California Transportation: A New Way of Thinking, Not New Taxes

Carson Bruno
Research Fellow, The Hoover Institution

Earlier this month, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins of San Diego made a bold proposal – add another vehicle fee to the books. Californians typically punish their elected officials for tampering with their vehicle fees. Just ask former Governor Gray Davis, whose tripling of the vehicle license fee became a central argument for his eventual recall. But unlike Davis’s budget Hail Mary, Speaker Atkins’ proposal aims at fixing California’s inadequate transportation system.

According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), California receives a C- for the state’s transportation infrastructure “due to existing conditions and the lack of adequate funding.” Moreover, California’s low quality transportation infrastructure is contributing to the state’s poor business climate. In the 2014 CNBC America’s Top States for Business report, California ranks 24th in the nation for its transportation infrastructure, a drop of 5 spots from 2007. Overall, the ASCE recommends that California increase annual transportation funding by $10 billion for ongoing maintenance and invest almost $37 billion in upgrades and new construction.

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Is There A Connection Between California’s Recent Low Voter Turnout And The Top-Two System?

Richard Winger
Editor of Ballot Access News

California had the greatest drop in voter turnout of any state in the November 2014 election, compared to the November 2010 election.  According to the voter turnout statistics gathered by Political Science Professor Michael P. McDonald, available at, California’s turnout went from 45.8% in November 2010, to 30.8% in November 2014.  Professor McDonald calculates turnout by calculating the number of people who cast a ballot as a percentage of the number of individuals who could have registered to vote and could have voted.  His methodology, by not depending on the number of registered voters, avoids the problem that in some states, the voter registration rolls are inflated with duplicates and other “deadwood.”

California is the only state in which the turnout in 2014, as a percentage of the 2010 turnout, was below 70%.  Twelve states and the District of Columbia improved their voter turnout between 2010 and 2014.  The median state’s 2014 turnout was 91% of its 2010 turnout.  California’s figure was 67%.

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Who Was that Man in the Taxi in Mayor Garcetti’s Favorite Movie?

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

(Editor’s Note: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti chose the comedy Airplane! as his favorite movie for the Zocalo Public Square/KCRW film series. It will be shown tonight at the Million Dollar Theater in Los Angeles, open to the public. After the showing, KCRW’s Madeleine Brand will talk about the film with Garcetti and the trio who wrote, directed and produced the movie, Jerry and David Zucker and Jim Abrahams. I was asked by Zocalo to write a piece on one of the actors in the film – Howard Jarvis. It is reprinted here.)

My guess is that few people in the audience at the Zócalo/KCRW screening of Mayor Eric Garcetti’s favorite movie Airplane! will recognize the man who hails a taxi at LAX at the beginning of the film. He was not an actor but a major California political figure when the movie was made in the late ’70s. And Howard Jarvis’ influence—as the leader of California’s famous property tax revolt, Proposition 13—lives on.

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Pope Francis, Skipping California is a Big Mistake

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)

Dear Pope Francis,

You may be infallible, but your scheduler? Not so much.

The itinerary for your highly anticipated trip to the United States this September defies belief: You are only visiting the Northeast. I guess it’s understandable that you’d attend a major conference on families in Philadelphia, and no one can begrudge you a Manhattan stop to address the United Nations General Assembly. But a D.C. visit to speak to a joint session of Congress? With all due respect to your considerable powers of persuasion, God himself couldn’t get through to those people.

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Will School Board Ever Learn?

Charles Crumpley
Editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal

That nutty L.A. school board is at it again.

Nearly five years ago, the school board passed a resolution saying local car washes should support any unionizing efforts by their employees. I opined back then that since the Los Angeles Unified School District had such a dismal record of running its own business (the graduation rate was then the second worst in the nation at 41 percent), the school board had absolutely no moral authority to instruct others how to run theirs.

But hey, at least the car washes were local. The school board recently passed a similar resolution about a company in Fresno, more than 200 miles away. And a company the district apparently doesn’t even have a contract with.

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Prop 13 a Player in NFL Stadium Game

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

A major component in the fight to keep professional football in Oakland and San Diego or move a team to Los Angeles is taxes – will taxes be necessary to build a stadium? Team owners want a public subsidy to help build a stadium in Oakland and San Diego but two new proposals for stadiums in the Los Angeles area are not tied to any tax proposals.

A tax set aside for a football stadium would be a special tax requiring a two-thirds vote. The two-thirds vote provision was placed in the California Constitution when voters approved Proposition 13 in 1978.

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Two Weird Tricks To Improve Regulatory Transparency And Accountability

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

Yesterday I wrote about progress the Administration is making to implement useful economic analysis of major regulations. The goal is to determine the most cost-effective approach to regulation, achieving the goals mandated by the Legislature while burdening businesses and consumers the least.

But this small step forward should not be the end of the march. The Governor and Legislature should pocket this reform and continue to increase transparency and information to improve quality of life without disrupting economic progress.

Here are a couple ideas to build on the 2011 reform:

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California Must Restore Tools For Prosecuting Sexual Assault Crimes

Assemblyman Tom Lackey
California State Assembly, 36th District

The unfortunate nature of sexual assault crimes makes prosecuting them notoriously difficult. Too often it is the victim’s word against the accused’s. Other types of evidence tend to be ambiguous at best. When the victim has been incapacitated due to the use of date rape drugs, the challenge for obtaining a conviction becomes exponentially more challenging.

Despite this reality, California sexual assault laws have been substantially weakened due to Proposition 47 because one of its overlooked provisions will likely add further burdens when prosecuting sexual assault cases.

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Nothing Sweet About Prop. 65 Lawsuits

Tom Scott
Executive Director, California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse

Recently a non-profit by the name of As You Sow (AYS) has accused Hershey, Mars and See’s Candies of failing to label lead and cadmium content in chocolate contrary to Californian law.

AYS has sent legal notices to all three companies after testing revealed trace amounts of lead and cadmium in some of the companies’ brands. The non-profit organization claims the toxic heavy metal should have been labeled under California’s Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 (Proposition 65). Hershey argues the source of the cadmium and lead is naturally occurring and is precluded by California regulations.

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Qualification of Referendum Shows Public Opposes Plastic Bags Ban

Dorothy Rothrock
President, California Manufacturers & Technology Association

The California Manufacturers & Technology Association (CMTA) supports sensible policies to promote recycling and responsible waste management. SB 270 fails this test by imposing a ban on plastic bags rather than encouraging recycling, and by charging an unwarranted paper bag fee that will not go toward environmental protection.

This heavy-handed approach will likely cause manufacturing job losses, and thousands of small businesses and millions of working class Californians will be hurt by the new charges for paper grocery bags – as much as $700 million per year.

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