There They Go Again

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

I wish I could say I was surprised. I wish I could say that this is a new frustration. In reality it is just the same old song we keep hearing from public employee unions. More than a year ago, Gov. Jerry Brown and the legislature showed leadership by making some moderate changes to the State’s pension systems. It was not everything that taxpayers wanted or hoped for; but it was a significant step in the right direction to limit pension spiking and try to bring some common sense to a system that was ignoring economic realities and running away from financial responsibility.

Two week ago, the CalPERS Board ignored the action by the Governor and the legislature last year and again spiked pension benefits for public employees by approving 99 new types of extra pay that will count in pension calculations. Examples of the 99 new ways to bolster pensions included things like bonuses paid for marksmanship, longevity, physical fitness and obtaining a new license.

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The Looming Bipartisan Backlash Against Unionized Government

Ed Ring
Executive Director, California Public Policy Center

Whenever discussing politically viable policy proposals to improve the quality of life in California, the imperative is to come up with ideas that strongly appeal to moderate centrists, since that is how most Californians would describe themselves. And there are two compelling issues that offer that appeal: making California’s system of K-12 education the best in the world, and restoring financial sustainability to California’s state and local governments.

While these two objectives have broad conceptual appeal, there is a clear choice between two very different sets of policies that claim to accomplish them. The first choice, promoted by public sector unions, is to spend more money. And to do that, their solution is to raise taxes, especially on corporations and wealthy individuals. The problem with that option, of course, is that California already has the highest taxes and most inhospitable business climate in the U.S.

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Los Angeles Enhances its Anti-Business Reputation

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

On Tuesday the Los Angeles City Council voted 14 to 1 to pass a resolution supporting increased property taxes on business on a regular basis. Little surprise as the city continues to build an anti-business reputation. For years the city has held on to a gross receipts tax system for business that neighboring communities use as a talisman to lure business out of the city. The last three Los Angeles mayors have vowed to change the business tax system but nothing happens. Now the council wants to punish business more with a split property tax roll.

The city’s own sanctioned 2020 Commission identified Los Angeles as a “city in decline.” The Commission’s report, “A Time for Truth,” noted, “A city’s ability to maintain a competitive edge in today’s evolving global economy depends largely on how well it attracts – and retains – business, investment, and a talented workforce.”

Los Angeles has been pathetic in creating job growth.

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Labor Day 2014: 3 Truths and a Lie

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

As we come to Labor Day 2014, it is time to consider where we have come since last year’s Labor Day and where we might be going. Here are three truths and a lie about the job market in California.

laborday3Truth 1- California is in the midst of one of its longest employment expansions since 1960: The California economy has now gained nearly 1.4 million payroll jobs since February 2010, and at 53 months is in the midst of the fifth longest employment expansion since 1960. The longest expansion still is the 113 months from January 1960 to December 1969, followed by expansions of 91 months from 1982-1990 and 94 months from 1993-2001. We still have a way to go to reach these numbers, but while monthly numbers have varied, the trend of the past year has been steady gains.

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Opposition to AB 1897: Don’t Hold Business Liable for Employment Obligations of Others

Bill Dombrowski
President and CEO, California Retailers Association

Merriam-Webster defines accountability as, “an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one’s actions.” This is a life lesson we’ve all learned at one point or another, and it’s an important virtue in society. Yet a member of the California Legislature is attempting to redefine accountability with Assembly Bill 1897, which is authored by Assemblymember Roger Hernández (D – West Covina), by proposing to hold innocent third-party businesses liable for the employment obligations of another employer. Essentially, AB 1897 attempts to shift accountability in a subcontractor relationship by unfairly holding the majority of California employers liable for the wage and hour violations of another that they could not control or prevent.

This bill is gross overreach that has real-world impacts on our Golden State job market. First, this bill threatens our state’s temporary workforce, which has a valid place in our state’s economy. California employers have numerous reasons for making use of temporary workers such as hiring for seasonal work, filling in for unpredictable work schedules, covering other employees on leaves of absences or vacations, accommodating flexible work schedules, or protecting primary employees to avoid layoffs or staff reductions.

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Groundwater Regulation Creates Water Police

Jim Nielsen
State Senator, Fourth Senate District, which includes the counties of Butte, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity and Yuba

Without much public involvement, the State Senate passed sweeping groundwater legislation Wednesday that will create a new government agency with extraordinary powers to impose fees and fines on property owners who rely on groundwater.

Tonight’s vote underscores the lack of trust the public has in the Legislature. This legislation will drastically change the way Californians deal with groundwater, and yet, the public has not been included in the deliberation.

This measure will increase regional water tensions. It pits the little guys against the big boys. It exempts the largest consuming counties like Los Angeles and their basins from the regulations.

Assembly Bill 1739 (Dickinson) and Senate Bill 1168 (Pavley), together would require landowners to register their wells and install meters on their pumps. Newly created and existing government agencies will be granted enforcement powers to inspect, with or without landowners’ consent, the property or pump to ensure compliance. If the State Water Resources Control Board deems that local agencies failed to comply and/or enforce restrictive regulations, then the State intervenes with its excessive powers to impose fees and fines. 

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California Welfare Overpayments Enough To Fund 13,000 Cases Annually

Autumn Carter
Executive Director, California Common Sense

California Common Sense released a brief report called “California Welfare Overpayments: Fraud, Internal Errors, and Limited Investigation.” The report finds $848 million in outstanding CalWORKs overpayments to beneficiaries, half of all identified overpayments recovered, and administrative error costs on the rise.

The California Work Opportunities and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) provides temporary cash assistance, welfare-to-work, and other services to eligible low-income families with children. This analysis examines the program’s benefit overpayment trends to determine how frequently beneficiaries and the program’s administration cause errors, as well as how costly those errors are.

While individual errors may seem insignificant, taken together, they prove costly to the system, taxpayers, and the thousands of additional cases they could have funded instead.

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SB 270 Taxes the Poor and Exempts the Rich from Paper Bag Fee

Small Business Owner in Los Angeles County and Rosemead School District Member, Board of Trustees

It must be nice to be rich. After all, it affords the wealthy in our state a chance to be part of a rich irony that features liberal coastal Democrats pushing for a paper bag tax bill that will exempt the wealthiest communities from that very same bag tax.

This is about as hypocritical as it gets folks.

Today, members of the California State Assembly are expected to vote on legislation Senate Bill 270 (Padilla) that seeks to ban plastic bag and impose a minimum 10-cent fee on all paper bags. Yet it grandfathers in existing local ordinances banning plastic bags and exempt paper bags from a tax.

Today’s vote on SB 270 will be especially interesting for many in the Latino and African Caucus, considering that the bill language states that all local ordinances would remain intact while the new, much higher fees would be paid by some of our more economically distressed communities.

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Low Voter Turnouts: Voter Apathy or Voter Disgust?

Allan Hoffenblum
Publisher of the California Target Book and owner of Allan Hoffenblum & Associates

The California Target Book, which I publish, just mailed out to subscribers its updated analyses of the key congressional and state legislative races in California this year.

What stands out is that even in the most competitive races, the overwhelming majority of voters decided to not vote.

Early this year, Congressman Henry Waxman announced that he would not seek reelection, opening up a Congressional seat for the first time in 40 years.

Waxman’s CD33 includes some of the wealthiest communities in the country, stretching from the Palos Verdes Peninsula north to Malibu. It also includes Beverly Hills and the surrounding Los Angeles neighborhoods of Bel Air and the Pacific Palisades.

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Bag Ban Worse Than an Inconvenience; Massive Hidden Tax Increase Stays in Grocery Stores’ Pockets

Dennis Hollingsworth
Senator Dennis Hollingsworth (ret.) is National Director at the National Tax Limitation Committee and served as Minority Leader of the California State Senate from 2009-2010.

New information reveals that the “plastic island the size of Texas” in the middle of the Pacific Ocean would be better described with an imaginary place name to describe its size, (say “Middle Earth Sized”). This is because recently when researchers went to go find this mythical plastic place so often cited as the reason for yet another government intrusion in what choices we make at the market, (this time literally, at the market, as in the grocery store) they couldn’t find it.

That’s right. There was no concentration of plastics as we’ve so often heard. No floating grocery bags with sea turtles mistaking them for delicious jellyfish. No floating mass of all those empty water bottles you tossed away instead of recycling. (You know you did!) No Wal-Mart bag from that time you snuck in and bought the three boxes of double stuffed Oreos and then tried to hide the bag outside in the trash and it ended up blowing away. Nothing. So you can stop feeling guilty.

But, of course this hasn’t stopped the folks in Sacramento from trying to ban those bags that cause, or caused, well; might-have-caused-if-what-we-originally-said-was-even-remotely-true, environmental damage.

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