California Needs A Bright-Line Test for Determining Residency for Tax Purposes

David Kline
Vice President of Communications and Research, California Taxpayers Association

“Where do you live?” This seemingly straightforward question has been the source of major contention between taxpayers and the Franchise Tax Board for many years, resulting in time-consuming appeals, exhausting searches for documents and witnesses, significant audit resources, and, in some cases, expensive litigation. It is time for the state to end the confusion by establishing a bright-line test for determining whether a person is or isn’t a California resident for income tax purposes.

Inventor Gilbert Hyatt’s recent federal civil rights suit against members of the FTB and the State Board of Equalization brought the residency issue back to the front burner, but the issue started causing headaches long before the dispute between Mr. Hyatt and the FTB started more than 20 years ago.

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Who Was That Fellow on the Train?

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)

Did I see a unicorn? Or was that really a California petition circulator being paid hourly?

I was riding the Gold Line, one of the Metro trains in Los Angeles, in Little Tokyo with my son last month when I was approached by a petition circulator, carrying a clipboard full of statewide ballot initiatives.

The circulator was pushing two health care initiatives back by SEIU-UHW – one to cap what hospitals can charge, another to cap CEO salaries at nonprofit hospitals.

This was the first time I’d encountered a circulator on a train, and I engaged him in conversation. He said he often worked the train. Then I asked him, as I often do with circulators, what circulators were being paid per signature.

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CA Fwd Releases Report On How To Build Stronger Budget Reserve

Justin Ewers
Research Associate, CAFwd.org

By calling a special legislative session today to focus lawmakers’ attention on creating a more robust budget reserve, Gov. Brown has demonstrated his commitment to strengthening California’s fiscal condition—and to ensuring the state, with years of double-digit deficits fading into memory, sets aside enough money for the next rainy day.

The question now is: What is the most effective way to get this done?

In a new report released today, Ending the Boom and Bust: How to Build a Stronger Budget ReserveCalifornia Forward offers a range of ideas lawmakers should consider to protect major state programs and the safety net before the next downturn.

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The Spread Of ‘Debate Is Over’ Syndrome

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

The ongoing trial involving journalist Mark Steyn – accused of defaming climate change theorist Michael Mann – reflects an increasingly dangerous tendency among our intellectual classes to embrace homogeneity of viewpoint. Steyn, whose column has appeared for years on these pages, may be alternatingly entertaining or over-the-top obnoxious, but the slander lawsuit against him marks a milestone in what has become a dangerously authoritarian worldview being adopted in academia, the media and large sections of the government bureaucracy.

Let’s call it “the debate is over” syndrome, referring to a term used most often in relationship with climate change but also by President Barack Obama last week in reference to what remains his contentious, and theoretically reformable, health care plan. Ironically, this shift to certainty now comes increasingly from what passes for the Left in America.

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Can We Get Over Our Campaign Finance Obsession?

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)

California’s prisons are constitutionally overcrowded. Our unemployment rate is higher the national average. Even changes in our school funding leave us shortage of the national average for K-12. Our underinvestment in higher education has led to a decline in the percentage of adults who are college graduates. Our tax and regulatory regime is uncompetitive with other states.

So in this campaign season, what’s the biggest issue in California?

Judging by news coverage, the answer is simple: money in politics.

The scandals involving three members of the state senate have turned into a conversation about how to limit money in politics. The big issue in the Secretary of State’s race, the only one with real energy, is the notion of fundraising bands. And we’re all safely ignoring the governor’s race because there are no real challengers – since a challenge can’t be considered real if there aren’t tens of millions of dollars behind it. The initiative battles on health care make the news for all the money that’s attaching to them.

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California’s Workforce Professionals and Insights from Unlikely Sources

Michael Bernick
Former California Employment Development Department Director & Milken Institute Fellow

This morning is the start of the 2014 California Workforce Association (CWA) conference in San Diego. CWA is the leading association of workforce professionals in our state, and a main force for educating and professionalizing our field.

Regarding education, we have noted in recent years that workforce professionals can learn much not only from writings on labor economics, human resources, and industrial relations, but also from technology, contemporary literature and even popular culture (i.e. Mad Men, Enlightened, Silicon Valley).

In this vein, and as CWA members gather from throughout the state, there are several recent books by California authors outside of the workforce field that help us better understand the evolving job world. Let me highlight three:

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If You Like Shakedown Prop. 65 Lawsuits, You’ll Love SB 1381

Tom Scott
Executive Director, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

Some things should not come as a surprise. When it comes to the California Legislature, one of the least surprising things is that there are certain legislators who have an appetite for pleasing the Consumer Attorneys of California. State Senator Noreen Evans has done exactly that with SB 1381, which is related to genetically engineered food. Some of you might remember Proposition 37 from 2012, an initiative aimed at labeling genetically modified food. Well, it seems that Senator Evans was not happy with the fact that California voters rejected it, so she has quietly reinvented it in SB 1381.

Proposition 37 would have required labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if the food was made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. It also prohibited labeling or advertising such foods as “natural”. CALA opposed Prop. 37 because it would have created more opportunities for lawsuit abuse. This initiative was written by the same individual who wrote Proposition 65 back in 1986 which has led to rampant abuse of our legal system. And I am sure that person’s fingerprints are somewhere on SB 1831, which states that California consumers have the right to know, through labeling, whether the foods they purchase were produced with genetic engineering.  The bill also allows people to sue for alleged violations of the labeling law and to collect attorney’s fees.

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Boston Strong Helped by a California Champion

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

In Boston, I watched the emotional running of the 118th Boston Marathon. Following the awful events of last year that drew this city and the country together behind the slogan “Boston Strong,” an American won the men’s race for the first time since 1983 — and he was a Californian. Meb Keflezighi from San Diego set off wild chants of “USA, USA” along the route and the playing of the national anthem when he received his trophy.

Enthusiastic large crowds cheered long after the elite runners had passed. The Boston Strong slogan was on t-shirts all over the city on runners and spectators alike.

The excitement and determination around town was palpable. Remember the seagulls in the animated movie, “Finding Nemo” who machine gun like repeated “mine, mine, mine, mine” in trying to grab their prey? Bostonians were seemingly chanting “ours, ours, ours, ours,” about the marathon — taking it back from the terrorists’ desire to create  havoc and fear. The attitude often repeated over the weekend was to “take back the finish line.”

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Partisanship Must Be Harnessed, Not Fought

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)

News item: Pete Peterson, the Republican candidate for California Secretary of State, has 30 percent support, and a big lead, in a new Field Poll.

Reaction: As readers of this site know, I’m a big fan of Pete and his work on civic engagement in local communities around California. He’d make a terrific Secretary of State, and would transform the office in important ways.

But that’s not why Peterson has that level of support in the polls. Those surveys reflect one fact: Peterson is a Republican.

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The Cost of Driving in California

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

Feeling the pain of gasoline prices? In California the average price of gasoline is about $4.20 a gallon. That’s second highest in the nation behind Hawaii. Some of the recent jump in state gas cost can be attributed to refinery troubles. But California also leads the nation in taxing gasoline.

According to a chart prepared by energy giant Exxon Mobil earlier this year, California is the only state with combined state, local and federal tax that tops 70-cents a gallon.

Of course, some in the Golden State  think that is not enough.  Efforts to create an oil severance tax would add to the cost of gasoline, perhaps even vaulting the per gallon price of gas past Hawaii, which has the extra burden of importing its oil.

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