Water Bond Agreement Can’t Slip Through Sacramento’s Hands

California State Senator representing the 14th Senate District

It is absolutely essential to the state economy and to the quality of life for all Californians that we pass a comprehensive water bond now, to ensure that water continues to flow to California’s homes, farms and other facilities for the foreseeable future.

The $9.3 billion bipartisan water bond proposed by Governor Schwarzenegger and U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein earlier this month provides a solid framework for tackling California’s water challenges, and a much welcomed shot in the arm for an issue that’s been on the backburner for too long.

I’ve been working with my colleagues at the Capitol and in Washington for almost two years to arrive at a comprehensive water plan that would increase water storage, improve how that water is transported across the state, and revitalize the ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Everyone agrees that California urgently needs to address California’s critical water woes, and as the saying goes, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. As is often the case in complex policy issues, the devil is in the details.

While I agree with Senate Pro Tem Don Perata that we should spend the as-yet-unallocated $872 million in funds from previous water bonds, we have to approach our water problems in a comprehensive, rather than piecemeal, manner. We cannot afford to let this vital issue be waylaid by partisan politics.

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Small Business Looks at the Budget

Betty Jo Toccoli
President of the California Small Business Association

The small business community is being asked by all parties – the Governor’s Office, Speaker’s Office and Democratic and the Republican Legislators what our position is on the budget mess. I have had the opportunity to discuss this with small business owners from all over California and all seem to approach the problem the same way — how would we treat the budget problem the state faces with lessons we’ve learned as small business owners?

When a small business owner has more dollars going out than coming in we take the
following steps:

First, take very good care of our existing customers. We don’t want to make it harder for our customers to do business with us; in fact, we would prefer to make it easier. Don’t put burdensome regulations and higher prices on the conditions for doing business in California that might force businesses to go to another State for a better deal. Make sure that taxpaying businesses are treated respectfully. For example, don’t have a small business person hang on the phone to a state agency for more than an hour to get an answer from a government official that the business person needs to operate the business.

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The Product Police Are At It Again

Patrick Dorinson
Host of The Cowboy Libertarian Radio Talk Show in Sacramento

If State Senator Carol Migden has her way we could one day see a story like this one.

State Food and Product Police Smash Illegal Can and Plastic Bottle Smuggling Ring – Special Agents of the California Regulatory and Police Division (CRAP) of the Department of Consumer Affairs, arrested 100 suspects and seized 4 tons of illegal cans of vegetables and baby bottles when they busted a BPA smuggling ring outside of Barstow. “We will hunt down these criminals who are trying to poison our kids wherever they might hide”, said Consumer Affairs Director Jack “Nosy” Snoopington.

What is BPA you might ask? Bisphenol-A or BPA, is a common chemical used to make polycarbonate, a rigid clear plastic for everything from baby bottles to bicycle helmets. It is also an ingredient in resins that are used to coat the inside of food and drink cans. BPA has been used successfully since the early 1950s. Chances are that by the time you have read this article you will have come in contact with some product that contains BPA.

If you are a baby boomer you have probably ingested over your lifetime a lot of BPA. Anyone feel sick?

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Not so Fast on Food Ban

Charles Crumpley
Editor and Publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal

When I was in college, I often wolfed down a Whopper between classes or gnawed on some Kentucky Fried Chicken while studying. Sure, it wasn’t the healthiest stuff to eat. But I didn’t have the time to get enough sleep, let alone prepare nice meals for myself. I didn’t have the money to eat at finer restaurants. For me, it was Taco Bell or starve. Besides, I was too skinny anyway.

Now? I rarely touch fast food. All that cholesterol. Besides, I need to lose weight.

The point is I figured out for myself the best era in my life to eat fast food and the best era to avoid it. I didn’t need the government or anybody else to figure it out for me.

That’s why it’s troubling that Councilwoman Jan Perry has decided to inject government into the decision-making progress. As reported recently in the Business Journal, she wants to ban future development of fast-food restaurants in a 32-square-mile area of southern Los Angeles. If approved, it would be the nation’s biggest fast-food ban.

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Utah Is Laughing

Jon Coupal
President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

Last month I was invited to address a joint tax committee of the
Utah Legislature to discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of
various methods of taxing real property. Specifically, Utah is
considering adopting an "acquisition value" based system — such as
Proposition 13 — to replace its traditional "current value" system
that taxes property based on what it is worth now rather than the
purchase price.

Although the legislators had lots of questions, I was amazed at
their level of knowledge, their business acumen and their concern
for taxpayers. More than that, they were unfailingly polite and none
of them tried to set me up for a "gotcha" moment.

Having testified before the Utah Legislature once before several
years ago — and having a similar enjoyable experience — I thanked
the committee’s co-chairs for the invitation and noted that the
experience was different from some of my appearances before the
California Legislature.

At the mention of the California Legislature, several members of the
committee laughed. The Chairman grinned and said that "we love the
California Legislature — they do more for Utah business development
than anyone else.

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Gay Marriage, the Peripheral Canal … and Bo Derek

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Catching up on a number of items at week’s end …

The Field Poll indicates a close election on Proposition 8, the gay marriage elimination amendment. The poll says as of now 51% oppose the amendment and 42% favor it. Surprisingly, the highest percentage of opposition to this measure was the baby-boomer generation, although by only a close 2% over the 18-29 year olds. Fox & Hounds blogger Joe Mathews has opined that gay marriage will eventually be accepted because of the strong support for the issue by the younger generation, yet here are the baby-boomers leading the way.

There will probably be a number of ballot proposition issues that will go down to the wire in November. Given that the Field Poll says at this point Sen. Obama is ahead of Sen. McCain by 24% in the presidential race, wouldn’t it be ironic if what drove voters to the polls in California this historic election year was not the presidential election but ballot issues?

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Everyone Should Be Part of Our Government

Michael Shires
Associate Professor of Public Policy, Pepperdine University

Democrats’ efforts to impose significantly higher taxes on the state’s businesses and wealthiest individuals is but the most recent incarnation of the tyranny of the majority prophesied by leading thinkers in our nation’s founding. The concept that a majority can abusively (or tyrannically) take the property of others for the interests of the many has long been the focus of constitutional scholars and philosophers in our society.

And yet the desire to dramatically fine narrow segments of our society to fund the general government, at the exclusion of others and, in many instances to subsidize others is one of the common mantras of state and local finance. Today the legislature pursues businesses and the successful to fund a government whose spending is accountable to no one.

It happens at all levels of government. Local governments tax hotel residents to fund local programs like parks and senior centers. Senator Obama proposes a new shift to a more progressive federal tax system that would eliminate the tax liability of some ten million Americans. The state legislature targets a narrow group of people who already account for a disproportionate share of the state budget.

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Our High Tax, Big Spending, Job-Killing Formula is Not Working

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

I hope legislators taking this week off are reading the newspapers. A number of articles serve as a barometer to California budget troubles. Simply stated, California taxes a lot, spends a lot, doesn’t seem to have much to show for it and jobs and taxpayers are leaving the state.

California gets much of its revenue from allowing business to flourish and to provide good jobs. But by making California an expensive place to do business we are driving the job makers away.

This Oakland Tribune article reports on the Auto Club closing three call centers in Northern and Southern California eliminating 900 jobs. Why? Because according to a spokeswoman from the California State Automobile Association: "It costs more to do business in California than in other states. Moving our call center operations to states outside of California gives us an opportunity to reduce our operating costs."

And with those jobs go the taxes that would have ended up in California government coffers.

Its not just 900 jobs that are leaving. Today’s Wall Street Journal editorial states that between 1996 and 2005, "1.3 million more Americans left than came to California. And the people who are leaving are disproportionately those with higher incomes…"

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Prop. 13 and our failure to communicate

Public Affairs Consultant specializing in Issue Advocacy and Strategic Communications

Michelle Steele’s response to my post yesterday asking why Speaker Bass has placed Prop. 13 off limits for discussion about fiscal reforms reinforces two common perceptions among folks in my age group:

  • Republicans love gag orders
  • Baby boomers, now that they’re the status quo, don’t like being challenged by younger generations

Yesterday, I asked why Prop. 13 is off limits for discussion in Speaker Bass’s task force. Ms Steel responded “because it works.”

I am fully aware and appreciative that Prop. 13 protects homeowners from escalating property taxes. My question is why my generation of home buyers has to pay so much more in property taxes for homes that are typically smaller than the homes we grew up in. That question was not addressed and since we’re not allowed to discuss Prop. 13, I suppose it will go left unanswered.

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Unfortunate Run of the Month

Charles Crumpley
Editor and Publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal

The more IndyMac Bancorp withered in the last couple of weeks, the angrier I got at Sen. Charles Schumer.

The New York Democrat did what a responsible person should not. He worsened IndyMac’s fragile situation by encouraging savers to pull their money out. Financially speaking, he yelled “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

How so? He wrote a couple of weeks ago that he is “concerned that IndyMac’s financial deterioration poses significant risks to both taxpayers and borrowers and that the regulatory community may not be prepared to take measures that would help prevent the collapse of IndyMac or minimize the damage should such a failure occur.”

Now, I’m not going to argue that he wrote anything inaccurate. What’s more, I’m sure his concern was genuine.

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