Who Needs the NFL?

John Seiler
Former Editorial Writer at the Orange County Register

One of the few ways California governments are more reluctant to spend money than in other states is for professional sports stadiums. The state isn’t perfect. The new stadium for the Rams was granted a special CEQA exemption by the Legislature. And in 2015 the city of Sacramento floated $272 million in bonds for the Kings NBA team.

But it’s a big state. And in November San Diego voters turned down a subsidy for the Chargers of the NFL, who just announced they will pass their team up to L.A. and the Rams’ new stadium. Meanwhile, the NFL reportedly “cleared a path” for the Oakland Raiders to move to Las Vegas after Oakland just said it would work to keep the team if the Vegas deal fell through. Rumor has it the Raiders just signed an elusive running back named Elvis.

The fact is the NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL just play on fans’ loyalty to extract money from taxpayers. It’s billionaire owners and millionaire players extorting money from us. I call it the Pro Sports Ripoff.

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Brown’s Budget Underscores Need For Tax Reform

Kerry Jackson
Kerry Jackson is a Fellow at the California Center for Reform at the Pacific Research Institute.

Gov. Jerry Brown released his budget Tuesday amid what the media called an “uncertainty” in Washington that will could an effect on the state’s finances. The fear is that the Republican White House and Congress will punish California for its political rejection of Donald Trump by holding back federal funds.

But the more important story has nothing to do with Trump or Republicans. The bigger problem is the state’s broken tax system, an issue Brown discussed at the beginning of the briefing but never returned to, and which was largely ignored by the Sacramento press corps.

As any Democrat would, Brown hailed California’s status as having “the most progressive tax system in the United States,” which forces the wealthy to pay more than everyone else. But he undercut his point when he immediately admitted it is also “one of the most unreliable” tax structures in the country.

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When State Water Boards Clash on Lack of Science and Evidence

Aubrey Bettencourt
Executive Director, California Water Alliance

The California State Water Resources Board (SWRCB) was taken to the woodshed this week by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), when Mark Holderman, the principal engineer at DWR’s South Delta Branch offered expert testimony that the Bay-Delta water plan was written “without evidence, incomplete scientific information, ill-suited for real-time operations, and unverified assumptions.”

On January 3, 2017, the SWRCB held its fourth and final public hearing on the Bay-Delta Plan’s Draft Substitute Environmental Document (SED), in Sacramento.

As SWRCB vice-chair, Frances Spivey-Webber held the gavel, her opening remarks suggested that a greater purpose lay behind increasing the flows of the San Joaquin River and its tributaries 40 percent than their previously announced objectives of restoring the rivers and helping endangered fish populations recover.

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California’s Total Government Debt Rises to $1.3 Trillion

Ed Ring
Ed Ring is the vice president of research policy for the California Policy Center.

just released study calculates the total state and local government debt in California as of June 30, 2015, at over $1.3 trillion. Authored by Marc Joffe and Bill Fletcher at the California Policy Center, this updates a similar exercise from three years ago that put the June 30, 2012 total at $1.1 trillion. As a percent of GDP, California’s state and local government debt has held steady at around 54 percent.

For a more detailed analysis of how these debt estimates were calculated, read the studies, but here’s a summary of what California’s governments owe as of 6/30/2015:

(1)  Bonds and loans – state, cities, counties, school districts, community colleges, special districts, agencies and other authorities – $426 billion.

(2)  Unfunded pension obligations (official estimate) – $258 billion.

(3)  Other unfunded post-employment benefits, primarily for retiree health insurance – $148 billion.

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What’s Behind the Cap and Trade Urgency Budget Proposal

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

The governor’s budget calls for $2.2 billion in spending from revenue secured under the Cap and Trade law—but there’s a catch. The money would only be released if the legislature passes an urgency measure, which requires a two-thirds vote, thus confirming the Air Resources Board’s authority to administer the Cap and Trade program beyond its expiration date in 2020.

Why is an urgency vote necessary when four years remain before the expiration date? A simple majority vote could eliminate any uncertainty for the immediate future.

However, the governor has grander goals. In 2015, he introduced a plan to extend deeper greenhouse gas reduction targets to 2030. In support of achieving the targets, the Air Board offered up three potential plans that included a carbon tax, a business sector specific emissions program, and continuation of the Cap and Trade program.

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Politics in Perspective

Sherry Bebitch Jeffe & Doug Jeffe
Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, Professor of the Practice of Public Policy Communication, Sol Price School of Public Policy and Doug Jeffe, Communications and Public Affairs Strategist

Two weeks in London in December provided a chance to gain a fresh perspective on the United States’ crazy politics of 2016.  The bottom line is that the U.S. isn’t alone.   New economic and cultural realities worldwide have sewn a sense of resentment and displacement among traditional working class constituencies in England and the rest of Europe, as well as in the USA.

Half a year after the vote to have the UK withdraw from the European Union, Britain is still reeling from Brexit’s fallout.  Everyone we talked to thinks that Britain will move forward with the exit, even though the June referendum was only advisory and was passed by a narrow vote.  Like the Donald Trump victory in the United States, Britain’s YES vote on Brexit was a surprise to most of the “experts” –particularly pollsters.  London and other urban centers voted to remain in the EU, but angry voters in the hinterlands—riled by immigration and the loss of traditional jobs—pushed the Brexit vote over the top.  Sound familiar?

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Brown Budget Proposal Sparks Tax-Cut Opportunity

John Seiler
Former Editorial Writer at the Orange County Register

For the first time in 30 years of writing on California budgets, I believe revenue projections are way too low in a governor’s January proposal. But that’s OK. Lower revenue expectations certainly mean there’s less chance of overspending, the common problem!

Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget, announced Jan. 10 at a press conference, projects a deficit of $1.6 billon unless parts of current spending are cut. Actually, as he noted at his press conference, the cuts he wants would come from reducing projected spending increases.

“The trajectory of growth is declining, but still growing,” he said. “We would not have balanced the budget without cuts. California has the most progressive tax system in the United States. But as a corollary, we have one of the most unreliable revenue systems in the country. To manage unreliability requires prudence, that we keep a very close eye on the balance in our budget.”

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The Slaves of La La Land—and South Los Angeles

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)

The brilliant new film musical La La Land is being celebrated as a love letter to Los Angeles. But the darker heart of the movie lies in a brief and devastating critique of Southern California, delivered by the jazz pianist played by Ryan Gosling.

“That’s L.A.,” he tells his lover, an aspiring actress played by Emma Stone. “They worship everything and they value nothing.”

There has been no better recent summary of the California struggle—with the very notable exception of the 2015 novel, The Sellout, whose author Paul Beatty recently became the first American to win the prestigious Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

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Riding the Budget Tiger

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

Forget about the budget proposal introduced by Gov. Jerry Brown yesterday. The budget plan that will matter is the revised version issued in May–even more than usual–after we learn more about the economy and plans from the new Trump Administration, both of which could have major impacts on the budget.

The economy, which has shown some signs of weakening, is one factor that will become clearer in five months. And, major jolts to the budget could come depending on steps the new administration in Washington takes regarding health care and immigration issues.

The number of times the governor and reporters used a variation of the word “uncertain” in referring to the budget piled up during Brown’s press conference to introduce the budget.

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Schwarzenegger Suggests a Way to Battle Trump

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)

Has Arnold figured out how to counter The Donald?

Trump, via Twitter, went after the Governator last week—dissing him for the low ratings of the first episode in which Schwarzenegger took over for Trump on “Celebrity Apprentice.”

“Wow, the ratings are in and Arnold Schwarzenegger got “swamped” (or destroyed) by comparison to the ratings machine, DJT,” Trump tweeted, adding. “So much for being a movie star-and that was season 1 compared to season 14. Now compare him to my season 1. But who cares, he supported Kasich & Hillary.”

Trump’s Twitter attacks have cowed big media and major manufacturers, and created all sorts of headaches for all sorts of people who were attacked, particularly as Trump-loving hordes savage them on social media. Fighting back against Trump hasn’t worked. Ignoring Trump hasn’t worked. Acknowledging Trump is right only keeps the bullying president-elect going.

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