Prop 30 Plus

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)

Reading and listening to (and hearing some background talk) about what sort of tax plan the state’s leaders might offer voters next year, two things are clear to me.

The first is that we will see an extension of at least the income tax rates that were part of Prop 30. The second is that we will see one other tax hike that is packaged as a tax reform to accompany the extension.

Call this “Prop 30 Plus.”

The Prop 30 extension will drop the sales tax while keeping the tax on high-income Californians. It’s likely that Prop 30 rates won’t be made permanent—they’ll just be extended for several more years. This shouldn’t be a hard sell politically. Somebody else gets taxed, and Prop 30 remains a popular idea (It’s easy for politicians to tell voters they did the right thing).

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Eliminate the State Income Tax

George Runner
Member of the California State Board of Equalization, District 1

During a discussion at the 2015 Cal Tax Annual Members meeting, I called for a meaningful public discourse on tax reform ideas that makes life easier for taxpayers. I suggested replacing California’s income tax with a sales tax on services.

If you want real tax reform, we ought to look at eliminating the state’s personal and corporate income tax. One less tax agency would make California a far more attractive place for jobs, retirees and investment.

If California eliminated income tax more companies would base themselves in California. Also, more residents would stay in the state upon retirement, leading to more revenue for the State of California.

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The Special Election and the Top-Two Primary

Eric McGhee
Research Fellow, Public Policy Institute of California

Two Democrats are heading into a runoff in a big political fight for a seat in the state senate, representing the wealthy bedroom communities of the far eastern Bay Area. The contenders are Susan Bonilla, a Concord assemblymember, and Steve Glazer, the mayor of Orinda. The race was held under the rules of California’s new top-two primary, but the role of this new system in producing the outcome is more complicated than it might seem.

Four Democrats and one Republican were on the ballot for this 7th Senate District seat, which became vacant when Democrat Mark DeSaulnier successfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives. The race boiled down to a pitched battle between the three best-known Democrats: Joan Buchannan, a former Alamo assemblymember; Bonilla; and Glazer. The fourth Democrat received far less attention and the lone Republican actually withdrew from the race and endorsed Glazer (though her name remained on the ballot). At the time of this writing, Glazer has finished first with 33 percent, followed by Bonilla with 25 percent, and Buchannan with 23.

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Analysis: Which Proposed Bills Help, Hinder, Small Businesses

John Seiler
John Seiler, an editorial writer with The Orange County Register for 19 years, is a reporter and analyst for

Among the approximately 2,000 bills considered in the California Legislature this year, many affect small businesses. Here’s the analysis of four by the National Federation of Independent Business California:

Assembly Bill 23 and Senate Bill 5, the Affordable Gas Tax for Families Act. The bills are sponsored, respectively, by Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno; and state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford. The NFIB/CA supports the bills, which in its analysis would:

  • Exempt certain categories of persons or entities, such as transportation fuels, from inclusion in the state’s cap-and-trade program.
  • Will remove transportation fuels from the cap-and-trade program and eliminate the gas tax.
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CalChamber’s Campaign to Stop “Job Killer” Bills a Success as CA Gains Jobs

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

While surveys of business executives still rank California as one of the worst places to do business, the record on job creation has been bright in the Golden State over the last year. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that California led the nation over a twelve-month period ending January 31 creating 498,000 jobs. Part of the credit for this success goes to the California Chamber of Commerce’s effort to rally against bills that would hinder job creation and hurt the economy.

The annual effort is called the “job killers” campaign. It is worth considering how the positive job creation news would have fared without the CalChamber’s annual job killer campaign. Over the past four years, the Chamber has marked 129 bills as job killers. Only 8 of these measures have been signed into law. If many of the defeated bills passed would California’s job creation number be so strong?

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Minimum Wage Increase – Intent and Results Will Not Match

Gary Toebben
President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

Let’s start with a key premise. Everyone wants working men and women in Los Angeles to have more economic opportunities and have a better quality of life. The current debate is not a question of WHAT our common goal is, but a disagreement over HOW do we get there?

The just released independent Beacon Economics study of current minimum wage proposals by the Mayor and City Council makes clear that the current proposals will harm the economy because they are too much and too fast. The study states that the minimum wage proposals will slow economic growth, limit the creation of jobs, limit funding for city services and not actually reach those it intends to help. In short, the current proposals will actually reduce the growth of job opportunities for working families and reduce the growth of revenue for city services that these families need.    

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Clean Energy Progress Has Valley Communities Seeing Green

Rey León and Veronica Garibay
Rey León is Executive Director and Founder of San Joaquin Valley Latino Environmental Adv. & Policy Project (Valley LEAP). Veronica Garibay is Co-Founder and Co-Director of the Valley-based Leadership Counsel for Justice & Accountability.

San Joaquin Valley residents can’t choose whether or not to grapple with climate change. Its threats are real, and its impacts felt. The Valley is at a crossroads as water becomes more scarce, precipitation patterns change, temperatures increase, in turn impacting air quality, energy costs, water availability, health and employment options.

Fortunately, there’s a growing climate for opportunity in our region as California confronts the complementary challenges of climate change and dependence on petroleum.

Unlike Assemblymember Jim Patterson (“Senator de Leon’s Green Vision Has Valley Seeing Red” March 18, 2015), we believe clean energy opportunities abound and we applaud state legislators for taking the next step to cement California’s position as a national leader.  

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Has BART’s Second Bay Crossing Reached A Tipping Point?

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

(Editor’s Note: This short essay originally appeared, in slightly different form in the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle Insight section, March 22, 2015).

Though the idea of a second BART tube has been discussed over the past twenty-five years, in just the past few months it has assumed a striking new momentum.


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Harris Should Not Circulate The “Sodomite Suppression Act” to Voters

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)

Does an attorney general of California have a duty to approve for circulation any ballot initiative she receives?

The legal consensus is that Attorney General Kamala Harris does. Reviewing and titling an initiative for circulation is a ministerial act that the a.g. Is supposed to perform without comment. Previous court rulings have found that Harris does not have discretion.

Still, I’d like to see Harris block the “Sodomite Suppression Act” from going out to voters. This initiative would require that anyone who touches a person of the same gender for sexual gratification be put to death by “bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.”

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A Review: “Chessman” — Pat Brown, Jerry Brown and California’s Crime of the Century

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

(Editor’s Note: A reading of Joe Rodota’s play Chessman, a work in progress, was performed at the B Street Theatre in Sacramento this weekend.)

Crime never ceases to intrigue, especially its punishment.  Half a century ago California executed convicted felons on a regular basis at San Quentin’s gas chamber.  That placed capital punishment at the core of the debate on crime and punishment in this state and the nation.

Today capital punishment is an intellectual issue; the last execution in California was nine years ago.    But long time capital figure Joseph Rodota brings the issue back to life with a new play he has written called “Chessman”, which deals with the controversial 1960 execution of Caryl Chessman.  It was an event that absorbed all the political oxygen in California at the time.

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