in state water politics.

The Water Education Foundation, California Waterfowl Association, Natural Heritage Institute, The Nature Conservancy, Trout Unlimited, Audubon California, Ducks Unlimited, Natural Resources Defense Council, Friends of the River and California Sportfishing Protection Alliance … all have financial and personnel connections to a trio of shadowy organizations, the Resources Legacy Fund, its related tax-exempt foundation Resources Legacy Fund Foundation, and for-profit legal services firm Resources Law Group, founded by Michael Mantell, President of the Resources Legacy Fund and Resources Law Group.

Michael Mantell was Undersecretary for the Natural Resources agency for the State of California, 1991 – 1997, and is a close associate of Jerry Meral. Numerous attorneys from the for-profit Resources Law Group also are staff members of the non-profit Resources Legacy Fund, its foundation and the Resources Law Group.

Making Your Head Explode

Resources Legacy Fund also runs the California Water Foundation as an internal project under the direction of former California Natural Resources Secretary Lester Snow (2010 – 2011), another Jerry Brown appointee with close ties to Gerald Meral, who served as his deputy secretary from 2011 to 2013. Meral now leads the Natural Heritage Institute, a benefactor of theResources Legacy Fund’s grants that, in turn, makes grants to the other green groups listed as supporters of one or both of the legislature’s bond bills.

The revolving doors at the Natural Resources Agency, Resources Legacy Fund and its Foundation show its employees move in and out of the government, knowing that when they are inside, they will grant favors to those outside in exchange for secure positions and comfy salaries when they are back outside again. All of them dance to the tune of Packard Foundation, the Rockefeller Bros. Fund, Tides Center, Pisces Foundation and S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, which shower them with millions of dollars.

Gerald Meral retired his state position at theNatural Resources Agency to assume a leadership role the following day at the Natural Heritage Institute, as director of NHI’s California Water Program. Meral’s fingerprints also are all over the language of Proposition 1, the water bond measure passed in 2014.

Also implicated is The Nature Conservancy, a named supporter of the De Leon bill. Jay Ziegler, the Conservancy’s California Water Program Director for Policy & External Affairs issued a joint press announcement with Meral in February 2016 to withdraw his eight ballot measures submissions, saying “The Legislative leadership has expressed an interest in natural resources bonds, and we are committed to working with them to place a measure on the 2016 ballot through the Legislative process. If this effort is not successful, we plan to place a water bond initiative on the November 2018 ballot. …We plan to refile our water bond initiative early next year depending on what is accomplished in the legislative arena this year.”

Meral conceived and was a long time cheerleader for the peripheral canal when he served as a Deputy Director of the California Department of Water Resources during the 1970’s for then-Governor Brown, who hired Meral, a former Environmental Defense Fund leader whom Brown had met when Meral was running an anti-dam campaign… And Brown did this despite voters resounding rejection of Brown’s 1982 plan to build the Canal through the Delta. “The Peripheral Canal has always been a project for the next century,”William Kahr wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 1990. “The fact that the issue came up at all in the late 1970s had more to do with then-Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr.’s political ambitions than any actual water shortages.” Kahr was the editor of “The California Water Atlas.

Brown now supports an updated version of the peripheral canal, euphemistically renamed “WaterFix.” The twin tunnels would be 40 feet in diameter, located 15 stories beneath the Delta to move water from the Sacramento River 35 miles around the eastern edge of the delta.

The anti-WaterFix group, Restore the Delta, filed a complaint against Meral with the Fair Political Practices Commission in 2014 noting his coordination with groups that would receive direct and indirect funding from Meral’s earlier proposed bond initiatives. Restore the Delta submitted evidence of sharing of Meral’s initiative drafts between various members of the participating groups. In one case, the California Waterfowl Association published on its website that its legal counsel had participated in drafting language for the initiative that would benefit the Association’s goals.

Gerald Meral’s checkered past may explain in part his relationship with all these players. He was found guilty of “logrolling” by the FPPC on Prop 50 some years ago — the unethical practice of soliciting money to support and fund ballot measure campaigns based for political favors.

But Meral is back. His fingerprints are all over every one of the water bonds passed since 2000, in addition to the eight measures in 2016, and the latest. And he’s working in the shadows to control California’s water future, with a lot of groups licking their lips at another big payoff, perhaps to permanently fund a “green wall” that would blunt any counter-conservation efforts here and now, or in the future.

This article was originally published by the Flash Report.

Covered California to Guarantee Health Insurers’ Profits to Save Obamacare Exchange

covered caCovered California is so desperate to keep insurance companies on its Obamacare exchange that the state plans to guarantee profits to the giant corporations.

Breitbart News reported early this month that despite the annual inflation rate of only 1.6 percent, Covered California is granting healthcare insurers average premium increases of 12.5 percent. But that appears to not be enough to lure insurers to stay on the exchange, if President Trump ends U.S. Treasury “cost-sharing” side payments to insurers that the courts have ruled are illegal.

According to the a study by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), titled “The Effects of Terminating Payments for Cost-Sharing Reductions,” Obamacare exchange insurance premiums will spike by another 20 percent in 2018. Given that 75 percent of Obamacare enrollees received free insurance through Medicaid, the CBO estimates that the U.S. deficit will jump by another $194 billion between 2017 and 2026 as a result.

Obamacare was sold to voters on a promise to slash healthcare insurance premiums by up to $2,500 per family. But new mandatory rules caused insurance premiums to spike by 68 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to the National Association of State Legislatures.

The national average cost of healthcare for a family of four in the United States is now $17,322. But in highly-regulated California, the average family healthcare premium is even worse, at $18,045.

With the tsunami of cash flooding into the health insurance industry since 2010, profits have more than doubled, and the healthcare stock index is up by 251 percent. The industry’s biggest Obamacare winner has been America’s largest health insurer, United Healthcare. With profits more than tripling since Obamacare passed, United Healthcare’s stock is up a stunning 592 percent.

But with concerns that President Trump or the courts will stop making illegal cost-sharing payments, big insurers like Anthem Blue Cross, Aetna and Humana are duping Obamacare coverage for 2018. One of the reasons that United Healthcare’s stock has been hitting a series of new all-time-highs this month is that the company is cutting its Obamacare coverage from 34 states in 2016 to 3 states in 2017, and possibly leaving Obamacare completely in 2018.

With many of the top health insurance industry players jumping ship on Obamacare, Southern California Public Radio reported that the board of Covered California will consider a plan on August 17 that would incentivize health insurers to offer coverage by guaranteeing that for any lack of profit or losses they suffer in 2018, California will guarantee them the right to jack up profits with higher premium increases in each of the following three years.

Covered California is referring the to the plan as an initiative to address market uncertainty over the actions that might be taken by the Trump administration and the courts.

But “[a]n economic system characterized by close, mutually advantageous relationships between business leaders and government officials” is the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of crony capitalism.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Increase the homeowners exemption to improve housing affordability

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image14115451California is in a housing crisis. The cost of housing — both for purchase and rental housing — is too expensive. Ineffective public housing policies and anti-growth policies that impede even reasonable development projects have choked supply in a high-demand market. California needs to start building homes and apartments as soon as possible. Recent estimates show that California must build 180,000 units of housing a year over the next 10 years simply to keep pace with demand. Currently, only about half of that amount is being constructed.

But in the meantime, a quick and effective way to provide financial relief to everyone in California with a roof over their head is to increase the homeowners exemption which has been stuck at $7,000 since 1972. A lot has changed since then. Mark Spitz won a then-record seven gold medals in the 1972 Munich Olympics. Atari released the PONG computer game and a gallon of gas sold for 36 cents. California’s population has nearly doubled from 21 million residents to 39 million residents today. And according to the California Association of Realtors, the median price of homes in California is well over $500,000 compared to $28,000 in 1972.

Because the average Californian earns $61,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, most are knocked out of the market before they even start. Only one-third of California residents can afford a median priced home.

In February, Assembly members Phil Chen and Matthew Harper introduced Assembly Bill 1100, the “American Dream Act,” which would increase the existing homeowners’ exemption on their property tax from $7,000 to $25,000, as well as raising the renter’s credit by using the mandated California Franchise Tax Board inflation adjustment. This will not only help current homeowners but this will help those aspiring to own a home. One-third of renters in the state spend at least half their take-home pay in rent, a statistic driving California’s record high 20 percent poverty rate.

Californians are paying some of the highest taxes in the nation, exacerbating the ability of ordinary citizens to afford a home. Even with Proposition 13, which has proven effective in limiting the growth of homeowners’ property tax bills, California still ranks in the top third of all states in per capita property tax revenue.

Moreover, high taxes and unaffordable housing are taking their toll on the California economy. In the last decade, California has lost more than 1 million people in net domestic out migration to other states. We all know at least a few people who have moved to Nevada, Texas, Oregon, Florida or Arizona to find a less expensive place to live.

In some welcome good news, in May, AB1100 passed a major hurdle by passing the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee with notable bipartisan support. This was the first time legislation of this nature got out of a legislative policy committee. Many had been attempted in years past but had failed.

When the Legislature returns from its summer recess later this month, affordable housing will be the leading topic of discussion. While there are many ideas being considered, including more bonds and taxes, ideas that provide direct relief for middle-class property owners have yet to rise to the forefront. They need to. Beyond the homeowners exemption, liberalizing the rules about taking one’s Proposition 13 base-year value to a new residence, the so-called “portability” issue, should also be part of a legislative proposal.

Any reform package must articulate that government can’t tax and bond its way out of a problem where it costs over $300,000 to build one unit of affordable housing. Addressing these regulatory burdens as well as providing tax relief for homeowners and renters will not only lead to future economic prosperity for California. It is also the right thing to do.

Jon Coupal is the president of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and Phillip Chen is a member of the California Assembly from the 55th Assembly District.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register