Brown Curses Those Who Curse the High Speed Rail

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Gov. Jerry Brown ripped critics of the high-speed rail offering profanity and calling critics small-minded. Yet, it is an American tradition that goes back to the beginning of the Republic to point out when government goes off the rails, a turn of phrase that is certainly apropos in this instance.

In his second incarnation as governor, Brown has built a reputation of fiscal prudence that has won plaudits across the political spectrum. Yet, a major criticism of the high-speed rail is that it continues to break promises to voters on the cost, completion date, and projected speed of the train.

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Why Do They Keep Failing at the Initiative Finish Line?

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)

What do Travis Allen and John Cox have in common, besides the fact they are Republicans who have no chance of getting elected governor?

Both tripped and fell in the initiative game.

Allen had a partial excuse—his initiative to repeal the gas tax had legal problems, and he has joined up with another, similar effort.

The Cox mistake borders on unforgivable. Yes, the overwhelming majority of initiatives filed never make it to the ballot.

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California’s Got a New Plan to Hit its 2030 Emissions Target – But are we Aiming at the Right Target?

Leanna Sweha
An attorney and consultant on strategic technology and climate policy messaging. She has worked for the California Legislature, the California Natural Resources Agency, and UC Davis.

The Air Resources Board adopted its 2030 Scoping Plan late last year.  The 2030 goal – a 40 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions below 1990 levels – is mandated by state law.  This is the state’s contribution to what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says the planet must achieve to avoid catastrophic climate change.

But, is an emissions reduction target the right goal?

UC Berkeley energy economist Severin Borenstein has weighed in on this question.  His analysis merits our attention.

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Leadership and Autocratic Rule

Richard Rubin
Attorney Richard Rubin has taught public policy at USF, UC Berkeley and other institutions and is Chair of the California Commonwealth Club Board of Governors

California has had its share of towering leaders—-Governors Hiram Johnson, Earl Warren, (who also became Chief Justice of the Supreme Court), Ronald Reagan, and Governor Edmund G. Brown.

Senators William Knowland and Dianne Feinstein along with the first woman House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (both still serving) and the current head of state, Jerry Brown, could also make that list.

And I would put former Assembly Speaker for 15 years and S.F. Mayor, Willie L. Brown, Jr—who reinvented himself some years ago as a notable columnist in the S.F. Chronicle–on the list as well.

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The Missing Item in Health Care Discussion—the Tax Code

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Attempts at creating a single payer health care system have stalled so a group of liberal organizations are backing a package of bills to achieve a form of universal coverage. But you can pull out the same label on this attempt that sidetracked single payer—“woefully incomplete.”  They don’t want to say how much this universal health care plan will cost or where the money is coming from.

Sure the state treasury is brimming with unexpected cash and the budget is at an all time high. However, anyone who has ridden the California budget rollercoaster over the last couple of decades knows that flush times won’t last.

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Glazer Bill Would Begin to Move State Away from Pension Disaster

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

California was once defined by its natural beauty and milestones of human achievement. Today it’s known more for intractable problems, such as the public employee pension crisis. State and local governments have racked up nearly $1 trillion in pension debt. But because government employers have contributed only about 70 percent of what they are required to feed into the retirement accounts, that massive obligation is only partially funded.

The official claim says about $170 billion of the $1 trillion has no funding. It might not be realistic, though. When the risks of the investments that have been made with the pension funds are properly taken into account, the figure soars to at least $300 billion and might be as high as $600 billion.

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Who Cares About Homeless Jerry-Towns When We Have a Surplus?

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)

Who cares about about the homeless whose encampments – call them Jerry-towns – fill every state?

Because don’t the homeless know that our state is back!

We have a budget surplus!

Who cares about the shortage of housing, or the middle-class crippling cost of what housing there is?

California is back! We have a budget surplus!

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How Pension Costs Clobbered One Small City

Dan Walters
Columnist, CALmatters

When Santa Cruz, a picturesque and funky coastal city, first started to feel the pinch of rising retirement costs for city workers, it took several steps to limit the fiscal pain.

As recommended by the League of Cities and other authorities, Santa Cruz issued a bond to pay down its rising pension liabilities, set aside funds to cover increasing demands from the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS), shifted some employees into lower-benefit pension plans and made sure that its workers paid significant portions of pension costs.

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California House Races: The Action For 2018

Tony Quinn
Editor, California Target Book

California’s filing deadline is now past and the contours of the 2018 election are slowly coming into view.  The biggest action in California, even bigger than the governor’s race, may be the race for congressional seats, since California will almost certainly decide if Democrats can win back the House of Representatives this fall.  Money tells the story; millions have already been raised by Democratic candidates for seats the party did not even contest in 2016.

The focus will be on the 14 Republican held House seats and national Democrats have a committee formed to flip all 14 from the GOP.  That’s unlikely to happen, but there is one frightening factoid that came out of the special election in Pennsylvania last week where Republicans lost a very red seat that President Trump had carried by 20 points in 2016.

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What do Boats, Bacon and Coffee Have in Common?

Ann Kinner
NFIB California Leadership Council Member; Owner, Seabreeze Nautical Books and Charts in San Diego, CA.

How about cars, coffee and aloe vera?

All of these and hundreds of other things are subject to California’s requirement to post a “Prop 65” warning sign! Most recently, Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) introduced SCR 100 to urge the addition of various processed meat—including bacon—to the Prop 65 list of chemicals known to cause cancer or birth defects. Seriously.

When Prop 65 was enacted in 1986, there were about a dozen substances on the list which required consumers to be warned “that they are being exposed to chemicals that are known to cause cancer and/or reproductive toxicity.” In the 32 years since it was adopted, the list of “known” hazardous substances has grown to nearly 900, and the primary beneficiaries appear to be the lawyers and their clients who have filed lawsuits against numerous business, large and small, for apparent noncompliance.

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