ARCHIVE - 2016 - California Policy Center

ARCHIVE: 2016

Second Orange County School Choice Fair, Jan. 28

For more information: Cecilia Iglesias Education and Community Relations Director California Policy Center (714) 573-2208 cecilia@calpolicycenter.org  Local charter schools, community leaders and education partners will participate in the National School Choice Week celebration SANTA ANA, Calif. – In celebration of National School Choice Week, California Policy Center along with local charter schools will host the […]

The Type of Prosperity California Ought to Show the World

As reported earlier this month in the Los Angeles Times, California policymakers are expanding their war on “climate change” at the same time as the rest of the nation appears poised to reevaluate these priorities. In particular, California’s legislature has reaffirmed the commitment originally set forth in the 2006 “Global Warming Solutions Act” (AB 32) […]

In California, Innovation Ends at the Water Tap

Despite being the home to many of the world’s great startups, California’s approach to its water shortage has been anything but entrepreneurial. The triumph of bureaucracy over entrepreneurship is epitomized by the December 22 release of the state’s Bay Delta Conservation Plan Environmental Impact Review (EIR). The document, characterized by the San Francisco Chronicle as […]

Unaffordable California – It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

December 2016 Update: Here’s a documented comparison of California taxes and economic climate with the rest of the states. The news is bad, and getting worse. But it doesn’t have to be this way! The state and local government policies that created an unaffordable California can be reversed. PERSONAL INCOME TAX: Prior to Prop 30 passing in Nov. […]

A King’s Ransom for ‘Public Servants’?

Editor’s note: During 2015 the average pay and benefits for a full time state worker in California was $104,867. County workers averaged $108,856, and city workers averaged $121,430. These averages do NOT include members of public safety. The 2015 average pay and benefits for full time state highway patrol and corrections employees was $136,828, for county […]

Secretary of Education Nominee Betsy Devos – One Reformer’s Perspective

There has been plenty of discussion about U.S. Secretary of Education Nominee Betsy DeVos in the weeks since your editor wrote a series of commentaries about why reformers shouldn’t support her, much less anyone in the incoming Trump Administration. The resulting discussion and sparring among reformers over DeVos exemplifies the splits that have been developing […]

How to Identify a ‘Good’ Bond

On November 8, Californians approved Prop. 51, authorizing $9.0 billion in new borrowing for construction and upgrades of public schools. Also on November 8, Californians approved 171 local bond measures, authorizing over $22 billion in additional financing for construction and upgrades of public schools. This new borrowing is only to construct and upgrade K-12 and […]

Dallas Pension System Crisis: Could It Be Repeated in California?

Despite a strong national economy and rallying stock market, the city of Dallas faces a pension funding crisis that has triggered fears of a municipal bankruptcy. Can something similar happen in California? Dallas’ Police and Fire Pension System (DPFP) was already teetering at the beginning of 2016, when its actuarial valuation report showed a funded […]

Urgency of School Improvement Bonds Contradicted by State Dept. of Education’s Own Reports

In 2015, officials of the Brea Olinda Unified School District (BOUSD) told state officials all nine of its school facilities were in “exemplary” condition. Six months later, the same district officials told residents the facilities were “deteriorating” – and that the schools would not survive without a $148 million renovation. That disparity – a ratings […]

Federal Legislation May Improve California’s Water Supplies

Fights over water are the norm but the successful water bill that passed Congress last week with a rider provision for California may upset the old standard that water is for fighting and whiskey is for drinking. The bill will divert runoff water to parched farms and set up storage, desalination and recycling programs in […]

Productive Californians Migrating Overwhelmingly to Red States

Human beings prefer freedom to collectivism and tyranny. Only those in complete denial disregard the negative consequences of policies that suppress liberty. Consider North Korea versus South Korea. And recall that in Berlin during the Cold War era, people weren’t shot trying to go from West to East – not that anyone tried anyway. Finally, […]

Trump Energy Agenda Will Further Damage Economic Competitiveness of California

Editor’s note: In two key areas of energy policy, the incoming Trump administration is poised to fundamentally change the rules. The Trump administration is likely to end U.S. participation in the Paris climate accords, and they are likely to strike down the EPA’s “clean power plan.” There is nothing wrong with setting reasonable environmental goals, […]

New California Policy Center Study Offers Next Generation Infrastructure Solutions

For Immediate Release December 1, 2016 California Policy Center Lee Schalk at 916-258-2396 lee@calpolicycenter.org New California Policy Center Study Offers Next Generation Infrastructure Solutions Study explores how private infrastructure investment can increase water supply, bolster energy, and modernize transportation systems. LOS ANGELES — Today the California Policy Center released a new study investigating California’s infrastructure […]

New California Policy Center Study Proposes Pension Funds Invest in Infrastructure

Although Sacramento and Washington DC will be ruled by very different governing philosophies over the next two years, we believe that a centrist approach to infrastructure policy can be a win/win for California Democrats and for Republicans who will control the federal government for the next two years. We analyze promising areas of infrastructure investment, […]

Rebuilding California’s Infrastructure – Introduction (Part 1 of 6)

This is Part One of “Rebuilding California’s Infrastructure,” to access the other five sections, click on the links below. To access the entire six-part study in a single, printable PDF document, DOWNLOAD HERE. Part One: Introduction Part Two: Water Reuse Part Three: Water Storage Part Four: Desalination Part Five: Energy and Transportation Part Six: Financing Models and Policy […]

Rebuilding California’s Infrastructure – Water Reuse (Part 2 of 6)

This is Part Two of “Rebuilding California’s Infrastructure,” to access the other five sections, click on the links below. To access the entire six-part study in a single, printable PDF document, DOWNLOAD HERE. Part One: Introduction Part Two: Water Reuse Part Three: Water Storage Part Four: Desalination Part Five: Energy and Transportation Part Six: Financing Models and […]

Rebuilding California’s Infrastructure – Water Storage (Part 3 of 6)

This is Part Three of “Rebuilding California’s Infrastructure,” to access the other five sections, click on the links below. To access the entire six-part study in a single, printable PDF document, DOWNLOAD HERE. Part One: Introduction Part Two: Water Reuse Part Three: Water Storage Part Four: Desalination Part Five: Energy and Transportation Part Six: Financing Models […]

Rebuilding California’s Infrastructure – Desalination (Part 4 of 6)

This is Part Four of “Rebuilding California’s Infrastructure,” to access the other five sections, click on the links below. To access the entire six-part study in a single, printable PDF document, DOWNLOAD HERE. Part One: Introduction Part Two: Water Reuse Part Three: Water Storage Part Four: Desalination Part Five: Energy and Transportation Part Six: Financing Models […]

Rebuilding California’s Infrastructure – Energy & Transportation (Part 5 of 6)

This is Part Five of “Rebuilding California’s Infrastructure,” to access the other five sections, click on the links below. To access the entire six-part study in a single, printable PDF document, DOWNLOAD HERE. Part One: Introduction Part Two: Water Reuse Part Three: Water Storage Part Four: Desalination Part Five: Energy and Transportation Part Six: Financing Models […]

Rebuilding California’s Infrastructure – Financing Models & Recommendations (Part 6 of 6)

This is Part Six of “Rebuilding California’s Infrastructure,” to access the other five sections, click on the links below. To access the entire six-part study in a single, printable PDF document, DOWNLOAD HERE. Part One: Introduction Part Two: Water Reuse Part Three: Water Storage Part Four: Desalination Part Five: Energy and Transportation Part Six: Financing Models […]

Who’s Going to Pay for Trump’s Huge Infrastructure Plans?

A rare point of agreement between President-Elect Trump and Congressional Democrats is that America has an infrastructure deficit: The nation’s transportation, power, water and sewerage facilities are too often outdated and unable to reliably serve a growing population. But while the diagnosis crosses party lines, solutions are more controversial. Democrats may not be too worried […]

Invest California’s Pension Funds in Water and Energy Infrastructure

“We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” –  Peter Thiel, in his 2011 manifesto “What Happened to the Future.” Anyone living in California who’s paying attention knows what venture capitalist Thiel meant. While a handful of Silicon Valley social media entrepreneurs have amassed almost indescribable wealth, and fundamentally transformed how humanity communicates, investment in […]

Firm with School District Contracts is Major Contributor to New Bonds

Officials in Huntington Beach’s Ocean View School District weren’t the only ones hoping for the passage of Measure R on Tuesday. In August, Ledesma & Meyer Construction Company, Inc. of Rancho Cucamonga donated $25,000 to the district’s $319 million tax increase campaign. “Many contractors will contribute to campaigns in an effort to show that they […]

Will Taxpayers get Shafted in the Latest Chapter 9 Bankruptcy?

When a government files for bankruptcy, bondholders, employees and vendors typically fight for a share of the agency’s assets. But what about taxpayers? Shouldn’t their interests also be considered by the bankruptcy court judge? This is the question we hope will be answered in California’s newest Chapter 9 bankruptcy, that of the West Contra Costa Healthcare […]

How These Public Schools Went from ‘Exemplary’ to ‘Deteriorating’ in Just Months

Just months before they told the public they need billions of dollars in new tax revenue for school repairs, school district officials across California were telling the state Department of Education a very different story: their facilities are in “good” condition — even “exemplary.” The glowing self-assessments are contained in School Accountability Report Cards reviewed […]

The Credibility of Public Service

California’s government unions are nothing like private sector unions. Their bosses are selected via elections where these unions are the dominant campaign contributors. They get their money through compulsory taxes and therefore don’t have to run efficient operations. They run the machinery of government which lets them intimidate their opponents and act as gatekeeper to […]

California Cities Facing Huge Pension Increases from CalPERS

In their most recent actuarial reports CalPERS for the first time provided pension cost estimates for the next 8 years, from 2015 to 2023. How high are these costs going for California’s cities who retroactively increased their pensions at CalPERS urging over the past 15 years? To answer that question I looked at the largest […]

West Contra Costa Healthcare District Goes Bankrupt Again; Time to Throw in the Towel

On October 20, the West Contra Costa County Healthcare District (WCCHD) filed for Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy – its second such bankruptcy filing in ten years. In 2015, the district closed its one hospital – Doctors Medical Center in San Pablo – which had been hemorrhaging money for many years. Since WCCHD is insolvent and […]

Construction Firms Fund Orange County School Bond Campaigns

Companies linked to the school construction industry have placed their November bets on a number of Orange County school bond ballot measures, a California Policy Center investigation of campaign contribution reports collected by the Orange County Registrar of Voters show. Atkinson, Andelson, Loya, Rudd & Romo (AALRR) is a law firm with eight offices across […]

Why are the Economy and Incomes Growing So Slowly?

Why are so many people unhappy and angry?  Why is the electorate turning to populist candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump?  Why are they so mad at the Washington D.C. establishment?  What’s the problem? This is the second in a series of articles.  The first dealt with the fact that the cost of health […]

In a Political Campaign, City Officials Can Spend Your Money Against You. They Call it ‘Education’

This commentary appeared first in the Orange County Register. Californians going to the polls on Nov. 8 will find more than 300 measures to raise taxes. And despite multiple legal decisions limiting the practice, municipal officials in California may be paying outside consultants to run the campaign to sell you on your local tax measure. […]

Contra Costa needs more road capacity, but we don’t need new sales taxes to build it

Along with the grandeur of Yosemite and the beauty of the California coast, there’s our state’s epic rush hours. But sales taxes on the Nov. 8 ballot, like Contra Costa’s Measure X, aren’t the way to solve them. Measure X would add 0.5% to local sales tax rates to fund a variety of transportation projects […]

Will the BART Bond Fund Pensions?

This fall, voters in San Francisco, Alameda and Contra Costa counties will consider a $3.5 billion BART bond measure. Proponents argue that the measure is required to ensure the system’s safety and reliability. Critics are concerned that bond proceeds will be used to support excessive employee salaries and benefits. BART management denies that claim. In […]

Just in Time for Halloween, City Manager Uses Official Letter to Scare Voters

Faced with the potential repeal of a controversial one-percent local sales tax, Stanton City Manager James Box mailed voters two weeks ago to warn that passage of a sales tax repeal will “terminate funding approved by Stanton voters” and result “in cuts to essential city services.” The timing of Box’s letter, just weeks ahead of […]

Is $288 Million the Right Price for Orange Unified High School Upgrades?

Given declining enrollment, Orange Unified School District’s $288 million bond measure may fund more school upgrades than students need.  There is also a risk that the taxpayer cost of debt service for the bond issue will exceed the district’s forecast rate of $29 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. According to statistics from Ed Data, enrollment […]

$288 Million Orange USD Bond Measure Would Add to Large Pile of Existing Debt

If Orange Unified voters approve Measure S this November, newly authorized bonds will be added to an already large district debt. A California Policy Center review of OUSD financial reports finds that the district owed $120 million to bond investors as of June 30, 2016. The largest portion of OUSD’s bond obligations takes the form […]

Officials Ditch Claim About ‘Benefits’ of High Property Taxes

Flyers distributed in Capistrano Unified School District schools and the main office promote the district’s upcoming $889 million property tax increase as a benefit to homeowners. That claim would appear to be a political response to criticism of Measure M, the controversial bond on the South Orange County district’s November 8 ballot. Critics have said […]

San Francisco Parcel Tax Opponents Censored by Supervisor, Bureaucrats

  Editor’s Note: Members of the Libertarian Party of San Francisco (LPSF) tried and failed to include an opposing argument to an extension and increase of a Community College parcel tax in the Voters Handbook. Here Party Chair Aubrey Freedman describes the process by which the San Francisco Department of Elections silenced not only the […]

District has Paid Consultants Over $400k to Promote Bond

State law prohibits government officials from using taxpayer dollars in political campaigns. But on June 8, Keith Weaver of Government Financial Strategies stood before the Capistrano Unified school board, coaching trustees on how to pass an $889 bond measure on the November 8 ballot. “November elections do better,” said Weaver, whose Sacramento-based firm has been paid […]

Top 10: Vernon Leads California Cities with More Public Employees Than Residents

For Immediate Release October 11, 2016 California Policy Center Contact: Will Swaim Will@CalPolicyCenter.org (714) 573-2231 Vernon, California is so famous for its history of corruption that it was the municipal star of season 2 of HBO’s “True Detective” series. Now the diminutive L.A. County town can claim another achievement: Vernon is the only California city with more public employees than […]

Survey Says! How One City Used a ‘Poll’ to Raise Taxes

On Halloween 2014, Stanton, California, city manager James Box wrote to the city’s residents. City officials were at the end of a year-long campaign to stampede residents toward acceptance of Measure GG, creating a one-cent city sales tax, the first of its kind in Orange County. They had warned residents that failure to approve the […]

Keep Breaking the Law: Your Government Needs the Money

My colleague Matt Smith recently observed that Huntington Beach is following the model of Ferguson, Missouri: raising fines on misdemeanors in order to generate more revenue for a cash-strapped city. The Department of Justice found that strategy was a contributing factor to rioting that followed the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson on August […]

School District’s Bond Controversy Reveals Rising Concern About ‘Pay-to-Play’

In the space of just a few months, state officials have suddenly turned their attention to a problem in the public-educational shadows: insider dealing among California school district officials and outside vendors. In a January opinion, state Attorney General Kamala Harris concluded that school officials had become too cozy with companies that stand to benefit […]

Controversial ‘Education Center’ Schools Parents in Bond Pitfalls

Anyone looking down the barrel of an $889 million school bond should consider what the Capistrano Unified School District did with its last bond, in 2002. After issuing the bond – called a certificate of participation (COP) – the district began constructing a $35 million administration building in San Juan Capistrano, east of I-5. Opened in […]

OC’s Measure M Treats Some Homeowners More Equally Than Others

Orange County voters are being asked to approve over $2.4 billion in new school bonds. The largest bond: Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD)’s $889-million Measure M. The new CUSD bond would be serviced by property owners in most of the school district, but not quite all of it. One community, Rancho Mission Viejo, won’t be […]

Reporter’s Notebook: CPC Offers Expert Help with Local School Bond Reporting

For Immediate Release September 23, 2016 California Policy Center Contact: Will Swaim Will@CalPolicyCenter.org (714) 573-2231 SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Well down the November ballot, obscured by the high-profile battle for the White House, Californians will find more than 100 local school bond measures representing hundreds of millions of dollars of new public debt. “The bond process is […]

The Highest-Paid Public Employee in the Poorest County in California

Raymond J. Cordova, county executive officer of Imperial County, earns $282,093 with total pay and benefits. That’s 17 times the median per capita income of Imperial County residents, who earned just $16,409. By comparison, San Francisco’s highest paid public official, Chief Investment Officer William J. Coaker Jr., made $633,723 – about 13 times SF’s median […]

What’s Wrong With the Economy?

Why are so many people unhappy and angry? Why is the electorate turning to populist candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump? Why are they so mad at the Washington D.C. establishment? What’s the problem? Perhaps the biggest problem is the low growth of the economy leading to fewer job opportunities and little or no […]

LAUSD Spends More Even as Enrollment Drops

Editors Note: By almost every objective standard, the educational outcomes delivered by the Los Angeles School District are among the worst in the nation. The following article documents how LAUSD has spent millions, hundreds of millions, on budget items that have little impact on the quality of classroom education, all the while attempting to blame […]

LA Story: The Poorer You Are, the More Likely You Are to Support Charters

Los Angeles school teachers gathered in August in the posh, iconic – and for the group, weirdly ironic – Westin Bonaventure Hotel. They heard their union’s leaders extol their role as revolutionary defenders of the city’s poorest communities against the wealthy. But that’s not how the city’s poor have seen it. The poorer you are, […]

ACLU Turns its Back on LA’s Poorest Students in Attack on Charter Schools

The ACLU has aimed its considerable legal firepower at charter schools. The reason? They aren’t enough like our failing traditional public schools. In a recent report, the ACLU condemns 253 California charter schools for what it sees as a violation of discrimination law, citing examples of charter schools requiring consistent attendance and, in some cases, […]

Anti-Charter-School Rhetoric Isn’t Helping L.A.’s Kids

As the son of poor sharecroppers from East Texas who came to California to work as migrant farm workers, I greet the new school year as a time of hope and possibility for my family. Neither of my parents was able to complete elementary school in the segregated South, but they knew education was the […]

California Court Ruling Allows Pension Changes

On August 17, 2016 the First Appellate District Court ruled on the lawsuit brought by the Marin Association of Public Employees against the Marin County Employees’ Retirement Association (MCERA) and State of California. The case was brought after MCERA eliminated pay items considered pensionable following the States enactment of the California Public Employees’ Pension Reform […]

Gov. Brown says yes to school finance reforms inspired by CPC study

For Immediate Release August 18, 2016 California Policy Center Contact: Will Swaim Will@CalPolicyCenter.org (714) 573-2231 SACRAMENTO — It’s rare that a think-tank study produces real reform, but it happened today when Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law a bill designed to stop school officials before they recklessly spend again. Assembly Bill 2116 began one year ago with […]

California’s Misguided Water Conservation Priorities

If you’ve recently driven on most any California freeway, you’ve seen the default message on the government-owned electronic billboards, “Severe Drought Conditions – Reduce Outdoor Water Use.” The message seems reasonable enough. Several years of lower-than-average rainfall have left the state’s reservoirs depleted, so why should households be wasting water, indoor or outdoor? And if […]

The Unions’ Favorite California State Senator

Money in politics has been a recurrent theme in this election cycle. Campaign finance reform advocates, mainstream media and certain candidates have repeatedly driven home the idea that corporations and rich conservatives are biasing the political process by making big-money donations, often without disclosure. Much of the narrative – advanced by authors such as New […]

Higher Taxes = Business Departures = Lower Tax Revenues

State Controller Betty Yee’s just-released July Cash Report shows state personal income tax revenue falling behind estimates by 6.9 percent, or $323 million lower than projections. While some will argue that one month does not make a trend, these figures are significant because they represent revenue in the first month of the new state budget, […]

The Last Safe Places to Invest Are Dwindling

Editor’s Note:  In this analysis by economic strategist Michael Lebowitz, more evidence is presented that returns on investments, all of them, everywhere, are plateauing. Investors who are searching for yield can no longer turn to bonds, which have rates at or near zero, or in some cases, rates that are negative. Investors searching for yield can […]

California’s Economic Picture is Not as Rosy as Commonly Believed

The prevailing wisdom in Sacramento on the Democrat side of the aisle is that the ruling Democrat Legislature can do no wrong with the economy because the California economy is exceptional and can handle extraordinary tax rates and regulation that far exceed national and international standards. But my new analysis of economic data from the […]

SUITABLE FOR QUOTING: Expert Responses to CalPERS’ Monday, July 18 Earnings Report

For Immediate Release July 18, 2016 California Policy Center Contact: Will Swaim Will@CalPolicyCenter.org (714) 573-2231 California Policy Center Responses to Monday, July 18, 2016 Earnings Report For reporters and commentary writers, the California Policy Center can make available two public finance experts. We also offer for publication these immediate responses to the CalPERS report:   ED […]

FOR PUBLICATION: Ed Ring Response to CalPERS’ disastrous 2015-16 earnings report

For Immediate Publication July 18, 2016 California Policy Center Contact: Will Swaim Will@CalPolicyCenter.org (714) 573-2231 Latest earnings report is more evidence California retirement agency will reform or die By Ed Ring | California Policy Center The officials who run California’s public-employee retirement system should have released today’s earnings report with sound effects – a flugelhorn, maybe, […]

Unaffordable California – It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

July 2016 Update:  Here’s a documented comparison of California taxes and economic climate with the rest of the states. The news is bad, and getting worse. But it doesn’t have to be this way! The state and local government policies that created an unaffordable California can be reversed. PERSONAL INCOME TAX: Prior to Prop 30 passing in […]

Red Flags: New Study Offers Grim Warning for California Pension Funds

For Immediate Release July 12, 2016 California Policy Center Contact: Will Swaim Will@CalPolicyCenter.org (714) 573-2231 Stock market overvaluation will lead to ‘major correction,’ trigger benefits cuts and tax hikes SACRAMENTO, Calif. – There are more red flags for public-sector pension funds that rely on stock investments for most of their income, a new California Policy Center […]

How a Major Market Correction Will Affect Pension Systems, and How to Cope

Summary:  Based on historical trends, three key aggregated stock market ratios – price/earnings, price/sales, and price as a percent of GDP – all show that publicly traded U.S. stock are overvalued by approximately 50%. This article explains the significance of these ratios, then, using a financial model developed specifically for this purpose, evaluates the impact […]

Anaheim to Award Biggest Tax Subsidy in City History to Disney, but Union Leaders Remain Quiet

ANAHEIM, Calif. — There’s evidence of a very California coup in the city of Anaheim, where an unusual alliance of city officials, government union leaders and developers is advancing its own financial interests at the expense of everyone else. Their current goal: a council vote Tuesday night by the Anaheim city council to offer major […]

The Fifteenth of August

July 4th – June 6th – September 11th – August 15th You likely associated the first three dates above with transformative events in U.S. history. August 15th, however, may have you scratching your head. August 15, 1971 was the date that President Richard Nixon shocked the world when he closed the gold window, thus eliminating […]

The Death of the Virtuous Economic Cycle

Despite many promises, there has been no sustainable economic recovery.  The United States, and the developed world for that matter, have made repetitive attempts over the last 16 years to return economic growth to the pace of years long past.  These nations are stuck in a cycle in which hopes for economic “escape velocity” get […]

Diablo Canyon is Not the Devil

Smack dab in the middle of a record-setting heat wave and threats of rolling blackouts, Pacific Gas and Electric announced it will close the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in nine years. Just like that, 10 percent of the state’s energy supply will be gone. Coupled with the closure of San Onofre, California will be […]

UC Berkeley’s ‘income inequality’ critics earn in top 2%

For Immediate Release June 23, 2016 California Policy Center Contact: Will Swaim Will@CalPolicyCenter.org (714) 573-2231   Income inequality at UC Berkeley worse than world’s-worst Haiti SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Scholars from the University of California at Berkeley have played a pivotal role in making income inequality a major issue in 2016 political campaigns. But while they decry […]

UC Berkeley’s ‘income inequality’ critics earn in top 2%

Scholars from the University of California at Berkeley have played a pivotal role in making income inequality a major political issue. But while they decry the inequities of the American capitalist system, Berkeley professors are near the top of a very lopsided income distribution prevailing at the nation’s leading public university.

The Alternative to Crony Capitalism and Phony Shortages

The modern history of the Silicon Valley arguably began in 1957, when eight young PhD graduates left Shockley Semiconductor Laboratories to launch the first high-volume chip manufacturer, Fairchild Semiconductor. Fairchild and its spinoffs, including Intel and Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), were the early participants in what became the most fervid ecosystem of fiercely competitive innovators the […]

TAXPORTATION: Profligate Waste Negates Justification for Transportation Tax Hike

Part One:  California’s Highways – A Legacy of Mismanagement and Over-regulation. A personal digression: My father was head of the Iowa Department of Transportation (then called the Iowa Highway Commission) in the late ’60s and early ’70s before he was appointed by President Ford to serve as Deputy Federal Highway Administrator. (Of course, he lost […]

Government Created Energy Blackouts Coming to a City Near You

Most countries around the world think that it’s a good thing to have cheap energy. But in California, we have plenty of cheap energy available, just not the political will to access it. California depends on natural gas-driven turbines and hydroelectric generators to provide just 38 percent of its oil needs. The state imports 12 percent […]

Major-party presidential candidates offer no solutions on federal retirement crises

For Immediate Release June 2, 2016 California Policy Center Contact: Will Swaim Will@CalPolicyCenter.org (714) 573-2231 SACRAMENTO — Californians may be accustomed to living with the specter of a public pension crisis. But the federal government’s problem with its retirement systems – including Social Security – is far worse, and yet none of the three remaining major-party […]

Comparing Federal and California State Retirement Exposures

Californians may be accustomed to living with the specter of a public pension crisis. But the federal government’s problem with its retirement system – including Social Security – is far worse, and yet none of the three remaining major-party candidates for president has a plan to do anything about it. The California Policy Center generally […]

Comparing Fresno City and County Pension Systems

As the Fresno Bee recently reported, the city of Fresno’s pension systems are in much better financial shape than the Fresno County Employees’ Retirement Association (FCERA). As of June 30, 2015, the city’s two systems reported a combined $349 million of assets (at market value) in excess of actuarially accrued liabilities. By contrast, FCERA’s assets […]

Taxes up, retirements slashed, governments in crisis: Ed Ring on California’s coming public pension apocalypse

For Immediate Release May 18, 2016 California Policy Center Contact: Will Swaim Will@CalPolicyCenter.org (949) 274-1911 SACRAMENTO – America’s already troubled public-employee pension funds will go broke in the next economic slowdown, creating the likelihood that millions of public employees will see their retirements slashed – even as state and local governments raise taxes dramatically and scramble […]

The Coming Public Pension Apocalypse, and What to Do About It

When the next market downturn hits, every public employee pension fund in the United States will face severe challenges. Because public employee pension funds are not subject to the same rules that private pension funds have to adhere to – namely, the restrictions on risky investments as specified in the federal Employee Retirement Income Security […]

Either Reverse All the Perverse Incentives or the System Will Implode

I hope it’s not a great shock to discover all the incentives in our status quo are perverse: those who rig the financial system while creating zero real value, jobs, goods or services reap all the big profits; those who take near-zero responsibility for their own health are subsidized by those who take responsibility for […]

Who Owns The World

While doing research for my map of the New Feudalism, I found this 2010 book by Irish journalist Kevin Cahill. Despite the shrill cover rhetoric, the book is basically a nation-by-nation (and, in the United States, state-by-state) inventory of land ownership patterns. There are a lot of question marks about some countries, but it helps […]

Billions in New Bonds Should Not Escape Voter Approval

Former Speaker Willie Brown once said, “In the world of civic projects, the first budget is really just a down payment.” The strategy, he noted, was to start construction of a project quickly so it would be hard to stop once people learned of the real cost which, in many cases, could be many multiples […]

Reforming the Investment Banking Industry

Goldman Sachs announced this week that it was to offer consumer savings accounts over the Internet, with a minimum of $1. It’s not a bad marketing idea; no doubt a “Bank of Dr. Evil” branded savings account would also go well. It appears to indicate that Goldman’s confidence in its core investment banking business is […]

Sonoma and Marin county officials voted to hike their own retirement pay

For Immediate Release April 29, 2016 California Policy Center Contact: Will Swaim Will@CalPolicyCenter.org (714) 573-2231   Retroactive pension bump likely violated multiple state transparency and accounting laws Sacramento — County supervisors members and other senior county officials in Marin and Sonoma may have violated state law when voting for massive retroactive pension increases for themselves and […]

Transparency organization wins ‘total victory’ in Lynwood records case

For Immediate Release April 26, 2016 California Policy Center Contact: Will Swaim Will@CalPolicyCenter.org (949) 274-1911 SACRAMENTO  – The city of Lynwood will pay $22,000, part of a judge’s decision that city officials failed to disclose to the California Policy Center the names and salaries of Lynwood public employees. You can read the April 22 judgment here. […]

(Orange County Archives / Wikimedia Commons)

Stanton officials launch propaganda war on tax-repeal effort

STANTON, Calif. – It was a Wednesday afternoon in early March, a more innocent time in Stanton, California. Gathered in the community center of the Plaza Pine Estates, we were like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden before they ate the apple that gave them a second-grader’s sense of good and evil. Plaza […]

Stanton is Your Kind of Town

Kobe lives here – the NBA star, not the beef, though that’s often what’s starring for dinner. And Gwen Stefani grew up here. Orange County has the NHL Ducks and baseball’s weirdly named Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Television has honored this place (and mocked it) with Arrested Development, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, […]

Average Orange County Firefighter Made $236,155 in 2014

The City of Stanton contracts with Orange County for public safety services. Like many cities in Orange County, and in an arrangement that is typical of many small cities in California, it makes financial sense for the city to pay the county in exchange for an allocation of police and firefighters who protect the citizens […]

‘Outsiders’: The powerful government unions that brought OC’s highest sales tax to Stanton are at it again

Stanton city officials have taken to the streets to fight a November ballot measure that would repeal the city’s one-year-old sales tax. In 37 community meetings and in a stream of communications from City Hall, officials tell residents the tax is essential to the city’s survival – and that its victory at the polls in […]

Hoping to avoid citywide vote, Stanton officials quietly issued high-interest bonds

Taxpayers in Stanton, a quiet suburb of Orange County with only 38,000 residents, will pay millions for a pricey bond deal approved in an obscure vote of a little-known city agency five years ago. Rather than risk voter rejection over the deal, Stanton city council members David Shawver, Alexander Ethans and Brian Donohue – acting in […]

Tax hike masks Stanton’s public-safety pay problem

Stanton has become the stage for a political brawl: in one corner, city officials and the public employee union leaders who backed the measure to give Stanton – Orange County’s smallest city and one of its poorest – the county’s highest sales tax; in the other, residents and business owners working to repeal Measure GG, […]

Investing in Infrastructure to Lower the Cost of Living

California’s civil infrastructure was once the envy of the nation. During the 1950’s and 1960’s the state wisely invested in transportation, water and power infrastructure, delivering capacity well in excess of the needs of the state’s population at the time. Even today, the scale of California’s network of aqueducts and pumping stations to transfer water […]

Pension burden in 5 California counties now over 10%

Years after the Great Recession slammed their Wall Street investments, at least five California counties have broken through the 10 percent ceiling, spending at least one of out of every $10 to fund their government-employee retirement programs. The resulting strain on local budgets, called the pension burden, is revealed in California Policy Center’s latest analysis of county reports. […]

Unaffordable California – It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

March 2016 Update:  Here’s a documented comparison of California taxes and economic climate with the rest of the states. The news is bad, and getting worse. But it doesn’t have to be this way! The state and local government policies that created an unaffordable California can be reversed. PERSONAL INCOME TAX: Prior to Prop 30 passing in […]

Exclusive Interview with John Cox

Former speaker of the California State Assembly and State Treasurer Jesse “Big Daddy” Unruh once said, “Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” As the war chest necessary to mount a successful political campaign only continues to grow, Unruh’s words seem perhaps truer today than at any other time in our republic. But many worry […]

The Ponzification of the World

Arrests have been made in China over a $7.6 billion Ponzi scheme involving a P2P (person-to-person, without the intervention of a bank) lender. My first response was: P2P lending in the Chinese banking system: what could possibly go wrong? My second, more thoughtful, insight is that distinguishing out-and-out Ponzi schemes from the world economy as […]

Inflation-Adjusted San Francisco Home Prices Higher Than During 2007 Housing Bubble

Last week, the Federal Housing Finance Agency released its quarterly home price indices for the fourth quarter of 2015, so we now have a 41-year time series for every state and many metropolitan areas. The numbers show that, even after adjusting for inflation, housing prices in the San Francisco Bay Area have exceeded prices during […]

City Contributions to CalPERS Continue to Rise

Last year, CPC published a study on California City Pension Burdens. Most of the data for that study came from plan-specific actuarial valuation reports published by CalPERS. These reports show how much local government employers must pay CalPERS in the coming fiscal year and projects contributions for several years into the future. At the end […]

$15 Minimum Wage for California: Maybe Okay for the Coast, but a Disaster for the Central Valley

The November 2016 ballot is likely to contain an initiative that would raise the statewide minimum wage to $15 by 2021. At the beginning of this year, the state’s minimum wage rose from $9 to $10. If Measure 15-0032 passes, it will rise an additional dollar each year between 2017 and 2021; after that, it would […]

Riverside County Taxpayers Get Raw Deal on Community Facility District Bonds

This is the second of an occasional series of posts on municipal bond issuance costs.  You can see the first one, focusing on Fullerton, here. In a recent study of 800 municipal bond issues for UC Berkeley, I found that issuance costs varied widely – from less than 0.2% of face value to over 10%. […]

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