California Government Gone Wild

California, you’ve gotta love it. But beautiful weather and majestic landscape can’t fix what ails us. California now has the third highest unemployment and the highest foreclosure rate in the country, highest income taxes if Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase passes, a record annual debt and the most cities teetering on the verge of bankruptcy.

California has shifted from being a jobs magnet, to being run for the ueber wealthy, the welfare recipients and the public employees on the backs of the middle class and small business.

All of this devastation is brought to us by the policies of the new progressive California Democratic Party. With four decades of control, and no one to tell them no, California is largely unrecognizable.

But wait … they have more tricks up their sleeves.

As the Legislature ended the two-year session on Friday, we can expect more economic stagnation, a poor work ethic, subsidies, entitlements, green government, nanny government and enviro-dominance. As these progressive policies drive away the middle-class moderates and conservatives, California’s politics will become even more left-wing.

However, left-wing policies are never sustainable. Just ask Greece.

550 new bills

The final week in the Legislature began with a stern warning from Assemblyman Charles Calderon, D-Whittier, to keep the floor speeches short in order to keep the bills moving, since they had 550 bills to pass by Friday, midnight.

Audible groans were heard; it was going to be a long week.

There was the bill to ban the use of styrofoam food containers… the swimming pool safety bill… bills requiring publicly traded corporate board members to disclose their financial information… another bill assaulting Proposition 13 by increasing property taxes… a bill attacking the ballot initiative process… bills protecting illegal immigrants… bills allowing illegal immigrants to obtain a drivers license… and lots of bills benefiting trial lawyers.

It was a good week for labor unions, trial lawyers and illegal immigrants; it was a bad week for taxpayers, legal citizens and liberty.

Pension reform or more harm?

California Democrats have had an entire year to finely tune their pension reform bill, AB 340. The bill should have gone through the committee process and been publicly vetted during that time. It did not.

There were no committee hearings, and there was no Republican input.

Instead, AB 340 was just passed out of conference committee Tueday night, last week. On Wednesday, Republicans received the 80-page bill.

Friday, the last day of the session until after the November election, AB 340 was debated and voted on.

Republicans had about 48 hours to learn what was inside of the bill. Staff pulled all-nighters, and kept discovering strange things in the bill.

But most important to note, pension savings will not be realized for 30 years. It’s a short-term political fix for Democrats, but it won’t fix the state’s pension system’s long-term $500 billion debt.

The big problem

Democrats are faced with a big problem this November: they are asking for more taxpayer money, but have grossly mismanaged what they are currently charged with. Hidden funds, agency overspending, legislative raises and no accountability have led voters and taxpayers to a place of total distrust.

Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax increase measure on the November ballot, will raise taxes on incomes of $250,000 and higher, and will increase the state sales tax–all supposedly to balance the budget. Should the measure fail, Brown and Democrats say they will make slash public education funding and social services. Promises, promises.

This pension reform bill is merely window dressing, and just a convenient campaign tool. Passing AB 340 on Friday was intended only to lull voters into voting for Prop 30 to increase taxes.

The pension reform plan would provide only about $20 billion in cost savings out of the $500 billion in unfunded pension liabilities, according to Scott Shackford of the Reason Public Policy Institute.

They passed the illusionary pension reform bill to goad voters into believing that Brown and the Democrats were serious. What really needs reform is the gross employee compensation that California government employees enjoy.

A July UC Berkeley Field Poll of California voters found there is majority support for two specific pension reform proposals. “By a large 67 percent to 25 percent margin, voters support the establishment of an upper limit or salary cap when calculating pension benefits.  In addition, a nearly two to one majority (60 percent to 32 percent) supports increasing the minimum age at which public employees can receive pension benefits.”

The poll also found that 52 percent approve of giving state and local governments legal authority to modify existing pension agreements with their current workers.

Fifty-four percent of likely voters in the November general election say that legislative approval of pension reform would have no effect on their vote for Brown’s tax increase initiative, the Field Poll reports. “Legislative action on the issue of pension reform does not appear to have a great effect on how voters feel about Governor Jerry Brown’s initiative to increase taxes that will appear on the November 2012 election ballot.”

Voters will soon recognize the political calculation made by Democrats on pension reform, particularly as the layers are peeled back and the deals are exposed.

This is a Democratic-controlled Legislature gone wild, drunk with power and with the impulse control of toddlers. They have demonstrated that they are incapable of leading justly, and instead have chosen to enrich themselves and reward their union masters at the expense of a great state.

(Katy Grimes is a longtime political analyst, writer and journalist, and CalWatchdog’s news reporter. Originally posted on CalWatchdog.)