Newsom orders ban of new gas-powered cars by 2035

In a dramatic move to tackle climate change, Gov. Gavin Newsom today ordered state officials to ban new gasoline-powered cars within 15 years. 

California has for longer than half a century been a leader in driving new, cleaner car technologies with its regulations. Today, Newsom raised the stakes: On the hood of an all-electric red Ford Mustang Mach-E, he signed a new executive order that aims to eliminate new models of traditional cars and put more vehicles powered by clean technologies such as fuel cells and batteries on California’s roads. 

The order also tackles fossil fuel pollution before it comes out of tailpipes, tasking California lawmakers with putting an end to new fracking permits by 2024. The Newsom administration’s approval of new oil and natural gas fracking permits this summer has drawn criticism from environmental groups

Taking aim at Californians’ beloved cars is a risky political move, especially amid an economic crisis. And the state’s power to enact a ban will hinge on the presidential election, and will likely be tested in court, according to some legal experts. 

Car companies Honda and Ford applauded the announcement. But some automakers, including General Motors and Toyota, are likely to mount an aggressive campaign to fight the order, saying it is a massive undertaking that requires an overhaul of fuel infrastructure, building codes and consumer demand. …

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Why Can’t Sacramento’s Financial Reporting Match Private Sector Standards?

If you want current financial information on California’s state government, you won’t find it. The most recent consolidated annual financial report for California’s state agencies is for the fiscal year ended 6/30/2018. That’s over two years, or nine quarters ago.

To put this in perspective, America’s publicly traded multinational corporations, with operations spread all over the globe, are required to submit to the IRS detailed 10K reports within 90 days of filing their tax returns, which in-turn are due “the 15th day of the fourth month following the close of the fiscal year.”

This means that Walmart, with $514 billion in revenue, or ExxonMobil, with $290 billion in revenue, along with dozens of other mega corporations, have at most 195 days, or just over six months, to pull together and submit a comprehensive financial report on their operations.

In reality, corporations rarely need 195 days. Walmart released its annual report for their fiscal year ended 1/31/2020 on 4/23/2020, eighty four days later. ExxonMobil’s most recent fiscal year ended 12/31/19, and their 2019 annual report was issued prior to their annual meeting of shareholders on 5/27/2020, 148 days later.

So why is it that the State of California, where “the expenses of the primary government totaled $300.7 billion for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2018,” still cannot convey similar information for the fiscal year ended June 30, 2019? Corporations of comparable size do it in 195 days or less. As of 9/24/2020, California’s 2018-19 fiscal year ended 452 days ago.

What anyone concerned about the California’s state government’s entire system of financial management should wonder is not only why there’s still no report for the fiscal year ended 6/30/2019, but when will the report be produced for the fiscal year ended 6/30/2020. If they could pull together their numbers with efficiency merely matching what corporations have been doing for years, we would see financial reports for the 2019-20 fiscal year by January 15th, if not sooner.

recent article in the California Globe discussed these delays, noting that “California is the only state that has not yet published a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the fiscal year that ended more than 12 months ago.” In terms of meeting deadlines to file financial reports, the ongoing superior performance of not only corporations, but every other state in America, should put to rest any claims that the COVID pandemic is responsible for this slowdown.

So why does it take California’s state government so long to let taxpayers know how they’re doing? State Senator Moorlach, the only licensed CPA in the state legislature, looked into the reasons for the delay. Also courtesy of the Globe, here’s what he learned:

“We were informed that the Secretary of State’s office and the State Water Resources Control Board have not yet given their data to the Controller. Can you imagine? The Secretary of State? A department run by an independently elected statewide official is late? The same department that had faulty software in place when motor voter was initiated? The same department that will be overseeing the state’s first all mail-in ballot process in November?”

It’s easy enough for the state controller to assign blame to another department, and it is certainly ominous that yet another example of incompetence is directed at the Secretary of State’s office, which we must trust to oversee our election integrity. But the Office of the State Controller has faltered in ways going well beyond delinquent financials.

Back in 2013, the California Policy Center published our first assessment of California’s total state and local government debt.  At that time, we were able to rely on Consolidated Annual Financial Reports not only for all state agencies, but for cities, counties, and special districts. Up until 2002, even California’s school districts had a consolidated annual report. There was even a consolidated annual financial report for the state’s public employee pension systems. All of those reports, with the exception of the one for state agencies, have been discontinued.

These consolidated annual reports, released as PDF documents, contained readable, useful information that made it relatively easy to compile total a debt profile for California’s state and local government agencies. But they have since been scrapped in favor of a “By the Numbers” website that offers superficial analysis in the form of interactive graphs and charts, along with downloadable Excel files that contain an overwhelming amount of data.

To be fair, both of these forms of data are useful. It’s good to see topline data on revenues and expenditures, and it’s good to have a mountain of raw data to pick through. But what’s missing – kind of like California’s disappearing middle class – is a mid-level written analysis where someone has done the work to analyze what’s beneath the topline numbers. Anyone who thinks this mid-tier of explanatory material is not invaluable is invited to download one of these Excel spreadsheets.

For cities, for example, the spreadsheet format consists of 482 rows of data, corresponding to each of California’s reporting cities, then there are 12 columns containing various categories of data. These columns list the name of the city, the estimated population, and other basic information. But that’s just the first tab. The “Cities Raw Data 2018” spreadsheet has 46 tabs containing data. These tabs have enigmatic names, such as “CIX_INTER_SERV_FUND” or “CI_FUNC_REV_EXP. Some of these tabs have several thousand rows of data, since many cities, for example, have several tranches of outstanding debt. Most of these tabs also have several dozen columns, and while these columns for the most part have reasonably explicable headers, no attempt is made to show the relationship between variables, i.e., which columns contain the subtotals and totals of amounts in other columns, and if so, of which other columns. The user is left to painstakingly infer every relationship.

What the California State Controller did, by eliminating these reports, was absolve their own office staff of the responsibility to analyze this data, something they had done for years. Instead they programmed an automated report generator that loads up pretty bar graphs with no explanation as to what is included or excluded in the totals, and no discussion about what any of it means. Then they offered access to the raw data as well, with the almost glib implication that if you don’t like our pretty graphs, dig through this.

To use the metaphor of an elephant to describe what has been lost, what we have today from the State Controller’s Office is a photograph of the elephant, along with a mountain of data describing each and every molecule in that elephant. What we used to have was a biology textbook, clearly explaining the various functioning parts of that elephant, and commenting on its overall health.

California’s state controller is not merely more delinquent than ever on delivering timely financial data on state and local agencies to taxpayers. For much of what it is tasked to analyze and report – cities, counties, special districts, and school districts – the office has cleverly created opacity in the name of transparency. For reporters looking for a quick number, or data miners with the time and the funding to do the state controller’s job for them, no problem. For anyone who wants to know how California’s state and local governments are doing without having to swim through a ocean of raw data, this is a disservice.

We must wonder how things would change if private sector standards were applied to the state controller’s office. How would they cope, if they were told to get their consolidated annual reports completed in six months instead of within 15 months, or more? It is a reasonable expectation.

There are profound differences between huge corporations and California’s state government agencies. But those differences shouldn’t be overstated. They are equally complex. Both contain huge bureaucracies. Both are subject to laws and incentives designed to create diversity in the workforce. Both have fiefdoms and infighting, waste and inefficiency. But there is one crucial difference.

The financial professionals working for the State Controller’s Office are represented by the various union affiliates of the California State Employees Association. Financial professionals working for ExxonMobil, or Walmart, or other mega corporations, do not belong to a union. It is left to the reader to speculate as to what impact union work rules have on the flexibility and accountability of unionized state agencies and their employees, including the Office of the California State Controller.

This article originally appeared in the California Globe.

California sees signs of optimism in controlling coronavirus surge

Three weeks after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered a retreat from the coronavirus and reinstated statewide shutdowns for much of the economy, it appears the plan is working: California’s outbreak is showing signs of slowing down.

Newsom rang cautiously optimistic at a news briefing in Sacramento County on Monday, noting that case counts and hospitalizations are dropping for the first time in several weeks. The percentage of people testing positive — a key indicator of the outbreak — is trending down too.

The state continues to see far more disease now than even a month ago, and the death toll is still climbing, public health experts noted. But it appears the decision to pause reopening in much of the state and implore the public to wear face coverings and avoid gatherings is paying off. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Newsom: Police And Firefighters Will Be Laid Off But We’ll Spend Millions To Enforce AB5

Gov. Gavin Newsom is leveraging the state’s $54.3 billion budget deficit. Give us what we want, he demands, or public safety programs will be cut.

At the same time, he wants $20 million to enforce Assembly Bill 5, maybe the most damaging piece of legislation that ever became law in California.

Appearing on CNN, Newsom said that if California doesn’t receive federal aid, “our heroes and first responders, our police officers and firefighters” will be the first to be “laid off by cities and counties.”

“The true heroes of this pandemic, our health care workers and nurses, those county health systems have been ravaged, their budgets have been devastated and depleted,” he said.

“They’re the first ones to be laid off.”

So we’re supposed to accept, says FrontPage Magazine’s Daniel Greenfield, that these “are the most expendable employees in California.”

“Not all the social justice and diversity personnel,” he continues. Nor “the vast useless corps of educational administrators.”

Further burdening California are 340,000 current and retired public employees enjoying yearly incomes of $100,000 or more. Total cost: $45 billion a year. One public school superintendent is taking down nearly $450,000 a year while at least three are making more than $350,000. Ten retired educators have pensions exceeding $300,000. Two retirees and two employees from the Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts also have annual incomes of more than $300,000.

The federal aid Newsom is looking for would be allocated by the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion financial aid package for state and local governments approved by nine votes in the Democrat-dominated U.S. House. The Republican Senate won’t be as accommodating.

HEROES is a “political payoff” to House Speaker Pelosi’s constituents, Wyoming GOP Sen. John Barrasso said from the chamber floor, a “far-left fantasy,” and a rescue for “underwater blue state pension plans” that “will never become law.”

Because Sacramento is constitutionally bound to balance the budget, it’s obvious Newsom is counting on Washington. His revised budget would spend less than his January proposal, but the squeeze isn’t enough to close the $54 billion deficit. That gap will be bridged only with federal help.

While Newsom has decided California is a nation-state, it can’t print money like Washington does. So, the governor, who believes Congress and the president have a “moral and ethical obligation” to bail out states, is expecting to be saved by an outside source. He does not want an additional $14 billion in budget cuts to be automatically triggered if it doesn’t.

Officials are blaming the budget troubles on the pandemic, but City Journal’s Steven Malanga says “that’s clearly not true.” California’s creaky revenue system goes bust when the economy does, nevertheless it’s perpetually on a “spending spree,” which includes shelling out taxpayers’ dollars “to fix problems that the state’s own bad policies have worsened.” Though a $7 billion surplus was forecast for the current fiscal year before the pandemic, it’s foolish to think that more deficits aren’t coming.

“Even in a moderate downturn,” says Malanga, citing a Public Policy Institute of California study, there would be “revenue shortfalls averaging more than $22 billion a year for the next four years.”

Despite the budget straits, Newsom is still determined to spend $20 million to enforce AB5, the same amount he had set aside in his original budget proposal.

Money is fungible, and the funds could be better applied elsewhere. But even if the state sent those millions to local governments, they’d do little to stop first responder layoffs. The Los Angeles Fire Department alone collected more than $190 million in just overtime pay in fiscal 2018-2019.

But it’s still a misapplication of public funds and revealing of Sacramento’s mindset. Community needs can be used to negotiate the ransom terms of political extortion during a budget crisis, yet the provisions of a particularly destructive law, AB5, can not only not be temporarily suspended, they must be dutifully observed under the watch of the bureaucracy.

If only Newsom would use his executive authority to suspend the law at least until the economic storm has passed, the income earned by the independent contractors and freelancers whose work arrangements have been outlawed by AB5 would generate needed tax revenues, and they wouldn’t need unemployment or public assistance programs.

There’s no excuse for the governor to both block Californians from earning income and intentionally forgo a source of tax revenue, and to make it all worse by telling Washington to send money or public safety will be compromised.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

Bars, Gyms May Start To Reopen Soon

California officials said Friday that counties could begin reopening gyms, day camps, bars and some professional sports by as early as next Friday, but specifics remain unclear.

The state said it would release more detailed guidelines later. Officials stressed that such reopenings would be based on local conditions. Rural counties where COVID-19 has been less of a problem will likely be able to reopen much quicker.

“By far and away the most important thing is for county and local officials to use the state’s guidance and consider it in light of their own data, and their own trends,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, secretary of California Health and Human Services. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

COVID-19 Pandemic, Climate Change, and Renewables

We are possibly witnessing the most destructive scientific fraud in the history of man via the COVID-19 pandemic while shutting down the U.S. economy. Hysteria has gone wild, destroying people’s lives. This level of “groupthink has drove unnecessary global shutdowns.” When the majority of U.S. deaths, and countries like Italy occur in nursing homes from the coronavirus it’s time to bring medical facts from physicians into this discussion.

One epidemiologist, Knut Wittkowski, has gone so far as to say: “we could open up again and forget the whole thing (COVID-19).” Stanford University School of Medicine professor, Dr. jay Bhattacharya, would likely agree with Dr. Wittkowski.

The death blow for ending U.S. and global lockdowns comes from the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC):

“The CDC has attempted to offer a real estimate of the overall death rate for COVID-19, and under its most likely scenario, the number is 0.26%. Officials estimate a 0.4% fatality rate among those who are symptomatic and project a 35% rate of asymptomatic cases among those infected, which drops the overall infection fatality rate (IFR) to just 0.26% — almost exactly where Stanford researchers pegged it a month ago.”

Seems Florida is the model for how to deal with this global contagion, and reopen economies. There are large issues that need to be dealt with immediately such as the U.S. and China on the brink of a new Cold War that triangulates India and Japan as the realist balancers in Asia. An Asian-based NATO could be in the offering with Japan, India, and the U.S. countering China in Asia.

What’s been fascinating during this shutdown are how COVID-19 models predicting millions of death (Governor Gavin Newsome of California said, “25 million Californians” could contract coronavirus and possibly die) are similar to climate models – both computer-generated model types have been consistently wrong.

Climate models also consistently overstate global warming by man (anthropogenic). But why? Easier to scare the world over warming or viral death than dealing with 1.4 billion Chinese who are an existential threat to the current global order led by the U.S. in place since World War II.

Consider global warming/climate change (GWCC): the earth’s climate is “rising at a microscopically slow pace.” NASA’s global temperature readings only go back to 1880, since that time frame the earth’s temperature went up 1.14 degrees Celsius. That averages out to an increase of 0.008 Celsius per year. Miniscule when prior geological periods were hotter, or cooler, and carbon dioxide was much higher.

Then climate models are clearly being shown to “project too much warming,” and climate modelers “have a vested self-interest in convincing people that climate modeling is accurate and worthy of continued funding.” If taxpayer monies dried up would climate modelers even care about GWCC? Same could be said of U.S. Governors, the World Health Organization, and interests wanting this shutdown to continue.

Renewables are finally being brought out into the global debate, and asked if they are worth more than natural gas or nuclear energy? Far-left filmmaker Michael Moore’s new documentary “Planet of the Humans” has “unmasked the power and money behind the renewables scam.”

Powerful film that has infuriated the global environmental movement, and revealed the devastating ecological impact emanating from wind turbines and solar panels. This clearly reveals the hypocrisy coming from men such as California coal-investing-billionaire – turned environmentalist Tom Steyer – who only cares about renewables to enrich his interests and investors.

The similarities to coronavirus shutdowns are eerily similar – state-sponsored shutdowns for political gain – similarly renewables need taxpayer subsidies to control electricity for the masses, albeit with “state-sponsored theft.” Theft of livelihoods, and theft of reliable and affordable electricity and energy when so far there have been no coronavirus spikes in places that have reopened in the U.S.

In that case, reopen the world, and U.S. economies with cheap and plentiful coal, or use emission-lowering, natural gas-fired power plants for electricity. But watch out for the “green de-development movement” that wants to prolong the coronavirus shutdown to push renewables, global warming facades, and socialism for greater government control. This movement parrots the untruthful media by saying air is cleaner now that economic activity has diminished via COVID-19 when that accusation is false – no, the air isn’t cleaner. Only natural gas usage has lowered emissions.

U.S. Democratic Presidential candidate Joe Biden wants to ban hydraulic fracturing (fracking) that would cost billions in lost tax revenues, economic activity, jobs, and increase the risk of global instability; since nothing in recent memory has changed U.S. foreign policy more than moving away from Middle East dictators for hydrocarbons. Literally, U.S. fracking has changed the world.

Renewables are likewise similar to coronavirus shutdowns for all the wrong reasons – both are killing the world. Wind turbines kill eagles, but energy companies produce life-saving products that fight coronavirus, and are an essential part of the post-COVID-19 recovery. Renewables destroy electrical supplies, adds zero value-add to electrical grids, and brings the highest electrical prices in the world whenever widely deployed.

Why would the world and particularly the U.S. (the arbitrator of global peace) ever use renewables (solar panels and wind turbines) for energy to electricity when they do not ever work as advertised? With the coronavirus still looming, a global depression a real possibility, and China on the hegemonic-march in Asia and globally, this isn’t the time to rely on unreliable coronavirus or climate change models for national security and health policies.

Moore’s documentary has exposed “’swindlers’ peddling misinformation and the environmental benefits of green energy.” Green energy hinders economic growth and recovery from COVID-19. With a looming great power competition taking place between China and the U.S. that should be based on principled realism, let’s do away with outdated efficacy models for renewables, man-made global warming, and COVID-19 estimates that have grossly overstated the death rates. Global peace, a return to normal, and prosperity are waiting for prudent, factual results.

California’s Debt Folly –Unnecessary spending on retiree health care is crushing the Golden State.

California has asked Washington for $14 billion in Covid-related support, in addition to the $8 billion already provided by the CARES Act. But because the state, with an annual General Fund of $150 billion, incurs more than $24 billion of annual expenses for pensions and other post-employment benefits (OPEB) — including post-employment subsidies for health insurance — a big chunk of the federal disbursement won’t go to schools, hospitals, or roads.

California’s pension problems are well known, but the OPEB crisis is almost as bad. California pays 100 percent of the health-insurance premiums for retired state employees and 90 percent of the premiums for retirees’ family members. As a result, the state incurs annual OPEB expenses of more than $7 billion. Because the state covers that cost with a combination of cash ($2.7 billion this year) and debt, California’s OPEB deficit is $85 billion, exceeding the amount of the state’s outstanding General Obligation Bonds, which—unlike OPEB debt—were approved by voters. OPEB subsidies for retired employees are not only gold-plated but also largely unnecessary, because California—alone among the states—offers its middle-class residents health-insurance subsidies on top of what they get from Washington. Under that program, individuals earning up to $75,000 per year, and families of four earning up to $150,000 per year, are entitled to support from Sacramento.

Retired state employees whom I know are embarrassed by their OPEB benefits. As early as age 50, they and their dependents get premium-free insurance and prescription-drug coverage; to pay for the largesse, the state diverts money from other programs. No other state offers such a rich OPEB program. Per resident, California incurs 60 times and 24 times the OPEB expense of Oregon and Colorado, respectively. Oregon caps its OPEB subsidies at $60 per month and eliminated the program for employees entering employment after 2003. Colorado caps its subsidies at $115 per month for retirees age 65 or older and $230 per month for retirees younger than age 65. California, again, pays for everything.

State government is not the only profligate OPEB spender in California. San Francisco incurs an annual OPEB expense of more than $400 million; the University of California, more than $1 billion. Eliminating OPEB at the Los Angeles Unified School District could provide teachers with $10,000 raises in annual compensation. Even during flush times, as recently as last year, OPEB payments forced layoffs at Sacramento’s public schools. These localities, and others throughout the Golden State, should follow the examples of the Ventura Unified School District, Stockton, and Glendale, which eliminated their OPEB programs to help preserve services for students and residents—and jobs for active employees.

Eliminating OPEB payouts would produce $2.5 billion in immediate cash savings and end the issuance of billions more in new debt every year, eliminating more than $80 billion of debt. The legislature has no justification for cutting other programs to preserve subsidies for retired state employees already protected by other health-insurance benefits. In good times, it’s absurd to divert money from public services to subsidies for special interests. In bad times, it’s unconscionable.

David Crane is president of Govern For California and Lecturer in Public Policy at Stanford University.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

U.S. Unemployment Rate Falls to 13.3%

The U.S. unemployment rate fell to 13.3% in May from 14.7%, and 2.5 million jobs were added — a surprisingly positive reading in the midst of a recession that has paralyzed the economy in the wake of the viral pandemic.

The May job gain suggests that businesses have quickly been recalling workers as states have reopened their economies.

Other evidence has also shown that the job market meltdown triggered by the coronavirus has bottomed out. The number of people applying for unemployment benefits has declined for nine straight weeks. And the total number of people receiving such aid has essentially leveled off.

The overall job cuts have widened economic disparities that have disproportionately hurt minorities and lower-educated workers. Though the unemployment rate for white Americans was 12.4% May, it was 17.6% for Hispanics and 16.8% for African-Americans. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register.

California lawmakers agree to close $54.3 billion budget gap

California’s Legislative leaders on Wednesday rejected billions of dollars in budget cuts to public schools and health care services that Gov. Gavin Newsom had proposed, setting up a fight with the governor over how to close the state’s estimated $54.3 billion budget deficit.

Flush with cash just six months ago, California’s revenues have plummeted since March after Newsom ordered everyone to stay home to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Since then, more than 5 million people have filed for unemployment benefits.

Newsom, a Democrat, and the state’s Democratic-dominated Legislature have pleaded with Congress to send the state more money to help cover that shortfall — so far without success. Last month, Newsom proposed a new spending plan that would cut billions from public schools and eliminate some health benefits for people unless Congress sent the state more money by July 1. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press.

Mayor to seek budget cuts in LAPD

When Los Angeles was plunged into a budget crisis earlier this year, progressive activists demanded that the City Council slash spending at the Police Department, saying it’s wrong to boost funding for officers while cutting other urgently needed services.

The debate over police spending at City Hall has only intensified after several days of protests against police brutality, the LAPD’s response to those demonstrations and the looting that sometimes followed.

Activists with Black Lives Matter, Ground Game LA and other grassroots groups say incidents in recent days where officers have used aggressive tactics including projectiles and batons only reinforce the need to defund the LAPD. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.