Tuition Hike Proposal Like Dialogue from an Old Movie

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

University of California officials could borrow dialogue heard in dozens of old movies when they essentially tell state officials: “Give us the money or the kids get it!” Of course, the UC administration and the Regents panel that endorsed their plan yesterday were not holding a gun to the students but made the threat in the form of a tuition hike of up to 25-percent over five years if the state doesn’t increase spending on the UC system.

Before the Regents approve the hike they should first look at the university system’s costs and also look for ways to save money.

Governor Jerry Brown was right in calling for a commission to consider ways to reduce expenses as well as plan how to deliver a 21st Century education in technologically advanced California. Brown insisted the UC system should not follow the lead of high-cost private universities in their salary and tuition decisions.

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Climate Change And Our Love Affair With The Automobile

Richard Rubin
Writes about political issues and is President of a public affairs management firm

The dirty little secret is out: We are degrading our planet at an accelerating pace and the reasons are not primarily celestial as a dwindling group of skeptics would have us believe.

Climate change and greenhouse gas emissions go together, so says a mounting body of evidence coming from the vast majority of eminent scientists worldwide, and those pollutants are man-made.

The issue is apparently important enough to have merited an urgent call for action by President Obama in his recent talk before the United Nations—a first before that body by a head of state.

California, however, is several steps ahead of Washington thanks to visionary actions by its own leaders—one a Republican, the other a Democrat, who avoided the partisan bickering that has killed any meaningful environmental reforms in Congress.

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Transportation Policy and Funding in the Post-Election Climate

Ken Orski
Editor/Publisher of Innovation NewsBriefs, a transportation newsletter

The mid-term elections have put an end to any lingering hope of passing a long-term  transportation bill during the congressional lame duck session. Such hope was recently expressed by Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and two Democratic senators, Tom Carper (D-DE) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. In an October 9 letter to Congressman David Camp, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. Boxer wrote, “We cannot afford to wait for action until the deadline which falls at the beginning of the critical summer construction season, or to kick the can down the road any longer.” Secretary Foxx echoed in a radio interview on October 16,  “I don’t think we are going to find ourselves in a better moment to do something than we will over the next few months.”

But with the November elections heralding a fiscally more conservative political climate and with Congress preoccupied with a whole lot of unfinished business, passing a massive multi-year multi-billion funding bill for transportation during the lame duck session will be the last thing on the lawmakers’ minds. 

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Does Chiang Top Field of Dem Hopefuls? (Part 2)

John Hrabe
Writer and Communications Strategist

Going by the metrics, John Chiang may be the strongest candidate to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018 or U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer in 2016.

You’d never know it by the way the media have zeroed in on Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris — even before the Nov. 4 election in which both were re-elected. Chiang, the outgoing state controller, was elected as state treasurer. All are Democrats.

As far back as 2011, reporters have been setting the stage for the inevitable “Kamala vs. Gavin” showdown.

“Gavin Newsom and Kamala Harris: the California Democratic Party’s future?” the L.A. Times asked in 2011. “The party’s top officeholders — Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer — are all in their 70s. Newsom and Harris top the list of up-and-comers.”

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The NFL’s Return to Los Angeles Is a Terrible Idea

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)

Mayor Eric Garcetti is wrong when he says Los Angeles shouldn’t give taxpayer dollars to the National Football League. To the contrary, L.A. would be wise to pay the NFL to stay away from Southern California. Permanently.

Unfortunately, 20 years after the Raiders and Rams left town, the very bad idea of luring the NFL back is gaining momentum. The city of Los Angeles just extended a downtown stadium deal agreement that was expiring. The NFL is surveying rich Angelenos to see if they’d buy season tickets. Garcetti himself says it’s “highly likely” a team will relocate here in the near future.

So there’s no time to waste in organizing an all-out blitz to stop the drive for a new team before it reaches the goal line. The arguments against bringing the NFL are so strong and numerous that I can’t list them all in a short column, but here are some of the all-stars among them:

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Workers’ Comp – Again

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

Sad to read Dan Walter’s item that California once again leads the nation in workers’ compensation costs. It was just a decade ago that the Small Business Action Committee carried the initiative supported by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that ultimately brought the warring sides of business and labor to agree to a legislative compromise that brought down the state’s workers’ comp costs.

That measure was adjusted a few years ago under Governor Jerry Brown to insure that injured workers were not deprived of just compensation for on-the-job injuries while still protecting employers’ expenses. Yet, here we are again facing a rising cost that could jeopardize job and economic growth.

The situation is not to the point that it was a decade ago – yet. According to the survey conducted by the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Affairs, California worker’s comp costs are $3.48 per $100 of payroll. In 2003, the year before the compromise bill was passed, worker’s comp cost $4.81 per $100 of payroll with costs projected to rise to a staggering $6.50 per $100 of payroll by 2006.

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Local Government Fiscal Early Warning Systems: A Good Idea Whose Time Has Come

Marc Joffe
Marc Joffe, Principal Consultant at Public Sector Credit Solutions

Two years ago, Treasurer Bill Lockyer called for an early warning system to detect signs of financial trouble in California local governments before they faced bankruptcy. By proactively identifying at-risk cities, the system could create an opening for local experts and external advisors to intervene before any given situation spun out of control. As the California Policy Center (CPC) showed earlier this month, such a system is possible, and it can be built from components already available to the State Controller’s Office (SCO). So, while the state does not yet have an early warning system, incoming Controller Betty Yee will have the raw materials to implement one.

For the CPC study, we gathered audited financial statements from over 490 California cities and counties. All but the very smallest local governments are required to produce financial statements for bond investors and/or the federal government. The statements follow Governmental Accounting Standards and include an opinion from an independent accounting firm. These audits are also filed with SCO, which provides lists of current and delinquent filers on its single audit status web page.

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Socio-Economic Disparities in California Schools

Autumn Carter
Executive Director, California Common Sense

Among other points, the latest analysis from California Common Sense — Concentrated Disadvantage in California Schools: The New Status Quo by Kimberly Ang — found that 72% of California students now attend schools in which the majority of students are socio-economically disadvantaged. That may surprise some of you. Among our team, it seems to run counter to many of the common narratives we hear about the distribution of disadvantaged schools: that socio-economic challenges are largely isolated among a few needy schools or that those schools and districts mainly exist in extremely urban or rural areas.

Here are the brief’s four main findings:

  • Concentrated disadvantage among students is the norm, not the exception.
  • Disadvantage affects districts in all regions statewide, and the highest levels occur in urban LA County and throughout the rural Central Valley.
  • Average student performance is strongly tied to socio-economic disadvantage. Even top performing students in high-disadvantage districts underperform compared to the worst performing students in low-disadvantage districts.
  • The state’s Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) funding increases will supplement high-need school districts, but it is unknown what proportion of funds will go directly to classrooms.
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U.S. Senate 2016: Why John Chiang is a Top-Tier Democrat to Replace Barbara Boxer (Part 1)

John Hrabe
Writer and Communications Strategist

We haven’t certified the 2014 election results, which can only mean one thing:

It’s time to start looking at the 2016 election.

All the buzz is that California’s 74-year-old U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer is retiring in 2016. She’s got less than $150,000 in the bank. If she doesn’t raise money fast, she’ll be vulnerable to an intra-party challenge from an ambitious Democrat-in-waiting. Paging Ro Khanna.

As far back as 2011, reporters have been setting the stage for the inevitable “Kamala vs. Gavin” showdown for either governor or U.S. Senate.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that they’re on a collision course for running for governor in 2018,” Democratic consultant Garry South told the L.A. Times earlier this year.

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Results Are In! Voters Stayed Away.

John Cox
California-based Businessman and Former Illinois Republican Official

The recently completed election in California was more than just a wave election.  It was a watershed in a trend that has been building for the past several decades; the exit of the informed and interested voter.

Sure, there was a lot of political discussion.  Nonstop chatter on the cable news shows.  Tons of political ads blasting at viewers.  Mail pieces filling the mailbox.  At the end of the day, not much of a change, despite ample evidence that the public has little confidence in their elected leaders.  The light turnout is blamed on a lack of competitive races but is this a self fulfilling prophecy?

Look at the results of this last election here in California.  There were 100 state legislative seats up for election – the entire Assembly of 80 members and half the Senate’s 40 members.  Of those ‘competitions’ – as we used to think of elections – about 10 of them were in play between two reasonably competitive candidates.  The rest were either cakewalks or exhibited no opposition to speak of.  A total of only about 4 million votes were tallied for these legislative races.  This, for a legislative body more than a majority of citizens feels is dysfunctional. 

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