MOORLACH UPDATE — Gov. Brown’s Final Budget — June 15, 2018

The 2018-19 Budget votes occurred on the Senate Floor exactly after the bills had been in print for 72 hours. I do not mean to be the poop in the proverbial punch bowl, but anticipating a bumper crop and not reducing unfunded liabilities or sharing the wealth with struggling cities and counties, is very troubling.

I served on the Budget Conference Committee and it not only wipes out your calendar and life for a couple of weeks, it seems as if the Committee was irrelevant (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Conference Committee Cram Down — June 8, 2018). Or, as I put it in my Floor speech, a “nothingburger” (see https://vimeo.com/275169442).

The disappointing point in this process for me, after leaving the Capitol last Saturday morning at 1:30 a.m., was that my flight a few hours later was cancelled. So, former California First Lady Gloria Deukmejian, I apologize for missing George’s Memorial Service.

A quick observation is that the Democrats still own it. A small rainy day fund will not hold back a recession and you can expect even more tax increases in the future, should you decide to continue living in California.

Here is a rundown of the various pieces covering yesterday’s legislative session.

The Associated Press covered it, which was picked up by numerous newspapers, including the OC Register. The first piece below is from, appropriately, The Press Democrat.

The Sacramento Bee covers the Capitol, of course, and its sister publication, The Modesto Bee, provides the second piece below.

The LA Times has a Sacramento correspondent, and it recently acquired the San Diego Union-Tribune, bringing us the third piece below.

Fox & Hounds weighs in on the process in the fourth piece below.

On to a different subject, every year I get to nominate a nonprofit organization to be recognized in Sacramento. Two years ago it was the Orange County Rescue Mission, where I was sworn in as Senator. Last year it was HomeAid (see MOORLACH UPDATE — First SB 2-Zone Victory in the OC — August 6, 2017).

This year the honor goes to Mercy House, which recently participated in a glorious facility in Newport Beach (see http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-cove-opening-20180326-story.html). Congratulations to Larry Haynes and staff! The Daily Pilot and the Orange County Breeze cover the recognition in pieces five and six. Next week we honor the small business of the year.

What? You still want tax and budget news? Well, you’re in luck, as The Bond Buyer satisfies this need in pieces seven and eight below. It addresses the gas tax repeal efforts and the budget, respectively. But, beware, the strategy of “marketing all of the proposed wonderful projects that will be stopped” is being used in full force.

For even more on the gas tax, check out my Bonus directly below. Or, I should say “we interrupt this broadcast with a brief commercial announcement” of a political nature. If you do RSVP to attend, let them know that it was in response to this UPDATE.

BONUS:

You’re Invited…

Fundraiser to Repeal the Gas Tax

June 21, 2018 – 6-7:30pm

SAN CLEMENTE OUTLETS

VIP Lounge

101 Avenida Vista Hermosa, Suite 190

2nd Floor above Customer Service

San Clemente, CA 92672

Featuring Our “Gas Tax Repeal Heroes”

Hon. Pat Bates, State Senate Republican Leader

Hon. Bill Brough, State Assemblymember

&
Hon. Carl DeMaio – Gas Tax Repeal Chairman

The Car and Gas Tax Hikes will cost the typical family of four more than $770 more per year! Don’t sit on the sidelines – be part of the taxpayer revolt that will shake up Sacramento. If we all work together, anything is possible!! Please attend this important event – and make a contribution today to the Gas Tax Repeal campaign to help roll back these tax hikes! Personal or corporate contributions welcome in any amount.

RSVP and Secure Contribution Link: https://fs2.formsite.com/therightcompanies/form76/index.html

California lawmakers pass budget expanding help for poor

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

JONATHAN J. COOPER
ASSOCIATED PRESS

http://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/8437614-181/california-lawmakers-pass-budget-expanding?artslide=3

State lawmakers approved a $139 billion budget Thursday that uses California’s massive surplus to boost funding for homeless programs, welfare, child care and universities while also socking some money into savings.

The budget, which boosts spending 9 percent for the fiscal year beginning July 1, was approved with support mainly from Democrats.

“We’ve done something pretty great for people in California,” said Sen. Connie Leyva, a Democrat from Chino in the Inland Empire.

The spending plan was negotiated by Democrats Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Lakewood.

California is riding a wave of economic growth that has produced the largest surplus since at least 2000. Even the most conservative forecast pegs the surplus at nearly $9 billion.

Lawmakers and Brown are using that windfall to fill the rainy day fund to the maximum allowed under the state constitution and boost other savings, producing $16 billion in total reserves. Nearly $14 billion of that will be in the rainy day fund, which can only be spent during a budget emergency caused by a natural disaster or decline in revenue.

Republicans praised the focus on savings but said the budget doesn’t do enough to pay down debt and irresponsibly increases long-term commitments that will hamstring the state in the future. Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa in Orange County, said the state isn’t doing enough to address growing obligations for pensions and retiree health care.

“In a year when one enjoys a bumper crop, one must set aside cash and pay down the credit card balance,” Moorlach said. “We’ve got to get ahead of this mess.”

The budget will boost assistance for people living in poverty, including more than 13,000 new slots for subsidized child care. People on CalWorks, the state welfare program, will see monthly grants rise by 10 percent in April, the start of a multiyear effort to lift the income of the poorest Californians to 50 percent of the federal poverty level. Advocates said the boost would ensure children aren’t living in deep poverty, which harms their brain development and hinders future performance in school and work.

It includes $500 million for emergency grants to help cities and counties reduce homelessness. The grants can be used on a range of programs, including housing vouchers and shelter construction to help address California’s rapidly rising costs and growing homeless population.

The budget also boosts university funding, forestalling tuition increases at both California State University and University of California, and creates an online community college to offer credentials to working adults unable to attend classes in person. Brown’s administration announced that the first program will offer a credential in medical billing and coding.

The deal left out an expansion of Medi-Cal health care coverage to young immigrants living in the country illegally and financial assistance for people who buy their own insurance in the individual market.

California’s nearly $200 billion total budget includes $138.6 billion in general fund spending, $57.1 billion in special funds that must be spent for specific purposes and $3.9 billion in money from bonds.

As part of the budget negotiations, Brown and lawmakers agreed to allow victims of a notorious California serial killer to get a renewed chance to seek compensation for their emotional trauma or financial losses. Normally, victims have just three years to file with the California Victim Compensation Board for crimes, but the legislation would open a new window for victims to file claims after 72-year-old former police officer Joseph DeAngelo was charged in the Golden State Killer case.

$200 billion California budget sent to Gov. Jerry Brown

BY ADAM ASHTON

aashton

http://www.modbee.com/news/state/article213218474.html

California lawmakers approved and sent Gov. Jerry Brown a $200 billion state budget on Thursday, using revenue from a rosy economy to build $16 billion in reserves and steer hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding to universities and programs for the homeless.

The budget agreement passed both houses easily despite some Republican opposition. Democratic majorities highlighted a projected $9 billion surplus as a sign of the state’s recovery since the recession a decade ago.

“This is the best position we’ve been in in years,” said Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

The budget hewed fairly closely to the plan Brown presented in May, boosting reserves by billions of dollars rather than committing money to proposals that would have expanded health care and offered tax breaks to undocumented residents.

The budget includes a $138.6 billion general fund. That’s about $70 billion more than the general fund in the state’s 2011-12 budget.

The new budget provides $78 billion for K-12 education, which is about $30 billion more than the state’s recession budget seven years ago.

The budget also frees up $500 million in grants that cities can use to address homelessness. It increases the value of welfare grants through the CalWORKS program, raising spending there by $360 million.

It boosts ongoing funding for the California State University system by $105 million, and provides of hundreds of millions of dollars more for it and the University of California in one-time allocations.

“We have historic investments in K-12 education, historic investments in our higher education. We now have a budget reserve that is larger than the general funds of 33 states,” said Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood. “It’s an investment in our future with respect to early childhood education. It’s also really helps to protect a lot of what we really love about the state, with respect to the environment and our great public schools.”

Republicans warned that the budget did not make a serious dent in the state’s unfunded pension commitments, and that those debts could trigger a financial reckoning in the near future.

“We look like passengers on the Titanic,” Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, said.

But Democrats countered that they’ve carefully accumulated reserves to help the state navigate the next financial downturn.

The budget aims to “fill” the so-called Rainy Day Fund, which by law can hold a sum equivalent to 10 percent of general fund revenue. It sets aside another $2 billion for uncommitted reserves, and opens a new “safety net” reserve for social services with an initial $200 million.

“This is what we’re doing to prepare ourselves for the future because a recession is an inevitability,” said Assemblyman Ian Calderon, D-Whittier.

Some Republicans argued the money would be spent as a rebate to taxpayers. The savings, they asserted, help to lock in high spending that they consider to be irresponsible. “You want a blank check for the future? That’s what this is,” said Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno.

California lawmakers meet deadline, sending nearly $200-billion state budget blueprint to Gov. Jerry Brown

By John Myers

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/us-politics/la-pol-ca-budget-california-legislature-20180614-story.html

Both houses of the California Legislature took final action Thursday on an overarching framework and a few key details of a new state budget, sending the package to Gov. Jerry Brown one day before their legal deadline to take action.

Twenty-five separate pieces of legislation comprise the budget for the state government’s fiscal year that begins next month. Fourteen of the bills were sent to Brown on Thursday, while action is expected early next week on the remaining details.

The $199.6-billion spending plan hews to Brown’s suggestion that a sizable portion of the state’s massive tax windfall be funneled into cash reserves as similar funds were last year, while increasing spending on K-12 education, healthcare and social services. It also provides more than $600 million for new efforts to help California’s homeless, a key component to the deal struck last week by the governor and Democratic legislative leaders.

“This is a solid budget,” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said. “And it builds upon what we’ve already done.”

Republicans provided only a few votes for the overall budget framework in the Assembly and Senate. Other GOP members insisted that the state continues to ignore long-term problems, including looming debt in the years to come.

“We’ve got to get ahead of this mess,” Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) said.

Democrats, however, insisted that the budget offers a reasonable approach to addressing the state’s needs. As is the case in most years, the lion’s share of spending is contained in three categories: education, health and human services, and corrections and rehabilitation.

“We continue our efforts to strengthen the state’s commitment to a human infrastructure,” said Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), chairwoman of the Senate’s budget committee.

Under state constitutional mandates, K-12 schools and community colleges receive the single largest portion of general fund tax dollars. The new budget puts K-12 funding at $11,639 per student, up slightly from the current year. It includes a phase-in of an effort promoted by Brown to divvy up community college dollars with a new emphasis on student performance outcomes. It also provides $100 million in start-up funds for online community college courses and instruction.

Both the University of California and California State University systems receive funding increases under the budget agreement, though most of the education bills won’t be voted on until next week. The plan offers a combined $344-million one-time boost to the school systems, as well as new ongoing funding that’s expected to expand enrollment on UC and Cal State campuses while allowing university leaders to keep tuition at current levels.

Significant dollars will be spent, too, on health and human services. According to figures provided by the Assembly, almost 1 in 3 state dollars spent under the new budget will go to these programs. Much of it is earmarked for services provided by Medi-Cal, California’s version of Medicaid providing healthcare for its poorest citizens. Some care — including access to physicians, hospitals and child-screening services — is mandated by the federal government, while California adds additional benefits. The governor’s revised budget last month pegged Medi-Cal spending at about $35 billion in the coming fiscal year.

Democratic lawmakers pushed for more spending in one key social services program, persuading Brown to accept a small boost in monthly cash grants to the working poor enrolled in CalWORKS, the state’s welfare assistance program. Those monthly grants have remained unchanged for years, even as inflation pressures have reduced the purchasing power for low-income families. The budget adds $90 million to the grants beginning next spring, as well as a method to more fully fund annual cost-of-living increases in the future.

Subsidies for child care based on income and additional slots in preschool programs are also included in the budget framework. And both Brown and legislative leaders advocated for expanding access to California’s earned income tax credit to an additional 700,000 households. The tax credit, which provides cash to those with very low incomes, will be modified to account for increases in the state’s minimum wage, and it will be made available to workers between the ages of 18 and 24, and those over 65.

While spending increases under the plan, the budget reflects the continued insistence by Brown and lawmakers to stash funds for future economic downturns. Legislative staffers project that the budget passed Thursday will lead to a $15.9-billion cash reserve by next summer, larger than the general fund of 33 U.S. states.

The bulk of that money — $13.8 billion — will be in the “rainy-day fund” established by voters in 2014. Much of what’s left will be in the state’s regular cash reserves, while $200 million is being set aside in the event future budget deficits trigger cuts to CalWORKS.

Those dollars are the result of multibillion-dollar tax revenue windfalls, which have become surprisingly common in recent years. Lawmakers are taking steps in the new budget to change the process of how those dollars are set aside for future needs.

But the mechanics are complicated. The plan to be signed into law by Brown includes a new and unusual “budget deficit savings account,” which will serve as an initial way station for surplus cash. Most of the money will ultimately be sent to the voter-approved reserve fund, but the accounting maneuver could offer new options for other excess dollars.

Some Republicans asked whether the proposal is a move to avoid triggering a 1979 state spending limit — one rarely breached since its inception and the focus of months of debate about how to properly calculate that limit. The provisions of that constitutional limit could require tax refunds.

“It’s been rigged so that no refund can ever be given to the taxpayers,” Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Lake Elsinore) said. “And that’s disgraceful.”

Others wondered whether a different plan involving tax windfalls — injected late into budget talks by Brown — would actually subsidize the state’s beleaguered high-speed rail project.

“We’ve set in motion a chain of events that this bill compounds,” Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) said.

Lawmakers were under the gun to pass key portions of the state budget by Friday or lose a portion of their salary under a 2010 law enacted by voters. That law also lowered the threshold for legislative passage to a simple majority in each house. Those two changes have helped create on-time California budgets for six straight years.

john.myers

The Good Old Days of the Big 5 Budgets?

Joel Fox

By Joel FoxEditor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

http://www.foxandhoundsdaily.com/2018/06/good-old-days-big-5-budgets/

The state budget passed on time but does anyone long for the good old days of the dragged out budget debates? Remember the deal making to get some Republicans to join majority Democrats to reach the required two-thirds vote? OK, you don’t miss those days because no one enjoyed those drawn-out affairs with IOUs issued to state workers and public services delayed. Yet, by reducing the decision making from the Big 5 (governor, majority and minority leaders of both houses) to the one-party Big 3 (Governor, Assembly Speaker and Senate Pro-tem) something important has been lost in missing hearings and debates over budget priorities.

Listen to Republicans left out of the budget process. Senate Budget Committee Vice-chairman Jim Nielsen complained about cancelled public hearings. “This is a manipulation of the budget process whereby the public and their representatives are completely shut out.” “This year’s mismanagement of the committee hearings is done by design – to keep the public in the dark.”

Senator John Moorlach reacted to Gov. Brown’s announcement that he had reached an agreement on the budget with the speaker and the pro tem with a fair question: “Would somebody explain why I am even here and why am I voting tonight on this “behind closed doors” agreement?”

There are good things in the budget, but that is not the point. The $200 billion state budget seemed to be crafted by three individuals directing their staffs. This was not the way state government was taught in school—or are the workings of state government even taught in school anymore?

Sure, under the Big 5 system came wheeling and dealing, which was also not mentioned in school overviews of the legislative process. But at least under the Big 5 system sections of the budget, the more controversial parts, got an airing before the public and the press. And, we didn’t have to deal with the sneaky and often underhanded process of budget trailer bills that include items that should be part of budget debates.

The Big 5 era was not exactly the Good Old Days but the current budget gamesmanship is not a good-government replacement.

State Sen. Moorlach picks Mercy House as Nonprofit of the Year

http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-around-town-20180613-story.html

State Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) named Mercy House — a Santa Ana-based homeless services provider — as his Nonprofit of the Year.

In a resolution last week, Moorlach praised the organization “for providing invaluable services to the people of the local area” and applauded its “long history of community support.”

Moorlach represents the 37th Senate District, which includes Costa Mesa, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach and Newport Beach.

http://www.oc-breeze.com/2018/06/12/122654_senator-john-moorlach-selects-mercy-house-as-2018-nonprofit-of-the-year/

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 8.11.09 PM

On June 6, Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, took great pleasure in issuing a resolution selecting Mercy House of Santa Ana as the 37th Senatorial District’s 2018 Nonprofit of the Year.

A California gas tax repeal would halt thousands of projects

By
Keeley Webster
https://www.bondbuyer.com/news/californias-gas-tax-repeal-would-halt-thousands-of-projects

Thousands of road projects funded by a recently enacted California gas tax are in jeopardy if voters repeal it.

A Republican-led effort to repeal the gas tax has qualified for November’s ballot and has signs of momentum.

A May 21 USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found that 51% of California voters favored repealing the law while 38% want to keep it. A poll by the Public Policy Institute of California in February had voters evenly divided with 47% favoring repeal and 48% opposing it.

Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman was recalled by voters in his primarily Orange County district June 5 after conservative talk-show host Carl DeMaio launched a recall effort after Newman voted for Senate Bill 1. DeMaio is also a leading figure in the effort to repeal the gas tax.

SB 1, the gas tax increase approved by the majority Democratic Legislature last year that is expected to raise $5.4 billion annually for 10 years, has fast-tracked projects, but that could stall if the repeal effort succeeds.

“The money collected since last November would still be available for projects since the repeal effort is not retroactive, but the 5,000 projects underway — or those slated to begin soon — would be halted in their tracks,” said Roger Dickinson, executive director of Transportation California, a transportation advocacy organization that supported the gas tax.

“If they could not be paid for with existing funding, they would be dead — and that would apply to the vast majority of projects,” Dickinson said.

“There are smaller ones that could be completed in a year, but many jurisdictions are planning on multi-year funding, and they would not be able to finish the projects they had programmed,” he said.

The tax raised $367 million last year for local streets and road repairs, which was a partial fiscal year for the program, and is expected to bring in $1.1 billion in fiscal 2018-19, said Mitch Weiss, chief deputy director for the California Transportation Commission, the state agency responsible for allocating funds for the state’s transportation construction projects.

The law increased the gasoline tax by 12 cents a gallon, the diesel excise tax by 20 cents a gallon and the diesel sales tax to 5.75% from 1.75%. It also raised annual vehicle registration fees by up to $175. And it created a $100 annual fee, starting in 2020 for zero-emission vehicles that don’t pay gas taxes.

The CTC in May approved $2.7 billion in funding for 61 projects in three programs funded by the gas tax.

Those allocations represent four years of funding for three of the 10 SB 1 programs: the Local Partnership Program, the Solutions for Congested Corridors Program and the Trade Corridor Enhancement Program, according to the state Department of Finance.

Weiss estimates that half of the 4,000 local streets and road projects are solely funded by SB 1 money and would have to be cut. It would then be up to local leaders to figure out how to fund the projects or call them off, he said.

“The bottom line is that projects that are only funded by the SB 1 gas tax are going to be stopped, because they would only receive a year’s worth of funding,” he said.

Santa Barbara and Sonoma counties received $132.8 million and $84.7 million, respectively, for projects that include adding carpool lanes on 15 miles of U.S. 101 through Santa Barbara and on 6.6 miles of the freeway through Marin and Sonoma counties. The San Mateo County Transportation Authority would receive $20 million toward the $540 million cost of a 22-mile carpool lane in both directions on Route 101 between San Francisco International Airport and the city. Other freeways throughout the state received funding for similar projects.

Many smaller cities received awards for everything from road reconstruction to bike lane projects. SB 1 funds also supplement a pre-existing California Department of Transportation program that distributes grants for transit projects.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who promised in his January 25 State of the State speech to do “anything in his power to defeat the repeal,” spent the last weeks of May attending groundbreakings of southern California projects funded by the gas tax.

Brown proposed $4.6 billion in spending from the gas tax in his 2018-19 budget proposal.

Planned projects to construct or rebuild highways, bridges, culverts, local streets and roads, and mass transit already programmed with SB 1 funding “would have to be rescheduled/reprioritized/reprogrammed by the state or local sponsors and moved out to future years to be funded over a longer period with the lower, existing, non-SB funding sources,” California Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said.

The state’s existing transportation programs are funded using federal and state gas tax revenues, and others receive funding through greenhouse gas cap and trade and diesel sales tax funding, Palmer said.

But new programs created through SB 1 including local partnerships, commuter rail and intercity rail, local planning grants, congested corridors and trade corridors would likely be halted, even on projects that have started, until funding alternatives are identified, Palmer said. Most of the programs received funding following a vigorous series of public meetings to develop program guidelines, he said.

If the gas tax is repealed, Palmer said the suite of projects selected to receive the $400 million estimated to be collected between passage and possible repeal may need to be reevaluated.

“If SB1 revenues are no longer collected, then there would be nothing against which to bond, and there are no plans at this point to pursue GO bonds to fund transportation infrastructure,” Palmer said.

Lodi Mayor Pro Tem JoAnne Mounce, former president of the League of California Cities and a Republican, fervently supports the gas tax.

“It took us almost 10 years to get legislators to come together to create SB1 – and there is nothing to replace it,” Mounce said. “In the meantime, the average citizen is spending $739 dollars annually on vehicle repairs due to the condition of our roads.”

The poor condition of the state’s roads and highways has resulted in highway deaths as well, Mounce said.

“As you know, with the rising cost of pensions, cities have less and less money to do anything else,” Mounce said. “Even in good times, there is not enough money for transportation, that is why the League has been tracking the condition of the state’s roads and bridges.

“We have been saying for the last 10 years they are in deplorable condition – and they are continuing to get worse,” she said.

California state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Cosa Mesa, in a hallway at the State Capitol in Sacramento.

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, supports repealing the gas tax.

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, who supports the repeal, said there are alternatives and he has proposed them in the Legislature.

He advocates for reforms at the California Department of Transportation to better use the $13 billion the agency spends annually, rather than increase the budget to $18 billion.

“I believe there is money there. We just have to get an effective CEO to run Caltrans,” Moorlach said. “We have to have a completely different mindset in our budgeting. California just seems to spend everything every year – rather than setting money aside – and then wakes up and says, ‘Our roads are bad.’ ”

The state senator said he studied Caltrans in comparison to other state agencies and discovered it is among the least efficient in the country.

“We need to have a modification in the budget that if you build something you need to set aside money to repair or replace it,” Moorlach said. “California needs to be more disciplined in how it manages its finances in terms of addressing whatever it needs to maintain.”

He proposed a bill that would stair-step Caltrans up to outsourcing 25% of its work, but it failed – and the brunt of the opposition came from the Caltrans engineers’ union, not its leadership, he said.

SB1 does require Caltrans to produce efficiencies that result in $100 million in savings, but Moorlach said no metrics have been created to track that goal.

What he believes should happen is first reforms should be made so that the state agency spends the money it already has well – and then if more money is needed, voters should be asked to approve a tax increase. Of every $1 that Caltrans spends, he said, only 20 cents makes it to road improvements.

The state’s failure to keep up with housing demand has forced state residents to commute long distances, he said, which puts more pressure on roads.

A significant percentage of his constituents are struggling financially and the senator said he does not want to make it harder for them to make ends meet.

He pointed to Newman’s recall.

“If you look at who voted to recall him, that wasn’t a Republican vote, it’s an across-the-board vote,” Moorlach said. “People get upset when you start messing with their finances.”

The June election provided a favorable sign for gas tax supporters as a lockbox on gas taxes produced through Senate Bill 1 received 80.8% of the vote to pass. The measure amends the state constitution to ensure that the anticipated revenues from the gas tax are dedicated to transportation spending.

“Transportation funding has not necessarily gone to what it’s earmarked for,” Mounce said. “Several years ago, money for roads and bridges was reallocated for high-speed rail and to projects mandated by Assembly Bill 32’s greenhouse gas reductions.”

Funding for transportation projects has just been spread too thin, she said.

The last state gas increase was approved in 1994 and it wasn’t pegged to the consumer price index, Weiss said.

“I am confident that when people start looking at the list of projects happening in their areas, they will see the benefit of those projects to them and why it is important to keep SB 1,” Weiss said. “No one likes paying taxes, but the bottom line is we need a transportation system that can move people and goods.”

Brown’s final California budget approved without drama

By

California lawmakers broke their tradition of going down to the wire on budget passage by reaching an agreement on a $199.6 billion spending plan Thursday evening.

A rosy economy and an estimated $9 billion surplus by the most conservative estimates resulted in swift passage of the budget through both houses despite some opposition from the Republican minorities.

A constitutional change that allowed budget passage by simple majority, rather than the previous two-thirds supermajority, has enabled the state to pass a budget on time the past six years.

Typically that has meant a budget has passed near midnight on the July 15 deadline, but even that represented a vast improvement over prior years.

Gov. Jerry Brown, who has made efforts to prepare for volatility in state revenues a rallying cry during his nearly eight years in office, convinced lawmakers to set aside $15.9 billion in total reserves, the maximum allowed under the state constitution. All but $2 billion of that goes into the rainy-day fund, which can only be spent during a budget emergency caused by a natural disaster or shrinking revenues. The total also includes $200 million to create a new safety net reserve for CalWorks, the state’s public assistance program.

“This budget strikes an appropriate balance that strengthens our state’s fiscal stability with an unprecedented level of reserves, while prioritizing investments that will address the pressing needs of this state,” said Senator Holly J. Mitchell, D-Los Angeles.

Democrats wanted a significant chunk of the surplus to go for homeless shelters and to build housing for very poor people – and they got that.

The budget agreement included an additional $250 million in one-time emergency aid to local governments to reduce homelessness for $500 million total. It also provides $109 million in ongoing funds for homelessness and $300 million per year for three years beginning in 2019-20 for affordable-housing construction.

“This budget fully funds K-12 and provides $3.6 billion for the neediest schools to provide more resources for their students,” said Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose. “We have expanded childcare for the working poor, increased funding for mental health services, and made available a half-billion dollars for local governments to combat homelessness.”

K-14 school funding grew to $78.4 billion in Proposition 98 funding – a 66% increase since 2011-2012. Lawmakers also approved a $3.6 billion increase in the Local Control Funding Formula, which is more than $1 billion above the Jan. 10 proposed budget, and $300 million in one-time money for low-performing students. California State Universities received an additional $260 million while the University of California system got a $210 million increase to prevent tuition increases.

Lawmakers also approved spending $5 billion in Senate Bill 1 transportation funds – money being challenged by an initiative to repeal last year’s gas tax legislation. The budget also included $300 million to tackle deferred maintenance for levees, courthouses, and the two university systems.

“For the first time in years, the state and cities are making progress in maintaining and repairing our aging roads, tunnels and bridges, thanks to Senate Bill 1,” said Beall, the legislation’s author.

They also approved $700 million to rebuild the state Capitol annex. A proposal to expand Medi-Cal health care coverage for immigrants was scrapped.

The Senate Republican caucus decried the 9% increase in spending over last year’s budget.

“While we applaud the governor and the Senate President pro Tem for increasing the rainy day fund, we should also be wary of future economic downturns and pay down more of the massive pension and health debts,” said a joint statement by Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates, R-Laguna Niguel; Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Tehama, vice chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee and budget conferee; and Senator John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, member of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee.

In testimony following budget passage, Moorlach called the budget half-baked, saying it will create a fiscal reckoning for future lawmakers.

“When you have a bumper crop you need to set aside money and pay down the credit card balances,” Moorlach said.

Brown has until July 1 to sign the budget.

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

MOORLACH UPDATE — Conference Committee Cram Down — June 8, 2018

The annual budget bill must be approved by June 15th. That means I’ll be in Sacramento next Friday to vote on the one bill that is required every year, according to the California Constitution.

I usually fly home Thursday evenings, but I’m still up here this Friday because I serve on the Budget Conference Committee as one of the two Republican Senators selected for this annual ritual (also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Selected to Serve — May 28, 2018 and http://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-ca-essential-politics-may-2018-california-budget-legislature-jerry-brown-differences-1527653231-htmlstory.html). The Conference Committee is a short-term assignment with a lot of responsibility. It reviews three proposed budgets and reconciles the various differences, should they occur, from the recommendations made by the Governor, the Senate and/or the Assembly and crafts one agreed-to, take-it-or-leave-it document for approval by both Chambers.

With the 72-hour rule, under which a bill must be published “in its final form before final passage,” logistically, the Budget Conference Committee has to conclude by tonight. Then Legislative Counsel has to work around the clock to assemble the bill in its formal, legal language. And Senate Floor Managers have to prepare the official notification and agenda documents for the proper procedural process to legally vote on this matter. It is a lot of work that goes on in the periphery. But, we’ve all been in a holding pattern for the last several days, discussing a handful of issues up to now.

The Committee has received the agenda around noon! We have asked for five hours to review, digest and opine on the materials in preparation for the meeting, which will start at 5:30 p.m. For the fifth largest economy on the planet, it has a Banana Republic feel to it. The whispering campaign blames the Assembly Democratic staff, which is in charge of this reconciliation task this year. No one is amused.

Worse, at 9:40 a.m., the Governor issued a press release with the following introduction:

Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon today announced that they have reached an agreement on the 2018-19 state budget. The budget agreement makes record investments in schools and universities, creates the state’s first online community college, fully fills the Rainy Day Fund, boosts child care and combats homelessness and poverty.

So, would somebody explain why I am even here and why am I voting tonight on this “behind closed doors” agreement?

Maybe I should have worn one of my Mickey Mouse ties today? It may have been a subtle way to communicate how the Democrat majority runs your state. Or maybe I should purchase a tie with mushrooms on it? It may be another way of expressing the joys of being kept in the dark.

I hope to be out of the Capitol by 3 a.m., Saturday morning. Then I board my flight to Orange County at 10 a.m. From there I drive to Long Beach to, hopefully, attend former California Governor George Deukmejian’s Memorial Service. And, then it’s back to Newport Beach for the annual Wooden Boat Festival. The fun life continues.

So, let’s go from local to state to international news. The Newport Beach Independent covers the Wooden Boat Festival in the first piece below. I am a big fan of wooden boats, especially tall ships (see MOORLACH UPDATE — HB Independent — September 15, 2011). I also had the privilege of overseeing the State of California’s Sesquicentennial efforts to secure visiting tall ships for this historic commemoration (see MOORLACH UPDATE — California Lawyer — September 8, 2010).

On the state level, the online OC Register provides another piece mentioning SB 1074 in a fascinating editorial submission (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Selected to Serve — May 28, 2018, MOORLACH UPDATE — Worked So Hard — May 19, 2018, and MOORLACH UPDATE — The Joys of Presenting Bills — April 24, 2018).

On the international front, the opening of the United States Embassy in Jerusalem was met with protests from Palestinians who reside in the immediate area, as no other neighboring nation wishes to locate them within their borders. But, human migrations are not pretty. This delicate matter became a major Senate Floor discussion as a result of the vote on a Resolution (which may explain why I rarely do Resolutions).

I am a supporter of Israel. You know my love for Western State Jewish History (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Western States Jewish History — May 25, 2012). As someone whose parents survived Nazi occupation, I am very supportive of Holocaust survivors and bear the sorrow of those who suffered from this tragic genocide (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Remembrance — June 1, 2012).

So I stood up and mentioned my Sesquicentennial experience. Celebrating 150 years as a state of California was not appreciated by our native populations, who suffered from displacement and death from diseases transmitted by the gold seekers. But, history is replete with these tragic events. We live in a broken world with broken people, like Hitler. But, who has time to give a grand history lesson? So, this goy kept it short and sweet. The Mondoweiss provides an editorial piece on this matter from a pro-Palestinian perspective in the third piece below. The actual vote was 37 for, 2 abstaining, and 1 vacancy due to resignation.

Wooden Boat Festival Returns to Newport Harbor

By : Newport Indy Staff

Guests enjoy the annual Newport Beach Wooden Boat Festival, hosted by the Balboa Yacht Club, in 2017.
— Photo by Tom Walker/courtesy BYC

https://www.newportbeachindy.com/wooden-boat-festival-returns-to-newport-harbor/

Seafaring history floats into Newport Harbor this weekend with the return of the annual Newport Beach Wooden Boat Festival, hosted by the Balboa Yacht Club.

Now in its fifth year, it is considered “yachting’s equivalent of the Concours d’Elegance,” officials proclaimed in a press release.

“So many boats – so many stories,” officials wrote.

On Friday, June 8, nearly 50 vessels will begin arriving for the festival, which is open to the public Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. A closing celebration will be held at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.

On Sunday, the boat parade will begin from Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club at 11 a.m., circling most of Newport Harbor. At 1 p.m., the Heritage Sail-By down the bay will begin near Lido Village.

More than 4,000 visitors are expected to attend this free event, which also offers complimentary shuttle and water taxi service to and from Balboa Yacht Club.

In addition to being able to view and board these wooden treasures, there will be family activities, including toy boat building, live music by the Dave Stephens Band, a presentation by Senator John Moorlach, maritime art and exhibits, food and libations, and a silent auction (including an original painting by famous artist Jim DeWitt).

This year’s featured vessel is the Spirit of Dana Point, the 118-foot schooner built as a replica of a 1770s privateer and previously known as Pilgrim of Newport. It started out life in a Costa Mesa backyard and has a rich local history.

Included in this year’s Festival is Lady Isabelle, one of the Little Ships Fleet of Dunkirk. In May 1940, she was one of the fleet of private boats that rescued more than 330,000 Allied troops stranded in Dunkirk, France. The story recently appeared in Hollywood’s Academy Award winning film “Dunkirk.”

Featured for the first time is the 86-foot schooner Astor, built in 1923 by Fife & Sons of Scotland for an Australian surgeon who named her Ada. He sailed her to his native Australia, where she gained sailboat racing notoriety winning the Sydney to Hobart race three times and competing in the TransPacific races. During the last 18 years, she departed Newport Harbor and traveled the world, just returning in 2017.

Then there is also the 50-foot wheelhouse cruiser, Phantom, whose history includes being requisitioned by the U.S. Navy in World War II to protect the Kaiser Shipyards on the Columbia River. After the war, the battleship gray paint was removed, along with the machine gun, and she was returned to her former glory as a luxury yacht.

For more information, visit newportbeachwoodenboatfestival.com.

OPINION

Look in the mirror for climate change

By RONALD STEIN

https://www.ocregister.com/2018/06/06/look-in-the-mirror-for-climate-change/

Until the first steam locomotives were invented in the early 19th Century, man could travel as far as he could walk or as far as his horse would take him. Life was dirty, smelly, difficult – and short. Life expectancy was short and human misery was assured.

In the decades and centuries after 1900, after the discovery of oil, and the inventions of the automobile and the airplane an airline industry that can take us anywhere in the world consuming 225 million gallons of aviation fuels every day to move almost 10 million passengers and other things every day, a cruise line industry that takes us to all parts of the world consuming 30 to 50 gallons of fuel for every mile, a leisure industry of hotels, resorts, theme parks, and a transportation industry of rail, trucks and automobiles that can deliver products from around the world and take us to virtually any destination. We also have an electronic and aerospace industry that has everyone wired and wireless, and elaborate infrastructures to support the growing populations.

All of those infrastructures did not exist prior to the 1900’s and they could not exist without the chemicals and by-products manufactured from crude oil, but the primary economic reason refineries exist is to manufacture the fuels for our military, heating and transportation industries. Interestingly, there are no economic reasons just to manufacture the other “stuff” of chemicals and by-products from crude oil that are the basis of virtually everything in our daily and leisurely lifestyles.

Today, these byproducts of fossil fuels often are forgotten when debating whether or not we should move to a future free of carbon-based energy. But those byproducts are real, and essential to our lives. Yet environmentalist extremists still want to eliminate the main source of their current production.

Surprise! Almost everything we use comes from oil, thus we need to look in the mirror for climate change.

Our leisurely lifestyles are based on transportation systems, sewage treatment, sanitation systems, water purification systems, irrigation, synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, genetically improved crops, agricultural productivity, dams, seawalls, heating, air conditioning, sturdy homes, drained swamps, central power stations, vaccinations, pharmaceuticals, medications, eradication of most diseases, improvements in manufacturing productivity, electronics, communication systems, and so on.

Other benefits from fossil fuel energy include the ever reduction in infant mortality and is the major contributor to the longest life expectancy in history all of which directly impacts our quality of life.

The electric vehicle crusade may have limitations to replace the internal combustion engines as current battery technology for EV’s is the lithium-ion battery which is dependent on cobalt for its energy density. Today, there is already a worldwide shortage of Cobalt.

The unintended consequence of too many EV’s from the crusade is that a reduction in the need for manufactured fuels may incentivize closures of refineries that are also manufacturing the other “stuff” for our lifestyles and may be inflationary on all those other crude oil products if that is the primary reason for those refineries to exist economically.

So, do we want to go back to pre-petroleum, horse-and-buggy days, without all of our modern “stuff?” Well, that would solve the persistent problem of unfunded liabilities to pay Social Security and public-employee pensions as few would live past 30 years!

Seriously, we don’t want to roll back civilization. There are better ways to achieve a cleaner environment for ever-growing populations with an increasing numbers of vehicles. Such ways include continual improvements in the fuel efficiencies of internal combustion engines, EVs and hybrids.

And we need sensible legislation at all levels, such a Senate Bill 1074, by state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, titled Disclosure of Government Imposed Costs. It would require gas stations to post next to fuel pumps a list of all taxes and regulatory costs of every gallon pumped. It would give consumers more information so they could make better judgments on fuel efficiency, while knowing how to influence the policies of their own government.

Ronald Stein is founder of PTS Staffing Solutions, a technical staffing agency that serves the energy industry.

 

News & Opinion About Palestine, Israel & the United States

Celebrating in Jerusalem, killing in Gaza, pandering in Sacramento

US Politics

David L. Mandel

http://mondoweiss.net/2018/06/celebrating-jerusalem-sacramento/

The May 14 split screen of Israeli and U.S. elites toasting a symbolic embassy opening in Jerusalem while 62 unarmed Palestinian protesters were gunned down by Israeli snipers in Gaza or suffocated by tear gas became an international media meme.

In Sacramento, a third screen could have underlined the stark contrasts even more. At the Capitol, both houses passed resolutions (HR 107, SR 109) congratulating Israel on its anniversary, declaring in the fourth of 12 “Whereas” clauses:

“Israel has much to commemorate and celebrate, most notably that it has established, in its 70 years of existence, the most successful and politically stable democracy in a Middle East that continues to experience great turmoil.”

“Great turmoil” indeed. The toll of 120-plus dead and thousands shot, many with permanently disabling leg wounds and amputations, has been condemned as criminal by UN officials and the world’s major human rights organizations, including B’Tselem in Israel, which called on soldiers to refuse “flagrantly illegal” orders to shoot civilians. From personal experience in the Israeli army, my educated guess is that a significant number may have heeded that call and were sent away from the “front,” silenced by threats of court-martial if they spoke up. Or perhaps the snipers’ ranks were simply pre-purged of any who might have moral qualms. The recently disclosed video of two soldiers celebrating after a long-distance “hit” of a Palestinian who posed no threat whatsoever was jarring. Even more so was the military command’s response: Criticism of the video’s leak, not of the soldiers’ behavior.

Whatever the state of mind in the military, it’s dispiriting to hear from Israeli friends that for the most part, there is anything but “great turmoil” among Jews inside the country. Protests have been small, as most of the population has swallowed the absurd assertions that one of the strongest, most high-tech equipped militaries in the world had no choice but to open fire on what was mostly a peaceful, family-oriented encampment, with many of the victims shot hundreds of meters from fortified positions behind a triple fence that encages some 2 million; and that otherwise, the desperate Gazans would somehow have overrun Israel and slaughtered its population.

And how about that “successful and politically stable democracy” praised in the Capitol resolutions?

Only one state senator, Bill Monning of Monterey, dared to speak of the reality unfolding 10,000 miles away, decrying “the shooting of over 50 unarmed Palestinians at the wall, protesting a history in their view of discrimination, of occupation and a denial of human rights.” Indeed. How complicated should it be to understand that when one national-religious group rules over another that lacks all or most basic rights (depending on where they live), it can’t be called a democracy? In the hellhole that Gaza has become after 11 years of suffocating blockade, who can be surprised that well over 100,000 people, most of them the descendants of Palestinians expelled from their homes around Israel’s establishment in 1948, would march for their human right, unassailable under international law, to return? Fulfilment of that right may well be complicated by all that has happened since, but do they deserve to be shot for asking?

In the end even Monning voted for the resolution along with 57 of 59 senators; he said that his unease was not over what it actually said. But his surprisingly strong words about the Gaza massacre sparked a 25-minute floor discussion, unusual for such congratulatory measures. In between praising Israel and invoking the Holocaust, several senators at least challenged the wisdom of President Trump’s provocative embassy move, and evidenced some discomfort with the day’s juxtapositions. For this, it’s worth watching the video (find the May 14 “Floor Session,” starting at minute 12) of the “debate.” (Nausea alert: They made a whole party out of it, having the Israeli consul-general and a slew of Israel lobby people there on the floor as special guests.)

A Republican senator, John Moorlach of Orange County, had an interesting take in his speech supporting the resolution. At one point he referred to the ethnic cleansing/genocide of California’s native population and the internment of Japanese Americans. Was he alluding to the similar treatment of Palestinians? Well maybe, in fact. It could be that he’s less immersed in and driven by the mythology surrounding Israel’s creation and has a clearer view of reality than many Democrats. If so, he seemed to reconcile these crimes with support of Israel by implying that shit happens and we need to move on: “We live in a broken world,” he sighed. Interesting, though; perhaps it may lead someone, somewhere, to recognize the similarities and draw different conclusions.

One brave senator publicly abstained (one other was absent): Bob Wieckowski of Fremont (suburban Bay Area), in a short statement, cited the incongruity between the resolution’s praise for the fact that “Israel regularly sends humanitarian aid, search and rescue teams, mobile hospitals, and other emergency supplies to help victims of disasters around the world” and the ongoing, human-caused disaster in Gaza.

In the state Assembly, the nearly identical resolution passed without opposition, and 73 of 77 members (there are two vacancies and a suspension due to sexual harassment allegations) jumped on the co-sponsorship bandwagon when it came to the floor. More typically, there was no debate, but at least three members abstained out of discomfort – at least with the timing. (One disclosed this to me in a phone call. The others’ decisions were reported by staffers, but none was willing to speak publicly.)

Compared to such resolutions in the past, even minimal dissent felt satisfying. Well, better than nothing, anyway, but still a frustrating testament to the fear so many legislators clearly feel. It came on the heels of regular efforts by human rights advocates to oppose the drumbeat of legislation and resolutions pushed by Israel-aligned organizations in the Legislature, some of which have been more successful:

  • While a Senate resolution “On anti-Semitism” was rushed through with no opportunity for public input in the closing days of the 2017 session, a similar one in the Assembly was delayed for a committee hearing, then dropped by its author after opponents noted that contained false and dangerous “facts” and included code indicating support for penalizing boycotts of Israel.
  • California’s version of the wave of anti-boycott bills that coursed through statehouses in 2016 passed amid vehement opposition and only after being watered down to pretend it was about discrimination. There is nothing to enforce, but unsurprisingly, it is being cited, quite absurdly at times, in efforts to chill speech critical of Israel. And of course that was its real purpose.

In each of these instances, the introduction of shamefully anti-Palestinian legislation in California, win, lose or in between, provides opportunities to educate and build relationships with lawmakers, their staff and sometimes, media personnel. The same is true in other states and on the federal level. It’s a long haul, but in the process, support for Palestinian rights has become an inseparable part of the progressive agenda.

On May 15, a day after the embassy festival, Gaza massacre and Capitol pander, dozens of us stood broadcast our message to rush hour traffic a few blocks away at 16th and J streets in Sacramento, demanding an end to the killing and Palestinian freedom. The ratio of supportive honks and waves to hecklers was noticeably way up compared to past actions.

To me, the trajectory looks positive.

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Selected to Serve — May 28, 2018

Allow me to wish you a solemn Memorial Day as we show respect for those who died in active military service for our nation. Many volunteered to serve, but many were also selected to serve through the military draft.

Speaking of serving, many ask, “How do I put up with it in Sacramento?” I tell them that it is not easy to be in the super-minority. But, there are sources of encouragement. One is the potential of this year’s election efforts. The other is the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

So, after this year’s election skirmishes, what may the State Senate look like in December of this year? The odd numbered Senate Districts are not up this cycle, so expect to see Senators Gaines (SD 1), myself (SD 37), Morrell (SD 23), and Wilk (SD 21) there.

However, Sen. Gaines is running for the State Board of Equalization. If he is successful, we will need to replace him with a Republican. But, we only start with a definite three and possible four, if Sen. Gaines is not successful in his quest.

Let’s hope that Senators Bates (SD 36), Nguyen (SD 34), Nielsen (SD 4), Stone (SD 28), and Vidak (SD 14) are re-elected. That brings us to eight or nine.

We need to replace Sen. Anderson (SD 38), Berryhill (SD 8), Cannella (SD 12), and Fuller (SD 16), with Republicans, so good candidates are being supported by the Republican Caucus. This should bring us to twelve or thirteen.

If Sen. Gaines is successful and he is replaced by a Republican in a special election, we are at a definite thirteen.

If we can get Rita Topalian to fill Democratic Senator Tony Mendoza’s vacant seat (SD 32), then we are at the magic fourteen level. This means the Democrats will not have a two-thirds stronghold in the State Senate.

If the recall of Senator Newman (SD 29) is successful and we replace him with one of the Republican candidates, we’re at fifteen!

If Senator Galgiani (SD 5), who is running for another District seat on the State Board of Equalization, is successful, then we have a chance to replace her with a Republican. That gets the Republican Senate Caucus up to sixteen!

I would still be in the Minority Party, but not the Super-Minority, which provides for a more sporting chance to stop crazy bills and an opportunity for Republican bills to move forward by persuading two or more Democrats to vote with us. There is reason to feel some optimism and hope.

In the meantime, there are organizations in the Capital that provide moral support to me and my Republican colleagues. One of them is the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association (HJTA). This organization is worthy of your financial support, as it is one of the foremost nonprofits working on behalf of the taxpayers.

HJTA President Jon Coupal is a strong voice. He was kind to me in one of his weekly Sunday columns earlier this year (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Attaboy — January 22, 2018).

His most current column focuses on the lack of transparency in Sacramento when it comes to your tax dollars. For background, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Worked So Hard — May 19, 2018, MOORLACH UPDATE — The Joys of Presenting Bills — April 24, 2018 and MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1297 – COO — April 19, 2018.

Jon Coupal’s piece was published in the LA Daily News, The Sun, and the OC Register and is provided below.

At the end of last week, I was selected to serve again as one of the two Republican Senators on the annual Budget Conference Committee. I will be serving alongside Sen. Jim Nielsen (also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Budget Conference Committee — June 8, 2017). The Budget Conference Committee reconciles the Assembly and Senate Budget recommendations for approval by both Chambers and the Governor. This is a significant honor, but also a major time commitment. Consequently, I will be extremely busy between now and June 15th.

OPINION

Progressives love transparency except when they don’t

By JON COUPAL

https://www.dailynews.com/2018/05/26/progressives-love-transparency-except-when-they-dont/

https://www.dailynews.com/2018/05/26/progressives-love-transparency-except-when-they-dont/

https://www.ocregister.com/2018/05/26/progressives-love-transparency-except-when-they-dont/

We’ve all heard of “situational ethics.” This column is about “situational transparency,” a phenomenon among progressives who love transparency in matters of public policy, except when they hate it.

Let’s review the areas in which progressives support transparency: the salaries of CEOs, the race and gender of employees, the details of business supply chains” and, of course, extensive disclosures about campaign finance.

But in other matters, particularly relating to their own interests, the same people are flatly opposed to transparency. For example, progressives claim to desire disclosure of who pays for political advertising, and they backed legislation such as Assembly Bill 249, a burdensome mandate to add confusing content to political ads. It was so burdensome, in fact, that an exception was made for ads paid for by labor unions, major backers of progressive politicians.

Progressives also campaigned hard against Proposition 54, the California Legislative Transparency Act, which voters approved despite liberals’ complaints. Prop. 54 requires that bills must be posted online in their final form for at least three days before lawmakers can cast a final vote on them. Proposition 54, which the voters approved in 2016, also requires the Legislature to make video recordings of all public hearings, and it allows any member of the public to record a legislative hearing.

Another example of how those in power resist having the public see what they are doing involves public employee compensation. For years, government agencies and departments have resisted disclosing how much their managers and employees are paid in both salaries and benefits. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association had to file numerous lawsuits — or threaten lawsuits — to get local governments to disgorge the data. After prevailing in all those actions, compensation data is now available for public inspections — a healthy development in countering government entities that constantly plead poverty and demand higher taxes.

Perhaps the most glaring example of progressive hypocrisy when it comes to transparency is revealed by the defeat of Senate Bill 1074, authored by state Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, which would have provided California’s millions of motorists with valuable information about the price of gasoline. Titled “Motor Vehicle Fuel: Disclosure of Government-Imposed Costs,” SB1074 would have required gas stations to post near each pump a breakdown of all the different costs that go into the price per gallon of fuel, such as federal, state and local taxes and costs associated with environmental rules and regulations, including California’s hidden tax, the permit fees that fuel producers have to pay under the state’s infamous cap-and-trade law.

As you might expect, the progressives who control the state Legislature refused to provide the public with the true cost of government when it comes to driving our cars. The same folks who rail against the oil companies and who are quick to allege deep conspiracies about corporate profits have no interest in informing the public about government-imposed costs that dwarf the oil companies’ profit margin on a gallon of gas.

We can also expect them to oppose the government transparency that would be required by an initiative that recently met the signature requirement to qualify for the November ballot.

The Tax Fairness, Transparency and Accountability Act of 2018 would require that any law creating a new, increased or extended tax must contain “a specific and legally binding and enforceable limitation on how the revenue from the tax can be spent.”

Even if the tax revenue will be spent for “unrestricted general revenue purposes,” the law must say so.

California politicians often complain about “ballot-box budgeting” and requirements for voter approval before taxes can be raised. But progressives have earned a reputation for hiding the cost of their policies, and voters can’t be blamed for playing an aggressive defense.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — CA AG Reception Invitation — May 24, 2018

For me, this year’s June Primary has revolved around five major ballot items.

48th Congressional District –

The one receiving the most national attention has been the decision by Scott Baugh to challenge Dana Rohrabacher.

The OC Register covers this topic today. It can be seen at https://www.ocregister.com/2018/05/23/after-three-decades-in-congress-rohrabacher-faces-bare-knuckled-fight-for-political-life-from-democrats-and-gop-contender/. Since it draws on previous articles on this topic, I’ll pass on providing the entire article below.

To see my other ballot recommendations for the June Primary and a previous discussion on the Baugh/Rohrabacher battle, go to MOORLACH CAMPAIGN UPDATE — June Primary Antics — April 28, 2018.

Propositions 68 and 69 –

The next is the two Propositions 68 and 69 that have me garnering statewide attention. My last report on this subject can be found at MOORLACH UPDATE — Propositions 68 and 69 — May 18, 2018 , with my sincerest apologies for not including “CAMPAIGN” in the title.

I continue to receive multiple requests for interviews by radio stations and reporters from around the state. And, because I’m a signatory in opposition to these two ballot measures, I am mentioned in numerous articles due to the association, without an interview, as is the case in the four pieces below.

The Daily Press, in the first piece below, provides a column on the five ballot measures and recommendations, of which I agree 80%, disagreeing on Proposition 70, which I oppose. If you live in San Bernardino County, you’ll appreciate the author’s perspectives.

KTLA Channel 5 provides a voter guide in the second piece below, but I only include the first two propositions.

The Sierra Sun provides a lopsided perspective on Proposition 68 in the third piece below.

The Acorn also shows the allure of localities being the recipients of the bond’s proceeds and is the fourth piece below.

The Newspaper.com provides an overall analysis of the gas tax repeal efforts in the fifth piece below, with the potential non-necessity of Proposition 69 by the time the November ballots are cast.

With the minimal campaign activity on these two ballot measures, with just the Secretary of State’s pamphlet and these few news articles, I would find it a personal victory if the “no” vote on Proposition 68 is higher than 40 percent and higher than 30 percent on Proposition 69.

California Attorney General Reception –

The fourth is the statewide candidates. In this regard, I want you to meet the Republican candidate for Attorney General. I can give you a list of more than thirty reasons why this state needs a new AG.

I am hosting a reception for Judge Steven Bailey (Retired) in Orange County on June 1st, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the law offices of Cummins and White, 2424 S. E. Bristol, Suite 300, Newport Beach. There is no charge to attend, but bring your checkbooks, please. Please RSVP to Danielle@BaileyForAG.com.

Governor –

The fifth is the race for Governor. I have stayed neutral. I enjoy a relationship with both of the two main Republican candidates. I have always advised that, in a top-two system, only one Republican should be running in this field. The polling has consistently shown John Cox obtaining double the support of that garnered by Assemblyman Travis Allen. And President Trump has endorsed Cox.

For the sake of the Republican Party, it may be time for the Assemblyman to bow out and endorse John Cox. If this is not done, I believe that we will see Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as the top two.

BONUS: Remember to attend the reception on June 1st and to vote on June 5th.

Fewer propositions but lots of candidates for California voters to wade through

By RICHARD REEB

http://www.vvdailypress.com/news/20180523/fewer-propositions-but-lots-of-candidates-for-california-voters-to-wade-through

The unexpected effect of the incumbent-protecting top two nominating process was an explosion in the number of candidates, many Democrats and Republicans, quite a few Nones (17) and a scattering of third party hopefuls. So let’s take care of the unusually small number of legislatively sponsored ballot measures (five) first.

Whatever the merits of the three constitutional amendments and two statutes, note well that in all about two, the Assembly and the Senate were sharply divided. For example, supporters of Propositions 68 and 70 claim “bipartisan support,” but the truth is that the 40-member Senate split 27-9 and the 80-member Assembly 56-21 on the first and 27-13 and 59-11 on the second. At best, some Republicans voted for these measures but not many. Even Proposition 69 barely squeaked by 29-10 and 56-24 in the two houses. Remember, Democrats have huge majorities in both houses.

By massive contrast, Proposition 71 was backed 40-0 and 78-0, and 72 by 39-0 and 76-0. But whatever the support or lack of it for these measures, we must consider them on the merits.

Proposition 68 is a grab bag bond measure with a big price tag for a multitude of “park, natural resources protection, climate adaptation, water quality and supply and flood protection” fixes — who could oppose that? Certainly not the California Chamber of Commerce. But it comes with a price tag of $4 billion and a 40-year payment period the interest of which will double the cost. As State Sen. John Moorlach argues, California already leads all other states in total indebtedness at $169 billion. Vote NO.

Proposition 69 piously promises to donate all revenues from a 2017 “transportation funding law” to transportation needs. But there are at least two difficulties. Money previously so dedicated prior to 2017 was not spent on transportation, and the current measure includes monies for unwanted high speed rail, bike lanes and protecting habitat. Vote NO.

Proposition 70 has won some favorable reviews because it requires a super-majority of two-thirds in both houses of the state legislature to maintain the state’s cap and trade program, which rewards industries for reducing carbon dioxide emissions. Here the opposing argument claims that “many Democrats and Republicans opposed putting Proposition on the ballot because it’s a bad deal for California.” That’s not quite true, at least in the State Senate, while proponents make the opposite claim.

Environmentalists are doubtless cool to the super-majority requirement which suits the Chamber of Commerce Just fine. Vote YES.

Proposition 71, which would make ballot measures effective whenever the definitive vote count is established, is headed for victory owing to its unanimous legislative support. With mail-in and absentee ballots coming in after election day, this precaution makes sense. Vote YES.

Proposition 72′s unanimous support derives from its relief from taxation of anyone who, at their own expense, adds rain-capture systems to conserve water. This is a no-brainer. Vote YES.

Now to wade through the multiple candidates for 12 state offices. Democrats and Republicans are scanning the many names looking for someone they recognize and/or they believe can be nominated and elected. Democrats, not surprisingly, have more prominent names than Republicans, particularly for Governor (Gavin Newsome, Antonio Villaraigosa, Diane Eastin, John Chiang), and the two most prominent Republicans are John Cox and Travis Allen. Cox is endorsed by Newt Gingrich, while Allen is endorsed by several state organizations, yet the latter’s campaign fliers have him endorsing several Democrats for other offices. I’ll go with Newt.

Democrat Dianne Feinstein, the four-term incumbent U.S. Senator, is challenged by state Senator Kevin De Leon. Both Republican hopefuls are pushing Arkun K. Bhumitra, but Tom Palzer got my attention with his determination to end the top-two nomination system.

Both Cox and Allen are endorsing Republican Cole Harris for Lieutenant Governor and Steven Poizner for Insurance Commissioner (officially None but actually Republican) on their fliers, while Allen is supporting Democrats Ed Hernandez for Lt. Governor and Dave Jones for Attorney General on other fliers! Go figure! Democrat Eleni Kounalakis is advertising an openly open immigration position in her bid for the No. 2 spot.

Democrat Betty Yee will be hard to beat for Controller, but Republican Konstantinos Roditis will probably face her in November.

Otherwise, likely Republican nominees are Mark Meuser for Secretary of State, Greg Conlon for Treasurer, Steven Bailey for Attorney General, Connie Conway for Board of Equalization and Shannon Grove for State Senate. Marshall Tuck is endorsed by both Democrats and Republican leaders for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

San Bernardino County Judge Arthur Harrison, District Attorney Mike Ramos and appointed Auditor-Controller-Treasurer Oscar Valdez will likely face November runoffs.

Of course, no one really knows who will wind up on the ballot in November, but the incumbents are hoping it’s them — again.

Richard Reeb taught political science, philosophy and journalism at Barstow Community College from 1970 to 2003. He is the author of “Taking Journalism Seriously: ‘Objectivity’ as a Partisan Cause” (University Press of America, 1999). He can be contacted at rhreeb

 

 

California Primary: A Simple Guide to the 5 Statewide Measures on the June 5 Ballot

BY KRISTINA BRAVO

http://ktla.com/2018/05/23/california-primary-a-simple-guide-to-the-5-statewide-measures-on-the-june-5-ballot/

In this file image, voters cast their ballots at a polling station in Alhambra on Nov. 4, 2014. (Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

In this file image, voters cast their ballots at a polling station in Alhambra on Nov. 4, 2014. (Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)

The state primary election is on June 5. In addition to selecting their top choices for governor, U.S. senator, members of Congress and other local offices, California voters will get to decide on these five statewide measures:

Proposition 68: Bonds for parks, the environment

Voting “yes” means the authorization of $4.1 billion in general obligation bonds (state debt) to fund parks, natural resources protection, climate adaptation and water infrastructure.

The measure would help pay for projects to maintain forests, rivers, coastal habitats and other natural and recreational areas; finance equipment to remove pollutants from water supplies; and fund levees to protect communities during floods and storms.

On top of the $4.1 billion, the bonds would mean repaying $3.8 billion in interest, according to a state analysis. That means an average repayment cost of around $200 million every year over the next four decades, or about a fifth of a percent of California’s current general fund budget, according to the analysis.

Voting “no” opposes the authorization of the bonds to fund local and state parks, natural resource conservation and water infrastructure.

The Los Angeles Times’ editorial board calls Proposition 68 a “sound investment,” while The Orange County Register says it would leave the state with “unnecessary debt.”

Proposition 69: Spending for roads, transit

Voting “yes” supports a state constitutional amendment requiring lawmakers to continue spending revenues from recently enacted vehicle fees and fuel tax on transportation purposes only.

Voting “no” means lawmakers could in the future spend some of those revenues on purposes other than transportation.

State Sen. John Moorlach and Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, both Republicans, oppose Prop 69. “A portion of money protected by Proposition 69 is for transit, which is NOT fixing our roads,” they say in a statement in the state’s voter guide.

Ballotpedia says it could not find any editorial boards against the measure and cited support from the L.A. Times, The Desert Sun and other publications.

“If that reassurance seems unnecessary, it’s because anti-tax opponents are readying a repeal of the gas tax …” says the San Francisco Chronicle in its editorial. California Republicans are seeking to put a proposed repeal of the 2017 gas tax increase on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

Voters to decide on $4 billion bond to fund clean parks and water conservation

Hannah Jones
hjones

https://www.sierrasun.com/news/local/voters-to-decide-on-4-billion-bond-to-fund-clean-parks-and-water-conservation/

On June 5 voters have a chance to secure $4 billion in general obligation bonds, to go towards park maintenance, environmental protection projects and clean water conservation.

If passed, Proposition 68 will be the largest statewide investment into outdoor conservation and restoration projects since 2006. Since that time California’s population has grown from 36 million to 39.5 million, leading environmental groups to fight for the protection of natural resources.

“The reason why these bonds are so necessary is because we can see that our region is changing,” said Chris Mertens, Sierra Business Council government affairs director.

“There’s dying trees, there’s more forest fires, extreme weather events. This bond will help give our region the tools we need to build a more resilient community. It provides and unprecedented amount of funding to protecting our community.”

SUPPORT IN THE SIERRA

Several environmental groups in the Tahoe region have endorsed the measure including the Sierra Business Council, Keep Tahoe Blue and the Truckee Donner Land Trust, voicing concerns about the future of Lake Tahoe and the natural resources it provides.

More than 60 percent of California’s water supply comes from the Sierra Nevada. Under Proposition 68, the California Tahoe Conservancy would receive $27 million. In addition to these funds, the Water Supply and Quality Act, scheduled for the Nov. 6 election would supply $100 million to the region.

“Our parks continues to get more and more visitors and the population is growing, so having money dedicated to protecting those resources in vital to this area,” said Darcie Goodman Collins, executive director of Keep Tahoe Blue. Collins said that because most state funding for such projects is competitive among other regions, the $27 million secured through Proposition 68 will “allow that certainty that we can start projects we know we can finish them,” she said.

‘WRONG WAY,’ OPPONENTS SAY

OPPOSITION TO THE MEASURE COMES MAINLY FROM TAXPAYERS WHO BELIEVE THE MEASURE WILL ONLY PLUNGE THE STATE FURTHER INTO DEBT.

“We need to protect and improve our state parks, but Proposition 68 is the wrong way to do that,” Andrea Seastrand, President of the Central Coast Taxpayers Association, said in a California official voter information guide. She argued that only $1.3 million will actually go towards parks and that the money will not be distributed equally throughout the state.

State Sen. John Moorlach, who represents most of Orange County, opposed the measure arguing against even higher taxes. In an op-ed for the Sacramento Bee, he cited data from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office reporting that taxpayers would owe $200 million a year for 40 years from the state’s general fund if the measure were to pass.

“That means not just our children, but our grandchildren will be paying it off,” he said.

IF APPROVED

Prop. 68 funding would be provided in three main categories, with about two- thirds going to parks and wildlife, and one-third going towards water conservation and flood protection. According to the Proposition 68 website, the money will be allocated as follows.

Water conservation

$540 million to ensure clean drinking water

$180 million to groundwater cleanup and water recycling

$550 million to flood protection

$367 million to rivers, lakes, and streams protection and restoration

Parks and recreation

$725 million to neighborhood parks in greatest need of restoration

$285 million to safer and cleaner park facilities in cities, counties, and local park districts

$218 million to repair and improve state parks

$95 million to promote recreation and tourism

Natural Resources

$765 million for conserving and protecting natural areas

$235 million to protect beaches, oceans and the coast

$140 million for climate change resiliency

Statewide, there are 280 state parks which all have a maintenance backlog estimate at $1.2 billion. In the 1980s, California State Parks began to put off maintenance on basic repair projects such as bathrooms, rooftops, fences and trails due to underfunding of the state park’s budget. With deferred maintenance from the past three decades, some of the measure’s money will go towards reducing that backlog.

The last parks bond that was passed was Proposition 84, which gave $5.4 billion in funding to water and flood control projects and park restoration.

Hannah Jones is a reporter for the Truckee Sun. She can be reached at hjones or 503-550-2652.

image23

 

Group hopes Prop. 68 funds can

save rural Agoura site from

development

By Stephanie Bertholdo
sberth

https://www.toacorn.com/articles/group-hopes-prop-68-funds-can-save-rural-agoura-site-from-development/

https://www.theacorn.com/articles/triangle-ranch-group-eyes-prop-68-funds/

The movement to protect Triangle Ranch in rural Agoura as open space has gained traction with the purchase of at least a portion of the property by local environmental groups.

But the status of the 320-acre ranch near Kanan and Cornell roads still remains up in the air, and its fate could be decided by voters in the June 5 election.

The first of four Triangle Ranch parcels have been bought and will remain undeveloped.

Paul Edelman, planning chief for the Mountains Restoration and Conservation Authority and the Santa Mountains Conservancy, said his agencies bought the land in March for $5.85 million from Sage Live Oak of Newport Beach. The cost included a $95,000 option to buy the entire property.

If money is not raised to acquire phases two through four, the Newport developer could move forward with its plans to build 61 custom homes at the ranch.

The conservancy gave a $2-million grant to the MRCA to buy the land for open space. Another $2.5 million came from Los Angeles County park funds. The Agoura Hills-based Hilton Foundation contributed another $50,000 toward the purchase.

Although more money is owed, Edelman feels the deal is finalized.

Other agencies and the City of Agoura Hills may contribute to the purchase—and if Prop. 68, a $4-billion statewide bond measure targeted for parks, environment and water issues, passes in next month’s election, even more funds could become available.

A part of the bond revenue— about $725 million— would be earmarked for construction of neighborhood parks in lower income areas.

Triangle Ranch lies in an unincorporated part of Los Angeles County, and the county could hold sway over how the money is actually spent.

Colleen Holmes, president of Cornell Preservation Organization, is hopeful the bond measure will pass.

“We still have some hills to climb to finish the funding of Triangle (Ranch), but we are optimistic now,” she said.

“If Prop. 68 is passed, we will get all the funding and it will close out by fall,” she said.

Holmes hopes that part of the Triangle property will be dedicated for a Chumash Educational Village to honor the Native Americans who originally occupied the land.

The City of Agoura Hills was approached late last year by Edelman and other agency leaders interested in preserving the land as open space.

The city was asked to contribute $2 million toward the purchase even though the land lies outside the boundaries of Agoura Hills.

Proponents of the project say that the city’s motto—Gateway to the Santa Monica Mountains— should serve as justification for the expenditure.

“We are all waiting to see what happens regarding Prop. 68,” Agoura Hills Mayor Bill Koehler said.

Opponents are worried and say the Prop. 68 bonds must be paid even if another economic recession should strike California and revenues dip.

“Bond measures are deceptive. You think you’re voting for something good. But, it will take approximately $8 billion to pay off the $4 billion of borrowed funds,” state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) said in his ballot statement against Prop. 68.

“That means you can expect a tax increase.”

The opponents say California’s fiscal managers aren’t to be trusted and point to the 2012 scandal in which the state Department of Parks and Recreation threatened to close 70 parks, saying it didn’t have the money to keep them open, when an audit proved otherwise.

California Gas Tax Repeal Efforts Heats Up
California poised to vote on ballot measure to repeal $54 billion in taxes on motorists.

https://www.thenewspaper.com/news/64/6469.asp

Bicycle laneElection officials are sampling signatures in the effort to roll back a massive hike in California’s tax on gasoline. Earlier this month, supporters of the proposed constitutional amendment repealing the gas tax increase submitted over 940,000 signatures — well more than the 585,407 required for a place on the November ballot.

Last year, the legislature boosted the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon and raised the annual vehicle registration fee to a maximum of $175 per year. The changes were expected to generate $54 billion in revenue over a decade. In response, Republican lawmakers circulated a ballot measure reversing the legislature’s move.

“California’s taxes on gasoline and car ownership are among the highest in the nation,” the proposal explains. “These taxes have been raised without the consent of the people. Therefore, the people hereby amend the constitution to require voter approval of the recent increase in the gas and car tax enacted by Chapter 5 of the statutes of 2017 and any future increases in the gas and car tax.”

A simple majority vote would be required to raise taxes in the future. The Public Policy Institute of California earlier this year found public support for the measure was evenly split, with 61 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of independents in favor of the amendment, but 56 percent of Democrats against the idea.

Supporters of the gas tax hike insist the funds are needed to “fix the roads,” but a large percentage of motorist funds are being diverted toward transit projects. Bus projects will receive $3.5 billion. Light rail projects will take another $3 billion.

This year, Los Angeles is getting a $525 million light rail station and bicycle hub. Orange County is getting $365 million for five hydrogen-powered buses and bicycle paths in Tustin. Sacramento is getting $452 million for HOV lanes and light rail. San Mateo is spending $570 million to turn existing freeway lanes into toll roads. Santa Barbara will get $17 million for bicycle lanes.

In June, California voters will consider Proposition 69, which would prohibit the legislature from transferring motorist funds into the general fund. Motorist funds would still be diverted toward non-motoring-related transit projects.

“How insulting can a ballot proposition be?” state Senator John M.W. Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) asked. “Last year, a two-thirds majority of state legislators voted for a gas tax and vehicle fee increase for transportation improvements. And now they are asking you to tell them to only spend the money on that intended purpose?”

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — False Claims Victory — April 6, 2018

The OC Register piece below proves that sometimes justice does prevail.

I was the Chair of the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 2012 when I dealt with sexual harassment concerns of a very significant nature. A by-product was a nuisance suit filed by a former County senior executive.

Then-CEO Tom Mauk elected to handle the Bustamante matter in a unique way, by quietly asking the perpetrator to leave with the incentive of a severance package and the hope of keeping everything quite, which backfired. Consequently, Mauk and two of his key managers, an Assistant CEO and a Department Head, were shown the door.

I had informed Tom Mauk for more than a year he had a problem Assistant CEO in Alisa Drakodaidis. An investigatory report I requested would prove my concerns. Her management style was atrocious and would end up costing the County significantly. Then, when the Bustamante scandal finally broke, she claimed that she was all over it. But, as a manager she failed to inform the County’s EEO Officer. And, claiming that she informed me was untrue. With these inaccurate claims and missteps, she sued the County.

It is a relief a jury concurred with my recollection of events, which were chronicled in my UPDATEs. For a little history on the plaintiff and the turmoil that I enjoyed five years ago, here are a few links to my UPDATEs that covered the matter in a factual way over that time period. I’ve provided the three most important UPDATEs first, with related ones following:

MOORLACH UPDATE — Covered California — October 2, 2013

MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Rings — April 24, 2013

MOORLACH UPDATE — Newport Beach-CdM Patch — July 24, 2012

MOORLACH UPDATE — Laws, Contracts and Costs — July 17, 2014

MOORLACH UPDATE — Walter D. Ehlers Day — May 7, 2014

MOORLACH UPDATE — Hiking High — May 2, 2013

MOORLACH UPDATE — Hall of Administration — October 8, 2012

MOORLACH UPDATE — Passion and Punches — September 21, 2012

MOORLACH UPDATE — LA Times — July 28, 2012

MOORLACH UPDATE — OC CEO — July 27, 2012

MOORLACH UPDATE — Harbor Patrol — December 12, 2009

If you have the time to read all of these historical links, you’ll conclude that the court ruling was the appropriate one. You’ll also enjoy going down memory lane on various topics impacting the County of Orange at that time.

It’s nice to have closure on this sad chapter in OC history. I now have the ability to share what I’ve learned with my colleagues in Sacramento, as I now serve on the Joint Committee on Rules – Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response. The Capitol, like the Hall of Administration, is not immune from human failure. Fortunately, policy changes made at the County have seen no repeat incidents. Let’s see if we can repeat this accomplishment under the Dome.

BONUS: Allow me to provide an update on five of my bills (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 1463 Redux — March 30, 2018). This week, SB 1159 and SB 1363 were approved in Committee. SB 1344, SB 1368, and SCA 16 were killed by the Senate Education Committee on a party line vote. I have no bills to present to committees next week, but will have two to present the following week (more on that later).

Former boss of ex-Santa Ana City Councilman Carlos Bustamante loses wrongful termination suit

By kpuente

https://www.ocregister.com/2018/04/05/former-boss-of-ex-santa-ana-city-councilman-carlos-bustamante-loses-wrongful-termination-suit/

A former Orange County Deputy CEO, who was one of three top executives forced out after a bungled sexual harassment investigation, lost her wrongful termination lawsuit against the county on Thursday.

In her lawsuit, Alisa Drakodaidis, the former boss of ex-Santa Ana city councilman and county administrator Carlos Bustamante, who was convicted of sexual harassment-related charges, claimed that she was terminated due to gender discrimination or whistle-blowing.

However, a jury on Thursday unanimously rejected the gender discrimination claim, and voted 10-1 in favor of the county on the wrongful termination and whistle-blower retaliation claim.

The jurors told lawyers in the case that they felt Drakodaidis was treated unfairly, but that county supervisors did not break the law when they fired her.

Drakodaidis filed a $10 million damage claim against the county in 2013 alleging she was fired for reporting on several legal and ethical irregularities in the county.

Among the claims, Drakodaidis said she forwarded a sexual harassment complaint against Bustamante, who was then Public Works executive manager, to then board Chairman John Moorlach in 2008 – three years before the allegations against Bustamante became public.

Moorlach later denied that he received a complaint about Bustamante from Drakodaidis in 2008 and said the county Human Resources Department did not either.

Bustamante, once a rising Republican star, was arrested in 2012 after seven female subordinates at his county job accused him of making unwanted sexual advances. He pleaded guilty in 2015 to multiple sex-related charges and was sentenced to one year in jail and lifetime sex offender registration.

– City News Service contributed to this report

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach

MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Press Release — March 29, 2018

So a County Supervisor calls a State Senator and makes an inquiry. The Senator meets with a couple of colleagues for suggestions before the Spring Break. The Supervisor issues a press release to announce the exchange on his inquiry.

There is no plan. There is no intent. There is only an inquiry about a state facility that is in the process of closing.

This was the justification for a special city council meeting? A press release? I get NIMBYism. I get fear of the unknown. I get change.

But, holding a meeting about nothing?

I’ve provided a podcast on this topic, expressing my hopes that Judge David Carter finds the wisdom to come up with a solution to the stir he has created at
https://soundcloud.com/senator-john-moorlach/costa-mesa-let-cooler-heads-prevail/s-VsAIx.

For television reports on last evening’s meeting, go to http://www.foxla.com/news/local-news/costa-mesa-city-council-discuss-heated-issue-of-housing-the-homeless and http://abc7.com/news/3276564/.

Since I have been having fun this week with CBS 2/KCAL 9, I’ve provided their report in the first piece below. It can be seen at http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2018/03/28/costa-mesa-orange-county-homeless-fairview-council/.

Again, I did not float a “plan.” If anyone has something in mind, it’s Judge David Carter, who mentioned Fairview during his hearing of March 17. Don’t lose your focus. I responded to a fair and honest inquiry.

The OC Register and the Daily Pilot provide perspectives following the meeting in the next two pieces. And if that is not enough on this subject, My News LA also provides a pre-meeting thorough analysis in the fourth piece below.

BONUS: There are other topics to discuss. Tomorrow’s UPDATE will cover the one that is being tweeted today by CalMatters at the conclusion below.

OC Homeless: Costa Mesa

Gets Their Turn To Say, ‘Not

In My Backyard’

http://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2018/03/28/costa-mesa-orange-county-homeless-fairview-council/

COSTA MESA (CBSLA) — A fired up crowd in Costa Mesa let city leaders have it Wednesday, the latest town to sound off on plans that could involve their community taking in dozens of homeless people recently displaced from an Orange County riverbed.

Costa Mesa is the latest city in a growing list of municipalities caught up in an ongoing saga of where to put hundreds of transients who had been living along a stretch of river going from Santa Ana to Anaheim.

Earlier this week, Orange County supervisors rescinded a plan that would have housed some homeless in tents in the cities of Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel after complaints from residents.

Another plan that was floated by State Sen. John Moorlach involved turning the soon-to-be shuttered Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa into housing for about 100 homeless people. That did not sit well with residents there.

Wednesday’s meeting came about after O.C. Supervisor Shawn Nelson seemed to go along with Moorlach’s proposed plan. At the meeting, a spokesman for Nelson backpedaled the earlier statement, saying the supervisor was not suggesting Fairview as an option, but that the city council should decide.

At least one woman at the meeting voiced her approval for the plan, but the majority of folks present balked at the idea.

“I am disappointed in what you have done to our city, and my silence stops now,” one woman told the Costa Mesa City Council. “I have trusted you. You have let me down continuously. Vote no on this, get the sober living homes out of my city and turn it back to what it was,” the woman continued to thunderous applause at the emergency meeting inside the Costa Mesa Senior Center.

Some residents tie the seemingly untenable homeless crisis in the area to the explosion of sober living facilities.

“We have to call it what it is. It’s not a homeless problem, it’s an addict problem, and until we treat it as such, it’s not gonna go away,” one man told the council.

“I can tell you in my neighborhood it is commonplace for us to witness all kinds of measures, including the sober living folks among the homeless, exposing themselves to, literally, women and children, used syringes and literally shooting up,” another man echoed.

The city council voted unanimously against the Fairview proposal.

Costa Mesa is opposing proposal for homeless shelter at Fairview Developmental Center

By TOMOYA SHIMURA

https://www.ocregister.com/2018/03/28/costa-mesa-is-opposing-proposal-for-homeless-shelter-at-fairview-developmental-center/

COSTA MESA — About 300 people showed at a special City Council meeting Wednesday, March 28, to discuss a proposal to turn the state-run Fairview Developmental Center into an emergency homeless shelter.

The meeting continued into the evening with more than 50 people speaking on the plan proposed by Orange County Supervisor Shawn Nelson and state Sen. John Moorlach. The council decided after about three hours to oppose the plan.

“It’s our residents, it’s our businesses that are going to be affected,” Mayor Sandra Genis said.

Most of the speakers opposed the plan, saying they already suffer from homeless problems and an abundance of sober living homes in Costa Mesa and they don’t want to turn their community into a Skid Row.

Some, however, said the city should do more to help the unfortunate, and housing homeless people is a good use of Fairview, which is set to close in 2021.

Nelson’s proposal is in response to U.S. District Judge David O. Carter’s demand for the county to find appropriate shelter for what could be a few hundred homeless people. Carter is overseeing a civil rights lawsuit filed by homeless people against the county.

The county board proposed creating tent cities in Irvine, Laguna Niguel and Huntington Beach to house 400 homeless people, but supervisors quickly rescinded the idea Tuesday after public backlash.

“Partnering with state Sen. Moorlach provides an additional boost and momentum to establish another temporary transitional homeless shelter for the county’s homeless population,” Nelson said in a press release announcing the plan.

City officials criticized Nelson for not reaching out to them before issuing the news release on Friday, March 23. Nelson, whose district doesn’t include Costa Mesa, wasn’t present at Wednesday’s meeting.

Supervisor Michele Steele, whose district includes Costa Mesa, didn’t make the meeting either, but her representatives said she opposes Nelson’s plan.

City Manager Tom Hatch said Costa Mesa already does more than its share to help the homeless. The city has hired several employees to work with the homeless and spends more than $1 million a year to support them, Hatch said.

Costa Mesa council opposes using Fairview Developmental Center as emergency homeless shelter

By LUKE MONEY

http://www.latimes.com/socal/daily-pilot/news/tn-dpt-me-cm-fairview-meeting-20180329-story.html

Less than a week after a proposal from an Orange County supervisor and a state senator sent shock waves through the community, Costa Mesa City Council members voiced unanimous disapproval of using the local Fairview Developmental Center as an emergency homeless shelter.

In front of a fuming crowd of more than 300 on Wednesday evening at the Costa Mesa Senior Center, council members said they think the city is already doing more than its fair share to provide services and resources to the homeless and that other cities — as well as the county — need to step up to the plate.

“It’s time for our supervisors, our county, our federal and state officials to demand that the rest of the county cities start participating in taking care of the homeless that live in their communities and not taking them to Santa Ana or to Costa Mesa or to Tustin,” Councilwoman Katrina Foley said. “It is important that we all participate and, if we all participate and we do our fair share, it’s a lot less of a burden and impact on every community.”

Of the dozens of residents who spoke at the special council meeting, most opposed the idea, saying they were concerned that developing a shelter at Fairview would jeopardize public safety, reduce property values and unduly burden the city.

Not everyone was against the concept, however. Some said the 114-acre property at 2501 Harbor Blvd. could be an important cog in a regional strategy to tackle homelessness.

On Friday, Supervisor Shawn Nelson issued a news release announcing that he and state Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) were looking into the potential for using the state-owned Fairview site as an emergency homeless shelter.

The release also raised the possibility of “centralizing temporary housing and basic services for the homeless” at the developmental center, which opened in 1959. It currently provides services and housing to 133 people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, according to the California Department of Developmental Services.

But in its resolution of opposition, the City Council called that a “regrettably rushed” idea proposed “without any public input or concern for local impacts.”

“This is land in the middle of the city; it’s governed by our general plan,” Mayor Sandy Genis said. “It’s our police that are going to be responding … it’s our paramedics that are going to be responding. It’s our residents, it’s our businesses that are going to be affected, and we can’t have the county just throwing that out there.”

Neither Nelson nor anyone from his office appeared to be at Wednesday’s meeting — a fact that didn’t go unnoticed among those in attendance.

“I hope that all of you will collectively address this spineless supervisor that essentially threw this grenade into a crowded room and couldn’t even bothered to show up to defend what he’s proposing,” resident Sue Lester said.

However, county Executive Officer Frank Kim told the council that he spoke with Nelson’s office Wednesday and was told “they do not support the use of the site without the cooperation of the council and input from the community.”

Nelson’s office could not be immediately reached for comment Thursday morning.

Kim also conveyed a message to the council from Supervisor Michelle Steel — whose district includes Costa Mesa — that “her office absolutely does not support the use of Fairview for [a] homeless shelter” and “the long-term use of that site should be discussed and worked out in collaboration with the city.”

Supervisor Todd Spitzer said during Wednesday’s meeting that he was “dismayed that somebody would put this into the public arena in such an irresponsible fashion” and is “terribly, terribly sorry that any respectable elected official would put something this derelict and dangerous into the community … without any input whatsoever.”

“To combine that in light of what happened last week in Orange County was beyond the pale to me,” he said, referring to the Board of Supervisors’ vote to develop temporary homeless shelters on county land in Huntington Beach, Irvine and Laguna Niguel. Supervisors scuttled that plan Tuesday in the face of opposition from residents and threats of litigation from the cities.

Like similar facilities around California, Fairview is scheduled to close as part of an effort to transition people out of institutional-style centers and into smaller accommodations that are more integrated into communities.

The goal is to move the center’s remaining residents to other living options by 2019, according to the state.

luke.money

Costa Mesa Objects to Proposal for Homeless Shelter

https://mynewsla.com/orange-county/2018/03/28/costa-mesa-objects-to-proposal-for-homeless-shelter/

A proposal to use a state-operated center for the developmentally disabled in Costa Mesa to house the area’s homeless was blasted Wednesday by city leaders.

“The Board of Supervisors are trying to shirk their own responsibility by putting the burden on the cities that are already doing more than their fair share on homelessness in Orange County,” said Costa Mesa Councilwoman Katrina Foley. “It was irresponsible of Supervisor (Shawn) Nelson to just throw out this idea of putting a tent city at Fairview Developmental Center. He clearly doesn’t understand the clientele that currently lives there.”

Nelson shot back, “That is an ignorant statement,” saying he never proposed erecting large tents to house transients at the site.

The scrum erupted a day after Orange County supervisors withdrew plans to consider “sprung structures,” which are large tent-like facilities that posh hotels often use to handle overflow from ballrooms at weddings and other special events, to house the homeless.

County officials earlier this month asked staff to look into the feasibility of using tents in Irvine, Huntington Beach and Laguna Niguel for emergency shelter for transients moved off the Santa Ana riverbed and at the Plaza of the Flags next to the Central Justice Center courthouse in Santa Ana. If the sites were viable, then county officials were going to negotiate terms with the cities.

Leaders in the three cities, however, immediately erupted with outrage and vowed to sue, prompting the county to back down.

Nelson said Costa Mesa officials’ worries about the Fairview site were premature, though he conceded that he asked Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, to ask state officials if it was possible to house transients there. State officials have plans to close the facility by 2020.

“We don’t have a plan, tent, balloon, nothing,” he said. “They have dorms there and we thought, hey, is there any scenario, is there any way we can use it.”

The idea originated at a March 17 court hearing presided over by U.S. District Judge David O. Carter, who is overseeing a lawsuit that led to a settlement in which transients were recently moved out of encampments along the riverbed into motels. Those motel stays were expected to be completed Wednesday with all of the transients wishing further services housed elsewhere.

Carter has since turned his attention to clearing out the encampments in Santa Ana’s civic center area next to the courthouse.

Nelson complained that any suggestion of operating emergency shelters anywhere in the county is met immediately with opposition from “NIMBYs.”

“Everyone thinks we should do something about the homeless, but no one wants the beds,” Nelson said. “Meanwhile, Santa Ana and Anaheim have been shouldering this for years. It’s unfortunate, but you get this visceral reaction which makes it really difficult to have a conversation because the entire conversation is spent defusing false narratives.”

The Fairview center has dormitory housing and not all of the beds are being used, Nelson said.

Foley accused county officials of hoarding grant money that could have been spent on the homeless for years.

“Maybe they need to use the millions of dollars at their disposal” to address the issue, she said.

Last year, Foley said city officials asked for funding from the county for homeless housing “and they came up with a whole bunch of excuses how we can’t get the funding.”

Carter, Foley noted, showed county officials recently that the county has $70.5 million available to provide housing for mentally ill transients. Supervisor Todd Spitzer recently criticized county staff for assuring the board the money wasn’t available for homeless housing.

“In three years, we’ve placed 53 residents into permanent supportive housing,” Foley said. “We’re now serving more than 150 (transients) so we’re doing our fair share and then some.”

Councilman Jim Righeimer agreed.

“The citizens of Costa Mesa are doing more than their fair share to handle the homeless issue for the county, and for the county to think now they can dump the homeless problem on us is not right,” Righeimer said.

Righeimer and Foley criticized Nelson for issuing a news release on the Fairview proposal before contacting Costa Mesa officials.

“They didn’t come to us,” Righeimer said. “I found out about it in a PR release on a Friday night. (Supervisor) Michelle Steel didn’t even know about it, and it’s in her district.”

Nelson said the county is not hoarding its funding for the homeless. He said the county has devoted $193 million to projects supporting the homeless.

“There was no chipmunking,” Nelson said.

It’s true that county officials did not immediately make use of the funding as it came in.

“Too conservative? Maybe, fair enough,” Nelson said. “But we’re certainly spending that built-up reserve and spending more than we’re taking in now.”

In related news, Spitzer and Irvine Mayor Don Wagner announced Wednesday afternoon that they are pursuing “fast-track opportunities for veterans and women’s permanent housing at the county-owned West Alton parcel” at Irvine Boulevard and Alton Parkway.

County officials have plans to develop the property for residences for seniors and multiple-family housing. Wagner and Spitzer want to tweak the plan to include permanent housing for veterans and abused women.

Wagner and Spitzer intend to tell Carter about the plan at the next court hearing Tuesday, where he will discuss his plans to move transients out of the Santa Ana civic center.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Measure It, Improve It — March 14, 2018

To borrow a now famous quote from management guru Peter Drucker (whom I had the pleasure to hear speak a couple of times): “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

So, taking the “Governmental Activities” column from the Basic Financial Statements in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) of our County’s cities and dividing one key number by the city’s population, we provide a metric for success. It has been a goal I focused on while serving as a County Supervisor. The higher the resulting metric, the better the status of the balance sheet. The lower, the more that fiscal improvements need to be pursued.

As the numbers are based on objective data from the audited financial statements and the city’s published population, we have a clean metric. Consequently, I’m not trying to be combative or confrontational, as the metric is a tool and nonemotional.

As my home city is in last place, it shows that this tool picks no favorites. But, it shows that city councils and citizens need to focus on improving their balance sheets. And this task is being faced by cities across the state, especially with defined benefit pension plan contribution rates rising.

Many cities are having the necessary tough discussions. The city of Escondido has had transparent meetings on addressing its current fiscal climate (see https://www.escondido.org/Data/Sites/1/media/PDFs/CalPERS/NewCalPERSPensionFundingWorkshop9.27.17.pdf and https://www.escondido.org/Data/Sites/1/media/PDFs/CalPERSUnfundedLiability/09.27.17SRUnfundedLiabilities.pdf). These discussions are becoming the norm.

The goal for this exercise: work together, find solutions at the state level, and get appropriate policies and strategies in place sooner than later, as waiting to take action will be the biggest mistake.

My editorial on this topic is provided in the OC Register and is the first piece below. A related press release on the overall analysis that you’ve been seeing in my UPDATEs of late is the second piece below.

Most Orange County city finances bleed red ink

By JOHN MOORLACH | Orange County Register

https://www.ocregister.com/2018/03/14/most-orange-county-city-finances-bleed-red-ink/

The Costa Mesa City Council will have to turn its Unrestricted Net Position number around, according to a financial report.

LEONARD ORTIZ — STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Kudos to the Orange County cities of Cypress, Tustin, Irvine and Laguna Beach for enjoying the most sound balance sheets among Orange County’s 34 cities.

But cautions go out to Costa Mesa, Brea, Newport Beach and Anaheim for scoring the worst, and possibly entering a fiscal danger zone.

My rankings are based on what’s called a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. There is no central repository for these. But you should be able to read these CAFRs, as they’re called, on the finance pages of your city’s website, or call the city for a hard copy.

In each CAFR, specifically look for the “Basic Financial Statements,” starting with the page titled “Statement of Net Position.” Usually it’s somewhere around pages 15 to 30. Look at the top row for “Government Activities.” Then look down the column to where it says, first “Net Position,” then “Unrestricted.” That’s the number you want: the Unrestricted Net Position, or UNP.

It will be a positive number, or, if there are (brackets) around it, a negative number. Also notice if it says at the top “in thousands,” meaning you should add three more zeroes to the number.

The UNP number is the key because it is about purely governmental activities. It doesn’t include, for example, concessions from what are called “business-type activities,” such as operating vending machines at a library.

I divide the UNP by the city’s population to see where it falls within the range. This metric shows how much you, as a resident, are affected by city finances. If it’s a positive number, especially a high one, then all to the good. If it’s negative, then it’s time for you to get more involved with your elected council members.

Let’s look at an example on page 18 of the CAFR for Costa Mesa, for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2017. The UNP is a deficit of $161,805,274. If we divide that by the city’s population of 114,044, the per capita UNP equals ($1,419). This is the share for each resident (not household).

Just 19 of our 34 cities run positive per capita UNPs, while 25 cities run negative ones.

Such is the impact of unfunded actuarial accrued liabilities (UAAL) resulting from defined- benefit pension plans.

Here are the per capita UNPs for the top 10 cities:

1. Cypress: $1,805

2. Tustin: $1,754

3. Irvine: $1,624

4. Laguna Beach: $1,159

5. Laguna Niguel: $1,154

6. Lake Forest: $677

7. Dana Point: $668

8. Laguna Woods: $595

9. La Palma: $566

10. Aliso Viejo: $534

Now, if that per capita UNP is a negative number, then it’s a warning sign. And if it’s a high negative number, then your city is in critical fiscal condition.

Here are the 10 cities at the bottom of the list:

34. Costa Mesa: ($1,419)

33. Brea: ($1,312)

32. Newport Beach: ($1,269)

31. Anaheim: ($1,145)

30. Santa Ana: ($1,134)

29. Huntington Beach: ($1,128)

28. Fullerton: ($868)

27. Orange: ($738)

26. Fountain Valley: ($689)

By the way, the per capita net position for the County of Orange is ($963), which would rank it seventh from the bottom if it were a city. That’s what a $1.7 billion investment portfolio loss in 1994 from the county bankruptcy, caused former County Treasurer Bob Citron, a Democrat, can do to a balance sheet. Contracting out the Sheriff’s Department also adds to the county UAAL.

This is part of my project to track the per capita UNPs of all 482 California cities. You can follow that on my website: district37. cssrc.us (or: JohnMoorlach. wordpress.com). I will be updating the data every six months, the next time being in August.

High municipal debts, rising interest rates and a volatile stock market are warning signs. The cities at the bottom of my list need to wake up and get serious, and soon. For when the next downturn arrives, they may not be able to borrow from lending institutions or from the municipal bond market. It will not be pretty.

John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, a former Orange County treasurer-tax collector and supervisor, represents the 37th District in the California Senate.

Senator John Moorlach Ranks California’s

482 Cities for Financial Soundness

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 14, 2018

***

Sacramento, CA – Which California cities are in financial distress and which are sound? Today State Sen. John Moorlach releases the first edition of his new report, “Senator John Moorlach Ranks California’s 482 Cities for Financial Soundness.”

The report examines the audited finances of the state’s 482 cities. Specifically, it looks at each city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, and the per-capita share for a city’s Unrestricted Net Position, or UNP.

A negative UNP shows a city has fiscal concerns that city officials should be aware of. If they are not aware of the problem, this is a useful tool for the city residents to hold their elected officials accountable.

“Why the project?” Senator Moorlach asked. “Well, in the California Senate I carried some eight public employee pension reform measures in 2017 alone. And did the cities come to testify in support? No. And, are they now highly concerned about their predicament? Yes.”

Senator Moorlach plans to update the study every six months.

A copy of the study is available on Senator Moorlach’s website by clicking HERE.

If you would like to request an interview with Senator John Moorlach, please contact John Seiler at john.seiler or 714-662-6050.

About Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa):

State Senator John Moorlach represents the 37th district of California, is a trained Certified Financial Planner and is the only trained CPA in the California Senate. He gained national attention 23 years ago when he was appointed Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector and helped the County recover from its bankruptcy filing – at the time the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. Follow him on Facebook & Twitter.

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Sinkhole — January 24, 2018

California’s cities are in trouble, with a capital T. The OC Register goes as far as to call them “sinkholes” in the piece below. Unrestricted net positions do matter. And my office’s review of the state’s cities finds some troubling numbers. I hope to release the results soon. (It was difficult obtaining the information and harder yet to obtain current data — you would think the State Controller would have the information on her website, but no . . . )

The former Mayor of Oakland is now running this state. He served a city that is not a financial role model. And the top-two Democrats running to replace our Governor were also former Mayors of fiscally mismanaged cities. It does not give me much hope for California’s future ship of state, as it too has become a “sinkhole.”

On this day in 1848, John Marshall discovered gold at Sutter’s Mill. So, in looking for gold, I can take some solace that a great city in my Senate District is doing well, so far. Irvine is a relatively young city and not a legacy city like Los Angeles (existing since statehood), it partially outsources (and that is contentious at this moment in time), it is an economic power house, and it has room to grow.

Irvine is ranked the Number 1 city in the nation for good fiscal health, report says

By TERI SFORZA

https://www.ocregister.com/2018/01/23/ca-city-finances-many-are-broke-and-not-telling-you-about-it/

Of the nation’s 75 most populous cities, two of the top three – in terms of fiscal health – are Irvine and Stockton, suggesting the power of both beige and bankruptcy, according to data from the nonprofit Truth in Accounting. Fresno is the third city showing decent fiscal health.

But all of California’s other big cities are “sinkholes,” according to the report. That means they’re in the red, with what they owe eclipsing what they have, thanks largely to unfunded pension and retiree health care promises, the report said.

Related: How broke is your California city?

Schoolmarm-like, with ruler in hand, Truth In Accounting doled out letter grades based on the “Taxpayer Burden” per household. All three surplus cities earned “B” grades. Earning “C’s” were those with “burdens” of less than $4,900 per household, including Long Beach ($1,500), Riverside ($2,600) and Santa Ana ($3,400).

Barely squeaking by with “D’s” – burdens between $5,000 and $20,000 per household – were Anaheim ($5,300), Los Angeles ($7,200) and San Jose ($10,600).

Flunking with “F’s” – burdens exceeding $20,000 per household – were Oakland ($20,700) and San Francisco ($27,500).

The overwhelming majority of the cities examined – 64 of the 75 – did not have enough money available to pay all of their bills, the study found. But you won’t find those details in the oft-inscrutable financial reports governments must produce, which most often show neatly balanced columns.

“We’re not looking at this as a numbers game,” said Sheila Weinberg, a CPA and Truth in Accounting’s CEO. “Democracy is being undermined because citizens are not getting the accurate information they need to make decisions.”

Current practices in accounting and budgeting allow the true financial health of cities to be obscured, the report said, “and citizens are deceived, or at best, misled.” Without access to transparent financial information, the report asked, “how can citizens be knowledgeable participants in their governments?”

Governments obfuscate with simple tricks: Right now, they don’t have to include the value of the health care benefits they’ve promised to retirees on their balance sheets, giving a false sense of fiscal fitness. The study found that 21.3 percent of all promised retiree healthcare benefits— totaling $119.5 billion — was not reported in Fiscal Year 2016, the most current reporting year available.

Not so long ago, governments weren’t required to include the huge cost of pension liabilities on their balance sheets, either. That changed in 2014, and billions of dollars instantly disappeared from the bottom lines of thousands of governments.

Some still use tricks to downplay that debt, however, Weinberg said: They use older figures for their pension debt, even though newer (and almost always bigger) figures are available.

This practice allows elected officials to use money to keep taxes lower and pay for politically popular programs when that money is really already spoken for, the report said.

But at the end of the current fiscal year, a new accounting rule will kick in that requires governments to factor retiree health care liabilities into their balance sheets. Expect billions more to instantly disappear.

How Irvine gets to No. 1

“Unlike most cities, Irvine’s elected officials have only promised the amount of benefits they can afford to pay,” the report concludes.

There are structural differences, however, that put the beige-is-beautiful city on firmer financial footing than most others: Irvine does not have its own fire department, which means it doesn’t shoulder those expensive public safety pension bills; and it has never offered post-employment health benefits to retirees, said Irvine City Manager Sean Joyce.

Stockton, meanwhile, faced “a staggering debt burden” before it declared bankruptcy in 2013 – but then shed many financial obligations – and now has more than enough to pay its bills. That came at the expense of retirees, who gave up health care benefits, and bondholders, who lost a dramatic 50 percent on their investments, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

In less stellar shape: Long Beach had $2.7 billion available in assets to pay $2.9 billion worth of bills, according to the report. Unlike most cities, Long Beach got kudos for transparency, reporting all pension and retiree health care debt on its balance sheet.

Riverside had $818.9 million available to pay $1.1 billion worth of bills; Santa Ana, $301.6 million to pay bills of $664.2 million; Anaheim, $1.1 billion to pay bills of $1.7 million; Los Angeles, $12.4 billion to pay bills of $21.4 billion; San Jose, $1.6 billion to pay bills of $5 billion; and Oakland, $1.2 billion to pay bills of $3.9 billion.

As jarring as those figures might seem, they’re probably optimistic, said Joe Nation, director of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.

That’s because they’re based on what cities themselves report – and cities calculate their pension debt assuming a much rosier return on investments than Nation believes is realistic. For example, Stanford’s Pension Tracker calculates Anaheim’s debt to be $6,300 just for pensions, which is higher than the $5,300 per household figure Truth In Accounting calculated for pensions and retiree health combined.

Balancing acts

Fred Smoller, associate professor of political science at Chapman University, said cities are caught between a rock and several hard places.

Proposition 13 slashed property tax revenues; public employee unions want generous pensions; voters want services they’re not willing to pay for; and state government imposes unfunded mandates and isn’t shy about raiding local government bank accounts to balance its own budget, he said.

Mark Petracca, political science professor at UC Irvine, is skeptical of the whole exercise.

“Our inclination is to view a ‘deficit’ as a bad (though that doesn’t seem to bother the Republicans in Congress as much as it once did when Ross Perot was around to remind us) and a ‘surplus’ as good,” Petracca said. “But why should any city have a surplus, beyond what might be appropriate and necessary as part of a ‘rainy day’ fund? So, some residents in Irvine, Stockton, and Fresno might appropriately want to know … when they’ll be receiving their municipal refund check.”

State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, is a CPA whose specialty in this sort of financial analysis. His office is preparing a ranking of all California cities and how much unrestricted money they have – or owe – per capita. While Truth In Accounting looked at just 75 cities nationwide, Moorlach is crunching the numbers for all 476 cities in California.

Getting the information has not been easy, even for a senator’s office, Moorlach said.

In its report, Truth In Accounting said that must change. “Cities’ efforts to climb out of their current financial holes must begin with honest government accounting and budgeting.

“How can cities begin to find solutions to crushing debt if they don’t know how much debt there is?”

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

Also follow me on Facebook & Twitter @SenatorMoorlach.moor

MOORLACH UPDATE — Haven for Hope — January 19, 2018

Greetings from San Antonio, Texas (Bexar County), where I’m touring the Haven for Hope facilities (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Legislative Efforts — June 29, 2017).

It’s bill introduction season, and The Daily Breeze and Daily Democrat, in the first piece below, provide the details of an effort by Senator Pat Bates, that I endorse. And, it fits in with the reason for my being here in Texas.

The second piece, from the Pinetree Net, provides the details of an award I was presented this week. It’s very humbling and gratifying to be recognized by my former Supervisorial colleagues around the state. I am most appreciative of the relationships that I formed with them over my eight years as an Orange County Supervisor. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Burning Year End Issues — December 15, 2017.

The third piece provides another perspective on the Governor’s proposed budget and is found in the San Gabriel Valley News and the Press Enterprise (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Budget and Legacy Priorities — January 11, 2018 and MOORLACH UPDATE — 2018-2019 Budget Recommendations — January 4, 2018).

Bill aims to plug holes in addiction treatment industry

By tsaavedra,tsforza and sschwebke | Orange County Register

https://www.dailybreeze.com/2018/01/17/bill-aims-to-plug-holes-in-addiction-treatment-industry

http://www.dailydemocrat.com/article/NI/20180118/NEWS/180119848

Outraged by reports of “patient brokering” and neighborhood turmoil, Sen. Pat Bates introduced legislation Wednesday to start addressing dangerous and deadly practices in California’s poorly-regulated addiction treatment industry.

“For more than 20 years, several bipartisan efforts to address the challenges surrounding the state’s drug rehab history have gone nowhere due to opposition from vested interests,” said Bates, R-Laguna Niguel.

“While I’m under no illusion that pursuing greater oversight will be any easier this year, doing nothing is not acceptable for constituents who have contacted me on this issue. The Southern California News Group’s thorough 2017 investigation into the industry makes it clear that reforms are needed.”

SCNG’s probe found that as opioid addiction has soared, unscrupulous rehab operators have rushed in to take advantage of mandatory mental health treatment coverage required by the Affordable Care Act. Broke and homeless heroin addicts are worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each in the form of insurance payments, and many are bought, sold and exploited in an underworld rife with kickbacks, drug use and fraud that can end in death.

Addicts around the country are enticed to California with offers of free travel, rent, cigarettes and even manicures, often landing in centers that would not be allowed to open elsewhere. California’s hands-off approach to regulating the industry makes it easy for almost anyone to open a treatment center and charge insurance companies hundreds of thousands of dollars per client, without being required to show evidence that their treatment helps rather than harms. The concentration of facilities is so dense the Los Angeles basin has been dubbed the “Rehab Riviera.”

“Creating substantive and positive change in the drug rehab industry will take time,” Bates said in the statement. “But as a former social worker who once worked in some of our state’s most economically deprived neighborhoods, I take inspiration from Winston Churchill’s mantra of ‘Never, never, never give up.’ And as long as I’m around, I won’t. Stay tuned.”

The bill, SB 902 is still a work-in-progress, she said, with language to be crafted with the help of those involved. She wants to improve patient well-being and increase public safety of neighborhoods hosting rehabs and sober living homes, she said, and aims to stop the industry’s bad actors, not those with strong records of helping people.

In 2016, the Senate Health Committee rejected her SB 1283 that would have allowed a city or county to craft health and safety standards specifically for sober living homes.

In November, a bipartisan group of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Energy and Commerce Committee asked California and five other states for information on allegations of patient brokering.

The parents of several young adults who have died in treatment centers have called on Gov. Jerry Brown to lead on this issue. Brown’s office declined to comment on Bates’ push for action.

“Our office does not typically weigh in on pending legislation,” said deputy press secretary Ali Bay by email. “If that changes in this case, I’ll let you know.”

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, represents an area that’s home to one of the densest concentrations of rehabs in the state.

“I will be as supportive as I can be,” said Moorlach. “As with any industry, there are bad players. And they’re the ones that need to be addressed.”

RCRC Installs 2018 Officers and Presents Rural Leadership Awards. TC Supervisor Hanvelt Installed as Vice Chair

http://thepinetree.net/index.php?module=announce&ANN_user_op=view&ANN_id=55325

Sacramento, CA…The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) installed its 2018 Officers and presented its Rural Leadership Awards at their annual reception in Sacramento yesterday. Humboldt County Supervisor Rex Bohn was installed as Chair, Tuolumne County Supervisor Randy Hanvelt was installed as First Vice Chair, and Inyo County Supervisor Matt Kingsley was installed as Second Vice Chair. Tehama County Supervisor Bob Williams remains an Officer as Immediate Past Chair. The newly installed 2018 Officers will lead the organization in championing policies on behalf of California’s rural counties.

RCRC_logo.jpg

“There are a lot of challenges facing California’s rural counties this year, and I am honored that my fellow rural county leaders have entrusted me to navigate RCRC’s efforts as Chair,” said Supervisor Bohn. “I look forward to the opportunity to work with RCRC Board Members and staff on strategies and opportunities that raise the level of awareness of rural communities in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and advance the policies set forth by the organization.”

In addition to the Installation of Officers, Rural Leadership Awards were presented to two officials who have demonstrated an understanding of, and leadership in, rural issues and the unique challenges that rural communities face.

Assembly Member Anna Caballero (D-Monterey) was the first recipient of the 2017 Rural Leadership Award.

“We are honored to present Assembly Member Caballero with the 2017 Rural Leadership Award as her actions continue to reflect her passion for ensuring California’s rural counties have a voice,” said Anthony Botelho, San Benito County Supervisor. “From opposing AB 1250 and SB 649, to authoring AB 577, which would have secured a more equitable definition of disadvantaged communities, we thank Assembly Member Caballero for her leadership, and look forward to working together this year to continue fighting for California’s rural counties.”

“I am thankful for the opportunity to represent rural California, and honored to receive the RCRC Rural Leadership Award,” said Assembly Member Caballero. “Rural California plays an important role in our state, and those of us who live and work there contribute to the prosperity of California. Agriculture feeds the country, and the forests and rangeland provide important recreational opportunities and habitat. It takes advocates who appreciate and will defend rural communities. Thank you RCRC for giving rural communities a voice.”

Senator John Moorlach (R-Orange) was the second recipient of the 2017 Rural Leadership Award.

“It is my privilege to present Senator John Moorlach with the 2017 Rural Leadership Award,” said Bob Williams, RCRC Immediate Past Chair and Tehama County Supervisor. “In addition to his advocacy on several legislative proposals of importance to rural California, Senator Moorlach authored SB 1463, which would have required the California Public Utilities Commission to prioritize areas that have increased wildfire hazards posed by overhead electrical lines and equipment. The Senator has also shown that he understands the importance of local-control regarding cannabis issues – a priority for RCRC. Rural advocacy from legislators representing more urbanized districts showcases true leadership, and we thank Senator Moorlach for his support.”

“With more than 20 years of experience at the county-level, I know firsthand the challenges faced by local government leaders,” said Senator Moorlach. “These challenges are only multiplied in our rural communities. In my current role, I rely heavily on my county relationships to inform my legislative priorities.”

In addition to the 2018 Officers, five regional representatives were appointed at the RCRC Board of Directors meeting in December 2017. These representatives join the RCRC Officers to make up the full 2018 RCRC Executive Committee. The regional representatives were appointed as follows:

Region 1: Supervisor Michael Kobseff (Siskiyou)
Region 2: Supervisor Aaron Albaugh (Lassen)
Region 3: Supervisor Diane Dillon (Napa)
Region 4: Supervisor Stacy Corless (Mono)
Region 5: Supervisor Daron McDaniel (Merced)

Details on RCRC’s 2018 Executive Committee and other Committee Chairs can be accessed here.

ABOUT RURAL COUNTY REPRESENTATIVES OF CALIFORNIA (RCRC)

The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) is a thirty-five member county strong service organization that champions policies on behalf of California’s rural counties. RCRC is dedicated to representing the collective unique interests of its membership, providing legislative and regulatory representation at the State and Federal levels, and providing responsible services for its members to enhance and protect the quality of life in rural California counties. To learn more about RCRC, visit rcrcnet.org and follow @RuralCounties on Twitter.

OPINION

Sacramento’s next battle – how

to spend a $6.1 billion budget

surplus

By KERRY JACKSON

https://www.sgvtribune.com/2018/01/18/sacramentos-next-battle-how-to-spend-a-6-1-billion-budget-surplus/https://www.pe.com/2018/01/17/bill-aims-to-plug-holes-in-addiction-treatment-industry/

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed the biggest state budget in history. He wants to spend $131.7 billion from the general fund, about 5 percent more than is being spent from the $125 billion 2016-17 budget he signed last year. His 16th and final budget also includes a surplus, which some lawmakers are looking at the same way a starving man looks at cheeseburger.

“It’s a strange world where politicians are celebrating that the government took too much money from taxpayers, but that’s exactly what is happening with this budget surplus,” said Assembly Republican Leader Brian Dahle.

The celebrants aren’t in full agreement over where that surplus should be applied, though. There might be some rising tensions between those who want to put it away and those ready to spend it. But that would be the wrong argument anyway.

Brown’s proposed budget, which is actually a $190 billion spending package when bonds and special funds are included, projects a $6.1 billion surplus. Brown wants to use the surplus to boost the state’s Rainy Day Fund, which was the result of a bipartisan deal between Gov. Brown and then-Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway and was approved by voters in 2014. His proposal would boost fund reserves to $13.5 billion.

“It’s not exciting, it’s not funding good and nice things,” Brown said of the money he wants to shovel into the Rainy Day Fund, “but it’s getting ready and that is the work of a budget.”

Those should be welcome words, since most politicians are impulsive. They prefer to spend taxpayers dollars on new, shiny — “exciting,” in Brown’s words — objects as soon as they get their hands on taxpayers’ money rather than attending to the affairs that are already under their administration. This mindset is why California’s roads have become such a rolling disaster. They have been neglected while policymakers have focused on more high-profile projects.

Such as high-speed rail. It doesn’t take a grizzled cynic to think that Brown might be putting away money for his over-budget “bullet train.” Republican Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, certainly believes that could happen, and his suspicions are justified. The Assembly Transportation Committee recently rejected a bill written by Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Fresno Republican, that would prohibit lawmakers from raiding fuel taxes collected for road repair and using the dollars to make bond payments on the high-speed rail project. If they’ll move money from the state’s highway account to the train, they’ll take it from the Rainy Day Fund for the same purpose.

While Brown says he wants to bank money, some Democratic leaders are almost salivating over the prospect of spending the surplus right away.

“We have a very different approach,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting, chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee and a San Francisco Democrat. “Our focus, the people who we think need tax relief, are the working Californians who are making less than $25,000. That’s where we want to spend our money, making sure they have money to pay rent, to pay for food.”

One might think that there would be an intense demand for the surplus to instead be returned to taxpayers in the form of rebates. There isn’t. But this is where any argument about the surplus should be centered. The taxpayers were overcharged and that money belongs to them.

While lawmakers such as Ting believe the surplus belongs to them, the law says otherwise. Proposition 4, which established the “Gann limit” in 1979, not only imposes restrictions on state spending, it requires Sacramento to issue rebates when, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office, revenues exceed the limit that Prop. 4 set “to keep inflation- and population-adjusted appropriations under the 1978-79 level.”

Though uncommon, rebates would not be unprecedented. Gov. George Deukmejian sent refunds in 1987. If none are issued for this surplus, the LAO says the state could be “highly vulnerable” to litigation because Brown is violating “the spirit of Proposition 4” by not counting “$22 billion of school-related spending toward the state’s appropriations limit” established by the law.

The threat of a lawsuit isn’t likely to move Sacramento. So if no rebates are coming, the surplus would be put to better use by dedicating it to paying down the state debt, which has reached $221 billion, according to the California Policy Center — and funding public employee pensions, which could be underfunded by $600 billion.

Sacramento, though, is programmed to spend. As usual, this won’t end well for the taxpayers.

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

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

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MOORLACH UPDATE — Budget and Legacy Priorities — January 11, 2018

Governor Brown released his 2018-19 Budget yesterday morning and the OC Register was kind enough to publish my first impressions in their commentary section. It is the first piece below.

I also sent out an immediate reaction:

Governor Brown admits that the “last 5 budgets have significantly increased spending” and this budget proposal is no different. Coming in at just under $300 billion dollars of total spending, debt and poverty remain at all-time highs. Even worse, our balance sheet is massively short and unfunded liabilities are in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Our underfunded pension systems will get minimum payments of $6.2 billion to CalPERS and $3.1 billion for CalSTRS. These costs are directly related to policies Jerry Brown embraced 40 years ago during his first time as governor. While he’s sensitive to a possible economic slowdown and should be lauded for increasing our rainy day funds, he has been a spendthrift in Sacramento. We have to acknowledge that the $9.3 billion in pension payments won’t go to pay for more teachers or cut college tuition or build roads right now. And yet, we’re hoisting these liabilities on future generations at a higher cost unless we do more to address them now. I was wondering how seriously Governor Brown would be in his last budget about addressing our liabilities. It looks like he’s kicking the can down the road to the next governor. Oh well.

The primary focus for Governor Brown has not been that California has the worst balance sheet of all 50 states. Just look at the city of Oakland’s balance sheet, and you’ll see that being deep in a fiscal hole is not one of Jerry’s worries.

Brown’s focus has been climate change and converting California to an electric car state, relying on solar and wind to provide the energy. It’s covered in a lengthy and thorough manner by CALmatters and is second piece below.

The irony is that electricity needs to be carried by power lines. These power lines have caused many of the wildfires in California. And, wildfires create more greenhouse gases than our state’s cars, by a long shot. So, where is the effort to address the cause of the biggest greenhouse gas source? It’s nonexistent (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Fire Safety Concerns — October 27, 2017).

Worse, being totally dependent on electricity for travel, communication, preserving food supplies, and dealing with occasional inclement weather, this state will shut down in a matter of days without it. This is also a scary proposition in a world where terrorism is the new norm. I’m just sayin’.

There’s the legacy. He’s funded the required Rainy Day Fund. He’s exposing residents to a different danger in the potential loss of power. And he’s flown around the world to preach climate change. But, our balance sheet sucks and our wildfire zones went up in smoke this year and are now suffering from the damages that rain can cause. Sometimes I just want to weep.

OPINION

The good and bad of Jerry Brown’s budget

By JOHN MOORLACH

https://www.ocregister.com/2018/01/10/the-good-and-bad-of-jerry-browns-budget/

Back when Gov. Jerry Brown submitted his first budget proposal in January 1975, I was working toward my accounting degree at Cal State Long Beach. As he submitted his 16th and final budget proposal Wednesday, for fiscal year 2018-19, I was thinking what a long, strange trip it’s been for both of us.

Although the governor is a lawyer and I’m a CPA, we both are “numbers guys” who like to get into the nitty gritty in the back pages and dig into the weeds.

Looking at his proposed budget details, here are four good and four bad things:

Good: The budget acknowledges that, despite some pension reforms, “California’s unfunded liabilities continue to rise” because “poor investment returns and the adoption of more realistic assumptions related to future investment earnings and demographics have grown the state’s retiree long-term costs, debts and liabilities to $272 billion.” Unlike other numbers, the governor commendably also mentions the $76.7 billion in retiree medical liabilities.

Bad: The budget includes spending of $6.2 billion for contributions to CalPERS and $3.1 billion for CalSTRS; these contribution amounts were minuscule 20 years ago before pension spiking. That’s $9.3 billion that could have gone to pay for more teachers, cut college tuition, build roads — or be refunded to taxpayers. Even worse: Brown kicks any real pension solutions into the future when he’ll be gone.

Good: In his press conference, the governor again warned the current prosperity will not last forever and “it’s important to prepare” for the next recession. With an appropriate supplemental payment of $3.5 billion, the budget fills the “Rainy Day Fund” all the way to the constitutional Proposition 2 requirement of $13.5 billion which voters passed in 2014.

Bad: As the governor noted, a recession likely would mean $20 billion in yearly deficits. In three years, that would equal $60 billion. That could mean $46.5 billion in cuts. What’s needed is for the Legislature, on its own, to start saving more toward that higher amount.

Good: The budget’s general fund spending would only rise by 4.1 percent, to $131.7 billion.

Bad: Over the last eight years, spending increases total 52.4 percent since Brown’s budget of just $86.4 billion for 2011-12. That’s way above the original spirit of the Gann Limit of 1979, which the governor supported, capping spending at the increase in population plus inflation.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, California’s population has grown 5 percent the last eight years; while the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ online calculator figures the Consumer Price Index rose 12 percent. Total: 17 percent. That indicates Brown’s own spending increases couldn’t be sustained in a recession.

Good: No tuition increases for Cal State and UC students, making tuition, adjusted for inflation, below 2011 levels.

Bad: Unfortunately, this does not address the administrative bloat detailed in an April 2017 audit by State Auditor Elaine M. Howle, CPA. Cutting administrative waste would enable lower tuition and higher faculty pay.

Good: Funding for K-12 schools will have grown to $78.2 billion, up from $47.3 billion in 2011-12. That’s a 65 percent increase in seven years. The governor’s Local Funding Formula, which shifts money to support English learners, and students in foster care, and low-income families, is now fully funded.

Bad: Student test scores continue to languish among the bottom of the states, as the teachers’ unions thwart needed reforms, such as performance pay for teachers.

Finally, Brown’s budget numbers were calculated before the federal tax bill passed last month. It concedes some parts of the bill could “temporarily” benefit the economy, yet warns, “millions of Californians will be hurt” because of limits on deducting state and local taxes on federal tax returns. Consequently, this matter will be addressed further in the May Revision.

What’s missing? A priority on reducing California’s $168.5 billion unrestricted net deficit. The state may have a balanced budget, but its balance sheet is the worst in the nation.

Our next governor will have plenty to do. Let’s hope the “Trump Bump” continues for a few more years, as Brown’s predicted future recession will not be pleasant.

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, represents the 37th District in the California Senate.

California’s climate fight gets harder soon, and the big culprit is cars

By Julie Cart

https://calmatters.org/articles/californias-climate-fight-gets-harder-soon-big-culprit-cars/

By most measures, California has earned the right to brag about how much it has cleaned up its environmental act. The air in much of smog-shrouded Southern California has been scrubbed. A passenger car for sale here today is 99 percent cleaner than one on offer in the early 1970s. The fossil fuels required to power the state’s economic engine have decreased by a third since their peak in 2001, while economic activity has expanded in that time by an equal measure.

In addition, California’s response to climate change is a one-of-a-kind hybrid, knitting together market-based programs such as the cap-and-trade system for reducing carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions; strict regulations to promote energy efficiency in buildings; and generous financial incentives for “green” projects, drawn from more than $6 billion in carbon-trading proceeds.

It’s working. California is poised to meet its goal to reduce greenhouse gases 33 percent from 1990 levels by the year 2020. Its targets for use of more renewable energy by that date are, in some cases, already exceeded.

So take a bow, California; you’ve done the easy stuff. But hold on tight for what comes next. The state’s overarching plan was intended to ease industry and consumers into a carbon-free future bit by bit; ten years in, the training wheels are off.

Emissions-reduction must hit 40 percent by 2030 and twice that by 2050. In 12 years, half the state’s energy must come from renewable sources such as wind and sun. California’s 14 million buildings must operate twice as efficiently, and the number of electric cars on the road will have to multiply more than 10 times. Failure would likely mean more extreme measures in later years and, many experts say, could affect public health.

The scope of the state’s approach is all-encompassing. By law or executive order, every state agency must consider climate change when making any planning decision. Developers must take into account how far motorists travel to reach a destination, forests will be managed so that trees store more carbon dioxide and highway builders have to calculate the possibility that rising seas might inundate the roads.

The near term looks good. But for the 2030 goals and beyond, normally upbeat officials are guarded.

“Getting a 40 percent reduction [by] 2030 is no small thing. There will be lots of challenges,” said Ken Alex, director of the state Office of Planning and Research, who sees the entire field when it comes to emissions reductions. “Sometimes I’m optimistic, sometimes I’m pessimistic. I’m pessimistic about the political will it takes to get there.”

The most difficult work begins with California’s single most polluting sector: transportation, which accounts for nearly half the state’s greenhouse-gas emissions.

Mary Nichols, who chairs the California Air Resources Board, acknowledged that squeezing emissions from transportation will be the most difficult lift of all the 2030 standards, saying the gains require no less than a “deep transformation.”

That will include cutting gasoline use in half, reducing the miles that car-centric Californians drive, dramatically ramping up the adoption of electric vehicles and building a network of readily available charging stations.

“There’s no question that transportation is a critical piece, maybe the critical piece, in solving our energy problems,” said Sean Hecht, co-executive director of UCLA’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

One reason it’s difficult is that transportation emissions are produced largely outside the clutches of state regulation: think airplanes, trains, and ships. Another is sluggish technological change for heavy-duty and medium-duty trucks, buses and shuttles, although adoption of all-electric municipal buses is growing as costs come down.

Cities and regions are charting their own paths, going green to save green: The Los Angeles-area Metropolitan Transportation Agency has a goal of operating an emissions-free bus fleet by 2030.

Although California has decreed that auto manufacturers sell a percentage of zero-emission vehicles, there is no mandate that drivers purchase the pricey cars. Regulators and legislators have been reluctant to force consumers to buy them, as they have with TVs, heavy appliances and other products.

That would change with legislation proposed by Assemblyman Phil Ting, a Democrat from San Francisco. Ting’s bill would ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars in California by 2040, mirroring bans proposed by some European countries. The idea went nowhere when Ting proposed it last year, and its prospects now are unclear.

While gas-sipping hybrids such as the Prius are nearly ubiquitous and certainly helpful, only true zero-emission vehicles can bring about the scale of change the state’s goals require, experts say.

“There’s no way to get there without significant reduction in passenger-vehicle emissions,” said Ting, who drives an electric car. He said that more access to charging stations would be transformational.

“People talk about the lack of infrastructure, yet there’s electricity everywhere they park their car, unless they are in the forest,” he said. “People park their car much nearer to electricity than they do to gasoline. In transportation they talk about “the last mile.” Here we have “the last foot” issue. We just need the extension cord for the last foot.”

Much of that work falls to the California Energy Commission, which has tied together charging stations that trace a north-south, mainly coastal path. The easier task of attracting electric car buyers in Southern California and the Bay Area has been accomplished. The challenge now is engaging inland drivers, in places such as Bakersfield, Fresno and Redding.

John Kato, deputy director of the commission’s Fuels and Transportation Division, agreed that the new benchmarks are “challenging, but we believe the private sector will take up the baton,” with automakers producing a wider variety of vehicles, across a broad price range, appealing to more buyers.

An unexpected private-sector benefit comes from Volkswagen, which settled an emissions-cheating case by agreeing to spend more than $800 million building charging stations (from which the company will also profit) throughout the state.

National trends are cause for optimism, said Paul Cort, an attorney with the environmental group Earthjustice. “There is an acceleration in acceptance and uptake among car buyers,” he said. “It took us 10 years to get to the first million electric vehicles; the second million was achieved in two years; the third million will be on the road in one year.”

One success story has been the state utilities’ swift integration of renewable energy into the state electric grid, partly because of a dramatic decline in the cost of solar energy. Emissions from power generated in the state fell by more than 19 percent last year, partly due to the ramping up of hydroelectric power with last year’s heavy rains. The Public Utilities Commission that regulates energy companies reports that they have met or will soon meet the 2020 targets.

State Sen. Kevin de León, a Democrat from Los Angeles who is currently running to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, recently set an even higher bar, proposing 100 percent renewable energy throughout the state by 2045.

It will be more difficult to find further savings from existing energy-efficiency programs, long a bulwark of California’s carbon-reduction efforts. The state is phasing out incandescent light bulbs and the building codes for new construction continue to mandate efficiency. But still to be tackled is the thorny problem of retrofitting millions of old and outdated homes and businesses.

At least one analysis calculates that natural gas used in hot water heaters and to warm residential and commercial buildings is causing nearly the same emissions as the state’s power plants. Converting gas-fired buildings to fully electric is daunting, and hugely expensive.

With so many reductions required, the Air Resource Board’s post-2020 strategy is one element—a critical one—of the state’s multiagency approach to climate change. That strategy elevates the cap-and-trade system, in which companies can pay to pollute by buying credits, to a much more significant role. Cap and trade limits emissions on 80 percent of California’s polluters.

The agency has never precisely quantified cap and trade’s contribution to greenhouse-gas reduction. Officials projected it at 17-20 percent in a planning document in 2008—a year before the program launched—but are unable to say if those assumptions have been borne out. The board has not conducted the complicated analysis required to determine the program’s actual role in cutting emissions.

Nonetheless, last month it adopted a plan to reach post-2020 objectives that ups the ante: It forecasts that cap and trade, which lawmakers recently extended to 2030, will be responsible for nearly 40 percent of California’s emissions reductions by that time, a figure disputed by some as unrealistic.

Some critics of the program say another factor could cause the state to miss its 2030 emissions targets: the banking system that allows individual companies to hold tens of millions of carbon credits in reserve.

According to separate analyses by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office and independent economists, refineries, cement plants and other major polluters could produce emissions in the next decade that are well above the state’s ever-tightening limits and use their banked credits, purchased cheaply, to offset their excess.

Chris Busch, an economist and research director at the think tank Energy Innovation, said his analysis showed that because of the oversupply or allowances the “effectiveness of the program could be compromised.”

Ross Brown, who analyzes cap and trade for the LAO, said in an interview that there’s a “decent to good chance” that banked credits could vault emissions to more than 30 percent over legal limits in 2030.

The issue has the attention of the state Legislature, which has directed the air board to investigate. So far, the agency has shrugged off the concerns.

Rajinder Sahota, who oversees the cap-and-trade program for the air board, said that although the analyses may be correct in that emissions may exceed the cap in any given year, the agency is confident that the cumulative emissions between 2021 to 2030 will fall and California will meet its goals.

“We expect to see fluctuations over time,” she said. “There are a number of factors that account for emissions in any given year—the economy, business decisions. In a perfect world, you’d like to see a decline over time. But it doesn’t always work that way.”

Sahota said the analyses of banked credits are a “paper exercise.”

“Most of the allowances in the program are still in the ARB’s account,” she said. The LAO’s calculations would require a company to spend hundreds of millions of dollars for credits now on a bet that the price will rise as emissions limits get stricter, she said.

“The data show that is not happening,” Sahota said.

Nevertheless, she and air board chairwoman Nichols said the plan is open to revisions.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s personal investment in California’s climate change policies has been a force multiplier, spurring the myriad state agencies to adopt, and state industries to adapt, to the prospect of a carbon-less future. But Brown is in his final year in office, and the Legislature’s to-do list is crowded with other enormous issues, such as poverty and housing.

Whether lawmakers will continue to invest in programs that, to some, don’t seem to immediately improve the lives of Californians, is an open question.

One critic is state Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican from Costa Mesa who is also an accountant.

“I come from a world where you measure things so you can manage it,” the senator said. “It’s a matter of priorities. Sacramento is pumping itself on the chest, thinking it is going save the world. I’m not convinced this is the right use of our resources.”

Such doubts could present hurdles as the global-warming clock winds down.

“We are running out of time. That’s clear,” said Ken Alex. “To me, it’s about political will and scale. We feel confident that it’s doable. But do we have the political will to get there?”

This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District. If you no longer wish to subscribe, just let me know by responding with a request to do so.

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