Governor Brown Unveils His Rainy Day Reserve – A Reform That Fits The Times

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

Governor Brown was in office when the first state spending limit was passed in 1979. Yesterday he proposed a measure that might actually work as advertised.

We’ve learned a lot about state budgets, revenues and unintended consequences during the past 35 years. Governor’s Brown’s rainy day reserve nods to that experience, and brings forth a proposal more focused yet more achievable than past efforts.

Reformers have been at this a long time.

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Prop 13 Poll Question Not About Split Roll

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

Advocates for a split roll property tax probably hailed the results of the Field Poll question about business property changing ownership. Trouble is, the question wasn’t about a split roll property tax in which all business property would be taxed differently from residential property. The question was about certain commercial property transfers of ownership.

Here is the question asked by Field: Because of complexities in the way businesses and commercial properties are sold, they, unlike residential properties, are not always reassessed when ownership is transferred. Do you favor or oppose changing Prop. 13 to insure that when business and commercial properties are sold or transferred, their property taxes are reset and based on their current assessed value?

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The Governor Should Move to the Delta

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)

When you’re faced with two different thorny problems, sometimes the best way to make progress is by combining them. I’m talking to you, Jerry Brown.

Your first problem involves water. Residents of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta—California’s most vital estuary and source of water—fiercely oppose Brown’s plan to build tunnels that will divert water from north of the Delta to provide more reliable supplies to San Joaquin Valley farmers and Southern California. Their opposition is based on fear. In the short term, they fear construction of the tunnels will disrupt their lives. In the long term, they fear that the tunnels, by allowing other parts of the state to bypass the Delta, will lead Californians to forget the Delta. A forgotten Delta, they fear, will slowly die under the stresses of climate, habitat loss, and encroaching salt water from the San Francisco Bay.

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San Jose’s Public Safety Pensions – Reduce Now or Slash Later

Ed Ring
Executive Director, California Public Policy Center

“Once people get the facts, they do not support slashing people’s pensions.” - Dave Low, chairman, Californians for Retirement Security (Washington Post, February 25, 2014)

Really?

Making sure “people get the facts” is difficult when most “facts” the public sees are promulgated to the media by pension fund PR departments eager to preserve the torrent of taxpayers money flowing into their favored investment firms, along with PR firms representing taxpayer-funded public sector unions whose primary reason to exist is to increase the wages and benefits of their members.

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Keeping Our Government in the Open

Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen
California Assemblymember, 12th District

On many levels, the advent of the Internet fundamentally transformed our society, giving us access to information literally at our fingertips.

Without question, it offers a lot of good. But it also exposes our personal information in ways that decades ago would have been unimaginable. Little did we know that what we would have to worry about would be our own government spying on us as we surf the net.

Like many Californians, I have been troubled by revelations over the last year of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) activities online. With a recent report now alleging that the NSA posed as Facebook in order to contaminate computers with malware, it is just one more misstep eroding confidence in our government.

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Is the Department of Insurance Hiding the Ball on its Millions in Payments to Consumer Watchdog?

Steven Maviglio
Principal of Forza Communications, a Sacramento-based public affairs/campaign firm

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and ConsumerWatchdog.org have a cozy relationship. In addition to receiving questionable no-bid government contracts from the Insurance Department that raised concerns among ethics experts, ConsumerWatchdog.org is the sole recipient of funds under Jones’ tenure of the department’s “intervenor fees,” pocketing $779,822 in fees in 2012 alone. In 2011, it also was the only collector of $849,194 of these fees, which ultimately are paid for by consumers.

So it was no surprise that legislators began questioning how ConsumerWatchdog – which snuck this special interest provision into a ballot measure it authored – has come to have corner the market for collecting the revenue from this program (it alone has raked in more than $5.6 million since 2008).  In 2012, then-State Senator Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) called for legislative hearings on the matter, noting: “The Department should broaden its outreach to all Californians that have a legitimate interest in their insurance rates. We must get the facts about why more consumers are being excluded from the process.”

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Garcetti’s Precarious Budget

Jack Humphreville
LA Watchdog writer for CityWatch, President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and Publisher of the Recycler

In the most honest and straight forward budget presentation in the last ten years, Mayor Eric Garcetti presented his “Back to Basics” budget at a Monday morning press conference at City Hall. This $5.1 billion General Fund budget is $250 million greater than last year’s Adopted Budget, representing a 5% increase.

Garcetti’s budget focuses on four key areas: public safety; a prosperous city where the City’s bureaucracy is service oriented and not an impediment to business; an environmentally sustainable city that has better streets, sidewalks, and other amenities; and a well-run City government that is focused on customer service and results, not process.

The General Fund budget includes increases for the Police and Fire Departments of almost $40 million, the repair of more streets and sidewalks, improved code enforcement by Building and Safety, and a number of other important initiatives, including better management information and budgeting systems.

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America’s New Brainpower Cities

Joel Kotkin
Editor of NewGeography.com and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University

Brainpower rankings usually identify the usual suspects: college towns like Boston, Washington, D.C.,  and the San Francisco Bay area. And to be sure, these places generally have the highest per capita education levels. However, it’s worthwhile to look at the metro areas that are gaining college graduates most rapidly; this is an indicator of momentum that is likely to carry over into the future.

To determine where college graduates are settling, demographer Wendell Cox analyzed the change in the number of holders of bachelor’s degrees and above between 2007 and 2012 in the 51 metropolitan statistical areas with over a million people (all saw gains). For the most part, the fastest-growing brain hubs are in the South and Intermountain West (which excludes the states on the Pacific Coast). Some of these places are usually not associated with the highest levels of academic achievement, and for the most, they still lag the national average in college graduation rates.

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On Tax Day, Taxpayer Advocates and their Adversaries are Thinking Ahead

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

On Tax Day 2014, California is creeping toward a point that the issue of taxation may once again be selected as the main concern for the state’s voters. That might seem an irrational statement when you consider that in the most recent Public Policy Institute poll, taxes as a concern were ranked sixth behind, in order, jobs and the economy, water/drought, education, immigration and health care. In fact, only four percent of those surveyed picked taxes, the budget and deficits as their top concern.

However, there are signs that the tax issue is going to get more attention.

The annual Tax Foundation report on state-local tax burden has California in fourth place among the states. The percentage of tax burden as a share of state income is 11.4 percent. But the Tax Foundation’s numbers were calculated on 2011 figures. That was before California raised it sales and income taxes in 2012 to the highest in the nation.

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Will California Revive and Expand Redevelopment?

William R. Maurer
Attorney, Institute for Justice

Before its demise in 2011, California’s redevelopment system did little to create jobs or improve education. It did succeed, however, in turning California into one of the worst states in the nation for eminent domain abuse, while severely undermining the state’s fiscal stability.

A new initiative, the “California Jobs and Education Development Initiative,” or JEDI, Act, proposes to revive and expand this system. As a new report just released by the Institute for Justice finds, reviving redevelopment in this manner would achieve the same results, only worse.

California began experimenting with redevelopment in 1945 and over time this law became a vehicle for widespread abuse and corruption. It allowed local governments to create redevelopment agencies that could issue bonds without voter approval and use eminent domain to seize perfectly fine homes and businesses to give to private, wealthy developers.

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