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See Tax Increases, Think Pensions

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

Despite the ridicule heaped on bonuses offered public workers for simply doing their jobs – just one prime example: a librarian earning a bonus for helping members of the public find books – the California Retirement System (CalPERS) board last week made sure the bonuses added to salaries will be part of pension calculations.

While the exact cost to taxpayers is uncertain, the price tag for pensions because of this move is certain to go up. State and local governments have contributed four times to CalPERS what they contributed just a decade ago.

Local budgets are being eaten away by the pension and health care obligations. In the City of Los Angeles, for example, pensions costs took 3% of the city budget in 2002-3, it was eating 18% of the budget in 2012-13.

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Will Prop 2 Produce More Debt?

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)

Prop 2, while being advertised as a rainy day fund on TV, is actually a complicated formula that prioritizes debt payback. Gov. Brown and the measure’s other backers have said that by speeding up debt payback, it will reduce debt service and free up money in the long-term for investments.

If only that were true.

If the last few decades of California history are any guide, Prop 2 will be just another budget measure that created incentives for more debt.

How is that possible? Because of the following dynamic: as the California budget has been strangled and chained increasingly under various budget restrictions and formulas like Prop 2, local governments and interest groups, searching for ways to fund starved priorities, have turned more and more to bonds. Put it another way: the more you clamp down on spending, and take money that could be used to restore fundamental programs for reserves and debt payoffs, the more you force people to look at borrowing.

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Forgetting the Latino Vote in 2014?

John Nienstedt
President of Competitive Edge Research & Communication, Inc., recently co-founded Latino Edge Research to focus on issues within the Latino community.

It’s only a week before Election Day and Governor Jerry Brown must be smiling. The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) Statewide Survey completed October 19 has Brown at 52 percent and Kashkari at 36 percent. The lackluster gubernatorial snoozefest has led to what will be an unprecedented shunning of the ballot box this November 4th.

However, who will occupy the Governor’s mansion for the next four years is not the only important thing to be settled next week.

First there are Propositions 1 and 2. If passed, they will at long last address California’s chronic water supply deficiencies and create a “rainy day” fund so that when the inevitable economic downturn comes there will be money available to protect vital services and education.

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Californians’ News and Information Sources

Mark Baldassare is President of the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC). Dean Bonner is Associate Survey Director at PPIC. Lunna Lopes is Research and Administrative Associate at PPIC. Jui Shrestha is a Research Associate at PPIC.

Television loses ground as the top source of political news.
A plurality of Californians (38%) get most of their political news from television. Our findings were similar in 2010 (37%), but in 2007 this number was 9 points higher, at 47 percent. Over the same time period, reliance on the Internet for political news has increased 15 points (17% 2007, 24% 2010, 32% today). There has been a slight drop in reliance on newspapers (15% 2007 and 2010, 10% today) and radio news (12% 2007, 10% 2010, 9% today).

More than half of those who rely on TV watch cable news.
Among those who watch television news, a little less than half (48%) report watching mostly cable stations (53% 2010, 43% 2007). Across all parties, regions, and demographic groups, pluralities report watching mostly cable news. By contrast, viewership of network television has remained steady (25% 2007, 23% 2010, 21% today). Twenty-seven percent of Californians report watching local television news (29% 2007, 22% 2010, 27% today).

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Beyond the Propaganda: How I’m Voting on California Propositions

Jon Fleischman
Publisher of the FlashReport

California’s general election turnout is predicted to be dismal this year, with less than half of eligible voters likely to turn out. Two factors include a lack of competitive statewide races, and ballot measures that don’t inspire activism. Speaking of statewide ballot measures, voters will see six of them, and here’s my take, and how I’m voting on them.


Californians pay so much in taxes that the state’s budget annually is well over a hundred billion dollars. The state has more than enough revenues to just pay for above-ground water storage, which is desperately needed. Unfortunately, year after year, governors and legislatures have prioritized other spending.  This massive bond package (which will cost nearly $15 billion to repay) does have some funds for water storage–but it is only a fraction of the spending.  Most of the spending has nothing to do with dealing with our water-shortage crisis. A vote against Prop. 1 is a vote for telling our state’s political leaders to use existing tax dollars to solve the problem.

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Who’s Winning, Who’s Losing A Week From The Election?

Tony Quinn
Political Analyst

Voting by mail is now the rage in California; in the June primary more than 69 percent of the ballots were cast before Election Day.  It is very possible that a majority of votes this November will be by mail.  And thanks to Paul Mitchell and Political Data Inc, for the first time we can watch the return of absentee ballots on a daily basis.

Political Data, which maintains a complete file of every voter in the state, has put together a series of on-line charts that gives the daily return of absentee ballots, and provides their party breakdown as well as age and race.  Not surprisingly, the early electorate shows a Republican bias; that is always the case; Republican absentee voters get their ballots in early.

But the Political Data charts go a step farther; they show the final vote in California and by district, so it is possible to project out the likely make up of the final electorate in a district by comparing the current absentee turnout with the final vote.  And for the first time, this allows analysis a week before Election Day of the likely results when all the votes are counted.  As of this weekend, more than 1.3 million ballots had been returned to the counties and processed into the Political Data database.

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California’s Pivotal Water Moment

Ron Gastelum
Principal at Water Conservation Partners and sits on the board of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Knock on the door of almost any home in California, and the odds are you’ll be greeted by someone who is feeling, or at least seeing, the effects of this historic drought.

The signs are visible all around us – fields have been left fallow, once green lawns are brown and brittle, we’re being asked to conserve. What’s sometimes more difficult to see are the opportunities this drought actually affords us.

For one, communities up and down the state are coming together to address their water management challenges head on. They’re working to sustainably manage groundwater basins and are considering the benefits of regional water management solutions. They’re implementing projects with the potential to yield multiple benefits for cities, farms and the environment rather than just a single purpose. They’re interested in a more integrated and effective management approach that will not only get them over this hump, but prove sustainable long into the future.

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CARB Members Do the Right Thing—Listen to the People about the Hidden Gas Tax

John Kabateck
California Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business

Last week, I was proud to deliver 115,000 signed petitions on behalf of my fellow Californians on the controversial “fuels under the cap” regulation at the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Diamond Bar board meeting.

I was joined by dozens of community and educational leaders, elected officials, business organizations and concerned drivers as we gathered outside the California Air Resources Board (CARB) meeting in Diamond Bar to urge the Board to listen to the voices of its constituents and delay its regulation scheduled to take effect next January.  Along with the petitions to CARB, our group urged the Board to place its contentious “fuels under the cap” regulation on a public meeting agenda to provide an opportunity for the public to be informed and heard on the negative impacts of higher fuel prices of 16 to 76 cents per gallon come January.

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De Leon ‘Green Jobs’ Vow Didn’t Pan Out For Obama, Brown

Chris Reed
San Diego Union Tribune editorial writer and former host of KOGO Radio’s “Top Story” weeknight news talk show

New Senate President Kevin De Leon’s announcement Friday that creating a broad swath of “green jobs” would be a priority will be greeted with applause by greens in West L.A. and the Bay Area and on campus, but it will elicit disbelief among economists. Nearly a decade ago, the respected McKinsey consulting group said there was no reason to believe that green jobs would ever be more than a niche in the U.S. economy, and nothing has come along to undercut its analysis.

On the campaign trail in 2008, Barack Obama promised to create 5 million green jobs across the nation. Depending on how you define green jobs, he either did incredibly badly on this front — helping to create less  than 3,000 jobs — or quite badly — adding about 700,000 jobs after the passage of the 2009 stimulus.

But there’s a gigantic problem with the latter estimate: It counts all mass-transit and construction jobs as being green because the industries follow green principles. So bus drivers and ditch diggers are green employees.

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Seeking More Voters Spurs Probable Change in L.A. Elections

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

It’s about the numbers, or shall we say the lack of numbers, when Los Angeles voters come out to vote in city elections. The 23% turnout this last city election meant that few registered voters put the new mayor, Eric Garcetti, into office. With the current trend lines in voting in the city election, the next mayor may be elected by less than 10% of the voters. The Los Angeles City Council voted Wednesday to ask for a charter change so that the city elections move from odd numbered years to even numbered years to combine with presidential and gubernatorial elections.

There was concern expressed by council members during the discussion for making the change.

  • The ballot will be too long.
  • Newspapers and other media would not have the resources to cover municipal elections if they are also concerned with federal and state races.
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