End Run Around Spending Limit Likely Headed for the Courts

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

The state’s nearly 40-year-old spending limit law is on the fast track to a date in court. While the state senate budget committee yesterday agreed  with the governor’s framework for the budget, which excludes $22 billion from the spending limit, a number of lawyers have concerns or outright disagree.

I expect the courts will be called on to referee different interpretations of the spending limit.

If critics of Gov. Brown’s position are correct in their interpretation of the Gann spending limit, named after chief proponent and anti-tax activist Paul Gann, then cuts in the budget are sure to follow with funds returned to taxpayers and shared with schools.

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Lack of Transparency in Public Contract Negotiations Would Lead to Higher Taxpayer Costs

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

No state needs to reform the relationship that governments have with public-employee unions more than California. Yet lawmakers keep going in the wrong direction.

Contract negotiations between government and the labor unions who represent the public employees should be transparent. Too often, both sides are working toward a common goal – a generous deal for the unions.

Simply put, there isn’t much bartering between state and local governments and the public-sector unions. Union bosses secure the contracts they want because there is little push back during collective-bargaining sessions. This arrangement has been finely tuned. Unions have for decades delivered cash and manpower to elect friendly candidates to state and local office. 

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The Best Politicians in California Aren’t In Politics

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

“It is all wrong,” wrote Aristotle, “that a person who is going to be deemed worthy of the office should himself solicit it.”

That little blast as politicians resonates in California today. When you look around the state, our most effective politicians are those who haven’t sought elective office, at least yet.

For my money, the two best politicians in California work at the same company: Facebook. Sheryl Sandberg has made herself a major public figure who, for all her flaws, speaks coherently to full political spectrum on many major issues, and specifically to the experiences of women and families with an authenticity that Hillary Clinton achieved only in her wildest dreams. One wonders how much her boss Mark Zuckerberg’s emergence as a political and cultural figure owes to her counsel.

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Californians Rely on Our Judiciary to Ensure and Protect Access to Justice 

Sosan Madanat
Executive Director, Foundation for Democracy and Justice

“Separation of powers,” “judicial independence” and “rule of law” are abstract concepts with important implications. At an abstract level, most Americans cannot identify with these concepts. Nearly two-thirds cannot name the three branches of government; a third cannot name a single First Amendment right; three out of four don’t know the role of the judicial branch.

But these concepts do not just live in abstractions. As California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has said, “

People have to know that government belongs to them, it runs on their participation and their leadership. But if they don’t ever get an understanding that government exists for them – three branches are there for them – then they’ll never feel they’re a part of it. And decisions will be made without them, and they’ll feel helpless – or they will mistrust the system.”

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The Real Reason Behind The CA Single Payer Proposal

David Crane
Lecturer and Research Scholar at Stanford University and President of Govern for California

Hint: It’s not about health

This past weekend the California Democratic Party of which I am a member held a state convention riven by the election of a new chairman. Behind that was a battle over a proposal to enact “Single Payer” (SP) health care financing in California. Behind that is a power play about money.

SP is a method by which health care expenditures are financed by public agencies. For example, Medicare and Medicaid are SP systems. Now, a powerful commercial and political interest (the California Nurses Association) is pushing legislation to establish a consolidated state-run SP agency. They want Medicare and Medicaid to run through the new agency and to eliminate private insurance so that all healthcare payments in California (~$400 billion per year) would run through that agency.

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California’s priority challenges

Ronald Stein
Founder of PTS Staffing Solutions, a technical staffing agency headquartered in Irvine

It’s hard to understand the time and efforts being extended on the subject of “sanctuary” and the use of public monies to fund protection of illegals when California has many other challenges on its plate such as our growing population of the financially challenged that includes: 1) nearly 25% of Californians 38 million live below the poverty line. 2) California has more than 33% of the nation’s welfare recipients, 3) California is home to 12% of the nation’s population, but startlingly 21% of the nation’s homeless population, 4) The majority of California renters:  Nearly 3 million households – pay more than 30% of their income toward rent, 5) Roughly – 1.5 million households pay more than 50% of their income toward rent.

A few other problems that should have some priority time and action from our legislatures are:

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Dems Aplenty Running for Gov. What about the Reps?

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

So many Democrats running for governor, you’ll soon near a scorecard to keep them straight. Is there room for a Republican in the governor’s race in Deep Blue California?

This weekend’s state Democratic convention saw what might be called a thickening of the field for governor with speculation that rich environmentalist Tom Steyer might jump into the race and a campaign-like video circulated produced for Senate president Kevin de León. In this heavily Democratic state should we care what’s going on with Republicans interested in the corner office?

Many argue that in this blue state only a Democrat can be elected. In fact, under California’s top two primary system, it is possible two Democrats will square off for governor in the 2018 final. But that top-two system is unpredictable. Especially with such a thick field of Democratic candidates, a solid Republican candidate likely would be in the run-off.

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After Jerry Brown: Disaster?

John Seiler
Former Editorial Writer at the Orange County Register

In politics, it’s better to be lucky than good. That sure fits Jerry Brown. Taking office in 1975, he proclaimed an “era of limits,” cutting investments in roads, dams and other infrastructure. Californians weren’t listening, as the population since then doubled, to 40 million.

Yet despite the bumpy roads and droughts (from lack of reservoirs), this also happened: in 1974, Intel released its 8080 microprocessor, sparking the microcomputer revolution. On March 5, 1975, two months after Brown became governor, Steve Wozniak attended the first meeting of the Homebrew Computer Club. In 1976, Woz designed the Apple I, the first of the legendary company’s products. The computer revolution accelerated from there, then was boosted into orbit by the Internet revolution of the 1990s and since, bringing to some areas of the state wealth beyond the dreams of avarice.

Coming back into office in 2011, Brown is credited with a “California miracle,” but really is riding the national economic recovery. Once again, lucky.

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Single Payer Health Cost Pegged at $400 Billion

Rob Lapsley
President, California Business Roundtable

(Editor’s note: The following statement was issued by Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable,  regarding the report that SB 562 (Lara / Atkins), the single-payer healthcare bill, will cost $400 billion per year to implement.)

Let’s look at the facts: California’s 2017-18 budget is estimated at $180 billion. We are the highest tax state in the nation, we are growing lower-wage and higher-wage jobs while losing middle-class jobs, unemployment is below 5 percent yet we are already projecting a budget deficit in the short term. We have billions in unfunded pension and health care liabilities, a worst-in-the-nation poverty rate, long-term debt and a growing housing crisis. But now the Legislature wants to consider a 200 percent increase in the state budget. There is no responsible way to pay for this proposal.

We are already seeing an exodus of low- and middle-income residents from our state. SB 562 is part of an ongoing progressive agenda that will only result in progressively bankrupting California.

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Gov. Brown: Get Out of California Unless You Can Afford It

Aubrey Bettencourt
Executive Director, California Water Alliance

California’s epic drought is officially over. As drought-related mandatory water conservation orders end, ordinary citizens’ water, sewer, utility rates and other water-related costs continue to rise.

East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD) recently announced two water rate hikes, one of 9.5 percent in July and another next year of 9 percent. Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) is countering with two increases of 7 percent each. San Mateo residents learned recently of plans to raise their sewage rates 36%. These and other rate-hike stories are common across our state.

As if these water rate hikes weren’t enough, California State Assembly member Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) pushed her way to the front of the line with new laws seeking to extend and make permanent the drought’s mandatory conservation requirements. She introduced her bills moments after Gov. Jerry Brown concluded his revised budget presentation to the legislature and press.

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