California State Worker Pay Database Updated With 2021 Wages, Overtime

The data is searchable by employee name and state department, and includes 2021 salary information for civil service employees along with those who work for California State University. It includes 2020 salary information for those who work at the University of California. Data on 2021 University of California salaries will be available later this year.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature restored state employees’ pay in July after reducing it a year earlier amid projections of a budget shortfall that never came to pass.

Most state workers also received pay raises of around 5% — or about 2.5% for each of the fiscal years ending in 2020 and 2021. Some classifications of employees received additional recruitment and retention raises.

The state paid roughly 260,000 civil service employees a total of about $21.8 billion in the 2021 calendar year, according to the updated pay data from the state Controller’s Office. That includes full-time, part-time and intermittent workers, and excludes employees at California State University and the University of California.

The total is up from 2020, when the state paid roughly 1,000 more people a total of about $20.8 billion.

Investment officers at the state’s retirement systems again topped the list of highest-paid employees. California’s rules for paying people in those jobs differ from the rest of the state’s civil service, to enable the retirement funds to hire in the competitive world of finance.

But, unlike last year, top officers at the California State Teachers’ Retirement System received bigger payouts than most of their peers at the California Public Employees’ Retirement System after both systems exceeded earnings targets in the fiscal year ending in June.

Seven of the 10 highest-paid state employees worked at CalSTRS, according to the data. The system’s chief investment officer, Christopher Ailman, topped the list with $1.67 million in total pay. That included about $568,000 in regular pay and $1.1 million in other pay.

Click here to read the full article at the Fresno Bee

Newsom Unveils Effort To Fight Theft Of LA Railroad Cargo

The governor described a multi-agency effort to clean up the rail lines and recent multi-agency efforts launched to prevent the thievery and hold perpetrators accountable.

Gov. Gavin Newsom rolled into Los Angeles’ Union Pacific railroad Thursday, Jan. 20, to show off rows of unobstructed tracks, having been been swept clean of ravaged shipping boxes and other debris that had littered rail lines in the wake of thieves recently plundering cargo cars.

After spending some time collecting trash off the tracks with CalTrans workers, the governor described a multi-agency effort to continue the rail-line clean-up, and announced expansions to a task force meant to combat retail theft and hold perpetrators accountable.

“Mark my words, this is not a one-off — this organized theft,” Newsom said at a press conference. “These folks are arrested as if they’re not connected to the whole, and we need to change that.”

Expanding the previously established Organized Retail Theft Task Force, Newsom said, is key to properly investigating and prosecuting thieves who target trains.

Bolstering that effort, Newsom said, will be an additional $255 million in grants to local law enforcement over the next three years to increase the police presence in areas where retail theft is high.

Additionally, Newsom said, his plan includes $18 million dollars over the next three years to establish a dedicated unit in the California Attorney General’s office to investigate and prosecute cross-jurisdictional, statewide organized retail theft.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office has arrested 280 people for train-robbery related crimes, Newsom said, though he did not provide information on whether any of those arrests have led to convictions; he also did not provide a timeframe for those arrests.

“We must do the investigation work; it’s not just an arrest and walk away,” he said. “And then, present the case and see folks prosecuted. We’re not condoning this behavior.”

To better address the rampant robbery issue, the California Highway Patrol will work with Union Pacific Police, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and the Los Angeles Police Department to patrol the railroad’s tracks and investigate the organized nature of the crimes.

“We’re working more collaboratively,” Newsom said. “We recognize that we need each other in terms of organizing a framework to support our efforts to hold folks to account and to secure these sites, and to hold folks accountable for the long haul.

Charlie Sampson, assistant chief of the CHP, said that while the LAPD and LASD are assisting in the longer-term investigations, those agencies are not currently patrolling any railroads.

Click here to read the full article at the Press Enterprise

Celeb-Heavy Los Angeles Suburb Gets Tough On Water Wasters

In a wealthy enclave nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains that is a haven for celebrities, residents now face more aggressive consequences for wasting water — including the threat of having their water flows slowed to a trickle if they repeatedly flout conservation rules.

The Las Virgenes Municipal Water District northwest of Los Angeles offers a bold example of how local authorities across drought-stricken California are trying to get people to use less water, voluntarily if possible but with the threat of punishment if they don’t comply.

Before restricting water flows, the district hopes to spur savings by giving households a real-time look at their water use and stepping up fines for those homeowners who exceed their allotted “water budgets.”

District officials hope their approach will be a wakeup call for residents of the affluent neighborhoods, where most water is used outdoors use to keep expansive yards looking verdant and pretty and for pools.

Flow restrictors are rarely-used tool primarily reserved for people who repeatedly fail to pay bills. Now, the Las Virgenes district is warning that they could be installed on the water connections to homes that have been fined for overuse for three months. In the past, flow restrictors were a possibility after five months of fines, but the district never used them.

“What we’re trying to do is conserve water now so that we can stretch the limited supplies we have available,” said Dave Pederson, the district’s general manager.

California is experiencing the effects of climate change, with drought conditions present for most of the last decade. After two exceptionally dry years left the state’s reservoirs at or near record lows, a string of recent winter storms improved conditions. But most of the state is still in severe drought.

In July, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom asked residents to voluntarily cut 15% of their water use, but useage had declined only 6% as of November. The state water board last month imposed a series of mild homeowner water use restrictions, such as waiting two days after storms to water lawns. The board could take more significant steps later in the year if the drought intensifies.

California’s local districts provide water service, regulate use and enforce penalties. The Las Virgenes district serves about 75,000 people communities of Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, Calabasas and Hidden Hills — an area that in recent years has attracted a growing number of celebrities, including Kim Kardashian and Will Smith.

Like much of inland Southern California, the region rarely gets any rain outside the winter months. It’s wealthier than most other parts of the state, with a typical Calabasas home selling for more than $1.5 million, according to the online real estate marketplace Zillow.

Despite calls for conservation, water customers in the area increased useage in August and September and then met the state’s 15% reduction goal in October before again missing the target in November.

Collectively, customers greatly exceeded their water budgets last year and one of the biggest issues the district faces is “the ability for affluent customers to significantly exceed their water budgets consistently since money is not a deterrent,” said Michael McNutt, the district’s spokesman. He declined to provide names of the district’s biggest water users.

Click here to read the full article at AP

Newsom Budget: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The governor’s budget is a tale of the good, the bad and the ugly. We won’t see a real state budget until it emerges from the smoke-filled backroom following the May revise, but that didn’t stop Gov. Gavin Newsom from gleefully announcing to reporters how he would like to spend the windfall of other people’s money in a 400-page “summary” presented last week.

Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of his proposal.

The Good.

The governor’s budget puts more money into the reserve accounts, accelerates the paydown of state retirement liabilities, eliminates some budgetary debt, and allocates 86 percent of the discretionary surplus to one-time spending rather than ongoing liabilities that has so often happened in past years.

That’s good because the good times won’t go on forever. While the budget projects healthy returns for the next couple of years, it notes that “[s]tructural (non-pandemic) downside risks to the forecast remain, including the challenges of an aging population, declining migration flows, lower fertility rates, higher housing and living costs, increasing inequality, and stock market volatility.”

That’s important because the top 1% of California taxpayers pay more than 50% of the state’s income tax revenues. The state is currently riding high on the wealthy’s stock market gains, but as the Federal Reserve starts raising interest rates, the party could be coming to an end, and soon.

The Bad.

The bad is that an already bloated bureaucracy is getting even more bloated. Under the requirements of Proposition 98, increases in spending for public schools and community colleges will be dramatic and, as has been much talked about in these pages recently, California’s public schools aren’t hurting for cash as it is.

According to the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics, in inflation-adjusted constant dollars, per-pupil spending in California for public elementary and secondary schools in 2017-18, the most recent year for which statistics are available, was $13,129, the highest ever.

Under the governor’s budget, schools would see more than $20,000 per student, putting California in the top five of states in education spending – with little to show for it.

Even worse is the fact that there is little in the budget to address waste, fraud and abuse generally, not just in education. There is nothing to prevent another fiasco like we saw with the $20 billion in fraudulent claims paid by the Employment Development Department; still no accountability with the bullet train project and, in fact, the boondoggle is getting billions more.

Click here to read the full article at OC Register

Lobbyists Told State Insurance Chief They Represented Company at Center of Campaign Scandal, New Filing Says

Two former state lawmakers now working as lobbyists spoke personally with California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and his senior deputy, contrary to what state officials have said in a public-records lawsuit unfolding now in a Los Angeles courtroom.

In a sworn declaration filed last month, former state Assemblyman Rusty Areias said he told Lara in 2019 that he had been hired by the workers’ compensation firm Applied Underwriters and may be reaching out to Lara in the future.

At the time Applied Underwriters was seeking state approval from Lara’s office for a change in ownership.

Areias said in the declaration that he spoke repeatedly with Deputy Commissioner Bryant Henley, one of the senior Department of Insurance officials who intervened in department
proceedings to benefit Applied.

“During the course of assisting the clients on this matter, I had multiple phone calls with Bryant Henley of CDI regarding CIC and Applied Underwriters,” Areias said in the sworn declaration filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.

CIC is an acronym for California Insurance Co., a subsidiary of Applied. CDI stands for the California Department of Insurance.

“In our telephonic conversations, Lazlo Komjathy at CDI was always on the line but never said anything,” Areias said. “In these calls I informed Henley and Komjathy, among other things, that I was representing CIC and Applied Underwriters.”

The declaration is significant because state insurance regulators typically are not supposed to take up the cause of companies they regulate. Henley at least twice overruled administrative law judges who decided cases in favor of Applied policyholders.

Henley also was the official in charge of responding to the California Public Records Act requests filed by a group called Consumer Watchdog.

Consumer Watchdog in 2020 sued the Department of Insurance for emails and other communications related to Applied Underwriters after The San Diego Union-Tribune reported in 2019 that Lara had accepted thousands of dollars in political donations from insurers, despite promising during his 2018 campaign not to do so.

At the time, Lara publicly apologized for accepting political contributions from people associated with Applied or other insurance companies, and he returned more than $80,000 to insurers and other donors with business before state regulators.

Click here to read the full article at the San Diego Union Tribune

California Suspends Some Disability Claims, Citing Fraud

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — After stealing the identities of death row inmates and even a sitting U.S. senator to make off with billions of dollars in fraudulent unemployment benefits during the pandemic, scammers have now moved on to impersonating doctors to dupe California officials into giving them disability checks.

State officials on Monday said they had suspended 345,000 disability claims while they worked to verify the identity of about 27,000 doctors whose credentials were used to file disability claims for purported patients.

The Employment Development Department said most of those suspended claims were likely fraud attempts. But some of them are legitimate claims from people who can’t work because of an injury or are taking paid maternity leave. Now, those people’s checks have stopped while state officials try to sort out the mess.

“Here we are once again when this big bureaucracy that can’t tell the difference between the honest and the corrupt,” said Assemblymember Jim Patterson, a Republican from Fresno. He said many of his affected constituents “are at their wits ends because they are simply running out of money. They are at the end of their financial rope.”

The Employment Development Department oversees claims for both unemployment and disability benefits in California. State and federal officials relaxed rules for unemployment benefits during the pandemic, which had the unintended consequence of making it much easier for scammers to file fake claims.

In California, criminals used stolen identities to steal at least $20 billion in unemployment benefits since March 2020 as the state approved fraudulent payments in the names of death row inmates and even U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

Now, state officials say organized criminals are stealing doctors’ credentials to file fake disability claims. The state is using a computer program to verify the identity of these doctors to find those fake claims. They do this by sending the doctors an email from an official government account asking them to verify their identity by using a computer program known as ID.me.

That’s a problem for Martha Mariscal, who says her doctor doesn’t use email. Mariscal hurt her foot and hasn’t been able to work at her grocery store job. She hasn’t received her disability check since December and has now exhausted her savings.

Mariscal said she hasn’t been able to reach anyone at the Employment Development Department. And, since her doctor’s office doesn’t use email, they have yet to receive anything from the state to verify her claim.

“We’re just in limbo, just waiting for their mercy,” she said.

Click here to read the full article at AP

How State GOP Can Get Out Of Wilderness

Republicans need better candidates and an agenda beyond kowtowing to Trump.

Barring something extraordinary, like, say, being caught on videotape dynamiting the Golden Gate Bridge, Gavin Newsom will be reelected as California governor in November.

And even if Newsom were to be jailed and convicted of such a nefarious assault on the Bay Area landmark, it is virtually certain he’d be succeeded by one or another of his fellow Democrats.

It’s been a decade and a half since a Republican won statewide office in California and more than a quarter of a century since the once-dominant GOP controlled either legislative chamber.

The ranks of Republican lawmakers in Sacramento are so shrunken that they have about as much say over legislation as the shrubbery growing outside the Capitol.

None of which is good for California.

Politicians and political parties need serious competition to hold them in check, keep them honest and avoid arrogance and overreach.

For our system of self-government to keep working, voters need to feel as though they have a voice and stake in the actions of their elected leaders.

Millions of Californians, who either identify as Republican or conservative, feel unheard and unseen in Sacramento, bobbing like red pinpoints in an ocean of blue. That alienation was a major impetus behind last year’s fruitless and extravagantly wasteful effort to recall Newsom and feeds the perpetual — if fanciful — talk of breaking off a chunk of rural California and creating a 51st state.

So what will it take for Republicans to regain relevancy and for California to once more benefit from a healthy and competitive two-party system?

The short answer is winning the governorship, not just electing more lawmakers to the Assembly and Senate, or to other statewide offices — though that would certainly help.

“In California, governor is an exceedingly powerful position,” said Marty Wilson, a former advisor to Pete Wilson and no relation to the ex-governor. “You’ve got a media platform. You make appointments. You can raise money for yourself as well as other candidates.”

Not least, a Republican chief executive could rebrand the party and improve its acrid image in the state.

Even before Donald Trump came along and warped the GOP into something resembling a zombie cult, the national Republican Party was seen in California as increasingly harsh, intolerant and beholden to its white Southern base. That guilt by association has hurt any candidate running statewide under the party banner.

Winning the governorship will require a different kind of Republican than most of those put forth over the last two decades — which is to say one capable of winning over more than a limited slice of the electorate.

California is a Democratic state, but not a flamingly liberal one. When Republicans got behind gubernatorial candidates who appealed to voters at or near the center — George Deukmejian, Wilson, Arnold Schwarzenegger — they succeeded. (Notably, the first time the politically moderate Schwarzenegger ran was in the 2003 recall election, a free-for-all of 135 candidates on a single ballot, avoiding a Republican primary he might well have lost.)

More often, the party has rallied behind gubernatorial hopefuls — the hapless Bill Simon Jr.,vapid John Cox,combustible Larry Elder — who excited the most ardently conservative Californians but were too inept or extreme for a majority of voters to swallow.

In theory, when — or if — things get bad enough under one-party Democratic rule, a meaningful number of voters will be amenable to giving Republicans another look. Call it the wreckage-and-ruin road to party redemption.

“A Democratic screw-up would open the door,” said Jack Pitney, a politics professor at Claremont McKenna College and former Republican National Committee staffer. But even then, he said, “It takes a quality Republican to walk through it…. Somebody who’s qualified, reasonable and pays attention to governance.”

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

Newsom Rejects Claims His Homelessness Plan Isn’t Working

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday rejected claims by the sheriff of California’s most populous county that record spending on homelessness initiatives isn’t putting a dent in the problem of people living in the streets and the state isn’t held accountable for where the billions of dollars go.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva criticized Newsom’s announcement this week that he would add $2 billion under his latest budget proposal to an existing $12 billion plan to reduce the number of homeless Californians.

“It’s going to the same homeless industrial complex, and there’s no accountability,” Villanueva said. “There’s no results that we’re seeing, there’s no vision. What is that success?”

Newsom shot back during a stop in the Los Angeles County city of Paramount. The governor pointed to legislation he signed last July that specifically requires cities and counties to follow strict accountability measures in order to receive state money to combat homelessness. Each local jurisdiction must submit an “action plan” by mid-2022 that includes data-driven goals. If the goals are met, the jurisdictions can qualify for additional resources.

“So there is a new framework around accountability, new planning metrics that include county sheriffs,” Newsom said Wednesday. “And I look forward to the sheriff’s detailed strategy on how best to use the resources that he’s been provided as well.”

Before visiting LA County, Newsom helped clean up a homeless encampment along a San Diego freeway to highlight the budget proposal that he said would build on previous efforts to end homelessness. In 2021, the state invested $50 million in encampment removal and this year he has proposed increasing that figure tenfold to $500 million.

“These encampments in California are unacceptable. The dirty streets in the state are unacceptable,” he said. “We have to do more. We have to do better.”

Newsom said that in the past year the state put 50,000 people who were homeless into hotel rooms that were turned into temporary shelters. On top of that, some 8,000 people were moved into hotels converted into permanent housing facilities that offer services such as mental health care and job placement.

The governor’s proposal calls for an additional 55,000 more units, including tiny homes, to be made available to move people off the streets.

Villanueva, who’s running for reelection, has fashioned himself as a brash outsider. Last summer he veered outside his traditional jurisdiction and showed up at LA’s Venice Beach wearing a cowboy hat and promising a cleanup of homeless encampments. Villanueva has dubbed city and county leaders “architects” of the homeless problem and rejects taking a more measured approach.

Click here to read the full article at AP

State Democrats Again Try for Universal Healthcare

Calling the Democrats’ new universal healthcare legislation “bold” is an understatement. It would be a life-changer for practically every Californian.

It also would require by far the largest state tax increase in history.

Some powerful opponents will call it “socialist.” But aren’t Social Security and Medicare socialist? And they’re among the most popular government programs in America.

Some supporters are hailing it as a California version of federal “Medicare for all.” But reallyit’s Medicare for nobody. Californians on Medicare would be shifted into the new state-run “CalCare.”

No more Medicare in the nation’s most populous state. Nor Medi-Cal, the California version of Medicaid insurance for poor people. And private healthcare insurance would essentially be out of business. Everyone would be transferred into CalCare.

As advertised by CalCare proponents, most Californians would be better off under the new state plan: “No premiums, copays or deductibles … or other out-of-pocket costs.”

But more benefits: “Including all primary and preventative care, hospital and outpatient services, prescription drugs, dental, vision, audiology [hearing aids], reproductive health services, maternity and newborn care, long-term services and … mental health and substance abuse treatment, laboratory and diagnostic services, ambulatory services and more.

“Patients will have freedom to choose doctors, hospitals and other providers … without worrying about whether a provider is ‘in-network.’ ”

Sounds like a late-night TV commercial for wonder pills.

The assumption is that Sacramento can manage such a massive endeavor. There’s plenty of reason to be skeptical.

“I look forward to hearing Democrats explain how they plan to successfully take over more than 10% of the state’s economy when in the last decade they’ve proven themselves incapable of simple things like building a railroad, providing clean drinking water, keeping the lights on and filling potholes,” says Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron of Valley Center in San Diego County.

Even a major Democratic supporter, Assembly Health Committee Chairman Jim Wood of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County, has similar concerns.

“When you look at California, especially with COVID, clearly you see things that are not working very well,” Wood told me.

“I’ve always been supportive of healthcare for everyone,” the dentist added. “But I have serious and legitimate concerns about how an entity like this would be governed. I just worry whether we have the capacity to manage this.”

Wood cited as a glaring example of mismanagement the state Employment Development Department, which dished out several billion dollars in fraudulent unemployment benefits early during the pandemic, including to people in prison.

But state government is a mixed bag, Wood continued. He praised Covered California, which operates an expanded version of the federal Affordable Care Act, as “a model for the country.”

He also called federal Medicare “a well-run system.”

“Doctors and hospitals don’t like Medicare because the rates are lower,” Wood said. “But recipients on Medicare like it.”

And California would be leaving it.

Wood is ready to chuck current private insurance.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

Before Promising To Solve the World’s Big Problems, Politicians Should Aim To Fix Potholes

The lonely crusade against government hubris.

Upon election to office, politicians come to believe that they have the wherewithal to solve the world’s toughest problems. They usually mishandle the nuts-and-bolts chores they’re charged with addressing, yet dream of altering the Earth’s climate and eliminating enduring human conditions such as inequality and poverty.

Most pols view themselves as the second coming of John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, or even Ronald Reagan, when most of us just want public servants who make sure the potholes are filled, the streets are marginally safe, the government budget balances, the trash gets picked up on time, and homeless people aren’t defecating in our local park.

The latest example of such governmental hubris comes from the county of Los Angeles which, you know, can’t even put an end to alleged gangs among the ranks of its own highly paid deputy sheriffs nor figure out how to run its child-protective services agency in a competent and humane manner. Now county officials want to “solve” the crisis of loneliness.

Before Christmas, the county Board of Supervisors “took on a problem that is typically private and put it in the public eye,” The Los Angeles Times reported. “They voted unanimously to ask staffers to research how residents are affected by loneliness and isolation and how the county can help—particularly during a pandemic where in-person contact has been off-limits.”

Loneliness is a serious mental-health scourge, but the last part of the above sentence provides insight into the main reason for the current bout of isolation. Governments want to study why we feel lonely and disconnected, but government pandemic rules limited the ability of Americans to socialize with one another as we approach two years of mandated social-distancing rules.

“Loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, researchers warned in a recent webcast, and the problem is particularly acute among seniors, especially during holidays,” according to the Health Resources and Services Administration. You probably didn’t even know that there is a federal agency with such a name, but I digress.

“A Harvard University survey conducted in October 2020 found that feelings of social isolation are on the rise during the pandemic, and that those hardest hit are older teens and young adults—61 percent of respondents felt ‘serious loneliness,'” noted a Boston University report. “And social media, where young people live and breathe more than any previous generation, is not helping.”

Say it ain’t so. I’m not sure what Los Angeles County staffers will add to the debate, but the board might have thought about that scenario when it previously embraced draconian shutdowns rather than more reasonable and flexible pandemic-related restrictions. This is such a government phenomenon—create a crisis, then vow to solve it for us.

Fortunately, the county isn’t planning on repeating its mistakes as the Omicron variant emerges, at least not as of this writing. I don’t mean to be too hard on county supervisors, who at least acknowledge the pandemic-related policy causes of the Great Alienation. Their intentions are good, but you know what they say about good intentions.

“We didn’t mean to do it,” Supervisor Sheila Kuehl said during the board meeting. “We don’t mean to cause isolation. But we are, in some cases, a part of the problem.” Indeed. Government officials don’t mean to cause many of the problems they do cause, which is good reason to at least show skepticism next time they want to save us from something.

Do a Google search of “loneliness epidemic” and you’ll find multiple news stories, government statements, and academic reports—some even pre-dating COVID-19. A well-known book from 22 years ago, “Bowling Alone,” spotlighted the crisis in connectedness caused by trends in family, work, and media.

I don’t minimize this issue, but my wife offered my kids the best advice: Get together with friends. Turn off the TV. Log out of Facebook. Perhaps I should put her in touch with county brain trusts. Some issues are beyond the pale of government intervention. Sometimes we have to take control of our lives.

We all play along with the notion that politicians can solve all of our problems, even though we know better. I don’t know anyone who has heard, say, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s soaring rhetoric and come away thinking he’ll really change the Earth’s climate—even as he fails to keep his own Employment Development Department from sending billions of dollars in unemployment funds to scammers.

It’s not a Democrat vs. Republican thing, either, as GOP politicians have suddenly discovered the supposed crisis of masculinity just as they have long bemoaned troubles in the American family. Politicians are adept at mining votes by identifying societal shortcomings, but their solutions always involve giving them more money and power.

I eagerly await Los Angeles County’s report on loneliness, but I still wish county supervisors would spend more time filling the potholes.

This article was published by Reason