Another Bogus Budget

KEVIN’S CORNER

It was another rough month for the families and taxpayers of California, as the legislature completed this year’s budget this week.  I don’t know if there is anyone who is actually happy about the budget, as even the majority party who crafted it in its entirety would certainly rather be growing rather than cutting and eliminating programs.  But there are bad ways to deal with a deficit of this size, and there are worse ways, and make no mistake about it-they have chosen some of the very worst ways to do it.

A few of the worst elements of this budget plan (in no particular order):

  • Once again, the process was done largely in secret behind closed doors.  Hearings were held only on the most general concepts (when they existed at all), and witnesses were unable to say how specific programs might be affected or how much would be spent or cut.  Groups who were affected by the cuts (like local governments) were not allowed to see the final language until it was too late to organize against it, and promises that had been made in negotiations before the budget were absent when the bills were passed on the floor.
  • The budget is based on the assumption that California’s voters will pass an $8 billion tax increase in November, despite the fact that voters have rejected the last 8 taxes to appear on state-wide ballots, including the tobacco tax that just failed in June.  If voters are unwilling to support a relatively small tax that doesn’t affect most of them to cure cancer, are they really likely to pass a massive tax increase that will affect everyone and be spent by our dysfunctional state government?
  • The relatively successful Healthy Families Program that covers medical and dental care for poor children was scrapped, putting them into the state’s Medi-Cal program instead.  Healthy Families is administered by a private group for $50 per client, Medi-Cal is run by state employees for $395 per client.
  • Roughly $16 million was budgeted for administration and collection of the problematic and likely illegal fire tax.  It is likely that no net revenues will ever be recovered from this tax before it is struck down, and we will pay $16 million  for nothing.
  • It is expected that next week the Legislature will approve the $2.7 billion in bond sales that the governor wants for initial construction of the High Speed Rail Program, which will cost the state general fund roughly $180 million annually for 30 years-enough to keep all the State Parks open, fully fund the UCR Medical School, and restore funding to the cities in Riverside County who were victimized in last year’s budget-and still leave tens of millions of dollars to restore other cuts in critical programs or schools.
  • The Governor has targeted massive and unnecessary cuts at education if his tax increase fails as expected  in November.  I supported a budget alternative that would have protected schools and higher education from budget cuts, but it never even received a hearing.  Holding a figurative gun to the head of schools to force voters to pass his tax increase is a cynical move that exposes his true priorities.
  • Pension reform has been cast aside again.  Rather than including the billions in potential savings from legitimate reform in the state budget, votes on the Governor’s plan (a good one, actually) have been rejected, and all discussion of reform has taken place in private.  Rumor has it there may be a vote on some sort of reform next week, but once again, nobody but the legislative leadership and the government union leaders who elected them know what will be in it.
  • Local governments were once again victimized in multiple ways that attack their authority, their flexibility, their budgets, and the safety of their residents.

I am asked regularly what can be done to fix the problems in Sacramento, and there are no easy answers.  With the passage of Proposition 25 two years ago, only a simple majority is required to pass a budget, so the party in charge in Sacramento has free reign and can now make decisions based on whatever priorities they want.  The only way to change what is happening in the Capitol is to change the folks who are running the State Capitol.

Another option is through the initiative system, which allows citizens to go around those who control state government.  There is an initiative which just qualified for the November ballot that does put some restraints on how your government operates, including a requirement that bills be in print and publicly available for 72 hours prior to a vote.  I haven’t had a chance to review all the reforms contained in this measure, and this should not be considered an endorsement of the “Government Performance and Accountability Act”, but it is increasingly clear that the legislature is not willing to reform itself, and change will likely have to be forced upon them.

Because I am leaving the Assembly at the end of the year, this was my last budget fight in Sacramento, and I can guarantee I will not miss it one bit!

Sincerely,

Kevin


Redistricting & Open Primaries – it's a whole new world.

Most of you are aware that we will be undergoing a massive redistricting effort  that will impact our County, our State and our Federal elective districts. Certainly in California we’ve all been aware that in the past decade the political boundaries 1) make no sense and 2) produce landslides for the incumbent party. There are definite Republican Districts and definite Democratic Districts and it’s pretty much a waste of time for the alternate party to even field a candidate in those races. One seat has changed parties during the past 10 years out of over 250 separate races. 1!.

But that’s all about to change. Californians voted last fall to form a commission to draw the new districts – unlike the last time they were drawn when we let the politicians draw their own. The Commissions report is due out by August and our area will be in for some changes because our region has grown faster than most regions of the state. Our County Supervisor boundaries will be redrawn to reflect the growth in Southwest County and, with the potential election of current Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries to a supervisorial seat, our region could see 2 Supervisors representing Southwest County for the first time EVER. That’s good.

At the state level we probably won’t see much change but the district  boundaries will definitely be redrawn to make some sense by keeping contiguous city interests in one sphere. Right now Jeffries has a district that runs in skinny strips hither and yon, crossing over Nestande’s district in places, running into San Diego County – makes no sense. Our Senatorial District may also see some shifts as Emmerson keeps a more contiguous area of Riverside County while Anderson gives up some of the northern portion of his San Diego District that starts in Chula Vista.

Our regions also stands to pick up an additional federal representative as more of the population has shifted inland from coastal areas. With out region currently split between Calvert, Bono-Mack and Issa, we’ll have to see what that means.

Further complicating the political landscape is the new open primary rule, again resulting from the last election. There will no longer be Republican and Democratic primaries, just one big free-fer-all. The top two candidates will run against each other in the fall. The theory is that this will draw more candidates from the middle of the road rather than the ideological edges of party politics. One thing it will do for sure is cost way more money. The rest we’ll just have to see about.

Nationally known prognosticator Charlie Cook has recently published his first blush on what that all means to us. His exhaustive report covers the entire country as well as every district within the state. I’ve included an excerpt here dealing only with our immediate area. Stay tuned. This is going to be an interesting season leading up to next years election.

The Charlie Cool Political Report

California
Redistricting Authority: Commission
Ideal New District Population: 702,905
Current Partisan Breakdown: 34 D, 19 R
2012 Cook Redistricting Forecast: 35 D, 18 R

San Bernardino and Riverside

San Bernardino County has almost enough people for three districts, and commissioners will almost certainly need to draw a Hispanic majority seat anchored by the cities of San Bernardino, Fontana, and Rialto. The question is whether commissioners will try to split Democratic Rep. Joe Baca’s current 43rd CD into two parts, paring his district down to his home base in those three cities, and putting Ontario in a separate Hispanic majority district. There will almost certainly need to be a Republican-leaning district anchored by the fast-growing Victor Valley area to the north, and the fate of Chino to the south is anyone’s guess.

Riverside County grew 42 percent in the last decade and surpassed San Bernardino, adding enough people for slightly over three whole districts. There is very big redistricting upside for Democrats here: Riverside gave President Obama a majority of its vote in 2008, yet all four of its districts are represented by Republicans. The most talked-about scenario calls for commissioners to create a new Hispanic majority district taking in Corona/Norco, Riverside and Moreno Valley. This seat would have a significant Democratic edge and could include the Corona home of GOP Rep. Ken Calvert, whose 44th CD is already 43 percent Hispanic.

In fact, surging Hispanic population and political participation in Riverside County explains why Calvert, who routinely had cruised to reelection since 1992, was nearly caught napping in 2008 when underfunded Democratic teachers’ union organizer Bill Hedrick took 49 percent of the vote. Calvert’s 44th CD needs to lose 141,851 residents, so it’s possible a new GOP-leaning district in southwestern Riverside County will complement a Hispanic majority district to the north. Calvert could run here, but he would almost certainly have to overcome primary competition in a vastly new district; Calvert took only 66 percent in his 2010 primary against a challenger who spent just $17,000.

The fastest growing district in the state was GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack’s 45th CD based in explosive Palm Springs and Hemet in eastern Riverside County. The 45th needs to shed 211,304 residents. There are rumors Bono Mack may be considering an early exit from Congress to help her husband, Florida GOP Rep. Connie Mack IV, with his prospective Senate bid. If that happens, this district could be highly competitive. But Republicans would be somewhat relieved if the eastern reaches of the 45th CD, such as Moreno Valley, were lopped off into a new Hispanic majority seat, boosting the 45th CD’s GOP performance.

There’s virtually no way commissioners will draw new districts that endanger GOP Reps. Darrell Issa (CA-49) and Duncan Hunter (CA-52) in anything other than primaries, unless they draw much of the deeply conservative territory in northern San Diego County into districts with more urban areas, which would be a stretch. A continued 3-2 GOP edge in this southernmost region of the state still seems like the most likely outcome.

As if boundary fortune telling isn’t already hazardous enough, the state’s new “top two” ballot law has added a whole new layer of complication. In June 2010, voters passed Proposition 14, setting up jungle primaries for all federal and state elections in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, will advance to the November general election. Candidates aren’t even required to list their party on the ballot anymore. The first indication of the law’s impact could come in a July 12th special election to replace resigned Democrat Jane Harman in the Torrance-based 36th CD.

In the new “top two” era, two candidates from the same party can and will compete against each other on the general election ballot in some districts. This is highly unlikely to happen in swing seats, with the possible exception of unusual cases like open seat races where a plethora of candidates from each party would divide up the primary ballot. The more likely impact of this law will be to shut third party and independent candidates out of November elections.

Over the last few years, relatively unpopular incumbents have eked out November races with less than 50 percent of the vote thanks to minor candidates siphoning opposition votes. Unpopular incumbents won’t be able to depend on this crutch anymore.

California’s brave new world of districts and election laws could seriously endanger 15 or more incumbents. If the commission were to draw districts remotely resembling normal shapes, the incumbents at the most risk in primaries or generals would be those currently sitting in the most gerrymandered districts. Republicans with the most cause for concern are Reps. Dan Lungren (CA-03), Elton Gallegly (CA-24), David Dreier (CA-26), Gary Miller (CA-42), and Ken Calvert (CA-44). The Democrats: Reps. Jerry McNerney (CA-11), Sam Farr (CA-17), Dennis Cardoza (CA-18), Jim Costa (CA-20), Brad Sherman (CA-27), Howard Berman (CA-28), Laura Richardson (CA-37), Grace Napolitano (CA-38), Bob Filner (CA-51), and whoever wins the CA-36 special election in June.

Bottom line: Redistricting may endanger more Democrats in primaries and more Republicans in general elections. Overall, a true incumbent-blind redistricting plan may bequeath Democrats an additional seat or two, given that Republicans currently represent more marginal districts. Eight GOP members sit in districts that voted for President Obama in 2008, while no Democrats sit in districts that voted for GOP presidential nominee John McCain. And if commissioners or judges place an emphasis on maximizing Hispanic voting strength, Hispanic candidates could have new opportunities in as many as five additional districts.

rivco


War Games – Gov. Browns Budget Vote Scheduled today.

War games

Mar 16, 2011
Tensions in the Capitol increased dramatically as the first floor votes loomed on a budget crafted by Gov. Jerry Brown and majority Democrats. But as the negotiations intensified, the voice of the people — a cliche, but a nice cliche — was heard: Most Californians want a chance to vote on the budget, a new poll shows.

From the Chronicle’s Wyatt Buchanan: “A strong majority of California voters want a special election and support Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to shrink the state budget deficit by extending temporary tax increases for five more years, according to a survey by UC Berkeley and the Field Poll. Most California voters, however, would not support paying new or higher taxes to help close the state’s $26.6 billion deficit.”

“The poll showed 61 percent of all voters surveyed said they were in favor of calling a special election, and 56 percent of Republican voters surveyed said they wanted that, too. However, most of the Republicans – 61 percent – said they would vote against the tax proposal.”

More from the poll: About nine out of 10 lawmakers are either conservative or liberal, but only about half of Californians fall into those cagtegories, notes the Bee’s Dan Walters.

“That’s another way of saying that the state’s moderate Democrats, centrist Republicans and independent voters – half of the electorate – have only scant representation in the Capitol.”

“The stark contrast between the political dynamics inside the Capitol and the reality outside its impervious granite walls is one of the major impediments to timely and effective political decision-making. Those inside the building engage in ideological gamesmanship. Those outside just want politicians to do their jobs, even if that requires compromise.”

The eternal push by some Republicans to rewrite the state’s principal environmental law, the California Environmental Quality Act, is gaining new momentum as five Republicans are demanding CEQA changes — the same Republicans whose votes Brown is courting for the state budget.  The LA Times’ Shane Goldmacher and Evan Halper have the story.

“Sweeping changes in the California Environmental Quality Act would stand little chance of approval through the normal legislative process, which Democrats — environmentalists’ usual allies — control. But the governor’s budget cannot pass without some Republican votes, and GOP lawmakers see an opportunity to win long-sought concessions.”

“Environmentalists expressed outrage at the Republicans’ bid. Bill Magavern, director of Sierra Club California, said that what the legislators want amounts to a “wholesale gutting” of the law.”


Christmas Calm Before The Storm

It’s the holiday season and my wife reminds me that my personal newsletter to you should be cheerful and positive.  So I will not mention the near $26 billion deficit that years of legislative inaction, overspending, over-regulating and just plain bad management has heaped on all of us – Republicans, Democrats, Independents and those who won’t even vote because they are so darn mad.  After all – It’s Christmas, so let’s at least have a few weeks of good times and good will before reality comes crashing down in the State Capitol.

Okay… That’s enough good time.  Let’s talk Christmas turkey.

We have a new Governor who is going to be sworn into office in early January. Okay, he’s not really new.  Really, in California, he would be more properly titled as “recycled”.  So in the holiday spirit – let’s wish him well.  Let’s cheer him on when he holds our feet to the fire and says that we have to cut up the credit cards and live within our means.  Let’s raise a toast to him when he says that California needs to be a place where businesses can flourish, be profitable and hire more employees. Let’s say “Thank You Governor” when he tells regulators and bureaucrats that they work for the people of this state – not the other way around. Those are nothing but a Christmas Wish you say?  You bet. A wish, a prayer, a goal, and a hope.  All of the above, because I’m not giving up during my last two years.

I briefly met with our new Governor last week. He was candid, unscripted and had no staff in the room to whisper in his ear.  He was direct and listened to our concerns and our hopes.  In short, we are in for some really tough times with regards to our state finances. While I did not support him at the ballot box, I am, in fact, hopeful that he will turn out to be the right man at the right time. California needs a very strong-willed and focused Chief Executive Officer to help us climb out of our financial abyss. Anything less will be a disservice to every Californian who wants a state they can be proud of.

And speaking of proud, please remember that we have thousands of Californians in uniform serving in hostile foreign environments.  These men and women will not be home for the holidays. They will not be home for a big family dinner, nor to open any gifts with family. Let’s keep them in our prayers and thoughts.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all.

Respectfully,

Kevin Jeffries


Am I asking for too much? by Kevin Jeffries

Strange things happen when the clock strikes midnight…

You all may recall that a little over a week ago word had spread that finally a State Budget Deal had been reached by the “Big 5” in Sacramento. 100 days overdue but the baby was finally arriving!

The Speakers Office issued the official Email summoning all Assembly members to report to the State Capitol for Floor Session on Thursday October 7th.  This was good news.  The sticking points had apparently been ironed out. We could meet with our budget team, walk through the agreed upon details in all 28 ( /-) of the budget bills and get this budget done! (and then immediately start worrying about the next budget).

However, a funny thing happened on the way to the Capitol.  Seemed that not all of the details had been thoroughly worked out by the time we arrived to start discussing the details in advance of our floor debate and votes. In fact well over half of the 20 budget bills had not even been printed yet for review by our budget team – much less all of the Legislators who were now expected to vote on them.

When I walked out to my desk on the Assembly floor, I honestly had no idea just how bad the day was going to be with regards to respecting and advancing Good Government practices.  It was truly a (Not-So) Good-Government disaster in the making.

Within short order we were being asked to vote on budget bills that were now either piling up on our desk – or did not exist as yet.  I wasted little time in expressing my frustration when the floor discussions began.

Several websites reported selections from my floor speech:

I can’t tell you what’s in this budget,” said Assemblymember Kevin Jeffries, who said he has had very little opportunity to review the budget bill which spans three volumes.  “This is not an example of open and transparent government,” reported the Public Policy research firm Kersten Communications.

The Orange County Register also qouted a portion of my comments: “We talk about open and transparent government, and yet we haven’t had 30 minutes, an hour, to digest all of this – a multi-billion (dollar) decision.

As the evening progressed, we (Republicans, Democrats and one Independent) actually found ourselves being asked to vote on some bills that were not in print, had not been seen by the public or media, and were only hastily posted on our computer screens as “mock-ups” (drafts) to read and vote at the same time. Many of the votes were occurring between midnight and the sun rising the next morning – conveniently when the taxpaying public was asleep and most of the media had gone home.  Just imagine the public and media outcry if your local city council or county supervisors conducted their budget meeting and votes in this manner!  Several times I was ready to walk off the floor and return to my office to question my sanity.  I guess that’s why we were literally “locked” in the Assembly Chamber and could not leave.

This kind of behavior is why I introduced ACA 8 and ACA 31 this past session, and will reintroduce the reforms again on the first day we are back in session in December.  ACA 8 would have required that all legislation be in print at least 24 hours before a vote could be taken on the bill, and ACA 31 would have prohibited midnight sessions, requiring that all votes occur between 9am and 9pm when the public and their watchdogs can actually see what is happening.  Neither bill even got a hearing in Sacramento, but I will not stop fighting this battle.

I know that I’m sent to Sacramento to make the best decisions I can on your behalf. I take that responsibility very seriously. However the lack of timely details, the rush of last minute amendments, the reports of new deals being cut (including removing one of the state’s largest government employee unions from his pension reforms that were still going to impact public safety personnel), and on occasion the complete failure to provide us with any written details of some bills did cause me to either Oppose or Abstain on numerous budget bills (my wife says that I get a little stubborn on occasion – I of course disagree). To be sure, I did support about a dozen bills that I felt would either help fix some of our on-going budget problems or help in some small way with our economy.

With millions of Californians still out of work, and hundreds of small and large businesses still leaving the State at a record pace – I remain unwavering in my opinion that not enough is being done to turn our state around and get our state government and its crushing regulatory bureaucracy under control.

A dysfunctional Legislature that is NOT united in stopping the flight of good paying private sector jobs to other states, and seems unwilling to take on the powerful bureaucracy – will simply continue to chase its own tail with half-baked budget solutions and ineffective reforms.

We need to stop the midnight votes. We need to drill down into every state agency and every state program and question the effectiveness and purpose of every hard-earned taxpayer dollar that is spent. We need to start listening to the suggestions of successful business owners about what it will take to keep and create jobs in California. We need to put a leash on our bureaucrats and our regulators. We need our teachers to be free of Sacramento mandates and union directives. We need to move more government services out of Sacramento and back to local government. In short – what we really need is for our government to be truly accountable to the people and to put some good ol’ fashioned common sense back in our State Capitol.

Am I asking for too much?

Respectfully,

Kevin Jeffries


Kevin Jeffries Corner

A Broken Process

Anarchy: [an-er-kee]-noun 1. A state of society without government or law.         2. Sacramento on the last night of session.

Where do I start? No State Budget?, Record High Unemployment?, Massive State Debt?, Businesses and Jobs Leaving the State?, Dysfunctional State Legislature?, Unaccountable State Bureaucrats? Pick one – anyone – and your blood will start boiling.

If you had the pleasure of watching the final days of the State Legislature on August 30th and 31st, you watched a hurricane blow through the State Capitol, with hundreds of bills (legislation) being shoved through the process. Rules were waived, procedures were set aside, public hearings were held on newly drafted legislation with only a few minutes public notice – it was model of efficiency – so long as you didn’t care about content, fairness, public access, or say – good government.  A good “non-partisan” account of this chaotic finish can be seen in this LA Times article.

In one committee I serve on, we had a hastily called meeting to hear several re-written or amended bills. One bill dealt with a very significant change in wagering (betting) at horse racing tracks in California. The Author of the bill was on hand to testify. The supporters and opponents testified. Funny thing – for those of us who were expected to vote on the proposed legislation – we didn’t even have a written copy of the bill to examine and ask questions about! Some legislators liked what they “heard” and took a leap of faith in support. I just couldn’t do it. I refused to even vote. Maybe I’m thick-headed or stubborn or both, but we all deserve better from our government.

That is why I continue to push my reforms to the legislative process, to require that bills be publicly available (and available to the legislators) at least 24 hours before a vote, and to end midnight sessions where important decisions are being made while the citizens sleep.

Now some of you will fire-off a nasty-gram to me stating “Who cares, you should be focused on the budget.” Trust me – I get it. But I would argue that the root of most of our problems in our state can be traced back to the dysfunction of our State government and State Legislature. We spend very few hours throughout the year actually investigating how wisely your tax dollars are being spent by state agencies on state programs. Regretfully we spend more time listening to those who want to create and impose new regulations, and less time listening to those who want to create and keep good paying private sector jobs in California. As an added bonus, we also spend a fair amount of time telling counties and cities how they are to conduct the “peoples business” (via mandates & regulations), and then of course the Legislature exempts itself from those very same rules.  We cannot have good outcomes when our process is broken from the beginning.

In closing, some of you want to know when a State Budget is going to be adopted. I initially thought a budget deal would have been done by early August. Now I have to say I don’t know. A revised version of the Governor’s proposed budget (with no increased taxes) was rejected on party-line votes on August 31st. A counter budget proposal (with billions in new taxes to follow) was also rejected on August 31st. A few months ago I laughed at the conspiracy theory that a state budget would not be approved until after the November election. I’m not laughing anymore.

Respectfully,

Kevin Jeffries


California Water Bond Pulled from Ballot – 2 more years

Well, there was some question as to whether it would happen or not but apparently little Johnny got his way so the $11 billion water bond initiative will be pulled from November’s ballot.

Good riddance… or not.

Many (myself included) would argue that we desperately need this bond to pass so we can start to address the chronic water problems that plague this state. And when I say ‘desperately need’ to do this, I’m not just whistling Dixie. The construction of additional storage damns is critical, the implementation of an alternative conveyance method (i.e. peripheral canal) should have been done 14 years ago. The water issue will have greater long term consequences on this state than unemployment and Prop 32 combined.

But sensing, probably with more prescience than he has exhibited for a long time, that this proposition would go down to defeat at the hands of voters this fall, Gov. Arnold requested that the vote be delayed for 2 years and placed on the ballot again in 2012 when, apparently, all the state’s other ills will have been resolved and voters will be in a better mood to pass this bill.

That’s a stretch. Facing another $19 billion budget deficit this year and the very real prospect of higher taxes to cover it, it was probably an accurate assumption that we wouldn’t be in the proper frame of mind to pony up to another $11 billion bond. But since our budget deficit seems to have become an integral part of our state’s dysfunction, what’s the likelihood that in two short years we will have licked that problem?

Every year the budget impasse seems to get worse. We’ve resolved past years budgets by raising a few taxes, cutting a few costs and simply kicking the can further down the road. Those defrayed bills will be coming due soon, if they haven’t already. Unemployment shows no sign of letting up, housing and tech aren’t going to rebound fast enough to save us, our Democratic legislators continue to chase jobs away at prodigious rates while ramping up hiring in the public sector – why should 2012 be so much rosier than 2010?

Then there’s the bill itself. What should have been a $6 or $7 billion proposal got larded up to $11 billion by the time it hit the floor. Why? Because to insure the votes needed to pass both houses and qualify for the ballot, deals were made. Everybody with an interest in the outcome, from our legislators to the Sierra Club to the public unions and water commission insisted on plugging in their pet project to insure their acquiescence. A few million over here for Delta research, a few million over there for the Salton Sea, a few more for endangered species, pretty soon you’re talking real money – another $4 or $5 billion of real money. Don’t think for a minute that the bills opponents would have let you forget that during the run up to the election.

And aside from my concern that our water crisis is still not being resolved, as passage of this bill might have at least initiated, I’m concerned about what it will cost us to pull it off the table. The report I read stated, “After some intense late-night vote wrangling, AB1260 and AB1265, the two bills necessary to pull the water bond off the ballot, passed the Senate relatively easily but ran into heavy opposition in the Assembly”. I’m not sure if ‘heavy opposition’ is a shot at Assembly Leader John  Perez’ weight but Perez made sure everybody knew he was using this as a bargaining chip to solidify his none-too-subtle agenda. Perez, as you may be aware, is the newly anointed leader of the Assembly and thus far has exhibited all the tact and finesse of a bull at Pamplona. Be assured this marks a victory of some sort for him and if some new fee or tax emerges unopposed, you’ll know the price for Perez’ vote.

So another ‘teachable moment’ emerges from Sacramento. A badly needed solution to our state’s water crisis starts it’s humble journey only to have mountains of pork piled on it’s flanks by the greedheads charged with making it work. What may have been at least a beginning to resolving water issues has now become a victim of the same greedheads charged with making it work because they couldn’t get their acts together on the rest of their job (running our state). As one legislator put it – ‘Maybe we need to roll up our sleeves and work on a bond with more chance of success.’ I’m betting that if this bill does manage to be resuscitate in 2012, the cost will have bloated to $15 billion or more. And not one penny more will have anything to do with water. Welcome to California.


Assemblyman Jeffries Updates the Budget Process

A Whole Lotta Nothing Going On!

On one hand your pocket book should feel a little bit safer knowing that the members of California State Legislature were sent back to their Districts this month when the top leaders in both houses could not agree to adopt the budget as proposed by the Governor. It’s really very difficult to raise your taxes, increase regulations and chase more businesses and jobs out of California when the legislature has been sent home.  You can sleep well for a few more nights while the Capitol looks like a ghost town. Now of course, not everything runs smoothly when a budget is left in limbo. Most state bills don’t get paid. Vendors who provide important supplies and services don’t get paid and a lot of employees are going to try and make home and car payments with no paycheck.

Now this part is a little boring, but it helps to understand the process (or lack thereof). Usually the state budget process develops on two tracks. The first being the customary review of the Governor’s proposed budget by numerous budget sub-committees, then the process moves to the Joint Budget Conference Committee. This powerful Senate and Assembly committee has a total of 6 Democrats and 4 Republicans who decide minor to major budget issues on majority votes. Whenever big budget items cannot or will not be resolved by the conference committee (which is every year), the big issues then move on to the closed doors of the “Big 5” (Governor, 2 Democrat majority leaders and 2 Republican minority leaders). Once they have a “deal,” we all have the pleasure of waiting to see the details in one of a dozen or more budget bills (legislation).

This is when the real fun starts.  Sketchy-details, back-room negotiations in the wee-hours, midnight votes, votes on budget bills that have not been presented to the public or most legislators, locking-down legislators for one or two days so that they cannot leave the Assembly (or Senate) floor. It’s all ugly, and it will all very likely occur again sometime within the next 30 days (I’m being optimistic).

Even with the largest California tax increase having occurred in February 2009 ($12 billion), the current budget deficit is somewhere around $19 billion, and big deficits are projected for several more years to come. So what is going to happen this year to fix the problem, you ask? Well, don’t hold your breath waiting for that fix. I recently flew back up to the Capitol ghost town to do a little fact finding of my own.  After a flurry of one-on-one private meetings – I concluded what I pretty much already knew:  If a budget is going to pass this year – it’s going to use a lot of baling wire and duct tape, and it’s going to kick the can (real tough fixes) down the road to our next Governor (whoever she or he may be).

The financial problems for our state are massive. There is no doubt in my mind that if we were a city, county, or a private business we would in fact be bankrupt.  And if we were a corporation, the Members of the Board would likely be facing federal fraud charges!  I firmly believe that large scale re-structuring of our state government MUST occur, but so far EVERY reform bill I have introduced was killed or (more often) not even given a hearing.  The entire process in which our state budget is developed, implemented and then reviewed (or audited) by the State Legislature must be completely re-written.

Furthermore, the key to our revival is not only to re-write the legislative process, but more importantly to unshackle jobs and businesses. On average, it takes roughly 25 private sector jobs to pay enough taxes to support one government employee. We have been regulating, taxing and chasing businesses and good paying jobs out of this state for so many years, that we forgot who really pays the bills. Now before you fire-off a nasty-gram, yes I know that the national and international economic problems have also hurt us. And NO, I’m not advocating that every regulation should disappear overnight and that businesses should be allowed to dump pollutants in our rivers and lakes. I’m talking about good-ol’-fashioned common sense. Can we relax (or postpone) some regulations until our state economy rebounds? Can we reduce fees and burdensome permit processes until many of our unemployed can find jobs? Can we reduce the size of state government until we can afford its price tag? The answer is Yes, Yes, Yes.  We really can’t afford not to.  But will we?

Respectfully,

Kevin Jeffries

P.S. Many of you respond to my monthly newsletters or Mushroom Alerts with thoughtful suggestions, information, or even some well reasoned complaints. Each week when I return from Sacramento I will usually have a pretty good stack on my desk to read. Although I try, I don’t have enough time to respond to each and every letter and email. But please know that they do make it to my desk. Keep them coming!


Jeffries issues new 'Mushroom Alert'. State continues to hire while the private sector gets laid off.

Mushroom Alert from Assemblyman Jeffries – State Continues to Hire New Employees!

For Immediate Release: May 6, 2010
Craig Deluz 916-319-2066, Jeff Greene 951-894-1232
www.asm.ca.gov/ Jeffries
Assemblymember.Jeffries@assembly.ca.gov

I only issue a Mushroom Alert on very rare occasions and generally only when I suspect the public is being kept or left in the dark.

As most of you know, all across our state, in numerous communities and cities, the headlines of the local newspapers announce that teachers are getting pink slips, fire stations may close and Police services are being cut (to name a few).

You’ve also undoubtedly heard about the near $20 billion dollar state budget deficit and how the state is taking funds from local government (and considering up to $40 billion in new taxes, as reported in my last newsletter) to help cover the red ink. What you probably haven’t seen in your local newspaper is how in the midst of this mess, your state government is actually proceeding with hiring MORE state employees.  I’m not talking about 10 or 20 new positions, I’m talking about requesting more than seven hundred (700 ) – just in the past two weeks alone!

On April 27th and May 4th the following state agencies received preliminary approval from the Assembly Budget Subcommittee #4 for budget support to hire and fill as follows:

Board of Equalization: 447 positions added to the current employee roster of roughly 3700 employees.

Franchise Tax Board: 137 positions added to the current employee roster of roughly 5000 employees (with another 269 positions pending a future hearing).

Department of Consumer Affairs: 73 positions added (with another 67 positions pending a future hearing).

Department of Insurance: 6 positions added.

Department of Veteran Affairs: 59 positions added (with another 257 positions pending a future hearing).

During one meeting we were briefed on how 83 employees are working full time to develop standards and specifications to replace an outdated state computer system. The task force reported it is now prepared to release a “Request For Proposal”. Cost to date $40 million.  Estimated final cost at the end of 12 years: $1.6 Billion.

Now to be fair – none of these are done deals just yet. They still have to go through the final budget approval process, but I believe it does serve as a good indicator as to the lack of fiscal discipline in the State Capitol and challenges many of us face in trying to control our state bureaucracy.  You can watch most state legislative hearings at: CalChannel.com.

Stay Tuned!

Kevin Jeffries


3% Contractor Withholding on the Table Again.


The 3% Independent contractor withholding is back on the table, folks. Along with many, many, many more taxes. Glad we’ve got Kevin Jeffries on our team fighting this lunacy.

Kevin’s Corner

Are You Ready For The Big One?

I don’t mean for the big one (earthquake) on the San Andreas fault line (although you should be ready), I mean are you ready for the big California Budget fight? Ahhh, I bet your first thought was “I couldn’t care less“, or perhaps “It does not impact me – so why should I care?”  What if I gave you 40 Billion reasons to care?

In this case, 40 Billion is the starting number that a group of California public employee unions have proposed in new tax increases. Yep – you read that correctly, $40 billion in proposed tax increases for all Californians.

So what are some of the proposed taxes increases from the public employee unions and/or pro-tax legislators?

  • Increase the Vehicle License Fee back up to the Governor Davis level of 2% ($2 billion more).
  • Increase the tax on oil to 9.9% (increasing fuel production costs by $1billion a year and passed on to you).
  • Raise the top income tax bracket on all successful Californians.
  • Expand sales tax to most services, such as haircuts, veterinarians, and auto repair (taking $18 billion out of the economy).
  • Raise taxes on cigarettes by an additional $1.50 per pack.
  • Raise property taxes on businesses in California.
  • Raise taxes on each alcoholic drink.
  • Withhold 3% of payments to all independent contractors (creating an administrative nightmare).
  • Switch and raise gasoline taxes.
  • Impose a Sugar Tax on soft drinks.
  • Impose a Grocery Store Bag Tax (25 cents on each bag).
  • Tax on employers for providing free or reduced employee Parking stalls at work.
  • 4.8% Tax on your homeowners and/or business insurance policy.

Now as this is an election year, I don’t expect that my colleagues across the aisle will consider all $40 billion, but I would expect that somewhere around $15 billion to $20 billion of your hard earned income will be put on the table for serious discussions when budget talks begin. I anticipate the “real” budget battle will kick into overdrive the day the Governor issues the “May Revise” around mid May. That is when all of us will get a good look at the proposed budget (and the actual size of the deficit) for 2010-11.

Personally, I cannot imagine adding a single dollar of additional taxes on California’s families and employers in the midst of this “Great Recession”.  Taking more money from those who are making less is just wrong.

On another matter, I want to personally thank all of you who have continued to support my efforts to improve the ability of the public and media to see and read proposed state legislation before it is voted on. Back in January – January of LAST YEAR I introduced legislation (ACA 8) to require that ALL legislation be in print for at least 24 hours before the legislature voted on the matter. As the State requires local government (cities, school boards, etc) to have their material in print for at least 72 hours before a meeting, you would think the State Legislature would be willing to live by similar rules. Well I’m sorry to say that just requiring a minimum 24 hours has proven to be so controversial that my colleagues across the aisle have not even allowed the bill to be heard in any committee. I guess I should just look forward to those exciting pre-dawn, last minute budget votes again! Or not…

Respectfully,

Kevin Jeffries