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Update 2: Top 5 Taxes You May See on the 2016 Ballot

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

In June 2014, I wrote a column forecasting the tax increase measures that might be on the November 2016 ballot given the conversations going on at the time. I updated the list in March of this year. It’s time for another update, this one prompted by an answer to a question Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León gave to Comstock’s Magazine.

The pro tem was asked where he stood on the change to Proposition 13 to separate commercial property from residential property. De León responded that he had no position on the plan at present but added: “I do think that revenue enhancement measures deserve a very serious debate, whether it’s a continuance or some variance of Proposition 30 or some other proposal.”

While the legislature gets together next week with the opportunity to have that debate, most likely any tax measure on the 2016 ballot will come via the initiative process.

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Let California Pick the Next President

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)

CORRECTION:
This week’s Connecting California column by Joe Mathews incorrectly identified Salinas as the Central Coast’s most populous municipality. Oxnard, with a population of 203,000, is the most populous city in the six Central Coast counties.

At the risk of sounding like Donald Trump, let me say it’s just stupid that California won’t play a significant role in picking the next president.

It’s even dumber that a small state, like Iowa, with its first-in-the-nation caucuses and swing status in general elections, is a presidential kingmaker. And who are the morons who have let this sad state of affairs go on for more than a generation? We Californians are.

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California’s Government by Lottery

Kevin Kiley
Candidate for the California State Assembly, Sixth District

Californians can now “Play at the Pump.”

Under a new California Lottery initiative being rolled out across the state, we can purchase lottery tickets while buying gas, without even going inside. Presented with the options of “Play Lotto” or “Gas Only,” we’ll actually have to decline the opportunity to play before fueling our vehicles.

As a matter of principle, this intrusion of the lottery into our most routine of daily activities is hard to justify. Conservatives should balk at a state-run monopoly. Liberals should recoil at a regressive source of revenue. Californians of all political stripes should wonder why exactly our government is encouraging us to gamble.

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Trump-ing the GOP

Richard Rubin
He writes about political issues and is President of a Public Affairs Management Firm. He also teaches courses on the Presidential & Congressional Elections at the University of San Francisco and is Vice Chair of the California Commonwealth Club.

The dust having settled on the first GOP debate, the bad news is Donald Trump has apparently been given a free pass to continue his rants before a growing TV audience mesmerized by the thought of what comes next.

The good news is the “Donald” has about as much chance of capturing the presidency as Kim Kardashian. The biggest difference is he thinks he can.

Trump sees this race as just another annoying, long drawn-out, but necessary business negotiation where he expects his offer will prevail over all others put on the table.

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Will California Republicans Be Defined as Anti-Vaxx?

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)

California Republicans want to bring back childhood diseases that killed millions.

That’s not a wild opinion. It’s a fair allegation, based on the facts.

And that’s a huge problem not only for public health but also for the party, which already has too many huge problems. The party has positioned itself firmly against legislation to end personal belief exemptions for vaccines.

It’s not everyone in the party. Republicans like Andy Vidak and Ron Nehring have, to their credit, been clear in supporting vaccines. But the hard truth is that overwhelming majorities of California Republicans in the legislature voted against requiring all children to be vaccinated (unless they have a health reason for not being vaccinated). And Tim Donnelly, a former Republican contender for governor, is leading an effort to qualify a referendum on the law.

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Ballot Title Won’t Deter Pension Reform

Chuck Reed and Carl DeMaio
Chuck Reed, a former Mayor of San Jose, is a Democrat. Carl DeMaio, a former Councilmember of San Diego, is a Republican

Costly government pension deals are devastating our public services – and this simple initiative gives voters the ability to stop sweetheart and unsustainable pension deals that politicians concoct behind closed doors with government union bosses. That’s why the politicians and union bosses oppose this initiative – and why they continue to try to mislead the public on what the initiative does. Despite their attempts to mislead, we are very confident the voters will understand the plain English requirements of this measure and overwhelmingly pass it in November 2016.”

The next step in the campaign will be to commission a legal review the ballot measure “Title and Summary” concocted by state politicians. Once that review is completed, we will kick-off their signature drive to qualify the measure. 

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Pensions as Economic Stimulus? Breaking Windows Works Better

Richard Rider
Chairman of the San Diego Tax Fighters

Chuck Beckwith’s column competently lays out all the usual public employee arguments justifying their opulent pensions. A cursory review of the logic reveals just how breathtakingly flawed this reasoning is.

First and foremost: His core point is that pensions provide economic stimulus. This is the classic “Broken Window Fallacy.”  Essentially, “If I break your window and you have to pay to repair it, that stimulates the economy and we’re all better off.”

The fallacy is this omission: What would you do with your money if the window wasn’t broken? Beckwith’s inference is that you’d burn it. I suspect that such is not the case.

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Coming Clean on Energy Costs

Charles Crumpley
Editor of the Los Angeles Business Journal

When the Obama administration revealed a plan last week to force power plants to dramatically cut carbon emissions, some Californians gloated. “Climate plan should be a breeze for California,” read a front-page headline in the Los Angeles Times. The thrust: California has been throttling carbon emissions for years. We’re way ahead in all this.

Well, yeah. But California also is way ahead in charging its people and businesses much more for electricity.

According to stats from the federal government’s Energy Information Administration, if you were to move to Arizona, your residential electricity rate would be cut 27 percent on average. If you moved your commercial operation to Nevada, you’d save 36 percent. And if you moved your industrial concern to Texas, assuming your use remained the same, your electric bill would be chopped in half.

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What’s Missing From California’s Transportation Special Session

Justin Ewers
Deputy Director of Policy and Communications for the California Economic Summit

Most of the attention in the special legislative session tasked with finding money for transportation infrastructure has focused on how state agencies (Caltrans) and local governments (cities and counties) could use new funding streams to repair local roads and state highways. With existing revenues (exhibit A: the gas tax) failing to keep pace with transportation needs—and with the statefacing a $59 billion backlog in deferred road maintenance—a coalition of business and labor groups released a set of ideas this week for increasing user fees and gas taxes to produce $6 billion in new revenue annually for the state’s roads.

These are big numbers—so big they make it easy to focus only on the dollar signs. But the special session shouldn’t overlook another, equally important element of a lasting transportation funding solution: the enormous potential for making investments at the regional scale, not just by raising new state taxes, but by fostering collaboration across California’s diverse regional economies and providing taxpayers with confidence they will improve results.

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Californians and Climate Change

Mark Baldassare
President of the Public Policy Institute of California

It’s been nine years since the movie “An Inconvenient Truth” had its debut and AB 32, the “California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006” was passed by the Democratic-controlled legislature and signed by Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Since then, Republicans and Democrats at the federal level have sparred over the scientific evidence on global warming, the government’s role in regulating greenhouse gases, and energy policies that will promote economic growth and well-being. Still, California likely voters’ strong support of AB 32—through good economic times and bad—has barely budged (66% PPIC July 2006, 63% PPIC July 2015).

The July 2015 PPIC poll finds that Californians’ economic fears are part of the reason for their steady support for AB 32—which requires California to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions back to 1990 levels by 2020. Among California’s likely voters, 69 percent say global warming is a threat to California’s economy and quality of life.

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