A Power Grab that Exacerbates the Problem

Congressman Kevin McCarthy
Majority Leader, United States Congress

The President doesn’t seem to get the point that he must work with the government he has, not the government he wants. But despite Congress and the American people’s resistance to President Obama’s unilateral action—action the President himself said would ‘violate our laws’ and be ‘very difficult to defend legally’—the President has decided to go it alone yet again.

As President Obama himself said, ‘there are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system.’

We urge the President to listen to his own words. America is a country of laws, and our Constitution does not grant the President the authority to legalize millions of immigrants with the stroke of a pen.

Not only is this action wrong, it does absolutely nothing to solve the underlying problems of our open border and broken immigration system. In fact, it may exacerbate the problem.

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Executive Action Doesn’t Fix Immigration Problem

Gonzalo Javier Ferrer
Chairman, Republican National Hispanic Assembly

Executive action on immigration reform does not alleviate the need for a legislative solution.  Real, meaningful reform can only come through substantive legislation.

Our current immigration policies are outdated and decidedly ineffective, and changes must be implemented soon.  Immigration reform is a complex and highly emotional issue, but it must not be ignored any longer.  Congress must take action soon.

Our immigration system has gone practically untouched for the last 40 years. Enforcing outdated policies that no longer meet the needs of our modern American economy is what has led to the upsurge in illegal immigration.

Congress needs to lead the charge in passing substantive immigration reform that will drive economic growth and create jobs. We need an immigration system that focuses on market-based visa programs that provide the tools and an essential labor pool of the best talent for our American industries to meet growing labor demands. 

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LAO Outlook Analysis: Thinking Smartly About Our Fiscal Future

Fred Silva
Senior Fiscal Policy Advisor, California Forward

What a difference a year makes.

California’s recent approval of Proposition 2 is already paying dividends. The Legislative Analyst’s new Fiscal Outlook shows Proposition 2 is doing what it was designed to do: capturing a run-up in unsustainable spikes in revenue, paying down debts and setting aside revenues for the next economic downturn so that education and other vital programs have some protection.

The Analyst should be applauded for urging lawmakers to use Proposition 2 to think smartly about the long-term – by paying off debt to local governments (including school districts), which will increase support for those public services, and by reducing unfunded liabilities for the state’s retirement systems, saving taxpayers billions of dollars down the road.

The main LAO economic forecast shows steady economic growth through the end of the decade and concludes that by the end of 2015-16, a total of $4.2 billion will be available in a reserve to maintain fiscal stability (assuming no new major budget commitments are made). If the economy grows at a steady pace later in the decade as the LAO is forecasting, the budget reserve will continue to grow, bolstering the state’s ability to further cushion the impact of the inevitable next downturn.

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The Amazing, Obscure, Complicated and Gigantic Pension Loophole

Ed Ring
Executive Director, California Public Policy Center

“The bottom line is that claiming the unfunded liability cost as part of an officer’s compensation is grossly and deliberately misleading.” - LAPPL Board of Directors on 08/07/2014, in their post “Misuse of statistics behind erroneous LA police officer salary claims.”

This assertion, one that is widely held among representatives of public employees, lies at the heart of the debate over how much public employees really make, and greatly skews the related debate over how much pension funds can legitimately expect to earn on their invested assets.

Pension fund contributions have two components, the “normal contribution” and the “unfunded contribution.” The normal contribution represents the present value of future retirement pension income that is earned in any current year. For example, if an actively working participant in a pension plan earns “3% at 55,” then each year, another 3% is added to the total percentage that is multiplied by their final year of earnings in order to determine their pension benefit. That slice, 3% of their final salary, paid each year of their retirement as a portion of their total pension benefit, has a net present value today – and that is funded in advance through the “normal contribution” to the pension system each year. But if the net present value of a pension fund’s total future pension payments to current and future retirees exceeds the value of their actual invested assets, that “unfunded liability” must be reduced through additional regular annual payments.

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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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