Newsom Declares Drought Emergency Across California

Gov. Gavin Newsom today declared a drought emergency for the entire state of California, as conservation efforts continue to fall far short of state targets.

Newsom also authorized California’s water regulators to ban wasteful water use, such as spraying down public sidewalks, and directed his Office of Emergency Services to fund drinking water as needed. But he stopped short of issuing any statewide conservation mandates. 

“As the western U.S. faces a potential third year of drought, it’s critical that Californians across the state redouble our efforts to save water in every way possible,” Newsom said in a statement. 

Today’s announcement extends drought emergencies, already declared in 50 counties, to the eight remaining counties where conditions had thus far not been deemed severe enough: Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Imperial, San Francisco and Ventura. 

The emergency declarations are aimed at easing responses to the deepening drought — such as emergency bottled water purchases or construction to bolster water supplies — by reducing environmental and other regulations. Under the proclamation, local water suppliers must begin preparing for the possibility of a dry year ahead.  

“We think we’ll be able to manage through this year,” said David Pettijohn, director of water resources at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. “Next year is the issue. And we don’t know what the water year is going to look like. Nobody can predict the weather.”

But California’s water watchers say that without a conservation mandate, California is losing time, and water. “We know mandates are more effective than voluntary calls,” said Heather Cooley, director of research at the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank. “It takes time to ramp up, and because of the delay in asking Californians to save water this spring, we are further behind than we should be.” 

Conservation improving, but still short of goals 

New data released today by the State Water Resources Control Board reveals that Californians cut their water use at home by 5% in August compared to August 2020, an improvement over the reductions of less than 2% in July but still far short of the voluntary 15% cuts Newsom urged in July. 

The hard-hit North Coast, where the state’s first drought emergencies were declared in April, continued to show the biggest drops in household water use — with an 18.3% decrease compared to August of last year. Conservation numbers tapered off moving south, with the San Francisco Bay Area conserving nearly 10% more water than last August.  …

Click here to read the full article from CalMatters.org.

What Initiatives Might Be on the Nov. 2022 Ballot?

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

California voters are getting used to making state policy via the ballot initiative, due to having such a dysfunctional Legislature.

Each election, there are many initiatives on the state and local ballots. What are Californians looking at for the November 2022 ballot so far?

These are the hot, controversial, imperative, and frivolous initiatives currently collecting signatures, listed with the Attorney General’s ballot title (in all caps) and a partial summary:

Another plastic recycling initiative.

REQUIRES STATE REGULATIONS TO REDUCE PLASTIC WASTE, TAX PRODUCERS OF SINGLE-USE PLASTICS, AND FUND RECYCLING AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROGRAMS. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Requires CalRecycle to adopt regulations reducing plastic waste, including to: (1) require that single-use plastic packaging, containers, and utensils be reusable, recyclable, or compostable, and to reduce such waste by 25%, by 2030; (2) prohibit polystyrene container use by food vendors; and (3) tax producers of single-use plastic packaging, containers, or utensils by January 1, 2022, and allocate revenues for recycling and environmental programs, including local water supply protection.

Expands sports gambling in California on tribal lands.

AUTHORIZES NEW TYPES OF GAMBLING. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AND STATUTORY AMENDMENT. Allows federally recognized Native American tribes to operate roulette, dice games, and sports wagering on tribal lands, subject to compacts negotiated by the Governor and ratified by the Legislature. Beginning in 2022, allows on-site sports wagering at only privately operated horse-racing tracks in four specified counties (does not list which four counties).

Imposes 10% tax on sports-wagering profits at horse-racing tracks.

An initiative to limit local officials’ authority and response to public health emergencies. This is big.

LIMITS STATE AND LOCAL OFFICIALS’ AUTHORITY TO RESPOND TO PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCIES. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Prohibits state and local officials from issuing enforceable orders, regulations, or ordinances to address public health emergencies (resulting from epidemics, infectious disease outbreaks, and similar conditions), or otherwise taking any actions in response to health emergencies that directly affect the operation of private businesses or public facilities (including beaches and parks), or that limit the exercise of individual liberties. Continues to permit state and local officials to issue public health advisories or public service announcements during public health emergencies.

Another proposed mandate for K-12 public schools requires “Earth Sustainability training.” Hmmm.

EDUCATION. REQUIRES EARTH SUSTAINABILITY TRAINING IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Requires public school students and teachers to receive thirty hours of education, training, and hands-on learning relating to sustainability or the care of the Earth, every two years.

A bill passed by the California Legislature creates The California Abolition Act, which “seeks to abolish forced labor and involuntary servitude unconditionally in the state of California.”

PROHIBITS INVOLUNTARY SERVITUDE AS A PUNISHMENT FOR CRIME. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Amends California Constitution to prohibit involuntary servitude in all instances, by removing the current exception that allows involuntary servitude to punish crime. For example, requiring inmates to work without pay would not be permitted.

Another attempt to decriminalize a hallucinogen drug. This won’t end well.

DECRIMINALIZES PSILOCYBIN MUSHROOMS. INITIATIVE STATUTE. For individuals 21 and over, decriminalizes under state law the cultivation, manufacture, processing, distribution, transportation, possession, storage, consumption, and retail sale of psilocybin mushrooms, the hallucinogenic chemical compounds contained in them, and edible products and extracts derived from psilocybin mushrooms.

School choice initiative would provide vouchers to follow students.

REQUIRES STATE FUNDING OF RELIGIOUS AND OTHER PRIVATE SCHOOL EDUCATION. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE. Requires state to provide yearly voucher payments ($14,000 initially, adjusted annually) into Education Savings Accounts for K-12 students attending religious and other private schools. Funds payments through General Fund and local property tax revenues currently allocated to public (including charter) schools.

Online Petition Option for signature gathering for initiatives, recall elections.

AUTHORIZES ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE GATHERING FOR INITIATIVE, REFERENDUM, AND RECALL PETITIONS. INITIATIVE STATUTE. Requires Secretary of State to develop a system that allows voters to view state and local initiative, referendum, and recall petitions on Secretary of State’s website and to sign them electronically directly on the website, or to download, print, and sign the printed petitions. Requires Secretary of State or local elections official to verify these signatures.

According to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, “Within six months from this measure’s approval by voters, the Secretary of State would be required to develop a system that allows voters to view initiative, referendum, and recall petitions on a statewide internet website and do either of the following: (1) electronically sign the petition (with necessary identifying information) via that website or (2) download, print, and sign a petition document in the “portable document format” (known as PDF).”

Eliminates collective bargaining for public employees. This is big.

ELIMINATES COLLECTIVE BARGAINING FOR TEACHERS, POLICE OFFICERS, NURSES, FIREFIGHTERS, AND OTHER PUBLIC EMPLOYEES. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT. Eliminates collective bargaining between state/local governments and labor organizations (including unions) representing teachers, police officers, nurses, firefighters, and other public employees about wages, benefits, hours, labor disputes, or other work conditions. Requires the Governor-appointed State Personnel Board to establish wages and benefits for state employees.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office explains: “Prohibits Public Employers in California From Bargaining With Employee Organizations. The measure would prohibit the state or any of its political subdivisions from establishing a contract with or otherwise collectively bargaining with a public employee organization. The measure would apply to all state and local government entities in California. Effectively, the measure prohibits state and local governments from using collective bargaining to establish public employees’ compensation. The measure does not, however, prevent employees from organizing or joining unions or associations that represent employees during disciplinary hearings, engage in political speech, or otherwise advocate for employees.”

Another school choice initiative offering vouchers has requested ballot title and summary from the Attorney General.

“Education Savings Act of 2022” would create education savings accounts that follow the students to an accredited school or homeschool of their choice. Students would be able to opt into a K-12 savings account with $13,000 a year in state education funds to be used for tuition or other eligible education expenses.

Private schools in California currently education approximately 471,000 students at 3,050 private schools throughout the state.

The More Water Now initiative is huge. They have requested ballot title and summary from the Attorney General:

Specifically calls for two percent of the state’s general fund – about $3.5 billion per year – to be allocated to projects that increase California’s water supply.

“Water Infrastructure Funding Act” also permits up to half of those funds to be used to finance large water supply projects immediately. Tens of billions of dollars will become available. This two percent funding solution will continue until new completed projects add another five million acre feet per year of water supply to California’s farms and cities.”

An initiative “to allow families to keep the properties their parents worked so hard to acquire.”

Repeal the Death Tax Act,” which has requested ballot title and summary from the Attorney General, would reinstate Propositions 58 and 193. Parents would once again be able to transfer a home and a limited amount of other property to their children without triggering reassessment and a property tax increase.

An initiative to require voter ID verification in all future elections. This is big.

“California Election Integrity Initiative” has filed for ballot title and summary from the Attorney General to require voter ID verification in all future elections.

Numerous other initiatives are awaiting ballot title and summary. The Globe will update the list as they are finalized.

You can read all of the current initiatives gathering signatures, as well as the full summaries, at the California Attorney General’s website.

Katy Grimes, the Editor of the California Globe, is a long-time Investigative Journalist covering the California State Capitol, and the co-author of California’s War Against Donald Trump: Who Wins? Who Loses?

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

The Untold Story of the Unspent Covid Dollars

Money

It was recently uncovered that back in July, Sen. Joe Manchin outlined his views on the $3.5 trillion social spending package in a memo to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.  In that document, Manchin specified that no funds should be distributed until after all the money from the $1.9 trillion Covid relief bill passed in March was all spent.

While it’s common knowledge that there’s still plenty of Covid money around, it was not clear just how much is still laying in coffers – until now. According to an analysis by the Associated Press, states and localities, who shared a total of $350 billion, have spent an embarrassingly miniscule amount.  State governments had spent just 2.5 percent of their initial allotment while large cities spent 8.5 percent. More than half of states and nearly two-thirds of the approximately 90 largest cities reported no spending at all.  And that’s just states and cities — the AP did not include counties in their study, which were too numerous.

Among the reasons government officials gave for not spending the funds is that the money arrived too late in their budget cycles, others confessed that they were still trying to figure out how to spend the previous millions they received for Covid relief.

In fact, there is still nearly $10 billion of unspent money left for state, local, territorial and tribal governments from the $150 billion CARES Act — the first relief package passed back in March 2020.  Officials are scrambling to spend that money now that the December 31, 2021 deadline is looming.

In California, the state has more than $350 million in unspent funds from that first tranche of aid, while Los Angeles County and the City of Los Angeles each have approximately $150 million to spend. Orange County has more than $47 million of unspent funds.

But if all this idle cash isn’t enough to think twice about more government spending, let’s not forget that we are still reeling from the outright waste and fraud committed against billions of taxpayer dollars.

California’s Employment Development Department admitted that at least $30 billion of employment funds were paid out to criminals.  Most recently, the Los Angeles Times reported that the California Housing and Community Development bungled federal relief funds meant to help the homeless. After receiving $316 million under the federal CARES Act to reduce the effect of COVID-19 on unhoused people, the department “did not take critical steps to ensure those funds promptly benefited that population,” the State Auditor Elaine Howle’s office wrote in a report.

Howle’s office warned last August of the potential mishandling of federal COVID-19 relief funds. A year later, in an interview with the Washington Examiner, she said it’s still an issue and some aspects have become more severe.

The final (we hope) Covid relief package signed by Biden stipulates that the funds should be designated by the end of 2024 and the money spent by the end of 2026.  If governments are spending Covid relief funds at the same rate they’ve been spending over the last 18 months, and if Schumer actually listens to Manchin, not one penny of the $3.5 trillion would be spent until 2027.

We don’t know what the state of America will be on the nation’s 251st birthday, but as Tennessee Ernie Ford laments in his famous song, the country will be “older and deeper in debt.”

Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific Research Institute.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.

Recent Legislative Session: A Mixed Bag For CA Taxpayers

This past weekend was the deadline for Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign or veto bills. Thankfully, many of the worst bills, like attempts to create a wealth tax and a perennial attempt to repeal one of the most important protections in Proposition 13 by lowering the existing two-thirds vote threshold for both local bonds and special taxes to 55 percent, failed to get out of the Legislature.

By the end of the session, only a handful of bills we opposed made it to the governor’s desk. Let’s review how taxpayers fared.

On the positive side, the governor signed Assembly Bill 398 which prevents the Department of Motor Vehicles from making a profit by selling personal information. By ensuring that the department cannot impose charges that exceed a service’s cost, AB 398 removed a dangerous opportunity for the department to trade valuable data to third party interests.

Senate Bill 219 authorizes the auditor or the tax collector to cancel any penalty, costs, or other charges associated with a missed property tax payment caused by the state shelter-in-place order if certain criteria are met. The Legislature has been particularly active in addressing the harm the COVID-19 lockdown had on renters, but the pandemic has also had a tremendous impact on homeowners as well. SB 219 provides important relief for homeowners.

On a similar note, Senate Bill 303 extended by two years the five-year time period under existing tax law in which to transfer a Prop. 13 base year value to a comparable property following a disaster.

Legislation which enhances government transparency and citizen participation also passed. SB 274 requires local agencies to make agendas and all the documents constituting the agenda packet available by email at the request of a member of the public. Previously, it was only required by mail.

We were also pleased to see the governor veto SB 660. All SB 660 would have done is drive up the cost of getting measures on the ballot. That favors wealthy and entrenched interests.

Now for the bad.

To read the entire column, please click here.

California’s Public Officials Are Usurping The Role Of Parents

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

California has a long history of “firsts.” The Golden State was home to the first computer, the first movie theater, and the first McDonalds. Sadly, the state is now leading the nation in stripping parents of their childrearing authority.

For starters, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a vaccine mandate on October 1, making California the first state to require that public and private school students age 12 or older be fully vaccinated for in-person instruction. (Unvaccinated students will have the option of enrolling in an online school or attending independent-study programs offered by districts.) The mandate will go into effect once the Food and Drug Administration approves vaccines for kids over age 12. Depending on when the expected FDA decision comes down, students will need to get the jab by either January 1 or July 1 of next year. Next up are schoolchildren ages 5 to 11, who will be forced to join the vax club as soon as the FDA greenlights it for them. Newsom recently claimed that so far, 63.5 percent of kids between 12 and 17 had received at least one dose of the vaccine.

Mandate proponents are quick to claim that the Covid vaccine is just the latest addition to a list that includes mumps, measles, and rubella. But unlike those illnesses, Covid does not pose a significant risk to children, and kids are not “super spreaders.” Teachers are more likely to catch it in the teachers’ lounge than in the classroom.

“It’s unconscionable that a society uses its children as shields for adults,” says the Hoover Institution’s Scott Atlas, an M.D. and former advisor to President Trump. “The children do not have significant risk from this illness.”

What effect Newsom’s mandate will have on school enrollment remains to be seen, but California public schools have already lost more than 160,000 students, a 2.6 percent decline—the largest enrollment drop in two decades—since the start of the pandemic. A mandate isn’t likely to reverse that trend. And since the edict also covers private schools, look for homeschools and micro-schools in California to grow. According to California Globe, immediately following the announcement of the mandate, homeschooling and tutoring inquiries were up dramatically, with some homeschooling sites crashing from the sheer volume of parents searching for information. Many teachers may follow students out the door, since they, too, must be vaccinated.

California parents have more to contend with than just the vaccine mandate, however. Last month, AB 1184, cosponsored by Planned Parenthood, became law. As the California Family Council explains, the law “prohibits insurance companies from revealing to the policyholder the ‘sensitive services’ of anyone on their policy, including minor children, even though the policy owner is financially responsible for the services.” The term “sensitive services” refers to all health care services related to mental or behavioral health, sexual and reproductive health (including abortions), sexually transmitted infections, substance-use disorder, and gender-affirming care. The bill doesn’t define “gender affirming care,” but according to the University of California, San Francisco, the concept includes hormone therapy and a laundry list of surgeries including vaginectomy, scrotoplasty, voice modification, and others. These procedures can begin when a child is just 12—starting with puberty blockers, paid for under the family’s insurance policy. When the statement is sent home, no explanation is offered of any of these procedures. Parents are reduced to bill-paying bystanders.

AB 1184 is similar in tone to AB 2119, which passed in 2018. That law provides that the “rights of minors and nonminors in foster care . . . include the right to be involved in the development of case plan elements related to placement and gender affirming health care, with consideration of their gender identity.” The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) filed testimony against the bill, urging legislators to reject it. “Children with gender dysphoria believe they are not their biological sex,” the group’s March 2018 testimony read. “A delusion is a fixed false belief. This bill proposes that foster children with gender dysphoria be socially affirmed into their delusion, and allowed to obtain experimental puberty blockers, and dangerous cross-sex hormones and surgery without parental consent.” ACPeds cited various statistics in opposing the bill, including the fact that roughly 88 percent of gender-dysphoric girls and 98 percent of gender-dysphoric boys will, if given time, go on to identify with their biological sex by late adolescence.

While ACPeds did not weigh in on AB 1184, it asserts that puberty blockers may cause mental illness and permanent physical harm, and that cross-sex hormones (testosterone for women and estrogen for men) may disrupt mental health.

Legislative totalitarians in California are usurping the role of parents. Unless they leave the state, parents and other concerned citizens will need to find a way to push back.

Larry Sand, a retired teacher, is president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.

This article was originally published by City Journal Online.

California Bullet Train Funds Stalemated

While Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 770 bills passed by the Legislature this year, he couldn’t approve a big one that he wanted badly — a $4.2 billion appropriation to shore up the state’s much-delayed, increasingly expensive and obviously mismanaged bullet train project.

He couldn’t sign it because the Legislature, controlled by his fellow Democrats, won’t send it to him. Legislative leaders, especially Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, are disenchanted with the project and want the money to be spent, instead, on improving local commuter rail service.

The $4.2 billion is the last bit of a $9.95 billion bond issue approved by voters 13 years ago on the promise that it would attract enough other financing for a $33 billion high-speed rail link between San Francisco and Los Angeles with future extensions to San Diego and Sacramento.

For political reasons, it was decided that an initial segment would be built in the San Joaquin Valley but the starter line has never really gotten started. There’s been some construction, most notably some sections of viaduct in and around Fresno, but it’s years behind schedule and has only a fraction of the money needed to cover its ever-rising costs.

Los Angeles Times journalist Ralph Vartabedian, who’s been a one-man truth squad on the project’s managerial and financial woes, reported last week that two of the San Joaquin Valley line’s major contractors want an extra $1 billion-plus for unforeseen costs. That would raise it to nearly $23 billion or two thirds of what the entire 800-mile system was originally supposed to cost.

The $4.2 billion that Newsom wants is sorely needed to keep the project shuffling along, but the state is still a long way from having enough money to cover the entire cost of the segment, much less the $80 or so billion more that a full project would need.

Rendon and other like-minded legislators see it as money going down a bottomless sinkhole rather than being spent on projects that could be completed in years, rather than decades, and have a direct impact on traffic congestion in Southern California. A chunk of the bond money has already been spent on upgrading commuter rail on the San Francisco Peninsula and the Rendon faction is seeking parity for its region.

The odd thing about the situation is that Newsom himself seemingly was ready to abandon the project after becoming governor in 2019, virtually disavowing it in a speech to the Legislature. He then reversed course and said he not only wanted to complete the San Joaquin segment as then planned but extend it on both ends on the assumption that it could be linked to major metropolitan areas.

Newsom’s revised position had the effect of increasing the segment’s cost without declaring how the financial gap would be closed.

Newsom and the Rendon faction have been negotiating for months, ever since Newsom proposed to tap the remaining $4.2 billion in bond money, and the governor apparently was offered a roughly 50-50 split but insists on the entire amount. Diverting even a token amount of bond money would be tantamount to surrender and would whet the appetites of other urban areas for pieces of the pie.

It’s really time for those in charge to put up or shut up — either telling Californians when and how the project will be financed and completed or calling it quits before it becomes an even more embarrassing train to nowhere.

Newsom’s position — willing to keep it barely alive until he can will it to a successor governor — is somewhat cowardly for someone who purports to be decisive.

This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

Activist Judges Are the Latest Threat to California Businesses

An activist judge with a questionable track record has made a head-scratching decision to overturn the votes of millions of Californians.

Alameda County Judge Frank Roesch recently ruled in favor of a union-backed lawsuit aimed at dismantling Proposition 22 — a ballot measure that provided job protections for gig workers while allowing them to retain the flexibility of being freelancers. But last fall, Prop. 22 passed by more than 58 percent of the vote with almost 10 million Californians voting in favor of the ballot measure. Now, thanks to one union-friendly judge, it’s as if those votes don’t count.

It’s no secret that California has become increasingly hostile to the entrepreneurs and business owners that drive our state’s economy. The recent decision to overturn Prop. 22 is just the latest example of many.

Businesses already face a legal minefield in the Golden State; there are more than 1,000 pages in the California Labor Law digest.

My organization, the California Business and Industrial Alliance (CABIA), has been outspoken about harmful laws on the books, especially the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA) — a terrible policy that leaves both workers and business owners worse off. In addition to that, now businesses have to worry about activist judges like Roesch who base their decisions on the will of interest groups, rather than on the merits of the actual case in front of them.

The lawsuit against Prop. 22 was backed by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). It’s not hard to see why the union wants to eliminate the policy. The SEIU is one of the main labor unions trying to organize gig economy workers. With Prop. 22 out of the picture, it would be much easier for the union to convert gig workers, newly-classified as employees, into dues-paying members.

Judge Roesch has a long history of making bad decisions that are repeatedly tossed out by higher courts. CABIA’s new report documents Roesch’s poor judgement over the years.

In 2009, Roesch sided with public-sector unions when he ruled to invalidate California’s furlough powers during a fiscal crisis, only to be overruled by both a California appeals court and the State Supreme Court. That same year, Roesch unsuccessfully tried to block the City of Oakland from using public safety funds to hire desperately needed police officers.

In 2012, a State Appeals Court found Roesch incorrectly tried to limit a man’s constitutionally protected speech. The next year, a California appeals court unanimously overruled a prior decision from Roesch, finding he not only erred on matters of fact, but even misapplied a legal concept commonly taught to first year law students. In 2018, two separate decisions from Roesch were overturned due to his egregious biases in the cases.

Roesch has also been repeatedly disciplined for his improper conduct as a judge. In 2011, he was reprimanded by the state Commission on Judicial Performance after repeatedly denigrating and insulting a plaintiff, even proclaiming the plaintiff asked an idiotic question. In October 2020, the same state judicial commission unanimously admonished Roesch due to his egregious biases in two cases he had presided over.

In the first case, Roesch denied a party their fundamental right to due process as part of his efforts to ensure a preferred judicial outcome. In the other case, Roesch sought to deny a man ownership over a property he had legally bought, due to unfounded suspicions about cheating.

Passing Prop. 22 was the first step toward reversing the havoc AB 5 caused in California.

At least if Judge Roesch’s track record holds true, an appeals court will easily see through his bias and validate the millions of voters who passed Prop 22.

Tom Manzo is the founder of the California Business and Industrial Alliance (CABIA).

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

770 New Laws Coming To California

You’d be forgiven for not knowing Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed the largest expansion of California’s college financial aid system in a generation — he did so during the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants’ first playoff game Friday night.

Hours later, it was all over: Newsom signed his final bills on Saturday, a day ahead of the Oct. 10 deadline to act on the 836 proposals state lawmakers sent to his desk. Of those, he signed 770 (92%) and vetoed 66 (7.9%), according to Sacramento lobbyist Chris Micheli.

Here’s a look at the significant new laws coming to the Golden State — as well as ideas Newsom prevented from becoming law.

Signed into law:

Vetoed:


This article was originally published by CalMatters.org

The Myths Of ‘Income Inequality’

It is an article of faith among progressives that income inequality is getting worse in California. In fact, claims of a widening gap between rich and poor are used nationally to justify raising taxes and accelerate the redistribution of wealth.

But like other urban myths, such as how Prop. 13 supposedly starved local governments, it is easily debunked by critical analysis of the data. As it turns out, while the rich are in fact getting richer, so are the poor.

First, no one disputes the tautological argument that the wealthy have more money than the poor. But policy leaders need to ask some important questions. For example, is that gap actually expanding? How do we measure “income?” If the standard of living is increasing for those at the bottom rung of the economic ladder, does it really matter how rich the wealthy become?

In January of 2020, the Public Policy Institute of California issued a report on income inequality which found that the gap between rich and poor in California was in fact larger than in 45 other states. But PPIC also acknowledged that “current government policies substantially narrow the gap between rich and poor.” Those policies include heavy tax burdens on the productive sector of the economy and massive transfers of wealth to lower-income individuals.

But in any discussion of income inequality, it is important to define the terms. Much of the most widely‐​cited work by mainstream media which “proves” increasing disparity is misleading because of the definitions they employ. Take, for example, the work of economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez, two darlings of the left. How they defined “income” ignored several variables that substantially inflate U.S. income inequality. Those variables include whether corporate income should be attributed to individuals (it should), whether after-tax income is a better metric (it is), and whether the value of employee benefits should be counted (it should). In short, the work of Piketty and Saez has been substantially discredited by other economists. But it is unlikely that you’ll ever read about that in the New York Times.

Moreover, even if economists could agree on definitions, there remain many questions about income inequality. For example, is California’s relatively high disparity between the rich and poor the result of its progressive policies? Although the data is not clear on this, there is little denying that high taxes and heavy regulations result in the outmigration of the middle class, leaving the state with many poor (highest effective rate of poverty in America) and many wealthy with a sizable gap in between. …

Click here to read the full article from the OC Register.

Special Interests Try Again to Pass Split Roll

Not quite a year ago, California voters rejected a ballot measure that would have partially unwound Proposition 13, the landmark initiative that set off an “entrepreneurial and commercial explosion” and “a second California gold rush.” Supporters of the “split roll,” a tax regime in which residential properties retain their Prop. 13 protections but others don’t, apparently want another bite at what’s so far been a forbidden fruit. According to the California Apartment Association, “organized labor, specifically Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West,” has filed paperwork with the state attorney general’s office to put another split roll measure before voters in the fall of 2022.

The previous effort to undermine Prop. 13 would have split real property into two subdivisions. Residential properties would have continued to be taxed the way they have been since the measure went into effect in 1979, while commercial and industrial properties would no longer have been covered and therefore taxed at higher rates. The added revenue, from a $12 billion tax hike, was supposed to be dedicated to education. Voters rejected Proposition 15 by a 52-48 margin in last fall’s general election.

From its current title, the “Housing Affordability and Tax Cut Act of 2022,” to a number of its provisions, the measure includes a number of sweeteners to make it more palatable – or misleading – to voters. It appears to increase the homeowners’ tax exemption, offer an associated renters’ credit, and streamline the homebuilding process. All of which can be achieved legislatively on their own. Gutting Prop. 13 is not required.

But using other people’s money to further a political agenda is a stubborn habit that never rests. Therefore, the follow-up effort. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, founded by Howard Jarvis, who led the Prop. 13 revolt, saw this coming immediately after the 2020 election.

Facts, though, as many have said before, are stubborn, as well. One that creates a particularly high hurdle for tax-’em-high interests is that Prop. 13 is still the “third rail of California politics.” In 2018, on the 40th anniversary of its passage, and just two years before Prop. 15 was turned back, “a majority of Californians (57%) and likely voters (65%)” still felt that 13 “turned out to be mostly a good thing for the state,” according to the Public Policy Institute of California. That same portion said it was mostly good in 2003.

Meanwhile, 23% said it was “mostly a bad thing” in 2018, up two percentage points from 2003.

Targeting businesses for higher property taxes isn’t the most California thing ever. But it’s close. Policymakers at all levels across the state see businesses as reservoirs of dollars to be plundered, and objects to be regulated. When officials think of businesses, they don’t see in their minds private commercial enterprises, they see units of the state to be used to further political agendas.

In their haste to tax and regulate, they miss, or maybe just don’t care about, the harm done to consumers. Businesses will have little choice but to socialize the higher costs of their operations by charging more for their goods and services, “​​raising the prices on everything we buy,” say Rob Lapsley and Allan Zaremberg, co-chairs of Californians to Stop Higher Property Taxes, “from gasoline to groceries, while also raising our utility and health care bills.” ​​Any business unable to pass on the costs will have to reduce its expenses. This can mean cutting jobs, living with smaller profits, dropping plans to expand, and in some cases eventually going out of business.

The latest split roll attempt might not make it to the ballot next year. But if it does, and this time voters approve it, don’t be surprised when more businesses leave the state. They can take only so much.

Kerry Jackson is a fellow with the Center for California Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

This article was originally published by the Pacific Research Institute.