How Gov't Unions and Crony Capitalists Exploit Global Warming Concerns

If anyone is looking for evidence that government unions use their immense influence to support the growth of an authoritarian state, look no further than their unequivocal support for global warming “mitigation,” and all attendant agencies and laws to support that goal.

In 2006 California’s union-controlled legislature passed AB32, the “Global Warming Solutions Act,” a measure that was touted as a trailblazing breakthrough in the dire challenge to avoid catastrophic climate change. The premise behind AB32 is that CO2 is a dangerous pollutant, and that eliminating CO2 emissions is necessary to prevent the planet’s climate from overheating, with all the apocalyptic consequences; rising oceans inundating coastal regions, epic droughts cascading through the world’s fragile forests and killing them, extreme storms, acidic oceans, collapsing agriculture – the end of life as we know it.

Maybe that’s true – and maybe not – but how it’s being managed is a corrupt, misanthropic, epic scam.

If anyone is looking for evidence that government unions and crony capitalists work together – contrary to the conventional wisdom that presents the appearance that they are in conflict – again look no further than their shared support for global warming mitigation, expressed in the legislative mandate to reduce CO2 emissions. AB 32 implements this by forcing industrial entities to purchase permits to emit progressively smaller quantities of CO2, via an auction process that is expected to raise $20 billion per year to finance renewable energy investments.

Think about how government unions will benefit from all this money:

  • Transit workers will claim a share because they will be getting cars off the road.
  • Firefighters will claim more fires are because of global warming and demand more funds – when in reality most severe wildfires are the result of decades of forest mismanagement and unwarranted wildfire suppression.
  • Cities will qualify for proceeds when they zone extremely high density housing.
  • Code enforcement officers will declare that the percentage of their jobs oriented towards conservation and energy/water efficiency qualifies them for a share of the proceeds.
  • Teachers will declare that the percentage of their curricula oriented towards climate education qualifies them for a share of the proceeds.
  • More generally, municipalities will collect more property tax as restrictive zoning elevates the cost of housing.

Think about how crony corporations and corrupt financial special interests benefit from this money:

  • Wall Street traders will set up new subsidiaries to traffic in carbon emission auctions and take a cut.
  • “Green” entrepreneurs will manufacture devices calculated to save energy and water – despite the fact that the shortages are contrived.
  • Producers of energy and water will sell at higher prices since competitive development of these resources is restricted.
  • Utilities whose profits are “decoupled” from the quantity of energy and water they deliver will increase revenue and hence their profit margins which are pegged to revenue, without having to increase services.
  • Manufacturers of noncompetitive products with no natural demand – high speed rail is a perfect example – are enriched via hundreds of billions of investment for their supposedly greener and cleaner solutions.
  • More generally, artificial scarcity causes asset bubbles which benefits wealthy investors and pension funds, but impoverishes ordinary workers.

Even if CO2 is a threat to life on earth, there is an alternative that merits discussion:

Instead of investing in “green” energy infrastructure and embedded surveillance systems to micro-manage energy consumption, California should be investing in natural gas and 5th generation nuclear power stations, desalination plants along the coast, liquid natural gas terminals, efficiency upgrades to existing high-voltage transmission lines, run-off harvesting and aquifer storage systems, upgraded aqueducts, comprehensive waste-water treatment and aquifer recharge, offshore drilling for oil and gas, widened roads and freeways, more airport runways, and buses for mass transit. These steps will result in energy, water and transportation costing everyone in California less. This will benefit businesses and consumers, and make California a magnet for investors and entrepreneurs all over the world.

And even if CO2 is a threat to life on earth, vigorous debate on that topic should be encouraged, not outlawed.

If you are an informed skeptic – something the axis of government unions and powerful financial special interests are trying to outlaw – it becomes tiresome to recite the litany of legitimate reasons that debate regarding the actual impact of anthropogenic CO2 is of critical importance. The primacy of solar cycles, the multi-decadal oscillations of ocean currents, the dubious role of water vapor as a positive feedback mechanism, the improbability of positive climate feedback in general, the uncertain role (and diversity) of aerosols, the poorly understood impact of land use changes, the failure of the ice caps to melt on schedule, the failure of climate models to account for an actual cooling of the troposphere, the fact that just the annual fluctuations in natural sources of CO2 emissions eclipse estimated human CO2 emissions by an order of magnitude. And let’s not forget – California only is responsible for 1.7% of global anthropogenic CO2 emissions. Does any of this matter to the California Air Resources Board?

Apparently not. Nor does it matter to California’s legislature, which recently stopped just short of passing Senate Bill 1161, the Orwellian California Climate Science Truth and Accountability Act of 2016. SB 1161 would have authorized prosecutors to sue fossil fuel companies, think tanks and others that have “deceived or misled the public on the risks of climate change.”

What California’s legislature ran up against, of course, was the U.S. Constitution. Perhaps they believe time is on their side. After all, even the Scalia court ruled in 2007 that CO2 is pollution, in one of the most frightening inversions of reality in U.S. history. Imagine what a court packed with Clinton appointees will come up with.

The failure to deploy clean fossil fuel solutions in the developing world, much less here in California, condemns billions of humans to further decades of poverty, misery, and unchecked population growth. Cheap energy equals prosperity equals population stabilization. Until a few years ago that hopeful process was inexorable. But in recent years, somewhere on the shores of Africa, cost-effective industrial development ran into global warming’s global mafia and was stopped in its tracks.

The consolidation of power inherent in government suppression of energy development and micromanagement of energy consumption is not only a recipe for a corporate union police state in America. It is a recipe for systemic oppression of emerging societies across the world. At the very least, the debate must continue.

 *   *   *

Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.

"Other" in California Prevailing Wage Creeps Higher

The California Department of Industrial Relations does not determine state prevailing wage rates for construction trades by surveying contractors or workers or by using statistics gathered by the California Economic Development Department. By law, the state uses union agreements to set prevailing wages. Thus, the prevailing wage is always the “union wage.” And the geographical region of a prevailing wage is based on the jurisdictional boundaries of the relevant union.

Calculating a prevailing wage starts when a union official provides the Department of Industrial Relations with its master labor agreement negotiated with representatives of contractors signatory to the union. State personnel then review the union agreement and identify all of the payments an employer is required to make per hour worked by an employee represented by the union. Those payments are assigned to categories identified in state law and added up to determine the prevailing wage.

For example, the state calculates the prevailing wage for a inside wireman electrician working in Sacramento County by identifying and adding up all the payments made by a National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) contractor per hour worked by an inside wireman represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 340.

A prevailing wage determination includes a “Basic Hourly Rate” paid directly to the employee (from which union initiation fees and dues are deducted). Fringe benefits are categorized as “Health and Welfare,” “Pension,” “Apprenticeship and Other Training,” and “Vacation/Holiday.” There is also a Travel/Subsistence amount for workers who travel a certain distance from a certain location, as indicated in the master labor agreement.

Sacramento County Inside Wireman Prevailing Wage

Then there is the mysterious “Other,” comprised of payments to “worker protection and assistance programs or committees,” “industry advancement and collective bargaining agreements administrative fees,” and “other purposes” similar to those listed above. Basically, employer payments in master labor agreements that don’t fit in one of the direct employee fringe benefit categories get classified as “Other.”

“Other” was added to prevailing wage determinations on January 1, 2004 after the soon-to-be-recalled Governor Gray Davis signed the union-backed Senate Bill 868 in 2003. Union lobbyists and lawyers are very protective of this new category incorporated in prevailing wage rates and fought an effort in 2006 to impose regulations on it.

Federal and state law do not establish any specific regulations or reporting requirements for the trust funds that receive payments indicated in “Other.” Most of them file an annual Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service, and they will file a Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) form when making a campaign contribution to a ballot measure. But union members are not informed about how these trust funds spend money, and these trust funds don’t need to file any reports with the federal Office of Labor-Management Standards (OLMS) or Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS).

Sacramento County Inside Wireman Prevailing Wage - OtherDuring the past 16½ years, a little bit of taxpayer money has been diverted to these union-affiliated “Other” trust funds as workers represented by unions built government facilities and private developments with government funding. But now that “little bit” is becoming “quite a bit” in some cases.

On June 1, 2014, the master labor agreement for inside wiremen electricians in Sacramento County (and surrounding counties in the IBEW Local No. 340) increased Other from 47 cents to $3.47. On June 1, 2015, Other increased to $5.47. On June 1, 2016, Other increased to $7.47. The union informed the California Department of Industrial Relations that the money was going to “LMCT,” meaning a Labor-Management Cooperation Committee.

Sacramento County Inside Wireman Prevailing Wage LMCT Increase 2014IBEW Local 340 Wages as of June 1 2015Provisions in the IBEW Local No. 340 master labor agreement suggest this LMCC is the Sacramento Electrical Construction Industry Labor-Management Cooperation Committee. Gross receipts for this trust fund from June 1, 2014 to May 31, 2015 totaled $2,420,684. It gave a “distress grant” of $107,946 to the Shasta Butte Electrical Workers Training Fund. (94-2584061). It was also somehow “providing wage supplementation” to union employers to compete against non-union employers, perhaps through a program sometimes referred to as “job targeting.” No other specific expenditures are known.

Obviously “Other” is becoming a taxpayer-funded bonanza of millions of dollars to union-affiliated non-profit organizations that provide little information to union members, government, or the public. Consider the number of trades and the number of unions representing these trades in California. How much is being collected for “Other?” How is it being spent? Shouldn’t union members know where that money goes?

More relevant for the general public is knowing how much of that money goes to lobbying and campaigning. The California Department of Industrial Relations is supposed to exclude employer payments for political purposes from prevailing wage determinations. Perhaps the state needs to begin scrutinizing the expenditures of “Other” trust funds receiving $7.47 per hour on behalf of each worker.

Sources

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 340 Master Labor Agreement 2014-2017

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 340 Wage Rates as of June 1, 2015

California Prevailing Wage for Inside Wiremen Electricians in Sacramento County as of February 22, 2016 (before $2.00 increase June 1, 2016 for Other)

Sacramento Electrical Construction Industry LMCC Trust – IRS Form 990 – 2015

Sacramento Electrical Construction Industry LMCC Trust – IRS Form 990 – 2014

Sacramento Electrical Construction Industry LMCC Trust – IRS Form 990 – 2013

Sacramento Electrical Construction Industry LMCC Trust – IRS Form 990 – 2012

Sacramento Electrical Construction Industry LMCC Trust – IRS Form 990 – 2011

Sacramento Electrical Construction Industry LMCC Trust – IRS Form 990 – 2010

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 340 USDOL LM-2 2015

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 340 USDOL LM-2 2014

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 340 USDOL LM-2 2013

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 340 USDOL LM-2 2012

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 340 USDOL LM-2 2011

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 340 USDOL LM-2 2010

 


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Resist the “Pothole Tax”

Last week, Will Kempton, Executive Director of Transportation California and former Director of Caltrans published a response to Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, in a Fox & Hounds piece stating that, “…in spite of all the recent audits and criticism, the organization [Caltrans] employs competent people who want to serve the public well.”  In the same piece he highlighted the need to address California’s transportation funding crisis and provided one solution: Raise your taxes even higher.

There is no doubt that there are many fine and capable Caltrans employees who simply want to build and maintain our state’s highway system. What Kempton missed was the incredible dysfunction at Caltrans and tries to deflect any criticism of the department.  He of all people knows how bad it really is at Caltrans, and for those who are unaware of the facts, his echo to raise taxes for transportation spending might seem like the only viable option. However, reports concerning a very dilapidated Caltrans are replete with criticisms of its inability to provide details for budget reviews and audits by either the LAO or the State Auditor.

 

Will Kempton, Former Director of the Department of Transportation (Caltrans)

 

We’re told the Governor and the Secretary of Transportation are serious about fixing California’s roads, but can you mention one initiative to actually fix Caltrans?  All I hear is cries for more tax increases.

Allow me to review a few facts revealing the competency level at Caltrans:

Left up to the Governor and the legislature, it will be YOU, the taxpayer, who will be asked to fund a “pothole” tax. I hate to break it to you, but you’re being taken to the cleaners. You are the victim of intentional infrastructure neglect. This literally is “highway robbery.”  The fix is in.  And the answer is you and your wallet.

California’s leadership should be sincere in its pursuit of better roads.  Fix Caltrans. Taxpayers should expect no less.

I’m ready to #FixCaltrans.

Watch & Share this video: ‪bit.ly/FixCaltransVid 

About the Author: As a Certified Public Accountant and Certified Financial Planner, John Moorlach began his career in public service 20 years ago when he warned that then Orange County Treasurer-Tax Collector Robert Citron’s risky investment strategies would lead to bankruptcy.  Moorlach’s warnings proved true when Orange County filed for bankruptcy protection in December of 1994, becoming the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history. John Moorlach was twice re-elected to County Treasurer-Tax Collector. In 2006, voters elected John to serve in his first of two terms on the Board of Supervisors, where he continued his focus on reforming the county’s budget practices and sounding the alarm on the county’s growing unfunded liabilities. He now currently holds office as the State senator for the 37th senate district.

High Costs of Pro-Union Agreements & Policies Negates Transportation Tax

According to my father, in the 1950s and ’60s, California had the best transportation agency in the entire world. But all that changed with the election of a new, anti-growth, small-is-beautiful governor by the name of Jerry Brown.

Now, fast forward 40 years. Governor Brown, version 2.0, proposes a budget that assumes a big increase in transportation taxes and fees. The California Legislature shouldn’t just say no, it should say hell no.

Where to start? First, let’s take judicial notice of the fact that California is already a high tax state with the highest income tax rate and the highest state sales tax in America. But more relevant for the issue at hand, we also have the highest fuel costs in the nation. This is because of both the 4th highest excise tax on fuel and the fact that refineries are burdened with additional costs to comply with California’s environmental regulations.

 

Despite analysis findings that Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,500 employees,  the California State Auditor & Senator John Moorlach conclude that the agency is both incompetent and inefficient in the maintenance of California’s roads and highways.

 

The high cost to drive in California might be understandable if we were getting value for our tax dollars. But we aren’t. A big problem is that Caltrans is dysfunctional, plain and simple. It has never fully recovered from the days when the agency was effectively destroyed by Gianturco. A report by the California State Auditor just a couple of months ago concluded that a primary responsibility of Caltrans – maintenance of our highways – is not being executed in a manner that is even close to being efficient or competent. Senator John Moorlach, the only CPA currently serving in the California legislature, reacted saying that “This audit reinforces the fact that our bad roads are not a result of a lack of funding. They’re a result of a lack of competence at Caltrans.” Moreover, a report by the Legislative Analyst concluded that Caltrans is overstaffed by 3,500 employees costing California taxpayers over a half billion dollars a year. All this compels the obvious question: Why, for goodness sake, do we want to give these people even more money?

Another unneeded and costly practice consists of project labor agreements for transportation construction projects. These pro-union policies shut out otherwise competent companies from bidding on projects resulting in California taxpayers shelling out as high as 25% more than they should for building highways and bridges.

Finally, California’s environmental requirements are legendary for their inefficiency while also doing little for the environment. Exhibit A in this foolishness is Governor Brown’s incomprehensible pursuit of the ill-fated high speed rail project. Not only has the project failed to live up to any of the promises made to voters, it is currently being kept alive only by virtue of the state’s diversion of “cap and trade” funds which are supposed to be expended on projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But in the Kafkaesque world of California transportation policies, the LAO has concluded that the construction of the HSR project actually produces a net increase in emissions, at least for the foreseeable future.

No one disputes the dire need for improvements in California’s transportation infrastructure. But imposing draconian taxes and higher registration fees that serve only to punish the middle class while wasting billions on projects that don’t help getting Californians get to work or school cannot and should not be tolerated. Legislators who present themselves to voters as fiscally responsible need to understand that a vote for higher transportation taxes will engender a very angry response from their constituents.

About the Author: Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association — California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights.

Public Safety Unions and the Financial Apocalypse

Imagine for a moment that two premises are beyond serious debate: (1) That there will be another financial crisis within the next five years that will equal or exceed the severity of the one experienced in 2009, and (2) That the political power of public safety unions will prevent local governments from enacting pension reforms sufficient to avert a financial disaster when and if the next financial crisis hits.

What will these public safety unions do?

It’s distressingly easy for politicians to dismiss both of these premises, but since for the moment we’re not, imagine the following: Major European banks have declared insolvency because their debtors have all defaulted on payments, the Chinese stock market has collapsed because their export markets are shrinking instead of growing, and the deflationary contagion reaches American shores. Across the nation, speculative buying is replaced by panic selling. Housing prices fall, defaults accumulate, and the pension funds lose half their value overnight. In a cascading cycle reminiscent of 1929, deflation sweeps the global economy.

Meanwhile, pension reform has been limited to incremental adjustments to the pension benefits for new employees. Millions of retirees and active public safety workers still expect pensions that are roughly equivalent to the amount they made at the peak of their careers. But the money won’t be there.

How will public safety unions use their political power to address this challenge?

If the present is any indication, the solutions won’t be pretty. In San Jose and San Diego, public safety unions lead the charge to roll back local pension reforms enacted by voters. In counties across California, public safety unions lead the charge to undermine in court the reforms enacted by the State Legislature in the Public Employee Retirement Act of 2014. That’s all fine while the economic bubble continues to inflate. But what do we do when it pops? What do we do when there’s no money?

When challenging public safety unions to exercise their political power to advocate on issues other than law and order or their own compensation and benefits, a reasonable response is that public safety unions, like any government union, shouldn’t be involved in politics. The problem with that response is that they already are. Government unions, and their partners in the financial community, are a major cause of the economic bubble we’re experiencing. Their insatiable appetite for high returns, 7% or more, compels the financial engineering that creates unsustainable economic growth. When the crash comes, government unions will blame “Wall Street.” But in reality, they will share the blame, because they didn’t want to admit that their pension benefits relied on unsustainable rates of economic growth.

If there is another economic crash, public safety unions will face a choice. They can use their political power to strip away every remaining service that local government performs that isn’t related to public safety, raise taxes, and support “fees” on everything from green lawns to vehicle miles driven. They can support the creation of an authoritarian, oppressive state, raising revenue through rationing and regulating our water, energy, land use, home improvement, etc., at levels that make today’s annoying excesses seem trivial. They can hide behind environmentalism and egalitarianism to tax the last bits of vitality and freedom out of ordinary productive citizens. They can even hide behind faux libertarian ethics to charge exorbitant fees for rescue services, or profit from draconian applications of asset forfeiture laws. If they do this, it may be enough for them. But the price on society will be hideous.

There is an alternative.

Public safety unions can recognize that sustainable economic growth occurs when people have fewer impediments to running their private businesses. They can recognize that large corporations use regulations to eliminate their smaller competitors, and that excessive regulations of land, energy and water are the reasons that California has such a high cost of living. They can recognize that competitive resource development and cost-effective infrastructure development can only be achieved when the environmentalist lobby and their allies – the corporate and financial elites – are confronted and forced to accept less crippling restrictions.

Better yet, public safety unions can begin to recognize these political precepts NOW, before the financial apocalypse. Along with hopefully accepting more pension reforms instead of always fighting them, these unions can also protect their members’ futures by fighting for economic reform and more rational environmentalist restrictions. The sooner these reforms are adopted at the state and local level, the more resilient our economy will be when the economic implosion occurs. If pension benefit cuts are inevitable, because the money isn’t there anymore, with economic and environmentalist reforms the cost-of-living will also be cut.

America’s excessive public employee pension benefits have created a four trillion dollar monster, pension funds ravaging the world in search of high returns during the late stages of a credit expansion that has granted present growth at the expense of future growth. The day of reckoning is coming. Public safety unions can help prepare, for their own sake as well as for the sake of the citizens they are sworn to protect.

 *   *   *

Ed Ring is the president of the California Policy Center.

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

Despite the Threat of Bankruptcy, Stanton Is Spending Millions to Build One Park

CHAPTER 1: PIGS (ala Portugal, Italy, Greece & Spain)
In March 2011, facing a $4 million deficit, panicked Stanton City Council members met in special session and voted unanimously, dramatically to declare a fiscal emergency.

It was the sort of thing we’d been hearing from Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain for months—a government’s tax revenues falling so disastrously short of its spending that what comes next is slaughterhouse ugly. By the standard of the PIGS, what followed immediately in Stanton might strike you as banal: Having declared a fiscal emergency, the council agreed to ask voters to approve a 50 percent hike in the city utility tax, from 5 percent to 7.5 percent.

At that meeting, David Shawver—then a 23-year council veteran and self-proclaimed “ultra-conservative football coach Republican”—said he and his colleagues had no choice but to raise taxes. As with the PIGS of Europe, the Great Recession had slammed Stanton, Shawver said. The city was pinched between the rising cost of its public workers and falling property- and sales-tax revenues. Conservative George W. Bush bailed out the nation’s largest banks in 2008; David Shawver begged for a new tax in 2011.

“We had to come up with some type of system or some type of program to generate more revenue to keep the city going,” Shawver told a Garden Grove reporter at the time.

That same night, leaning on the podium reserved for public comments, a retiree named Charles Rell asked Shawver and the others a question that seems just as pertinent today: “How much more can we afford to pay?”

Shawver’s response could have been that neither Rell’s personal finances nor even arithmetic figured into the city’s calculations. Because long before that night, Shawver and his council colleagues had embarked on a great adventure, a free-spending circus in one of the county’s poorest and smallest cities: the creation of a $6 million park that would supernova into a $24 million project that will cost the city millions more over time.

Whether Rell and others like him can afford that park is irrelevant. Thanks to Shawver, they’ll have to.

It’s not too late to christen it Central Pork.

“What’s that old saying about the first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole—stop digging?” —Steven Greenhut Brian Feinzimer

“What’s that old saying about the first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole—stop digging?” —Steven Greenhut
Brian Feinzimer

CHAPTER 2: GO-GO, STANTON!
To understand how truly weird it is to blow $24 million after you’ve declared a fiscal emergency and begged the public to raise taxes, it’s best to start in 2010. In September of that year, about the time of the Great Recession’s second, deepest roller-coaster plunge, the city announced it would spend $12.5 million to purchase land from the Savanna School District. Two months later, at a formal signing ceremony, buyer and seller cock-a-doodled their delight. Stanton City Council member Al Ethans said the purchase “enhances our facilities for parks beyond our fondest expectation.”

Looking back from the lofty promontory of 2016, hearing a guy say that his real-estate deal is “beyond our fondest expectation” sounds like the sort of go-man-go, mad-money hyperbole that was on almost every overmortgaged American’s lips—right up to the moment the housing crisis burned down the entire planetary economy in 2008.

Stanton’s $12.5 million land acquisition was followed just four months later by the self-declared fiscal emergency and the call for a bump in the utility tax.

Finances grew shakier. Stanton voters rejected the council’s pitch for a tax hike on utilities. And in June 2011, California Governor Jerry Brown announced that he and state lawmakers had decided to kill the state’s scandal-plagued redevelopment process. For years, city officials, including those in Stanton, had used the state’s redevelopment law as a revenue booster. In return for declaring property “blighted,” city officials were allowed to freeze the assessed value of that property and therefore the property-tax revenue for everybody else. School districts all over the state went into the red as their expenses climbed but their share of property-tax revenue remained frozen by the city. Redevelopment in Stanton meant that schools were on fixed incomes while the city captured 100 percent of the tax on the increase in the value of the land over time—what geeks call the “tax increment.”

Officials were not unique in having claimed their entire city was blighted, and therefore subject to the pickpocket-light touch of the city tax collector. State lawmakers excused the accounting trick as necessary to improvements—by which they meant the replacement of rundown properties with high-income, tax-generating commercial and residential projects.

When the band stopped playing—when Sacramento officials shut down the redevelopment dance hall—Shawver threatened legal action. In a statement that reveals his very liberal reading of a program that was supposed to build new buildings and clear away the wreckage of his city’s past, Shawver told the Orange County Register, “We were using that money for a lot of our city services.”

Brown’s decision ended Stanton’s future casino-style real-estate investments—but would not apply retroactively to the 2010 announcement to buy school property, though no cash would change hands until 2013.

Throughout much of that period, a Los Angeles Times reporter noted, the digital sign outside the Stanton City Hall blinked the ominous, verb-free reminder: “STANTON FISCAL CRISIS.” In June 2012, just before voters killed the utility-tax hike, City Manager Carol Jacobs warned residents the city was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Tallying up the toll of the financial crisis in Stanton in 2012, Times reporter Christine Mai-Duc wrote, “In the last two years, after-school programs have been cut, city staffers have been laid off and even the lone police station in town has closed to the public, a sign on the door offering residents a number to call if they need assistance. The city has even elected to stop paying dues to the League of California Cities, an organization that lobbies on behalf of local governments. It’s not required by law, says City Manager Carol Jacobs, and Stanton just can’t afford it.”

“We’ve never really had much fat in this city,” Shawver told the Times. “We’re getting to a point here where there’s not much left to cut.”

CHAPTER 3: DON’T MENTION THE PORK
To recap: a self-declared “fiscal emergency,” the threat of bankruptcy so catastrophic that the city had shuttered its police station, the end of redevelopment and the death of a tax hike at the polls. During all of this, in October 2011, the council voted to spend $6 million to build Central Park on land it bought from the school district for $12.5 million.

That would be $18.5 million. But the cost to build Stanton Central Park is now at least $24 million—the cost of the school property, plus the city’s upwardly revised $11.5 million construction estimate.

Still, the city spends. And as if to answer Rell, the fixed-income retiree raising uncomfortable questions at that 2011 emergency council meeting, city officials asked residents to pay still more. But they don’t mention Stanton Central Pork.

Shawver: Father of Stanton’s $24 million park

Shawver: Father of Stanton’s $24 million park

In 2014, city council members, many of them present for the unanimous declaration of financial emergency three years before, backed a 1 percent local sales tax. Their reason: Without the sales-tax increase, they told voters, the city would lose vital public-safety services. Of course, it wasn’t presented that way in the city’s full-color, ALL-CAPS messaging. In that campaign, opposing the city sales tax meant you supported house fires and gangsters—and, what’s maybe worse, that you hated cops and firefighters.

Faced this second time with a tax hike or the apocalypse, voters approved the tax.

Shawver has tried to downplay the impact of the now-1-year-old tax hike on residents—and is working to kill a November 2016 ballot measure to repeal the tax.

The self-described conservative and member of the Orange County Republican Party’s central committee told a March community gathering that the increased sales tax is great—because it’s pretty much a tax on outsiders and it pays for sheriff’s deputies and firefighters.

“It’s a tax on people who drive through our community,” Shawver said at that meeting. “They drive up and down Beach Boulevard, stop to get gas, and we get one penny. One penny! And thanks to that one little penny, we’ve been able to restore critical public-safety assets.”

It also hits anyone who shops in Stanton, of course, though not (the officials stayed carefully on message) grocery and pharmaceuticals shoppers.

But it’s all for a good cause, Shawver said: public safety.

Stanton has a well-earned reputation for violence—it’s among the toughest towns in a county more famous for catfights among wealthy housewives than gunfights, gangs and prostitution. So public safety is no abstract line item. But even Shawver admits the county sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and paramedics who patrol Stanton are a major cost center.

“I’m not going to fool you,” Shawver told the community gathering. “Public safety is expensive, but I am concerned with maintaining the level of service that you demand.”

Already expensive, public safety is getting pricier. This year, the city will pay an additional $1.1 million for public safety, most of that for the escalating pay and benefits of its $220,000-per-year firefighters and $187,000-per-year sheriff’s deputies. Those are extraordinary pay packages, even in relatively affluent Orange County. And they stand out especially in Stanton, where the median yearly household income is $46,000 and 22 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. They were negotiated with the county by the powerful firefighters’ and deputies’ unions—the same public-employee unions that back Shawver and who carried almost the entire cost of the 2014 campaign to raise the sales tax.

CHAPTER 4: ‘STOP DIGGING’
If it weren’t for a few lousy public investments—such as the park—the city might be able to pay its sheriffs and firefighters even at that stratospheric level, without a tax hike of any kind. But park spending never made even a cameo appearance in the muffled 2014 debate over the tax increase. There has been only limited dissent inside City Hall. Stanton businessman Rick Muth was an early critic of the park, and that was when he was outside City Hall. Muth says he became more alarmed when he got inside, after Republican state Senator (and former Orange County treasurer and county supervisor) John Moorlach appointed him to the oversight board responsible for winding down Stanton’s redevelopment agency. That put Muth directly in contact with Shawver and Shawver’s Great Pork.

 

Building the narrative: Estimated costs for Central Park have quadrupled

Building the narrative: Estimated costs for Central Park have quadrupled

 

Muth’s connection to Stanton runs through Orco Block Co., the company that Muth’s father, grandfather and a family friend created in 1946—a full decade before Stanton became a city. The Big Bang in Southern California building that followed shortly after Orco’s founding continues to this day, and it helped make the company one of the largest building-materials suppliers in the region.

 Orco is still in Stanton, and Rick Muth runs it. Like Shawver, Muth is a self-declared conservative. Unlike Shawver, he clearly expects the city’s finances to be handled as a business like Orco might manage them.

Citing the city’s financial emergency and a general lack of transparency where city spending is concerned, Muth opposed park funding. He says he battled city staff “even to get minutes from meetings” and was repeatedly denied itemized park expenses. When he asked council members how a city in a financial death spiral could afford to build and maintain the park, Muth says Shawver told him that all construction and operations costs would be funded through the sale of “excess city land around the park” once the real-estate market ticked up.

Muth says shortly after that conversation, he was touring the proposed park site with another council member. He asked the council member to point out the excess park land Shawver had said would be sold to cover operating expenses. Muth says the council member looked at him “with this really puzzled look on his face” and told Muth there was no excess park land to sell.

Now it was Muth’s turn to look puzzled. But the council member said any budget gap would be easy to fill: The city would cut down on park costs by closing the Central Park occasionally. Muth is still incredulous as he recounts the conversation and those that followed. “No one could tell me how you close a park for a few days every week,” he says.

“The last straw for me,” Muth recalls, “was when the city refused to give another oversight board member the true, full cost of the park”—unless she dropped her demand to explain how the park had jumped from $6 million to $8 million, then to $11.5 million. In March 2015, he resigned from the board.

Shawver did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

His City Council campaign site lists accomplishments that will outnumber mine if I live to be 400. He’s a credentialed teacher; a softball, wrestling and football coach at Millikan High School in Long Beach for 42 years; he’s got certificates for first aid, CPR and lifeguarding. He’s taught religion in his Catholic parish. He coached Pop Warner football and was his Neighborhood Watch director. He volunteered for the Stanton Haunted House, the Christmas pageant, the Easter egg hunt and the Drug Busters youth program. The list of activities that Shawver recites—afternoon teas, soccer, fiestas, civic clubs, pancake breakfasts and charity luncheons—suggests not just boundless commitment, but also capacious memory of his own remarkable contribution. It’s unlikely he’s forgotten anything.

But if these good deeds indicate feverish social activity, they do not really capture something else about the man: After 28 years on the Stanton City Council, he says, “my work is not finished.” Looking back over the past many years of financial drama, the city’s residents may wish that it was—finished, I mean.

The man’s energy may also explain his Rooseveltian (Franklin, not Teddy) sense that government can and should do anything, including build a massive park in a time of financial crisis. “Quality of life is very important, but if a city is in such financial crisis that it has to go out and raise taxes, well, you just have to go back to basics, to do what you’re absolutely responsible for,” says former city of Orange mayor Carolyn Cavecche, who is CEO of the Orange County Taxpayers Association.

Building a park is nice, Cavecche says, “because everybody loves parks, including me.” But paying for public safety? “That’s just basic.”

Steven Greenhut laughed when told about the city’s decision to build Central Park in the midst of financial crises. “What’s that old saying about the first thing you do when you find yourself in a hole? Stop digging?” says Greenhut, a formerRegister editorial writer who’s now western region director for the free-market R Street Institute. “Cities that cry ‘poverty’ and ‘public safety’ to convince their residents to pay higher taxes have no business spending big bucks on new parks.”

CHAPTER 5: THE PAPER TRAIL
City officials say not to worry. The city budget declares, “The project’s design, construction and construction management are funded from a Redevelopment Agency Bond, a State Grant and Park-In-Lieu Fees and has no impact on the City’s General Fund.”

Translation: State taxpayers (who generously funded the public-parks-friendly Proposition 84, but who don’t count because, like drivers who stop in Stanton to buy gas, most of them live elsewhere) and hypothetical future real-estate developers (who will pay fees on construction) will fund most of the park. On page 126, deep in the Stanton budget, there’s also the promise that city staff will “successfully procure sponsors and additional revenue programs for the new Stanton Central Park.” In public meetings, officials have offered the example of revenue from participants in a community softball league.

RickMuth

But by far the biggest source of cash will come from $28 million in bonds hurriedly issued by the Stanton Redevelopment Agency just as Brown raised his sword over the program.

The city’s assertion that paying for the Central Park will have “no impact on the City’s General Fund” is hard to square with reality. My colleague, the bond analyst Marc Joffe, found Stanton’s bonds cost city taxpayers nearly $400,000 to issue. Interest payments—totaling $42 million over 30 years—will continue to put a multimillion-dollar ding in the city’s budgets.

There are other significant park costs that Stanton officials never mention in their estimates but which appear scattered throughout city financial documents. There’s lost revenue from the golf course that closed when the city took over the school property. The city’s park-maintenance budget will jump dramatically, on average about $150,000 in each of the next two years. The budget for parks staff will go up “by $202,810, or 43 percent in FY [fiscal year] 2015-16. The increase primarily relate [sic] to salaries for the new Stanton Central Park,” the budget reports. A new, six-figure community-development director will spend part of her time managing the park.

“Saddling the people of Stanton with a $24 million park and all the other associated costs—a park that was sold to them as $6 million—is unconscionable,” says Sal Sapien, the city’s former mayor and still a member of the county Democratic Party’s central committee. Sapien is also a longtime Shawver adversary. Recalling that he and other council members voted to censure Shawver in the early 1990s “for his antics,” he says, “The council should censure him again.”

CHAPTER 6: THE GOLDEN SHOVEL
Spiraling costs weren’t on the official brain at last summer’s Central Park groundbreaking, though. That June, with golden shovels held over their hard-hatted heads in triumph, city officials were talking about the future, about coming together, about the generosity of government, the noblesse oblige of City Hall.

“This is a gift to Stanton residents,” declared Allan Rigg, the public works director. “I’m excited. It’s an exciting time in Stanton.”

But as Register reporter Chris Haire deftly observed in his account of the groundbreaking, “Not everyone is thrilled about the impending [park] construction.”

Haire talked with leaders of three churches renting space on the old school grounds. In a little-remembered footnote to the city’s $24 million Central Park, the churches are gone now.

“The churches received 45-day eviction notices. Because of their size—California Christ Community Church has 50 to 60 members—and lack of money, the churches are having trouble finding new locations,” Haire reported.

“It was kind of a shock for us,” Daniel Park, pastor of California Christ Community Church, told Haire. “I don’t even know if the city knew we were here.”

About The Author: Will Swaim is vice president of communications for the California Policy Center and founding editor and former publisher of OC Weekly. Additionally, Swaim was editor of Watchdog.org, a national network of state-based investigative reporters, and vice president of journalism at Watchdog’s nonprofit parent, the Washington, D.C.-based Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity.

CA Democrats are Not Standing Up for "Working Families"

It’s election season, so every California Democrat politician is out there on the campaign trail, precinct walking with their “friends” in labor, and speaking to labor organizations and anyone else who will listen.  They are speaking with one voice–that ” we are proud to stand up for working families.”

This may sound like a great tag line, and is surely based on recommendations by campaign consultants, polling and focus groups, and perhaps most importantly resonates strongly with their organized-labor base, who is primarily responsible for funding all California Democrat campaigns.

But the truth is that California Democrat politicians and the California Democratic Party is the “party of organized labor” not of “working families.”  This distinction may not be all together clear, or even relevant, at first glance to someone not familiar with the inner workings of California politics and campaigns.

Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D) and Governor Jerry Brown (D) are two of the state’s top Democratic leaders who push “pro-labor” agenda items including raising the state’s minimum wage and expanded paid family leave.

There is a big difference between a “pro-labor agenda,” and a “truly progressive” agenda that seeks to bolster the middle-class and truly lift up “working families,” not just those on welfare.  If you look at everything California Democrats politicians are advocating for, and what they consider to be major policy successes, it becomes painfully clear that California Democrat politicians are primarily out to benefit “organized labor,” which comes at the expense of almost everyone else.  Of course there are some exceptions with the moderate and pro-business Democrats, but here we are primarily talking about the California Democratic leadership and solidly “pro-labor” state Democrat politicians.

By and large, California Democrat state politicians are preoccupied with pursuing a narrow, pro-labor agenda that is focused on providing the greatest amount of public subsidies, wage and benefit enhancements, and welfare benefits to a very narrow class of people–the poor, organized labor, and public employees–which represents their “core constituencies.”  Everyone else suffers as a result, including “working families” who are not on welfare, lower and middle-class families above the poverty line, small business, and big business.  California’s biggest policy problems such as pensions, housing costs, taxes, and lack of infrastructure spending do not even appear to be on Sacramento’s radar.

In other words, the California Democrat “pro-labor agenda” is neglecting the state’s middle-class and the state’s business climate, and making it much harder for the “true working families” who do not collect state welfare checks to prosper.  Moreover, this “pro-labor agenda” conflicts with a “truly progressive agenda,” but most Democrats and progressives have no idea exactly how.  Robert Reich, the state’s most prominent left-leaning economist is right–the system and its policies are “rigged” in California–but not in the way that most people think.

 

CA Democrat Agenda Primarily Involves Spending as Much Taxpayer Dollars as Possible, Not Spending Reform

If you look at the priorities of the California Democratic leadership they talk about being proud to stand up for “working families” and a desire to “alleviate poverty,” and improve education.  Many of their stated goals are noble, but their means of achieving them and the policies they utilize to advance these goals only serve to benefit their “core constituencies” listed above, not the rest of us and California as a whole.

Their primary policy instrument is spending as much taxpayer dollars as possible on government programs, primarily welfare, health care, and education.  But the problem is that they do so almost indiscriminately and do not try to spending taxpayer dollars wiser or more effectively.  California Democrat politicians have all but given up on asking California state agencies to spend tax dollars more effectively, and rarely consider any program changes that would upset the state’s hugely inefficient and unwieldy bureaucracy.

Spending taxpayer dollars on welfare programs helps the poor but not anyone else, and does little to actually lift the poor out of poverty over the long-term–welfare spending begets more welfare spending.  Spending more money on education in itself, does not improve education.  As a Dan Walters Sacramento Bee column reported earlier this year, the state is spending billions of dollars more on education now compared to a few years ago, with little or no noticeable improvement in the actual quality of education.

In short, most California Democrat policy priorities boil down to one simple end–indiscriminately increasing the size, cost and scope of California government as much as possible–to the primary benefit of the poor and state’s public sector unions. Their policy toward government spending and public employee compensation is essentially giving them as much money as is available in the government budget, no questions asked.

What is most telling about the “pro-labor agenda” and perhaps its greatest departure from the public interest and a “truly progressive agenda” is what California Democrat politicians are not doing.  California Democrats and the Democratic leadership have all but given up on trying to solve the biggest problems that ail California, particularly working families, the middle-class and California businesses.  But before we get to that, let’s take a quick look at the recent “crowning achievements” of California Democrat politicians.

 

A Brief Look at the “Crowning Achievements” of CA Democrats

The centerpiece of the “pro-labor” agenda is environmental regulation, and the “crown jewel” is AB 32.  California Democrats love to tout their desire to enact never ending layers of increased “environmental protections” and “environmental regulations.”  Environmental policy is extremely important to California voters and does represent a “truly progressive” policy stance–perhaps the last remaining shred of integrity the California Democratic Party and its candidates have left in support of a “truly progressive” policy agenda.  But even here they are taking environmental regulation too far, to the primary detriment of “working families” and the middle classes, who will bear the brunt of the excessive regulatory burden in increased costs of goods and services that are regulated, particularly energy costs.

AB 32 was a legitimate policy victory for the state and should be celebrated as such.  But how much further should the state take environmental regulation before the rest of the state and the world show at least some willingness to follow.  California is responsible for emitting less than 0.5% of the world’s total carbon emissions, yes less than half of a single a percentage point. So even if California totally eliminated its consumption and production of CO2 emissions, that would represent but a blip in the grand scheme of things worldwide.

We do get benefits from improved air quality and health considerations, particularly around stationary pollution sources.  But California alone cannot save the world from “climate change” even if we totally eliminated CO2 emissions within our borders.  So why are California Democrats in a race to enact the strongest and most costly environmental regulations when there is little indication that the rest of the world and nation will follow anytime soon?  My view is that it is because this represents action on their strongest policy position, however, beyond a certain point, further regulation will only serve to undercut our global competitiveness, while providing marginal benefits to California residents.  “Working families” will be hit the hardest because they pay the greatest portion of their discretionary income in energy costs.

The biggest recent success that California Democratic leaders are pointing to this campaign season is their “victory” in increasing the statewide minimum wage in California from $10 to $15 dollars per hour–a 50% increase.  Economists say that increases in the minimum wage do modestly raise the take home pay of low-wage workers, but in return lead to about a 10% reduction in employment, according recent discussions with economists.  So is this really the great policy victory that it is being billed as by Democratic politicians?  Effectively, trading a very modest increase in wages for those who keep their jobs, while putting other workers out of work.  Touting this increase as genuine social progress may work on the campaign trail, where few people question the results, but the reality is that this was not the great policy victory that it is being billed as.  After all, shouldn’t the end goal be to lift workers out of poverty entirely, not have them making more in their existing minimum wage jobs.

Another recent “success” touted by California Democrats as a victory for “working families” is the expansion of the state’s paid family leave program.  Prior to the expansion, California law already allowed workers to take up to six weeks off from work to bond with anew child or care for sick family members and receive 55% of their wages.  The new measure increases the pay to 60% of wages, starting in 2018, and creates a new classification for low-income workers who make about $20,000 or less annually to receive 70% of their regular pay, according to a Wall Street Journal Report.

The program is funded by worker contributions and estimated to cost about $350 million in 2018, and $587 million annually by 2021, according to a legislative analysis obtained by the Wall Street Journal.  This policy does represent an improvement for primarily low-wage workers but its paid for by higher wage workers.  It is a marginal improvement at best, and will surely be followed up with future legislation to increase length of time allowed and percentages claimed by workers.

As one can see, the recent list of true policy victories for “working families” is pretty short.  And as will be seen is clearly outweighed by all the negative aspects of the “pro-labor agenda,” which is perhaps better defined by the policy solutions that it does not include–namely the state’s most pressing policy problems.  Or put another way, the “pro-labor agenda” comes with a great cost to California, and that cost is a long list of policy problems that are off limits and not subject to negotiation, or even substantive discussion.

 

“Pro-Labor” Politicians Silent on Mounting Pension Problem

CalPERS Board President Rob Feckner has been “under fire” from critics whom believe he does not have the experience nor expertise neccessary to manage the country’s largest public pension fund.pension fund. Feckner is known to have close ties with the state’s labor unions, having held top positions with the California School Employees Association and California Federation of Labor.

The best example of one such issue is the refusal of the California Democratic Party and California Democrat politicians to even acknowledge the magnitude and implications of the state’s pension crisis.  The public position of almost every California Democrat lawmaker is to first not even discuss the “problem,” let alone any solutions.  Yet every financial expert I have talked to, including a consensus of top economists and government professors at Stanford University, say this is the biggest public policy problem in the state.

The pension problem is eating state, and particularly local balance sheets alive, and leaving no additional money to pay for other pressing spending priorities such as infrastructure, roads and education.  Total statewide pension and retiree health care debt is estimated to top $1.3 trillion, according to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR).  Would a “truly progressive” politician allow all government revenues to go to pensions, as opposed to policy programs and priorities that truly benefit California and its citizens?

To further illustrate, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) lost a combined $25 billion in 2015, the deficit between what they said they will earn and what they actually earned.  Both funds are on pace to lose another $25 billion in 2016, potentially more according to early return estimates analyzed by the Bond Buyer.  That’s roughly $50 billion of taxpayer dollars lost in just two years, or almost half of total annual California General Fund spending.  To be clear, this is $50 billion debt that will grow at 7.5% annually and need to be funded by future tax revenues.  This represents a growing expenditure of public dollars that is not available to be spent on truly progressive priorities at both the state and local levels of government.  Perhaps worse, California state and local taxpayers, including “working families,” are on the hook for all loses incurred by both funds.  Why even bother running a 6-month budget process at the Capitol if nobody will so much as lift a finger to stop the state’s pension funds from driving state and local governments off a fiscal cliff?

Of course, these same politicians have likely already come up with some internal justification for not doing anything about this issue, such as “o’well” that is what the unions want, their members apparently know more about what is good for the State of California than every other independent expert who has examined the issue.

 

Treasurer John Chiang has been remarkably silent on the state’s pension issues for the state’s top fiscal statewide elected official. In 2010, while serving as State Controller, Chiang’s CEO sent a letter to the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) opposing the recognition of net pension liabilities on public agency balance sheets. Despite Chiang’s opposition, the GASB accounting changes took effect in 2015, and continue to be applauded for providing much needed transparency of pension debt. Chiang has recently unveiled a “debt watch” database of local debt obligations that excludes pension related debt, despite it being the fastest growing local government debt category.

 

California Democrats Refuse to Address the True Causes of CA Housing Crisis

Another major departure from a “truly progressive” agenda, is the unwillingness of California Democrat politicians to address the California housing crisis.  This was clearly demonstrated last week when California Assembly leaders, including Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, touted a package of $1.3 billion in new government spending that was intended to address the housing crisis–but it all involved new government subsidies and spending on existing programs for California Democrat “core constituencies” that have clearly failed to address the problem to begin with.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon has stated that his top priority as speaker is alleviating poverty in California. As one of his first acts as Speaker, Rendon proposed $1.3 billion in new state spending on low-income housing subsidies and government run housing programs that are intended to address the state's housing crisis.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon has stated that his top priority as speaker is alleviating poverty in California. As one of his first acts as Speaker, Rendon proposed $1.3 billion in new state spending on low-income housing subsidies and government run housing programs that are intended to address the state’s housing crisis.

 

California’s housing crisis holds the greatest potential to further reduce the standard of living of the poor and middle-classes in California–perhaps more than any other policy area except the pension issue.  As has been discussed in a previous column, the state’s housing crisis is market-driven.  It was created over a number of years, decades even, where the state’s heavily regulated and fee-burdened housing market has failed to build new housing units to meet surging demand, particularly in coastal areas, the Bay Area and Los Angeles.

California Democrats are silent on the causes of what is driving the crisis, appear to have no intention of investigating the true causes of the state’s housing problem, and have given no indication that they are willing to consider any policy changes that would actually address the root causes of state’s housing crisis–beyond providing more taxpayer dollars to the poor to pay for “unsustainable” increases in market-based rents.

Government has essentially created the problem, and the private sector is the only force that can generate the 100,000 units that need to be built on an annual basis to build our way out of the problem.  But no California Democrat, or very few, are talking about the need to address onerous government regulation, crushing development fees, and generally about what the building industry needs to “jump start” the California housing market.

 

CA Democrats Don’t Support Enough Infrastructure Spending

Perhaps the only kind of spending a California Democrat politician does not like is infrastructure spending.  This is largely because the state’s public employee unions shun infrastructure spending because the vast majority of these dollars do not end up in their pockets.

Yet infrastructure spending is critical to building and sustaining a thriving economy and business climate.  All business leaders will tell you that infrastructure spending is needed to improve the state’s business climate.  This is why Silicon Valley leaders are backing transportation sales taxes to pay for roads, which business needs to transport goods.  But infrastructure does not stop there, we need state highways, water storage, state parks, schools, universities, waste water plants, and maintenance of existing facilities that state and local governments all but neglect every year.

What most people don’t realize, and even fewer will admit, is that the state’s infrastructure problem is closely related to the state’s pension problem and public employee compensation issues.  Public employee compensation costs  are consuming all new tax dollars and preventing state and local governments from funding infrastructure projects.  And local sales tax measures to increase infrastructure funding hurt “working families,” assuming they can pass with the “albatross” of the pension issue hanging over them.

Governor Jerry Brown’s January budget proposal only allocated $500 million for the most critical infrastructure maintenance costs (less than 0.5% of General Fund spending), noting that the state needs to start funding massive mounting public employee compensation debts.  Sonoma, Marin, and Mendocino counties have some of the worst road conditions in the state, but are all hamstrung by unsustainable increases in public employee compensation costs and mounting debt from these same issues.

Infrastructure benefits all Californians.  It truly is a public good.  Apart from support for some school bonds, why doesn’t increased infrastructure spending fit into the “pro-labor” agenda?  Simple, it does not benefit the state’s public employee unions, as much as salary and benefits which consume 80% of state and local government spending.  And these same governments can’t afford to pay for it, given unsustainable spending in these same budget categories.

 

CA Democrats Fail to Address Tax Reform

Tax reform is perhaps the toughest issue of all, but holds the greatest potential to lift up the California working families and the middle-classes.  California Forward released a series of reports on the issue and Controller Betty Yee’s Council is scheduled to release a report on tax reform soon.  But you don’t see many California Democrats, or the Democratic leadership out there discussing the need to tackle tax reform.  One exception is Sen. Hertzberg, who has introduced a major tax reform bill to expand the state’s sales tax to services, but again this expands the state’s most regressive tax and would be passed onto consumers.

California Democrats are just as guilty as Republicans in proposing a series of new tax expenditures and exemptions every year that help a select special interest (i.e. the movie industry), but are paid for by everyone else.

The state’s tax system holds the greatest potential to transfer wealth from the rich to the lower classes–which is perhaps the single greatest defining policy of what I thought it meant to be a “progressive.”  But nearly all Democrats shy away from this issue because it upsets business, and is not seen as fitting into their long-term career path of climbing up the ladder in state and/or local politics.  It’s too tough of an issue to attract the Democratic mainstream, and holds little potential for a short-term political payoff, beyond very narrow proposals that benefit special interests.

What needs to be done on tax reform?  Simple, you broaden the base and lower the rates, as any expert on tax policy will tell you. California has the highest tax rates in the county on the sales tax and the income tax, up to 9.5% for the sales tax and 13.3% for the income tax.  The sales tax is regressive and hits the poor the hardest, particularly working families who don’t collect any state welfare payments.  The income tax also hits the lower and middle-classes the hardest, as well as small business, in terms of proportion of income and they don’t have the same exemptions and deductions afforded to the rich.

By failing to address the state’s unsustainable spending issues, California Democrats are essentially advocating for future tax increases, that will hit working families and the middle-classes the hardest.  They should be working to ease the tax burden on “working families,” not increase it–that would be “truly progressive.”  Local governments are constantly enacting a series of local fees, mitigations and exactions that negatively impact “working families” and the business community.

To be fair, most California Democrats are hoping for the Prop. 30 extensions to pass which raise $7.5 billion annually, primarily from the wealthy and small business (about $5.5 bil.), but this also includes a 1/4 sales tax increase that will hit the poor and working families (about $1.7 bil.).

This is not tax reform, it’s a general tax increase that lets big business off the hook and hits the average taxpayer and small business the hardest (Note: data from The Economist shows that U.S. corporations are generating the lion’s share of business profits, record profits in fact, higher than any other nation, but not necessarily passing them through to workers).  The reason is that many small businesses (S Corps and sole proprietors) pay taxes through the state’s income tax, while corporations pay through the state’s corporation tax which is so littered with special loopholes and exemptions that some experts say it is “voluntary.”

In short, California’s current tax system contains some progressive elements, namely the income tax, but as a whole the state’s tax system is is not “truly progressive.”  It is loophole-ridden and serves to primarily benefit the rich and big corporations who can take advantage of all its loopholes to the detriment of everyone else (i.e. working families, small business) who pays full boat.  It is largely in conformity with the federal tax code which is even worse as is being discussed at length on the national campaign trail.

 

Significant Policy Change is Difficult But Not Impossible

As one can see, the California Legislature has clearly been marginalized to proposing small, almost insignificant solutions, to address big problems.  And as for the biggest policy problem in California, the state’s unsustainable pension system, California politicians are remarkably silent because any discussion of this issue offends their “friends” in labor.  This is completely ridiculous, and unconscionable to any one who understands the facts of this policy issue, which almost certainly includes Gov. Jerry Brown.

A review of major policy changes enacted over the past 40 years beginning with Prop. 13, shows that significant policy change does happen but it requires bold leadership and a willingness to commit to taking on tough issues over the long-haul, according to a study published by the Kersten Institute.  Most major policy changes do not happen overnight, but the important thing is to at least try.

The critical ingredients of policy changes enacted in the California Legislature are strong leadership from both Legislative leaders and the Governor.  Unfortunately the California Democratic leadership is silent on many of the major policy issues facing California. Gov. Jerry Brown has perhaps the greatest capacity to take on the tough issues, but even he has recently shirked from his initial willingness to think and act big on the tough issues.  Gov. Brown has since decided to just follow the lead of the California Legislature on all but a few pet “legacy issues.”

Gov. Brown did make public employee compensation debt issues the major focus of his January State of the Union Address and is likely to drive a hard bargain in the budget process for increased state payments for retiree health care.  But that’s about it.  The Governor has tried to get CalPER’s to accept some reasonable reforms, but they have refused and he has not made a major issue out of it.

Gov. Brown has been mostly focused on his criminal justice initiative and his two “legacy infrastructure projects,” the delta tunnels and high-speed rail.  The sad reality is that the State of California cannot even pay for its most basic infrastructure needs, particularly in the absence of additional pension and retiree health care reform.  Who needs the delta tunnels and high-speed rail if the infrastructure we have is currently falling into disrepair?

The Governor made road spending a key issue last year, in response to requests by California business leaders and the counties, but has not chosen to connect this to the pension problem, which is the real cause of the “roads crisis.”  The Governor can, and should do more to address these major issues.

So what we really have in California politics is a leadership crisis.  A leadership crisis characterized by the unwillingness of California leaders to address the state’s most pressing policy problems in a substantive way.  Discussion of such issues, if even raised at all, is largely confined to a cursory review, and often followed by proposing a narrow or very piecemeal solution, which may not even represent a step in the right direction.  Other major problems such as pension reform, infrastructure, and tax reform are hardly discussed at all, it’s almost as if they are not even on the radar of Sacramento politicians, even though they loom large in almost every other venue in California, particularly with local governments, the business community and the average citizen.

Another problem is that California has become a “one party state” for all practical purposes which prevents many of their policy positions from being challenged in a competitive election.  The state would benefit by returning to a true two party state as reported by a recent Kersten Institute report.

 

It’s Fine to Be “Progressive,” But Please Be “Truly Progressive”

So the next time you hear a California Democrat politician say “I’m proud to stand with organized labor for working families.” Please question what that actually means, and clarify if that is for the “working families” that are paying California’s taxes, or just those who are partially or fully subsidized from state taxpayers because they are a “core Democrat constituency”?

California has a series of major public policy issues that are going unaddressed and undiscussed in the circles of power in California, all of which have huge implications for “working families” and California’s future as a state.

It is time for California Democrat politicians to start standing up for the “public’s interest,” which includes the lower and middle-classes and what is going to help the state as a whole, not just organized labor.  There is a big difference.  It’s fine to be “progressive,” but please be “truly progressive,” not just “pro-labor.”

And next time you hear a California Democrat politician say they are “fighting organized labor” in Sacramento, take my word for it, “organized labor” already has the keys to the kingdom–so there is really no need to fight for them in Sacramento–it’s really just an exercise of preaching to the choir.

About the Author: David Kersten is an expert in public policy research and analysis, particularly budget, tax, labor, and fiscal issues. He currently serves as the president of the Kersten Institute for Governance and Public Policy – a moderate non-partisan policy think tank and public policy consulting organization. The institute specializes in providing knowledge, evidence, and training to public agencies, elected officials, policy advocates, organization, and citizens who desire to enact public policy change

 

Citizens Group Objecting to Solar Power in Kern County Is Union Front Group

Construction trade unions in California remain distressed about how solar power is harming the environment. Their latest worry is the 150-megawatt Willow Springs Solar Project proposed for Kern County, in Antelope Valley at the Los Angeles County border.

March 8 2016 Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar LetterAn energy company called First Solar has been planning this project since 2010. In February 2015 Kern County released a Draft Environmental Impact Report for the solar project. Substantial objections to this project then emerged from an unincorporated association called “Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar,” represented by the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo in South San Francisco.

This group claims the county isn’t complying with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) in its evaluation of the environmental impact of the solar power plant. Although the county has tried to modify subsequent versions of its Environmental Impact Report to address these objections, the association’s law firm continues to insist that the report is inadequate.

This process became absurd. At one point a change made by the county to mollify Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar even triggered a new objection – from the East Kern Air Pollution Control District!

Finally, the Kern County Planning Commission had enough and scheduled a hearing on March 10, 2016 to approve the Final Environmental Impact Report. On that morning, the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo submitted a new set of objections. Later that day, a lawyer representing “Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar” warned the Planning Commission that Kern County had failed to properly evaluate the environmental impact of the solar project. Also at the meeting to speak out against the project were the head of the Kern-Inyo-Mono Building and Construction Trades Council and the head of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 428 in Bakersfield.

What’s the true identity of “Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar?” Construction trade unions, working under another unincorporated front group called California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE). A Kern County official bluntly revealed the true agenda of this fake organization at the subsequent April 12, 2016 meeting of the Kern County Board of Supervisors:

“The primary opposition to this project has been from law firms representing labor unions who have requested First Solar sign a Project Labor Agreement.”

The Planning Commission unanimously recommended county approval of the project despite the newly-submitted union objections. After postponing a Board of Supervisors hearing originally scheduled for March 15, county staff refined the Environmental Impact Report to address the new set of objections. The Kern County Board of Supervisors considered final approval of the Willow Springs Solar Project on April 12.

For Kern County officials, the morning of April 12 began as expected, with 31 pages of fresh objections from the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph and Cardozo. But this time there was blowback: as reported later that day to the Board of Supervisors, “a variety of entities” had also submitted letters “taking issue” with how unions use the California Environmental Quality Act as leverage to squeeze Project Labor Agreements out of solar energy developers.  The letters documenting the practice can be read via the links below:

April 11, 2016 Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction to Kern County Board of Supervisors – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) Objections to Willow Springs Solar Project

April 11, 2016 Western Electrical Contractors Association et al to Kern County Board of Supervisors – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) Objections to Willow Springs Solar Project

April 11, 2016 California Construction Advancement Group to Kern County Board of Supervisors – California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) Objections to Willow Springs Solar Project

These letters did not shame Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar. A lawyer for Adams Broadwell Joseph and Cardozo spoke at the Board of Supervisors on their behalf and objected to alleged failures of the Final Environmental Impact Report to “disclose” things.

Of course, the REAL lack of disclosure was the true identity of “Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar” and its ulterior motives. But everyone knew what was happening. A representative of First Solar openly told the Board of Supervisors that it had not concluded negotiations on a Project Labor Agreement.

Following that statement, an official with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union No. 428 in Bakersfield claimed that since 2013 the union had signed Project Labor Agreements with First Solar, 8minuteenergy, Recurrent Energy, SunPower, and Sun Edison for construction of solar photovoltaic power plants in Kern County. Apparently he suspected that the surging unemployment of Kern County construction workers (caused by cutbacks in the petrochemical industry) was encouraging solar companies to be bolder about resisting union demands for Project Labor Agreements.

April 12 2016 Kern County Board of Supervisors Vote on Willow Springs Solar ProjectIn the end, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve the Willow Springs Solar Project. Unions now have the opportunity to use the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to challenge the board’s decision in court.

Solutions?

How can the State of California protect the environment while discouraging parties from brazenly abusing environmental laws to extract economic concessions from public and private developers? State Senator John Moorlach has a solution based on the concepts of openness and transparency. He has introduced Senate Bill 1248, which would require a plaintiff or petitioner in a CEQA action to disclose information about parties that provide more than $100 to fund the action. It would also require the plaintiff or petitioner to disclose the financial or business interest in the project for those parties that provide more than $100 to fund the action. See Senate Bill 1248.

With Senate Bill 1248 enacted as law, Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar, community champions of the environment, would acquire a new identity: International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, demanding a Project Labor Agreement.

Sources

April 13, 2015 Adams Broadwell Joseph Cardozo Draft EIR Comments on behalf of Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar – Willow Springs Solar – First Solar – Kern County – Letter

March 9, 2016 Adams Broadwell Joseph Cardozo Final EIR Comments on behalf of Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar – Willow Springs Solar – First Solar – Kern County – Letter

April 12, 2016 Adams Broadwell Joseph Cardozo Final EIR Comments on behalf of Kern County Citizens for Responsible Solar – Willow Springs Solar – First Solar – Kern County – Staff Report & Response

Video of April 12, 2016 Kern County Board of Supervisors Meeting – Item 4 – Request from Willow Springs Solar, LLC by First Solar: allow construction of a 150-MW solar facility


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Business And Labor In Promising Discussions For Future of Ports

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are essential to the economic health and well-being of the Southern California – as well as the State of California and the nation. The two ports are responsible for more than 300,000 jobs for our friends and neighbors. But the world in which the ports operate is increasingly competitive. In a few short months an expanded Panama Canal will be operational, allowing larger vessels to transit the canal. In addition, ports in Canada and Mexico, as well as those on the East and Gulf coasts of the United States, are expanding their facilities – all with the intent of drawing cargo away from Southern California’s ports.

PMA President James McKenna, second from left, and ILWU President Robert McEllrath at the annual TPM 2016 conference.

PMA President James McKenna, second from left, and ILWU President Robert McEllrath at the annual TPM 2016 conference.

In this hyper-competitive environment, the recent announcement that the International Longshore Union (ILWU) and the employer group, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), are considering extending their current contract is welcome news. In 2014/2015, the PMA and the ILWU were engaged in a protracted and contentious contract negotiation that resulted in cargo slowdowns at West Coast ports. The impact was widespread and negatively affected all who utilize West Coast ports, especially the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Eventually a contract was agreed upon, one that is set to expire in July of 2019 – but the reputation of our ports was damaged and the international trade community heightened its concerns about the reliability and predictability of our ports. For shippers, exploring the use of alternative gateways to the U.S. was no longer an academic exercise, but a requirement for economic survival.

To avoid a further loss of market share, it is essential that ILWU and PMA agree to an early contract extension prior to mid-2019. This action would go a long way towards erasing the memories of the last round of negotiations, and remove doubts and fears about the future. It is our understanding that the IWLU will consider the PMA offer to extend the west coast labor agreement at their caucus in Panama later this month. For the good of our economy and the 300,000 jobs who depend on our ports, we hope that both parties will move in mutual interest and extend their contract early in order to assure the future viability and competitiveness of our ports.

About the Author: Gary L. Toebben is President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, the largest business association in Los Angeles County representing more than 1,600 member companies and serving the interests of more than 235,000 businesses across the Los Angeles region. Since taking the helm of the L.A. Area Chamber in July 2006, Toebben has served on the Mayor’s L.A. Economy & Jobs Committee, the L.A. County Health Care Options Task Force and the City Council’s Business Retention & Attraction Task Force.

How Unions Undermined the Rights of California's Charter Cities

In recognition that the municipal needs of people in the City of Needles might be different than the needs of people in the City of San Francisco, the California Constitution gives cities the right to control their own municipal affairs through a charter. These charters – approved by voters – are mini-constitutions that allow “home-rule.” Matters of statewide concern remain under the authority of the state.

Since the early 1930s, charter cities have been using their authority over municipal affairs to deviate from costly state mandates regarding so-called prevailing wages and apprenticeship requirements for purely municipal public works projects and private projects that get public funding (only) from the municipal government. Such laws imposed on public works projects effectively establish the wage and training terms and conditions for each trade in each county based on the applicable union Master Labor Agreement.

In other words, unions have quasi-regulatory power in California to determine contract bid specifications for government-funded projects (in most cases, for contracts of $1000 or more), whether built by a government or by a private developer. As a general rule, these specifications tend to disproportionately increase costs for taxpayers as the location of the project gets more distant from California Department of Industrial Relations headquarters in San Francisco.

During the truncated administration of Governor Gray Davis (1999-2003), union lobbyists succeeded in changing the legal definition of public works and the criteria used to calculate prevailing wage rates. This motivated more cities to ask voters to approve a charter with the intent of setting their own policies for purely municipal projects and private developments getting municipal financial assistance. In addition, other cities that already had charters were choosing for the first time to set their own policies.

Studies, anecdotes, and common sense showed that exercising this Constitutional right allowed charter cities to save money for taxpayers and build projects that would otherwise be economically infeasible. More could be built for less.

By the end of 2012, voters of 121 California cities had approved charters. Some charter cities chose to ignore the state mandates in their entirety and allowed construction contractors to choose wages and training practices based on market conditions. Other charter cities required contractors to follow most of the state mandates but set their own policies for some matters. And other charter cities did not exercise their authority at all for public works wages and training and simply included the state mandates in their project bid specifications.

The choice was left to the cities. See a status report of prevailing wage policies for charter cities at the end of 2012 in Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?)

Union Lobbyists and Lawyers Stomp Down the Charter City Rebellion

Obviously construction union leaders had become increasingly concerned about charter cities evading the provisions in their collective bargaining agreements when advertising contracts. In 2007, the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California sued the City of Vista, arguing that prevailing wage was a matter of statewide concern. The California Supreme Court sided with the City of Vista in 2012.

It was time for unions to use political campaigns and the state legislature to undermine the intellectual underpinnings of charter city authority and stop cities from ignoring the laws enacted at the State Capitol for unions. An organization called “Smart Cities Prevail” was created to discourage charter cities from deviating from state law. A new state law was passed to restrict the ability of voters to enact or amend charters. To exert political leverage, unions filed a lawsuit against the City of Oceanside claiming it violated the California Voting Rights Act of 2001 and had to redraw its districts. And unions heavily financed a campaign in the City of Costa Mesa to defeat a proposed charter.

But the strategy that proved completely effective in shutting down charter cities was a new law enacted in 2013, Senate Bill 7. Language in Senate Bill 7 was based on language in two earlier union-backed bills (Senate Bill 922 in 2011 and Senate Bill 829 in 2012) that cut off state funding for construction to any charter city that banned public contracts requiring companies to sign union Project Labor Agreements.

Senate Bill 7 declared that any charter city that deviated from state labor laws for public works contracts (such as prevailing wage and apprenticeship) would no longer be eligible to obtain state funding for construction. Several charter cities filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of this law, but a San Diego County Superior Court judge upheld the right of the state to cut off the cash.

By the end of 2014, almost every charter city (perhaps every charter city) had passed an ordinance proclaiming their adherence to state prevailing wage law. Unions actually had the chutzpah to claim that charter cities had changed their policies because they learned about the value of prevailing wage laws, as if local governments had evolved toward ultimate enlightenment rather than being threatened with losing state funding.


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

College Board in Orange County Lets Unions Take Over Taxpayer Oversight

Unions continue to undermine the independence and effectiveness of citizens bond oversight committees at California school and community college districts.

In December 2015, the elected board of trustees for the Rancho Santiago Community College District voted 4-2 to reject an application from the President & CEO of the long-established Orange County Taxpayers Association to serve on the college district’s Measure Q bond oversight committee. For two years, the obviously-qualified applicant had sought an appointment from the board to a vacant position on the committee.

This vacant position was designated in state law (California Education Code Section 15282) for someone “active in a bona fide taxpayers’ organization.” The board had never filled it.

Eventually the board found its champion for the taxpayers. On February 22, 2016 – exactly three years after the deadline for people to apply for the bond oversight committee – the board appointed a taxpayers’ association representative. The lucky appointee claimed to be active in the “Middle Class Taxpayers Association,” an organization founded in 2011 that is closely connected to labor unions. This board action is another example of the continual union-instigated chipping away of checks and balances at California local governments.

California Proposition 39 55 Percent Approval of School BondsIndependent citizens bond oversight committees for school and college bond measures were once portrayed as a taxpayer protection. They were established in state law in 2000, when Governor Gray Davis signed into law Assembly Bill 1908, the “Strict Accountability in Local School Construction Bonds Act of 2000.” This requirement for independent oversight was promoted during the successful fall 2000 campaign to convince voters to approve Proposition 39, which reduced the voter threshold for passing certain school and community college bond measures from two-thirds to 55 percent.

Sixteen years later, the appointed and elected leadership of school and community college districts in California has shifted to a new generation. Many of these leaders (and the special interests that support them) don’t appreciate legal restrictions meant to assuage the ancient concerns of a dwindling demographic of fiscal conservatives.

In some districts, bond oversight committees are regarded as time-wasting meddlers that interfere with how bond finance and construction has to be done nowadays in California (keeping the politically-powerful happy with favoritism and payoffs). And among all the activities of bond oversight committees, none is more irksome to these school and college districts than the demand to study and make a recommendation on the fiscal impact of a proposed Project Labor Agreement. It’s embarrassing and even politically threatening when independent citizens dare to evaluate the cost of a board mandate lobbied for by unions.

Rancho Santiago Community College District, based in Santa Ana (in Orange County) is an example of one such district. In November 2012, voters authorized the district to borrow $198 million by selling bonds. In April 2014, after a year of negotiations with unions, the board voted 4-2 to require contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement for most work funded by that borrowed money.

2015 Rancho Santiago Community College District Citizens Bond Oversight Committee - Taxpayers Association Representative - VacantIn February 2013, separate from this process, the President and CEO of the Orange County Taxpayers Association applied for the taxpayers’ association position on the college’s new Measure Q Citizens Bond Oversight Committee. The board appointed the other members but left the taxpayers’ association position vacant, in violation of state law.

Almost two years later, a couple of board members pushed for an agenda item for the board to finally fill the vacant taxpayers’ association position. The board responded on December 7, 2015 with a 4-2 vote to reject the Orange County Taxpayers Association applicant.

It was rumored that construction trade union officials had told their allies on the board to reject the Orange County Taxpayers Association applicant because of the group’s past criticism of government-mandated Project Labor Agreements. A few months later, on February 22, 2016, the board finally complied with state law by appointing a former site representative and Political Action Coordinator for the California School Employees Association Chapter 41.

In her very brief application submitted to the district on February 16, 2016, the victorious appointee declared “I am a member of the Middle Class Taxpayers Association, and with so many middle class families in Santa Ana, I look forward to being considered for the Measure Q Oversight Committee.” The board appointed her to the position.

The Middle Class Taxpayers Association is a union front group. For more information on it, see the May 30, 2012 article posted on www.LaborIssuesSolutions.com entitled Don’t Be Fooled! Meet Some Sneaky Fake Taxpayer Groups In California and the April 5, 2015 article from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association entitled Look for the Union Label.

Sources

Minutes of December 7, 2015 Rancho Santiago Community College District Board of Trustees (Item 6.6 – rejection of Orange County Taxpayers Association applicant as taxpayer association representative on the Bond Oversight Committee)

Minutes of February 22, 2016 Rancho Santiago Community College District Board of Trustees (Item 6.9 – approval of Middle Class Taxpayers Association applicant as taxpayer association representative on the Bond Oversight Committee)

Orange County Taxpayers Association

Middle Class Taxpayers Association

Rancho Santiago Community College District Board of Trustees

Rancho Santiago Community College District Project Labor Agreement – Measure Q

California Education Code Sections 15278-15282 – Citizens’ Oversight Committee

Strict Accountability in Local School Construction Bonds Act of 2000 (Assembly Bill 1908)

Proposition 39 (2000)


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Unions Fill Power Vacuum at Obscure California Regional Government

On June 7, 2016, voters in nine California counties in the San Francisco Bay Area will vote on a proposal (Measure AA) to annually assess a $12 tax on every property parcel. This tax would apply equally to each parcel, ranging in assessed property value from Google headquarters in Mountain View to a $30,000 trailer in Vallejo.

San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority Parcel Tax Ballot QuestionThe tax money would go to the obscure Oakland-based San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, established in 2008 by state law as a regional agency. Regional governments are increasingly popular in California, in part because state laws such as the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Assembly Bill 32) and Senate Bill 975 (2008) are compelling local governments to collaborate on public policy.

Governed by officials appointed by local governments, these regional governments often lack press oversight and public accountability. That creates a power vacuum that groups eager for taxpayer funding can fill for their own advantage. Construction unions have seized the opportunity.

In the case of the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority, union Building Trades Councils of the nine affected counties want to control future construction contracts funded by this parcel tax. On February 24, 2016, the board of the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority considered a policy requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of working on contracts greater than $100,000 funded by the proposed parcel tax.

San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority governing board

San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority governing board gets ready to praise Project Labor Agreements at its February 24, 2016 meeting.

In front of a full room of union officials from the entire region, almost every Bay Restoration Authority board member expressed strong support for a government mandate for construction contractors to obtain their workforce (including apprentices) from the union hiring hall and make all employee fringe benefit payments to union health care and pension funds. One board member dared to assert that the parcel tax was actually about Bay restoration and not labor unions. She also questioned how the union deal would affect volunteer organizations. But in the end, she voted with the rest of the board to proceed with continued development of the Project Labor Agreement policy.

Objections came from construction business associations, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, the Contra Costa (County) Taxpayers Association, Ducks Unlimited, a construction company based in Sonoma that specializes in wetlands restoration projects, and one ordinary citizen from El Sobrante. The board voted to create an ad hoc committee to work with the Santa Clara Valley Water District and Ducks Unlimited to neutralize their opposition to the Project Labor Agreement.

Why is this regional agency implementing a Project Labor Agreement policy? Some of the union love is ideological and some of it is based on politics back at the local governments of the appointed board members. Much of it is presumably intended to convince the unions to provide major financial and organizational help to the Measure AA campaign to convince voters to approve the parcel tax.

Union campaign assistance is needed because of one major obstacle to voter passage of the $12 annual parcel tax: under Proposition 13 (approved by state voters in 1978), a two-thirds supermajority of all voters in the nine Bay Area counties must approve the tax increase. This threshold will be difficult to exceed, even in a region that strongly supports environmental causes. Both the Left and the Right have reasons to reject this tax.

In addition, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority has a logistical challenge in putting one tax measure on the ballot in nine different counties. This is an unprecedented effort that has provoked many legal questions and required significant interaction with county election officials. (Unlike the opposition to the Measure AA parcel tax, the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority has taxpayer funds to get answers to legal questions.)

Big corporations (such as Pacific Gas and Electric) are eagerly supporting this regressive property tax, as it gives them an image of environmental activism while putting the burden of paying for the restoration on ordinary homeowners who had nothing to do with degrading San Francisco Bay in the first place. Nevertheless, union activism will also be needed to overcome voter resistance to sending their tax money to an obscure agency in Oakland.

A Project Labor Agreement locks in that union support. But could it backfire on the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority?

Ironically, the board’s decision to give unions monopoly control over the construction contract workforce has inspired the development of organized opposition to the parcel tax. It also creates for voters a clearly identifiable example of insider politics, favoritism for special interest groups, and fiscal irresponsibility.


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Unions Pester Community Choice Aggregation Energy Programs in California

Where there is innovation, there is union interference.

Marin Clean Energy, the first “Community Choice Aggregation” program in California, is planning to build a solar farm on a “brownfield” in the City of Richmond. Only one party objected to the project on environmental grounds: “Bay Area Citizens for Responsible Solar,” a front group for California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE).

It’s just the latest in a series of environmental objections by unions to bend the policies of Community Choice Aggregators.

What Are Community Choice Aggregation Programs?

Community Choice Aggregation programs are authorized in California by Assembly Bill 117, signed into law by Governor Gray Davis in 2002. The concept was elaborated in Senate Bill 790, signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in 2011. The California Public Utilities Commission regulates Community Choice Aggregation.

These programs allow electric customers to circumvent buying power from major investor-owned public utilities such as Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E). Instead, customers purchase electricity bought or generated by government-run utilities organized as a “Joint Powers Authority.”

Investor-owned utilities maintain transmission and distribution infrastructure and perform other services for customers. When a local government joins a Community Choice Aggregation program, electric customers in that jurisdiction are automatically transferred to that program unless the customer pro-actively chooses to opt-out and remain with the investor-owned utility.

Community Choice Aggregators are independently managed and directed by an appointed board that represents participating local governments. For example, the board of Marin Clean Energy includes representatives of the following governments now participating in the program: the Marin County cities of Novato, Corte Madera, Fairfax, San Anselmo, Larkspur, Belvedere, San Rafael, Tiburon, Ross, Mill Valley, and Sausalito; the Solano County city of Benicia; the Contra Costa County cities of Richmond, El Cerrito, and San Pablo; the County of Marin, and unincorporated parts of the County of Napa. Other cities in the San Francisco Bay Area are in the process of joining the program, and they will have representation on the board.

Programs such as Marin Clean Energy market themselves as having lower rates and generating more power from “renewable” energy sources, such as solar, wind, bioenergy, geothermal, and small hydro. Marin Clean Energy claimed that in January 2016 its generation rates were 14% lower on average than PG&E’s generation rates and would have been even lower without a “Power Charge Indifference Adjustment” (PCIA) fee charged to customers who do not choose to remain with PG&E.

Community Choice Aggregation Is a Juicy Target for the Left

As shown by the California High-Speed Rail project, any ambitious project or program proposed in California is immediately targeted by numerous leftist interest groups that see an opportunity to advance their agenda. From the beginning, unions targeted Community Choice Aggregation programs as a vehicle to organize the “renewable energy” workforce through a so-called “Blue-Green Alliance.”

A Genuine California Union ConspiracyIn fact, Senate Bill 790 included an obscure provision – added at the demand of union lobbyists – to allow ratepayer money to be diverted into Labor-Management Cooperation Committees that fund environmental objections to energy projects and make massive contributions to campaigns to pass or defeat ballot measures.

See the October 18, 2012 UnionWatch article Mysterious Union Slush Fund Spends $100,000 Against Costa Mesa Charter, featuring a link to the TheTruthAboutPLAs article A Genuine California Union Conspiracy: Senate Bill 790 and the California Building Trades Council’s Ratepayer Funded Political Slush Fund, which links to the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction’s “Investigative Report: A Genuine Union Conspiracy.”

In 2012, the California Construction Industry Labor Management Trust (“CILMT”) began submitting comments to the California Public Utilities Commission about proposed regulations for Community Choice Aggregators.

Unions Don’t Like Competition

Marin Clean Energy has been targeted by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local Union 1245, which represents employees at Pacific Gas & Electric. This union argued that the Community Choice Aggregation programs would harm the environment by buying power from Shell Energy North America, which generates more than 90% of its power from non-renewable sources, including coal. For example, in a June 4, 2014 letter to the Napa County Board of Supervisors, IBEW Local 1245 demanded that the Napa County Board of Supervisors prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) before joining Marin Clean Energy.

June 4, 2014 Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo Demand EIR on behalf of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers IBEW Local 1245 – Marin Clean Energy – County of Napa

IBEW Local 1245 also targeted the CleanPowerSF Community Choice Aggregation program and demanded an Environmental Impact Report before the implementation of that program:

August 13, 2013 San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Meeting Minutes – CleanPowerSF Community Choice Aggregation – International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers IBEW Local 1245 Objections

January 30, 2013 International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers IBEW Local 1245 – Community Choice Aggregation Needs Close Scrutiny

What unions really want is a Project Labor Agreement.

If You Plan to Build a Solar Plant in California, Expect Union Hassles

A position paper of the “East Bay Clean Power Alliance” entitled “Promoting a Labor-friendly Alameda County Community Choice Energy Program” calls for all construction under a Project Labor Agreement and explains how Community Choice Aggregation programs would bring construction workers into a union:

As a public program, it can prioritize public good over profit, and work with unions to generate high-road, family-sustaining jobs, utilize union apprenticeship and other entry-level job programs, and offer pathways out of poverty, especially in low income communities…A Community Choice energy program can be a unique vehicle for opening up the largely non-union community-based energy sector to union employment. This is possible because of the program’s ability to set work standards and also to aggregate smaller installation projects into larger projects more amenable to union labor agreements.

The idea is that a Community Choice Aggregation program would negotiate a Project Labor Agreement with California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), a Sacramento-based coalition of  unions, to cover all solar construction and maintenance, large and small.

Marin Clean Energy Is Targeted with Greenmail

According to the Marin Clean Energy website, “many local solar projects are under development in MCE’s service area including MCE Solar One, Cooley Quarry, Buck Institute, and Cost Plus.” A company signatory to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers won the contract to build the Buck Institute solar project.

MCE Solar One is the biggest solar plant proposed by Marin Clean Energy: a 10.5 megawatt project to be built on a 49-acre landfill site near a refinery in Richmond owned by Chevron. According to the Marin Clean Energy website, “Local communities are gearing up for construction of the largest publicly owned solar project in the Bay Area!”

Not so fast.

Unions were targeting this project, as shown through public comment at an August 19, 2015 community meeting about the project. On September 29, 2015, a group called “Bay Area Citizens for Responsible Solar” submitted a 31-page letter plus expert testimony and exhibits objecting under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for MCE Solar One, also known as the Richmond Solar PV Project. What sounds like a community environmental organization is actually a front group for California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE).

September 29, 2015 Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo – DEIR Comments – Richmond Solar PV Project – Marin Clean Energy Community Choice Aggregation – Letter

September 29, 2015 Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo – DEIR Comments – Richmond Solar PV Project – Marin Clean Energy Community Choice Aggregation – Exhibits

Staff wasn’t impressed, as shown in the response to the union comments:

September 29, 2015 Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo – DEIR Comments – Richmond Solar PV Project – Marin Clean Energy Community Choice Aggregation – Staff Response

Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardoza Objects to FEIR - Richmond Solar PV Project - Marin Clean EnergyAs is typical with union environmental objections, attorneys for California Unions for Reliable Energy submitted another round of comments at the last minute objecting to the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR). After examining the documents at the November 19, 2015 meeting of the Marin Clean Energy board, legal counsel declared that the late submissions contained nothing new of concern. The board unanimously approved the FEIR.

One board member said “it is a sad day that CEQA has really become less and less about the environment and more and more about power. Governor Brown has tried to address this with reform to CEQA and this item follows that direction.”

November 19, 2015 Marin Clean Energy Board Minutes – Approval of FEIR for Richmond Solar PV Project

Don’t count on that reform coming anytime soon.


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

More Union Deals in Monterey County's Quest for Water Project Funding

Interlake Tunnel Project - Luis Alejo and Unions Want Project Labor AgreementMore than a year of waiting has proven fruitless for Monterey County. It’s now February 2016 and the State of California still hasn’t provided any funding to the Monterey County Water Resources Agency for a tunnel expected to significantly increase its capability for water storage.

California State Assemblymember Luis Alejo, who represents the region, could not obtain the $12-15 million in state money he repeatedly promised for the Interlake Tunnel Project. Alejo was confident that his Assembly Bill 155, signed by Governor Brown in 2014, would satisfy union lobbyists at the state capitol and establish ideal conditions for the county to obtain funding from the state.

The bill included a mandate for the county to require contractors on the project to sign a Project Labor Agreement with construction trade unions. For background, see these UnionWatch.org articles:

Meanwhile, the water project has expanded in scope. Estimated costs have risen from $23 million to $68 million. The project now even includes a $5 million contraption to protect the white bass.

Where will the money come from for this ambitious water project? The Monterey County Board of Supervisors knows what to do. They must turn again to the union lobbyists at the state capitol, this time with a bit more attention to giving the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California what it wants, promptly.

If the county finishes negotiations and finalizes a Project Labor Agreement with state union officials, perhaps the California state legislature will pass Assembly Bill 1585, a new bill introduced in January 2016 by Assemblyman Alejo that sends $25 million in state funds (from a currently unidentified source) directly to Monterey County for its water project.

This bill is an “urgency” bill, requiring two-thirds supermajority approval in the Assembly and Senate. If every Democrat voted for AB 1585, Assemblyman Alejo would still need three Republicans in the Assembly and one Republican in the Senate to vote for it.

This isn’t as impossible as it seems. After all, Assemblyman Alejo has extra motivation to get the legislature to pass the bill and the governor to sign it.

A former city councilmember from Watsonville (in Santa Cruz County), Luis Alejo is termed out of his Assembly seat and now running for a Salinas-based seat on the Monterey County Board of Supervisors against the incumbent supervisor and an incumbent Salinas City Councilmember. He is under pressure to deliver the funding and prove to the powerful local agricultural industry and the people of Salinas that he can best serve their interests. To complicate matters, Alejo’s wife – now on the Watsonville City Council – is running for his open Assembly seat against a former mayor of Salinas.

How does all of this translate into policy? On February 9, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors will consider the following actions regarding the Interlake Tunnel and Spillway Modification Projects:

  • Support a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) related to AB 1585 in a process open to interested parties, and emphasizing timeliness and accountability.
  • Direct staff to begin negotiations with labor immediately on points not requiring design process information; and to provide the Board of Supervisors with bi-weekly progress reports.
  • Provide that implementation of a PLA is contingent upon adequate funding being made timely available through enactment of, and budget appropriation for, AB 1585.

The staff report for the Project Labor Agreement agenda item explains what needs to be done:

If adopted and signed in its current form, AB 1585 would require no less than $25M to be allocated, upon appropriation of the legislature, to construct (revision) both the tunnel and spillway modification components of the project, using a Project-Labor Agreement (PLA). Since AB 1585 is an urgency bill, it requires a 2/3 vote, and if passed becomes effective immediately. The first hearing of AB 1585 will be sometime between February 8 and the beginning of March at a Policy Hearing.

The goal is to get AB 1585 to the Governor around the time he signs the state budget with the necessary funding so provisions of the bill go into effect as the monies are made available – which could be July 2016. Meeting the July 2016 goal is dependent on diligent movement through and consideration by the State Legislature without substantial amendments, approval by the Governor, and timely adoption of the State Budget.

Assembly Member Alejo has made it clear that the Agency/County needs to follow the process set forth in AB 155 related to the PLA to access funding related to AB 1585. In other words, the Assembly Member wants the PLA negotiated as soon as possible, and before AB 1585 is enacted. To that end, counsel has reached out to Building Trades representatives.

This is complicated wheeling and dealing. And negotiating and implementing the Project Labor Agreement mandate won’t be any easier, according to the staff report:

It is important to understand how the PLA negotiation process affects or is affected by using the AB 155 design-build or the Infrastructure Financing design-build-finance methods of awarding the construction projects. To assist in the decision-making process and facilitate the Board’s action to keep the Projects moving forward, three informational attachments are included with this report. They are: 1) a Project Labor Agreement Overview Briefing; 2) a PLA Checklist; and 3) the DRAFT Decision Matrix discussed at the December 15, 2015 meeting. Attorney Joan Cox, the Agency’s contract counsel, will present the PLA overview. Ron Drake, the Agency’s consulting Project Manager, will be available to review the Draft Decision Matrix.

See all of the documents referenced above at this link: Interlake Tunnel Project Update – Project Labor Agreement

The vote occurs on the afternoon of February 9. Opposed to the Project Labor Agreement are the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Salinas Taxpayers Association, and several business associations representing non-union construction companies. It’s unclear what the unions will support and what they will reject in the current proposal. The agricultural industry wants the project but fears the increased costs to water users from a Project Labor Agreement. Strategic local politics may add some drama to the meeting.

And it may be all for nothing if the legislature and the governor don’t want to create a precedent by giving $25 million in state funds to one local government for one project.


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

California Construction Unions Saved the Planet Again in 2015

California construction trade unions continue to protect the environment from the scourges of renewable energy and infill development. A chart below provides examples of their achievements for the planet in 2015.

Meanwhile, 2015 ends with the annual chatter at the state capitol that “maybe next year” will be the year that the California legislature amends the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to end such nonsense. Inspiring this goal for 2016 is an August 2015 study, In the Name of the Environment: Litigation Abuse Under CEQA, which provides new evidence about the distortion of this law by unscrupulous parties.

California’s environmental laws give the public significant authority in ensuring that state agencies and local governments appropriately protect the environment when considering new projects or programs. Allowing the public to play a key role in environmental protection is a check and balance against government ignorance, incompetence, and corruption.

But giving the public a legal role in environmental protection provides a powerful weapon for organizations or individuals who have selfish or ideologicial motivations to prevent construction. It also allows businesses to hinder the growth and prosperity of their competition. And it gives organizations an opportunity to extort private developers and public agencies into making payouts or granting economic concessions that aren’t related to environmental protection. (This practice is sometimes called “greenmail” because it is blackmail using environmental laws.)

The most-feared wielders of California’s environmental laws are labor unions. If you doubt this, note over the years how often corporations and business groups condemn all kinds of CEQA abuse in public without ever mentioning unions as a chief ringleader of the practice. A typical example is this April 15, 2015 op-ed in the San Diego Union-TribuneCEQA Reform: Don’t Allow Gaming of the System.

A deal is announced to end union environmental objections to the Phase 3 construction of the San Diego Convention Center. The project was never built.

A deal is announced to end union environmental objections to the Phase 3 construction of the San Diego Convention Center. The project was never built.

A reader would not learn that one of the most aggressive advocates of union CEQA abuse victimized one of the co-authors of that op-ed with one of the most notorious examples of union CEQA abuse. Read the www.UnionWatch.org story at Finally Got It! Secret Union Deal for San Diego Convention Center.

The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California (with its front group California Unions for Reliable Energy, or CURE) remains the primary obstacle to CEQA reform, not environmentalists or even other unions that routinely use CEQA to win concessions. They are the gatekeepers to CEQA exemptions granted for government agencies and private developers. Two kinds of projects have risen above state environmental protection: major league professional sports facilities and high-speed rail. It is not coincidental that construction trade unions have Project Labor Agreements or Project Labor Agreement commitments on such work.

Here’s a chart of construction union activity in 2015 involving the California Environmental Quality Act or the Warren-Alquist Act (for power plant licensing at the California Energy Commission).

 

Table A-1California K-12 School Districts Ranked by
Enrollment
2013-2014
RankDistrictTotal
1Los Angeles Unified School District646,683
2San Diego Unified School District129,779
3Garden Grove Unified School District92,354
4Long Beach Unified School District79,709
5Fresno Unified School District73,543
6Elk Grove Unified School District62,888
7San Francisco Unified School District58,414
8Santa Ana Unified School District56,815
9Capistrano Unified School District54,036
10Corona-Norco Unified School District53,739
11San Bernardino City Unified School District53,365
12San Juan Unified School District49,114
13Oakland Unified School District48,077
14Sacramento City Unified School District46,868
15Riverside Unified School District42,339
16Clovis Unified School District41,169
17Sweetwater Union High School District41,018
18Stockton Unified School District40,057
19Fontana Unified School District39,470
20Kern High School District37,318
21Poway Unified School District35,629
22Fremont Unified School District34,208
23Moreno Valley Unified School District34,170
24San Jose Unified School District32,938
25San Ramon Valley Unified School District31,954
26Mt. Diablo Unified School District31,923
27Anaheim Union High School District31,659
28Irvine Unified School District31,392
29Twin Rivers Unified School District31,035
30West Contra Costa Unified School District30,596
31Lodi Unified School District30,349
32Bakersfield City School District30,076
33Temecula Valley Unified School District30,016
34Chino Valley Unified School District29,937
35Chula Vista Elementary School District29,806
36Orange Unified School District29,473
37Montebello Unified School District29,062
38Saddleback Valley Unified School District29,028
39Desert Sands Unified School District28,999
40Visalia Unified School District28,267
41William S. Hart Union High School District26,983
42East Side Union High School District26,760
43Rialto Unified School District26,225
44Glendale Unified School District26,168
45Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District25,595
46Vista Unified School District25,377
47Pomona Unified School District25,311
48Antelope Valley Union High School District24,619
49Chaffey Joint Union High School District24,598
50Tustin Unified School District24,059
51Torrance Unified School District23,947
52Hesperia Unified School District23,735
53Palm Springs Unified School District23,332
54Colton Joint Unified School District23,322
55Manteca Unified School District23,188
56Downey Unified School District22,698
57Murrieta Valley Unified School District22,698
58Hayward Unified School District22,555
59Ontario-Montclair School District22,521
60Lake Elsinore Unified School District22,258
61Grossmont Union High School District22,220
62Compton Unified School District22,106
63Palmdale Elementary School District21,956
64Newport-Mesa Unified School District21,905
65Hemet Unified School District21,414
66Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District21,366
67Redlands Unified School District21,326
68ABC Unified School District20,998
69Oceanside Unified School District20,980
70San Marcos Unified School District20,452
71Pajaro Valley Unified School District20,438
72Madera Unified School District20,415
73Val Verde Unified School District19,841
74Conejo Valley Unified School District19,727
75Hacienda la Puente Unified School District19,642
76Folsom-Cordova Unified School District19,527
77Alvord Unified School District19,390
78Jurupa Unified School District19,330
79Escondido Union School District19,204
80Anaheim City School District19,164
81Cupertino Union School District19,079
82Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District18,960
83Coachella Valley Unified School District18,878
84Napa Valley Unified School District18,610
85Pasadena Unified School District18,586
86Antioch Unified School District18,352
87Baldwin Park Unified School District18,316
88Simi Valley Unified School District17,821
89Alhambra Unified School District17,617
90Panama-Buena Vista Union School District17,469
91Ventura Unified School District17,366
92Oxnard Union High School District17,148
93Tracy Joint Unified School District16,935
94Oxnard School District16,916
95Cajon Valley Union School District16,601
96Huntington Beach Union High School District16,343
97Burbank Unified School District16,332
98Santa Maria-Bonita School District16,026
99Paramount Unified School District15,681
100Santa Barbara Unified School District15,593
101Central Unified School District15,584
102Santa Clara Unified School District15,298
103Modesto City Elementary School District15,259
104Lancaster Elementary School District15,149
105Rowland Unified School District15,055
106Vallejo City Unified School District14,996
107Modesto City High School District14,969
108Lynwood Unified School District14,776
109Pleasanton Unified School District14,768
110Walnut Valley Unified School District14,532
111Salinas Union High School District14,437
112Apple Valley Unified School District14,401
113Fullerton Joint Union High School District14,396
114West Covina Unified School District14,213
115Turlock Unified School District14,127
116Porterville Unified School District14,119
117Victor Valley Union High School District13,889
118Chico Unified School District13,739
119Ceres Unified School District13,694
120Fullerton Elementary School District13,678
121Livermore Valley Joint Unified School District13,653
122Etiwanda Elementary School District13,652
123Natomas Unified School District13,630
124Inglewood Unified School District13,469
125Yuba City Unified School District13,366
126Bellflower Unified School District13,149
127Whittier Union High School District12,983
128Evergreen Elementary School District12,857
129Vacaville Unified School District12,837
130Rocklin Unified School District12,738
131San Dieguito Union High School District12,645
132Palo Alto Unified School District12,527
133New Haven Unified School District12,459
134Alum Rock Union Elementary School District12,386
135Covina-Valley Unified School District12,274
136Victor Elementary School District12,181
137La Mesa-Spring Valley School District12,144
138San Lorenzo Unified School District12,070
139San Mateo-Foster City School District11,858
140Gilroy Unified School District11,840
141Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District11,632
142Upland Unified School District11,380
143Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District11,289
144Las Virgenes Unified School District11,259
145Santa Rosa High School District11,244
146Sanger Unified School District11,204
147Franklin-McKinley Elementary School District11,193
148Carlsbad Unified School District11,049
149Alameda Unified School District11,020
150Menifee Union Elementary School District11,011
151Pittsburg Unified School District10,969
152Oak Grove Elementary School District10,921
153Fremont Union High School District10,792
154Merced City Elementary School District10,788
155Lucia Mar Unified School District10,710
156San Jacinto Unified School District10,698
157Monterey Peninsula Unified School District10,653
158Perris Union High School District10,510
159Berkeley Unified School District10,442
160Adelanto Elementary School District10,378
161Milpitas Unified School District10,281
162Los Banos Unified School District10,260
163Roseville Joint Union High School District10,223
164Bonita Unified School District10,146
165Lompoc Unified School District10,076
166Woodland Joint Unified School District10,055
167Merced Union High School District10,039
168Los Alamitos Unified School District9,914
169Saugus Union School District9,911
170Roseville City Elementary School District9,820
171Yucaipa-Calimesa Joint Unified School District9,779
172Kings Canyon Joint Unified School District9,775
173Sequoia Union High School District9,693
174Marysville Joint Unified School District9,647
175Arcadia Unified School District9,582
176Westminster School District9,503
177Tulare City School District9,497
178Escondido Union High School District9,442
179Morongo Unified School District9,439
180El Monte Union High School District9,388
181Redondo Beach Unified School District9,364
182Castro Valley Unified School District9,361
183Greenfield Union School District9,345
184Azusa Unified School District9,277
185Lincoln Unified School District9,277
186Calexico Unified School District9,263
187Beaumont Unified School District9,256
188Alisal Union School District9,153
189Dublin Unified School District9,151
190El Rancho Unified School District9,129
191Salinas City Elementary School District9,125
192Western Placer Unified School District9,116
193South San Francisco Unified School District9,111
194East Whittier City Elementary School District9,064
195Redwood City Elementary School District9,042
196El Monte City School District9,031
197Ocean View School District9,010
198Morgan Hill Unified School District9,000
199Westside Union Elementary School District8,941
200Hawthorne School District8,809
201Davis Joint Unified School District8,626
202San Leandro Unified School District8,617
203Sylvan Union Elementary School District8,565
204Brentwood Union Elementary School District8,562
205Hueneme Elementary School District8,396
206San Mateo Union High School District8,321
207Liberty Union High School District8,087
208Novato Unified School District8,029
209Washington Unified School District7,978
210Centinela Valley Union High School District7,878
211Snowline Joint Unified School District7,826
212Santa Maria Joint Union High School District7,782
213Berryessa Union Elementary School District7,758
214Glendora Unified School District7,733
215South Bay Union School District7,646
216Campbell Union School District7,642
217San Luis Coastal Unified School District7,636
218Delano Union Elementary School District7,600
219Campbell Union High School District7,453
220Pleasant Valley School District7,401
221Mountain View Elementary School District7,345
222Jefferson Elementary School District7,111
223Claremont Unified School District7,046
224Lennox School District7,022
225Manhattan Beach Unified School District6,890
226Huntington Beach City Elementary School District6,864
227El Dorado Union High School District6,810
228Sunnyvale School District6,787
229Culver City Unified School District6,757
230Newhall School District6,739
231Dry Creek Joint Elementary School District6,715
232Moorpark Unified School District6,703
233Dinuba Unified School District6,580
234Paso Robles Joint Unified School District6,555
235Santee School District6,472
236Selma Unified School District6,447
237San Gabriel Unified School District6,410
238Magnolia Elementary School District6,403
239Ukiah Unified School District6,349
240Fountain Valley Elementary School District6,305
241Lawndale Elementary School District6,300
242Newark Unified School District6,196
243Cotati-Rohnert Park Unified School District6,145
244Lakeside Union Elementary School District6,135
245Whittier City Elementary School District6,124
246El Centro Elementary School District6,101
247Patterson Joint Unified School District6,024
248Brea-Olinda Unified School District5,977
249Temple City Unified School District5,953
250Hanford Elementary School District5,934
251Barstow Unified School District5,920
252Alta Loma Elementary School District5,917
253Monrovia Unified School District5,903
254National Elementary School District5,829
255Perris Elementary School District5,821
256Ramona City Unified School District5,697
257Hollister School District5,669
258Shasta Union High School District5,561
259Union Elementary School District5,533
260Santa Rosa Elementary School District5,466
261Santa Paula Unified School District5,459
262Encinitas Union Elementary School District5,445
263Sulphur Springs Union School District5,437
264Windsor Unified School District5,415
265Acalanes Union High School District5,402
266Travis Unified School District5,398
267Petaluma Joint Union High School District5,397
268Rosedale Union Elementary School District5,397
269Tulare Joint Union High School District5,325
270Oakdale Joint Unified School District5,292
271Orcutt Union Elementary School District5,269
272Charter Oak Unified School District5,158
273Buckeye Union Elementary School District5,157
274Fallbrook Union Elementary School District5,113
275Mountain View Whisman School District5,065
276Garvey Elementary School District5,051
277La Habra City Elementary School District5,022
278Kerman Unified School District4,997
279Buena Park Elementary School District4,985
280Oakley Union Elementary School District4,946
281Rio Elementary School District4,946
282Sierra Sands Unified School District4,944
283Benicia Unified School District4,924
284Soledad Unified School District4,915
285Jefferson Union High School District4,906
286Atwater Elementary School District4,855
287San Ysidro Elementary School District4,842
288Moreland School District4,825
289South Pasadena Unified School District4,767
290Santa Cruz City High School District4,731
291Atascadero Unified School District4,722
292Central Elementary School District4,701
293Oak Park Unified School District4,693
294Los Altos Elementary School District4,675
295San Rafael City Elementary School District4,635
296Sonoma Valley Unified School District4,635
297San Lorenzo Valley Unified School District4,613
298Banning Unified School District4,599
299New Jerusalem Elementary School District4,536
300Center Joint Unified School District4,533
301Little Lake City Elementary School District4,512
302North Monterey County Unified School District4,493
303Centralia Elementary School District4,491
304Del Mar Union Elementary School District4,399
305Coalinga-Huron Unified School District4,367
306Burton Elementary School District4,347
307Tehachapi Unified School District4,272
308Paradise Unified School District4,265
309Delano Joint Union High School District4,235
310Martinez Unified School District4,221
311Ravenswood City Elementary School District4,216
312Beverly Hills Unified School District4,212
313Tamalpais Union High School District4,165
314Lindsay Unified School District4,163
315Valley Center-Pauma Unified School District4,155
316Julian Union Elementary School District4,142
317Placer Union High School District4,137
318Central Union High School District4,106
319Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District4,083
320Wiseburn Unified School District4,065
321La Canada Unified School District4,058
322Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District4,043
323Norris Elementary School District4,041
324Cypress Elementary School District3,990
325Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District3,978
326Bassett Unified School District3,959
327Waterford Unified School District3,954
328Lemon Grove School District3,922
329Belmont-Redwood Shores Elementary School District3,900
330Imperial Unified School District3,898
331Duarte Unified School District3,896
332Albany City Unified School District3,881
333Lake Tahoe Unified School District3,881
334Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District3,881
335Brawley Elementary School District3,878
336Oro Grande Elementary School District3,857
337Gateway Unified School District3,853
338Hanford Joint Union High School District3,845
339Amador County Unified School District3,825
340Dixon Unified School District3,808
341Mountain Empire Unified School District3,804
342Fillmore Unified School District3,774
343Eureka City Schools3,722
344Goleta Union Elementary School District3,701
345Rescue Union Elementary School District3,700
346Rim of the World Unified School District3,695
347Galt Joint Union Elementary School District3,693
348Ripon Unified School District3,680
349Loomis Union Elementary School District3,636
350Rincon Valley Union Elementary School District3,632
351Enterprise Elementary School District3,622
352Walnut Creek Elementary School District3,608
353Wasco Union Elementary School District3,584
354Richland Union Elementary School District3,530
355Lafayette Elementary School District3,525
356Romoland Elementary School District3,505
357Del Norte County Unified School District3,502
358El Segundo Unified School District3,477
359McFarland Unified School District3,469
360San Carlos Elementary School District3,457
361Greenfield Union Elementary School District3,448
362Redding Elementary School District3,440
363Lammersville Joint Unified School District3,433
364Parlier Unified School District3,418
365Cambrian School District3,378
366Cabrillo Unified School District3,373
367Eastside Union Elementary School District3,353
368Eureka Union School District3,338
369Los Gatos Union Elementary School District3,320
370Burlingame Elementary School District3,304
371Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District3,302
372Corcoran Joint Unified School District3,293
373Santa Rita Union Elementary School District3,292
374Stanislaus Union Elementary School District3,292
375Fruitvale Elementary School District3,259
376Mill Valley Elementary School District3,242
377Lemoore Union Elementary School District3,228
378Lowell Joint School District3,209
379Spencer Valley Elementary School District3,205
380Palo Verde Unified School District3,177
381Coronado Unified School District3,169
382South Whittier Elementary School District3,153
383Pacifica School District3,150
384Mendota Unified School District3,146
385Solana Beach Elementary School District3,146
386San Marino Unified School District3,143
387Konocti Unified School District3,130
388Standard Elementary School District3,121
389Arvin Union School District3,101
390Calaveras Unified School District3,079
391Laguna Beach Unified School District3,074
392Southern Kern Unified School District3,043
393Empire Union Elementary School District3,034
394Nevada Joint Union High School District3,003
395San Benito High School District3,003
396Washington Unified School District2,993
397Exeter Unified School District2,979
398Lamont Elementary School District2,958
399Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District2,946
400Lucerne Valley Unified School District2,921
401Menlo Park City Elementary School District2,904
402Nuview Union School District2,894
403Escalon Unified School District2,849
404Riverbank Unified School District2,835
405Dehesa Elementary School District2,809
406San Bruno Park Elementary School District2,796
407Weaver Union School District2,796
408Roseland School District2,755
409Piedmont City Unified School District2,706
410Mojave Unified School District2,696
411Delhi Unified School District2,686
412Ocean View School District2,682
413Ojai Unified School District2,680
414Oroville City Elementary School District2,678
415Rosemead Elementary School District2,668
416Keppel Union Elementary School District2,641
417Farmersville Unified School District2,626
418King City Union School District2,623
419Mountain View Elementary School District2,611
420Reef-Sunset Unified School District2,606
421Livingston Union School District2,602
422Salida Union Elementary School District2,576
423Castaic Union School District2,568
424Orinda Union Elementary School District2,529
425Cucamonga Elementary School District2,517
426Mt. Pleasant Elementary School District2,502
427Carmel Unified School District2,492
428Templeton Unified School District2,487
429Scotts Valley Unified School District2,482
430Fowler Unified School District2,477
431Gonzales Unified School District2,477
432Millbrae Elementary School District2,469
433Bear Valley Unified School District2,453
434Fallbrook Union High School District2,439
435Maricopa Unified School District2,438
436Jefferson Elementary School District2,425
437Fairfax Elementary School District2,412
438River Delta Joint Unified School District2,404
439Savanna Elementary School District2,392
440Petaluma City Elementary School District2,379
441San Rafael City High School District2,365
442Santa Cruz City Elementary School District2,361
443Lemoore Union High School District2,340
444Kingsburg Elementary Charter School District2,334
445Ross Valley Elementary School District2,320
446Firebaugh-Las Deltas Unified School District2,296
447Woodlake Unified School District2,291
448Bonsall Unified School District2,287
449Marcum-Illinois Union Elementary School District2,283
450Linden Unified School District2,278
451Silver Valley Unified School District2,278
452Dos Palos Oro Loma Joint Unified School District2,277
453Oroville Union High School District2,272
454Galt Joint Union High School District2,263
455Orland Joint Unified School District2,254
456Hilmar Unified School District2,253
457Carpinteria Unified School District2,239
458Robla Elementary School District2,231
459Chowchilla Elementary School District2,190
460Red Bluff Union Elementary School District2,163
461Hughson Unified School District2,146
462Plumas Unified School District2,130
463Live Oak Elementary School District2,108
464Taft City School District2,079
465Saratoga Union Elementary School District2,069
466West Sonoma County Union High School District2,069
467Auburn Union Elementary School District2,060
468Soquel Union Elementary School District2,054
469Gridley Unified School District2,051
470Gorman Elementary School District2,050
471Corning Union Elementary School District2,043
472South Monterey County Joint Union High School District2,033
473Pacific Grove Unified School District2,012
474Dixie Elementary School District1,999
475Yosemite Unified School District1,982
476Byron Union Elementary School District1,963
477Helendale Elementary School District1,959
478Earlimart Elementary School District1,952
479Willits Unified School District1,942
480Bishop Unified School District1,939
481Muroc Joint Unified School District1,936
482Golden Valley Unified School District1,923
483Old Adobe Union School District1,886
484Anderson Union High School District1,885
485Winton School District1,885
486Brawley Union High School District1,878
487Fort Bragg Unified School District1,873
488Bellevue Union Elementary School District1,872
489Gustine Unified School District1,863
490Moraga Elementary School District1,852
491Alpine Union Elementary School District1,845
492Newcastle Elementary School District1,844
493Golden Plains Unified School District1,831
494Mariposa County Unified School District1,806
495Armona Union Elementary School District1,804
496Los Nietos School District1,767
497Live Oak Unified School District1,757
498Beardsley Elementary School District1,753
499Central Union Elementary School District1,748
500Wasco Union High School District1,747
501Northern Humboldt Union High School District1,739
502Grass Valley Elementary School District1,733
503John Swett Unified School District1,699
504Kelseyville Unified School District1,681
505Middletown Unified School District1,667
506Healdsburg Unified School District1,650
507Wright Elementary School District1,622
508Riverdale Joint Unified School District1,620
509Red Bluff Joint Union High School District1,601
510Holtville Unified School District1,597
511Pioneer Union Elementary School District1,577
512Lakeport Unified School District1,556
513Hillsborough City Elementary School District1,546
514Reed Union Elementary School District1,546
515Winters Joint Unified School District1,521
516Larkspur-Corte Madera School District1,504
517Hermosa Beach City Elementary School District1,479
518Colusa Unified School District1,456
519Pierce Joint Unified School District1,443
520Willows Unified School District1,443
521Mark West Union Elementary School District1,433
522Caruthers Unified School District1,428
523Piner-Olivet Union Elementary School District1,419
524Thermalito Union Elementary School District1,409
525Cloverdale Unified School District1,394
526Las Lomitas Elementary School District1,386
527Mesa Union Elementary School District1,385
528Fortuna Elementary School District1,381
529Williams Unified School District1,377
530McCabe Union Elementary School District1,368
531Wheatland School District1,341
532Wilsona Elementary School District1,333
533Black Oak Mine Unified School District1,314
534Sierra Unified School District1,309
535Denair Unified School District1,293
536Twin Hills Union Elementary School District1,286
537Guadalupe Union Elementary School District1,282
538Palermo Union Elementary School District1,275
539Lakeside Union School District1,274
540Saint Helena Unified School District1,269
541Placerville Union Elementary School District1,249
542Heber Elementary School District1,233
543Pleasant Ridge Union Elementary School District1,229
544Kentfield Elementary School District1,223
545Kingsburg Joint Union High School District1,222
546Valle Lindo Elementary School District1,222
547Cascade Union Elementary School District1,202
548Calipatria Unified School District1,196
549Mammoth Unified School District1,193
550Plumas Lake Elementary School District1,189
551Fall River Joint Unified School District1,169
552Aromas/San Juan Unified School District1,164
553McKinleyville Union Elementary School District1,141
554Pixley Union Elementary School District1,122
555Hart-Ransom Union Elementary School District1,109
556Sonora Union High School District1,101
557Summerville Union High School District1,097
558Mother Lode Union Elementary School District1,088
559Keyes Union School District1,085
560Cottonwood Union Elementary School District1,083
561Chawanakee Unified School District1,068
562Fortuna Union High School District1,066
563Blochman Union Elementary School District1,063
564Evergreen Union School District1,063
565Arcata Elementary School District1,059
566Taft Union High School District1,059
567Edison Elementary School District1,056
568Bennett Valley Union Elementary School District1,048
569Rio Bravo-Greeley Union Elementary School District1,035
570Hope Elementary School District1,031
571Orange Center School District1,031
572Chowchilla Union High School District1,026
573Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District1,025
574Santa Ynez Valley Union High School District1,025
575Susanville Elementary School District1,012
576Yreka Union Elementary School District984
577Meridian Elementary School District978
578Esparto Unified School District976
579Oak Grove Union Elementary School District975
580Spreckels Union Elementary School District974
581Durham Unified School District960
582Corning Union High School District959
583Liberty Elementary School District958
584Terra Bella Union Elementary School District946
585Jamul-Dulzura Union Elementary School District945
586Waugh Elementary School District942
587Washington Union Elementary School District933
588Mupu Elementary School District917
589Sebastopol Union Elementary School District898
590Orchard Elementary School District890
591Raisin City Elementary School District883
592Nevada City Elementary School District879
593Lassen Union High School District873
594South Bay Union Elementary School District869
595McSwain Union Elementary School District865
596Borrego Springs Unified School District864
597Bass Lake Joint Union Elementary School District858
598Strathmore Union Elementary School District858
599Westside Elementary School District854
600San Miguel Joint Union School District849
601Kernville Union Elementary School District840
602Needles Unified School District835
603Calistoga Joint Unified School District832
604Modoc Joint Unified School District823
605Vineland Elementary School District823
606Columbia Elementary School District820
607Sundale Union Elementary School District820
608Mark Twain Union Elementary School District816
609Placer Hills Union Elementary School District801
610Banta Elementary School District795
611Mattole Unified School District780
612Kings River-Hardwick Union Elementary School District778
613Southern Humboldt Joint Unified School District776
614Planada Elementary School District766
615San Pasqual Valley Unified School District759
616El Tejon Unified School District744
617North County Joint Union Elementary School District742
618Wheatland Union High School District735
619Cardiff Elementary School District731
620Sutter Union High School District726
621Bret Harte Union High School District723
622Hamilton Unified School District719
623Penn Valley Union Elementary School District717
624Harmony Union Elementary School District714
625Antelope Elementary School District712
626Pollock Pines Elementary School District706
627Gravenstein Union Elementary School District704
628Laton Joint Unified School District704
629Coast Unified School District703
630Stone Corral Elementary School District702
631Emery Unified School District695
632Rancho Santa Fe Elementary School District691
633Yreka Union High School District670
634Ravendale-Termo Elementary School District665
635Sonora Elementary School District660
636Trinity Alps Unified School District660
637Scott Valley Unified School District658
638West Park Elementary School District657
639Grant Elementary School District655
640Richgrove Elementary School District651
641Gold Trail Union Elementary School District637
642Union Hill Elementary School District634
643Alpaugh Unified School District629
644Portola Valley Elementary School District629
645Buellton Union Elementary School District626
646Tipton Elementary School District612
647Chatom Union School District597
648Solvang Elementary School District591
649Pacific Union Elementary School District588
650Siskiyou Union High School District579
651Cutten Elementary School District577
652Vallecito Union School District577
653Pacheco Union Elementary School District575
654Lost Hills Union Elementary School District574
655Alta Vista Elementary School District573
656Los Molinos Unified School District567
657Briggs Elementary School District561
658Columbia Union School District556
659San Pasqual Union Elementary School District553
660Luther Burbank School District552
661Mendocino Unified School District551
662Biggs Unified School District542
663Anderson Valley Unified School District540
664Happy Valley Union Elementary School District537
665Knightsen Elementary School District532
666Camino Union Elementary School District529
667Palo Verde Union Elementary School District529
668Pleasant View Elementary School District522
669Sausalito Marin City School District521
670Upper Lake Union Elementary School District521
671Shoreline Unified School District519
672Oak Valley Union Elementary School District518
673Mt. Shasta Union Elementary School District517
674Le Grand Union High School District505
675Soulsbyville Elementary School District503
676Loma Prieta Joint Union Elementary School District496
677Ferndale Unified School District494
678Camptonville Elementary School District489
679Woodville Union Elementary School District481
680Franklin Elementary School District477
681Los Olivos Elementary School District471
682Gold Oak Union Elementary School District463
683Jamestown Elementary School District462
684Kings River Union Elementary School District462
685Monson-Sultana Joint Union Elementary School District461
686Tulelake Basin Joint Unified School District460
687Brittan Elementary School District457
688Brisbane Elementary School District456
689Curtis Creek Elementary School District449
690Meadows Union Elementary School District449
691Montecito Union Elementary School District448
692Woodside Elementary School District438
693Jacoby Creek Elementary School District427
694Washington Colony Elementary School District427
695Liberty Elementary School District414
696Kit Carson Union Elementary School District411
697Oak View Union Elementary School District411
698College Elementary School District408
699Rockford Elementary School District407
700Gerber Union Elementary School District404
701Laytonville Unified School District404
702Eastern Sierra Unified School District399
703Vallecitos Elementary School District396
704Round Valley Unified School District394
705Foresthill Union Elementary School District393
706Le Grand Union Elementary School District392
707Pacific Union Elementary School District385
708Summerville Elementary School District385
709Westwood Unified School District382
710Bayshore Elementary School District378
711Arcohe Union Elementary School District374
712Lone Pine Unified School District374
713Island Union Elementary School District373
714Sierra-Plumas Joint Unified School District372
715Ross Elementary School District367
716Westmorland Union Elementary School District363
717Bella Vista Elementary School District355
718Forestville Union Elementary School District354
719Alview-Dairyland Union Elementary School District352
720Sunnyside Union Elementary School District352
721Arena Union Elementary School District347
722Seeley Union Elementary School District345
723Ballico-Cressey Elementary School District344
724Buttonwillow Union Elementary School District343
725La Honda-Pescadero Unified School District340
726Big Oak Flat-Groveland Unified School District339
727Chualar Union School District337
728Freshwater Elementary School District336
729Elverta Joint Elementary School District334
730Rio Dell Elementary School District331
731Janesville Union Elementary School District328
732Colfax Elementary School District320
733Lakeside Union Elementary School District318
734Lassen View Union Elementary School District314
735Fort Sage Unified School District313
736Maxwell Unified School District312
737Sequoia Union Elementary School District305
738Butte Valley Unified School District302
739Upper Lake Union High School District302
740East Nicolaus Joint Union High School District301
741Warner Unified School District297
742Mountain Valley Unified School District296
743Pioneer Union Elementary School District292
744Shandon Joint Unified School District292
745Lagunitas Elementary School District286
746Manzanita Elementary School District284
747Maple Elementary School District282
748Springville Union Elementary School District278
749Sunol Glen Unified School District278
750Twain Harte School District274
751Guerneville Elementary School District270
752Millville Elementary School District266
753Lucerne Elementary School District263
754Cinnabar Elementary School District257
755Waukena Joint Union Elementary School District257
756Geyserville Unified School District253
757Clay Joint Elementary School District250
758Trona Joint Unified School District250
759South Fork Union School District249
760Junction Elementary School District246
761Weed Union Elementary School District244
762Richfield Elementary School District243
763Southside Elementary School District243
764Somis Union School District237
765Hope Elementary School District236
766Wilmar Union Elementary School District234
767Cuyama Joint Unified School District233
768Potter Valley Community Unified School District230
769Semitropic Elementary School District230
770Johnstonville Elementary School District227
771Loleta Union Elementary School District227
772Richmond Elementary School District226
773Traver Joint Elementary School District226
774North Cow Creek Elementary School District225
775Hughes-Elizabeth Lakes Union Elementary School District223
776Scotia Union Elementary School District220
777New Hope Elementary School District216
778Shaffer Union Elementary School District209
779Columbine Elementary School District208
780Pond Union Elementary School District208
781Di Giorgio Elementary School District207
782Butteville Union Elementary School District205
783Black Butte Union Elementary School District204
784Elk Hills Elementary School District203
785Capay Joint Union Elementary School District201
786Dunham Elementary School District201
787Pleasant Grove Joint Union School District201
788Montague Elementary School District200
789Monroe Elementary School District197
790Winship-Robbins School District197
791Paradise Elementary School District196
792Cayucos Elementary School District193
793Ducor Union Elementary School District191
794Grenada Elementary School District190
795Big Pine Unified School District189
796Blue Lake Union Elementary School District188
797Buena Vista Elementary School District187
798Big Valley Joint Unified School District186
799Douglas City Elementary School District186
800Trinidad Union Elementary School District184
801Hydesville Elementary School District183
802Princeton Joint Unified School District177
803Golden Feather Union Elementary School District176
804Chicago Park Elementary School District173
805Lake Elementary School District173
806El Nido Elementary School District172
807Alvina Elementary School District171
808San Antonio Union Elementary School District170
809Mt. Baldy Joint Elementary School District167
810West Side Union Elementary School District166
811Shasta Union Elementary School District165
812Baker Valley Unified School District162
813Two Rock Union School District161
814Plaza Elementary School District160
815Cold Spring Elementary School District158
816Fieldbrook Elementary School District157
817Julian Union High School District157
818General Shafter Elementary School District153
819Point Arena Joint Union High School District153
820Browns Elementary School District150
821Kenwood School District150
822Merced River Union Elementary School District150
823Clear Creek Elementary School District149
824Bonny Doon Union Elementary School District146
825Nuestro Elementary School District145
826Valley Home Joint Elementary School District144
827Three Rivers Union Elementary School District143
828Shiloh Elementary School District141
829Tres Pinos Union Elementary School District141
830Big Springs Union Elementary School District137
831Gratton Elementary School District137
832Round Valley Joint Elementary School District136
833Happy Valley Elementary School District134
834Pleasant Valley Joint Union Elementary School District133
835Ballard Elementary School District132
836Magnolia Union Elementary School District130
837Mission Union Elementary School District129
838Plainsburg Union Elementary School District129
839Reeds Creek Elementary School District126
840Cuddeback Union Elementary School District123
841Latrobe School District123
842Burrel Union Elementary School District121
843Midway Elementary School District120
844Mountain Elementary School District120
845Alexander Valley Union Elementary School District119
846Belleview Elementary School District118
847Vista del Mar Union School District118
848Bolinas-Stinson Union School District117
849Roberts Ferry Union Elementary School District117
850Happy Camp Union Elementary School District116
851Bangor Union Elementary School District114
852Surprise Valley Joint Unified School District114
853Pacific Elementary School District108
854Stony Creek Joint Unified School District106
855Alta-Dutch Flat Union Elementary School District103
856Howell Mountain Elementary School District101
857Southern Trinity Joint Unified School District101
858Lagunita Elementary School District100
859San Ardo Union Elementary School District100
860Outside Creek Elementary School District99
861Twin Ridges Elementary School District97
862Big Sur Unified School District96
863Burnt Ranch Elementary School District96
864Snelling-Merced Falls Union Elementary School District96
865Pine Ridge Elementary School District95
866Lakeside Joint School District93
867Leggett Valley Unified School District92
868Kirkwood Elementary School District91
869Bradley Union Elementary School District89
870Junction City Elementary School District89
871Monte Rio Union Elementary School District89
872Mulberry Elementary School District85
873Allensworth Elementary School District84
874Knights Ferry Elementary School District84
875Whitmore Union Elementary School District84
876Alpine County Unified School District83
877Raymond-Knowles Union Elementary School District83
878Saucelito Elementary School District82
879Owens Valley Unified School District81
880Dunsmuir Elementary School District79
881McKittrick Elementary School District78
882Pioneer Union Elementary School District74
883Canyon Elementary School District68
884Mountain Union Elementary School District68
885McCloud Union Elementary School District66
886Castle Rock Union Elementary School District61
887Horicon Elementary School District61
888Igo-Ono-Platina Union School District57
889Garfield Elementary School District58
890Santa Clara Elementary School District56
891Dunsmuir Joint Union High School District55
892Nicasio School District55
893Delphic Elementary School District54
894San Lucas Union Elementary School District52
895Big Creek Elementary School District51
896Lewiston Elementary School District51
897Feather Falls Union Elementary School District50
898Pope Valley Union Elementary School District50
899Caliente Union Elementary School District49
900Peninsula Union School District43
901Hornbrook Elementary School District42
902Manchester Union Elementary School District42
903Belridge Elementary School District40
904Big Lagoon Union Elementary School District40
905Linns Valley-Poso Flat Union School District40
906Willow Creek Elementary School District39
907Junction Elementary School District37
908Gazelle Union Elementary School District36
909Graves Elementary School District36
910Bridgeville Elementary School District35
911Death Valley Unified School District35
912Oak Run Elementary School District33
913Fort Ross Elementary School District32
914French Gulch-Whiskeytown Elementary School District32
915Flournoy Union Elementary School District30
916Citrus South Tule Elementary School District29
917Bitterwater-Tully Elementary School District27
918Kneeland Elementary School District27
919Seiad Elementary School District27
920Montgomery Elementary School District26
921Cienega Union Elementary School District25
922Desert Center Unified School District24
923Mountain House Elementary School District22
924Laguna Joint Elementary School District18
925Willow Grove Union Elementary School District18
926Indian Diggings Elementary School District17
927Indian Springs Elementary School District16
928Kashia Elementary School District16
929Elkins Elementary School District15
930Hot Springs Elementary School District15
931Little Shasta Elementary School District14
932Orick Elementary School District13
933Coffee Creek Elementary School District12
934Forks of Salmon Elementary School District11
935Jefferson Elementary School District11
936Trinity Center Elementary School District11
937Maple Creek Elementary School District10
938Klamath River Union Elementary School District9
939Silver Fork Elementary School District9
940Union Joint Elementary School District9
941Green Point Elementary School District8
942Panoche Elementary School District7
943Bogus Elementary School District6
944Blake Elementary School District5
945Lincoln Elementary School District5
TOTAL6,180,666

 


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Project Labor Agreement Threats Surge in California in 2015

California’s construction trade unions greatly expanded their campaign in 2015 to get local elected officials to require construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of winning a public works contract.

In 2015, 47 California local governments considered a union Project Labor Agreement mandate for future taxpayer-funded construction contracts. On a few occasions in 2015, Project Labor Agreements were on the meeting agendas of three California local governments on the same day.

Most of these 47 Project Labor Agreements will, would, or would have applied to bundles of future construction projects planned for many years into the future.

The number of Project Labor Agreement threats at California local governments can be graphed as a line that rises gradually higher for 15 years (1994-2008), then curves more dramatically upward in the following 6 years (2009-2014), and finally shoots up 150% in the last year (2015). This 22-year trend can also be depicted as radiation starting from the urban core of California coastal cities that spreads at a quickening pace deep into the suburbs.

See the table below listing the 47 governments and the status of their Project Labor Agreement activities.


NameCampusPension
Fawzy I. FawzyUC Los Angeles$354,469
Dennis L. MatthewsUC Davis$342,636
Marvin MarcusUC Los Angeles$337,346
John S. GreenspanUC San Francisco$326,070
George W. BreslauerUC Berkeley$315,720
Heinrich R SchelbertUC Los Angeles$314,027
Allan D. SiefkinUC Davis$309,593
Nosratola D VaziriUC Irvine$308,320
Joe W. GrayLawrence Berkeley$303,856
Richard W RollUC Los Angeles$303,170

Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Unions Stand By Beleaguered California High-Speed Rail

Construction unions were among the top donors to the campaign to pass Proposition 1A, the November 2008 California ballot measure that authorized the state to borrow $9.95 billion via bond sales for development of a “safe, reliable high-speed passenger train for the 21st century.” (See a chart of the top-40 donors to Proposition 1A at the end of this article.)

That support was rewarded when administrators of the California High-Speed Rail Authority subsequently signed a Project Labor Agreement (disguised as a “Community Benefits Agreement”) with the unions for future construction. The Authority board never discussed nor voted on this costly and discriminatory insider deal.

Seven years after 53% of California voters approved Proposition 1A, the public has realized, to its dismay, that most of the promises about California High-Speed Rail were exaggerated, deceptive, or impossible to achieve. The project staggers from widespread grassroots opposition and relentless (and deserved) negative news coverage. The latest: on December 7, KCRA Channel 3 News in Sacramento revealed that the tree-planting program promised in 2013 to “offset” greenhouse gas emissions from high-speed rail construction does not exist.

But one group continues to adamantly support the California High-Speed Rail program. A high-speed rail symposium was held in Bakersfield on December 5, 2015. Union officials dominated the group of speakers.

Unions at High Speed Rail Symposium-Program

Opponents of California High-Speed Rail should realize that union support for the project means it will be difficult to ever obtain majority support in the state legislature to suspend or stop the project.


For past coverage in www.UnionWatch.org of this notorious Project Labor Agreement, see articles such as Unions Virtually Alone in Love with California High-Speed RailUnions Await Fantastic Return on High-Speed Rail Political Investments, and California High-Speed Rail Business Plan Misrepresents Project Labor Agreement.

For information about the tree-planting program, see the KCRA story High-Speed Rail’s Tree-Planting Plan Slow to Start:  Nearly a Year after Groundbreaking, Not a Single Tree Planted and the California Policy Center article California High Speed Rail’s Dubious Claims of Environmental Benefits.


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Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Why Aren't Unions Fighting California's Bullet Train Boondoggle?

Back in 2008, voters in California approved Prop. 1, a statewide initiative to spend, “$9 billion for building a new high-speed railroad between San Francisco and Los Angeles.”

Total cost, $9.5 billion. Remember that?

Quoting further from the original initiative’s ballot language:

“Bond Costs. The costs of these bonds would depend on interest rates in effect at the time they are sold and the time period over which they are repaid. The state would make principal and interest payments from the state’s General Fund over a period of about 30 years. If the bonds are sold at an average interest rate of 5 percent, the cost would be about $19.4 billion to pay off both principal ($9.95 billion) and interest ($9.5 billion). The average repayment for principal and interest would be about $647 million per year. Operating Costs. When constructed, the high-speed rail system will incur unknown ongoing maintenance and operation costs, probably in excess of $1 billion a year. Depending on the level of ridership, these costs would be at least partially offset by revenue from fares paid by passengers.” (ref. UC Hastings Scholarship Repository, Propositions, California Ballot Propositions and Ballot Initiatives)

Over time, fantasy always yields to reality.

The most recent reputable estimate of High Speed Rail costs come from an in-depth special report published last month by the Los Angeles Times, entitled “$68-billion California bullet train project likely to overshoot budget and deadline targets.”

The title of that special report says it all. California’s High Speed Rail was sold to voters for an amount that is at least seven times less than our most recent estimate of costs, and if the author of the LA Times special report is to be believed, it is very unlikely this project will come in for a total cost under $100 billion.

High speed rail was sold to voters back in 2008 in roughly the same way pension benefit enhancements were sold to naive politicians back around 1999. In both cases, the decision makers were told it would cost next to nothing. Isn’t this called fraud? To sell a good or service to a consumer at a given price, then come back and demand ten times as much money?

Payments on these construction costs will be paid from the California state general fund, and based on a $100 billion total cost and a 5.0% interest rate, that comes out to $166 per year per California resident. Not that much? Unimpressed? Put another way, based on roughly six million taxpaying households in California (about half of California’s 12 million households pay no taxes; their sales tax burden is largely offset by the earned income tax credit), construction of this train will cost $1,084 per taxpaying household per year.

Do you want to pay $1,000 per year for a project that will not alleviate California’s transportation challenges one bit? A project that will lose money forever? A project that will use up massive amounts of capital that could be deployed to achieve literally dozens of other huge and vitally needed infrastructure objectives?

This is where California’s labor leadership, by continuing to support high speed rail as a centerpiece project, are showing how out of touch they truly are with the average working family. Because they are unwilling to fight for major infrastructure investments that would improve the quality of life and lower the cost of living for all Californians; improvements to existing rail, upgraded roads, state-of-the art natural gas and 5th generation nuclear power stations, reservoirs and aquifer storage projects, upgraded sewage treatment plants to produce potable water, and much, much more. If California’s labor leaders care about all workers, they will find the vision and courage to fight for these useful amenities, instead of promoting high speed rail.

20151123-UW-HSR
High Speed Rail CEO Jeff Morales made $477,760 in 2014

A legitimate role for government spending is to make strategic investments that reduce costs for basic necessities. That is what makes a nation prosperous. That is a proper use of public funds. Artificially inflating the costs for energy, water and transportation – which is the current policy of California’s government, abetted by big labor in this state – is a crime against the people of California.

 *   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Will Citizens' Bond Oversight Committees Crumble Against Union Power?

Numerous local K-12 school districts and community college districts throughout California have entangled themselves in controversies over facilities construction funded by borrowed money obtained through bond sales. These controversies include the irresponsible sale of Capital Appreciation Bonds, inappropriate expenditures using bond proceeds, and questionable contracts for bond underwriting, construction program management, and project delivery. There has even been overt corruption.

An informed California taxpayer would probably conclude that stronger independent oversight is needed for bond finance and facilities construction at the state’s local educational districts. And, in fact, there is a structural check and balance now established in state law that can be assigned responsibility for greater oversight: the citizens’ bond oversight committees at school and college districts.

Construction Unions Resent Independent Oversight of Bond Measures

But the people of California should expect in 2016 to see their state government weaken – not strengthen – the powers of citizens’ bond oversight committees. These committees aren’t necessarily popular. Some district administrators and their lawyers and consultants apparently regard these committees as a meddling annoyance at best or an infuriating hinderance at worst. They certainly won’t object to weaker bond oversight committees.

But the sharpest distaste for citizens’ bond oversight committees comes from construction trade union officials. Oversight committees and their ability to independently evaluate policy proposals can sometimes undermine union efforts to implement policies such as Project Labor Agreements.

Independent citizens’ bond oversight committees have credibility with elected board members, the news media, and the public. They hold an official, formal role within a government to review policies and issue recommendations. They represent specific grassroots citizen constituencies in the community such as taxpayers, senior citizens, and parents. And they can generally review policies and make honest recommendations without worrying about political retaliation from special interests that provide campaign contributions, volunteers, and infrastructures.

Not surprisingly, citizens’ bond oversight committees usually don’t see an advantage in requiring construction contractors to sign a labor agreement with terms and conditions negotiated between union representatives and school district representatives. Why would a public agency want to impose a requirement in bid specifications that would obviously cut competition and raise costs of construction?

Bond Oversight Committees Were Meant to Protect the Interests of Taxpayers

In 2000, Governor Gray Davis and the Democrat-controlled California legislature enacted a state law mandating independent citizens’ bond oversight committees under certain conditions. This was part of a strategy to increase the passage rate for school and community college bond measures. Voters needed to be convinced that their interests as taxpayers would be protected even if the threshold for passage of school and college bond measures dropped from a two-thirds supermajority to a 55% supermajority.

The strategy worked. Voters approved a statewide ballot proposition reducing the threshold from two-thirds to 55%, and the passage rate for educational bond measures increased from 55% (from 1987 through 2000) to 82% (from 2001 through 2014). Educational districts were compelled to create and manage citizens’ bond oversight committees, although not always in compliance with state law.

The current purposes, functions, and organizational structure of these citizens’ bond oversight committees are outlined in California Education Code Section 15278-15282.

Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committees Object to Union Project Labor Agreements

There was no indication in 2000 that citizens’ bond oversight committees would object to government-imposed union monopolies for construction contracts. After all, the elected boards of only two local educational districts in California (the Los Angeles Unified School District and the West Contra Costa Unified School District) had considered Project Labor Agreement mandates at that time. The chaotic, raucous battles at California local governments over Project Labor Agreements had not yet become routine.

But as school and college bond measures became more frequent and much bigger in size after 2000, unions began aggressively lobbying school and college districts for Project Labor Agreements on facilities construction. Some citizens’ bond oversight committees were disturbed by this union pressure to change long-standing contracting policies (never mentioned during the bond measure campaigns) and decided they had a responsibility to make a recommendation on them. And the committees could cite state laws that gave them the authority to make such a recommendation:

1. California Education Code Section 15278 (b) states that “The citizens’ oversight committee shall actively review and report on the proper expenditure of taxpayers’ money for school construction.” Project Labor Agreements are never referenced in ballot language for bond measures (they are almost always implemented after voters approve the borrowing) and therefore it is debatable whether or not it is proper.

2. California Education Code Section 15278 (b)(5) says the citizens’ bond oversight committee has responsibility for “Reviewing efforts by the school district or community college district to maximize bond revenues by implementing cost-saving measures, including, but not limited to…” The reference to “but not limited too” was legislative intent for the Oversight Committee to have the authority to review matters such as unorthodox bidding requirements. Because unions (incredibly) claim PLAs are cost-saving measures, the bond oversight committees certainly have authority to review such proposals.

At the end of this article is a comprehensive list of actions taken by citizens’ bond oversight committees about Project Labor Agreements.

Unions May Try to Use the State Legislature to Neutralize Another Structural Check and Balance

What can unions do to suppress the independent activism of citizens’ bond oversight committees? Can the unions convince the legislature and Governor Brown to weaken citizens’ bond oversight committees, and can they do it without harming the ability of K-12 school and community college districts to win bond measures?

Opponents of Proposition 39 argued correctly in 2000 that the citizens’ bond oversight committee requirement used to promote Proposition 39 was based on a law passed by the legislature and would not be safely lodged in the California Constitution. That law could be repealed or amended by the legislature at any time.

That time is likely to be 2016.

The November 2016 ballot will include a $9 billion statewide bond measure. In addition, more than 150 school and college districts in California are expected to place a bond measure on the presidential primary and general election ballot. Unions want monopoly control of this work, and they don’t want to deal with continued flowering of local community resistance through bond oversight committees.

Since Governor Brown was elected in 2010, union lobbyists at the state capitol have diligently chipped away at structural checks and balances so they can realize the potential of a “one-party state” to achieve social change. For example, unions have been working for five years to neutralize powers granted to charter cities and other local governments under the California Constitution.

With the exception of political columnist Dan Walters, few political observers have highlighted this union-driven movement in California to centralize governance at the state capitol at the expense of local governments. In particular, construction union interests always seem able to preempt local control despite Governor Brown’s alleged support for the governance principle of “subsidiarity.”

Explaining the decision to strip power from citizens’ bond oversight committees will not be a challenge. Few Californians understand the cynicism and emptiness of policymaking at the California State Capitol. Unions will convince their legislative allies to justify weakened citizens’ bond oversight committees with arguments that they are broadening accountability and allowing educational districts to divert resources to the classroom.

And even if the citizens’ bond oversight committees are transformed into empty shells with no authority to review or make recommendations on anything of substance, voters are likely to continue approving 82% of bond measures (or perhaps 90% or higher in 2016 when Hillary Clinton is on the ballot). School and community college districts will continue to declare to voters in prominent ballot language that there will be independent citizens’ oversight of bond expenditures. Districts and their bond measure campaign consultants will assume – probably accurately – that 95% of voters won’t know the difference, and the other informed 5% had planned to vote against the bond measure anyway.

Watch for union-sponsored bills in 2016 that tackle their problem of independent citizens’ bond oversight committees.


History of Actions of Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committees on Project Labor Agreements

Although the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee at Los Angeles Unified School District – established locally through Proposition BB – was aware that the district and unions were negotiating a Project Labor Agreement in 1997-1999, the committee did not issue any statements or recommendations about it. This Project Labor Agreement preceded the passage of Proposition 39 in 2000.

From 2003 through 2006, five Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committees voted on recommendations concerning Project Labor Agreements:

1. San Jose Unified School District

On November 10, 2003, the Bond Oversight Committee for San Jose Unified School District voted 8-1 for the following motion: “At its meeting of November 10, the Measure F Oversight Committee was not convinced that adoption of a PLA would improve the efficiency of the expenditure of Measure F funds. The Oversight Committee therefore requests the Board of Education to refrain from adopting a PLA for Measure F.” The one vote against the resolution was an organizer for the local Carpenters union. In the end, the school board never voted on a negotiated Project Labor Agreement.

2. Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District

On February 24, 2004, the Bond Oversight Committee for Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District voted unanimously to recommend against approval of a PLA for future school construction. The school board subsequently voted 4-3 against negotiating a Project Labor Agreement.

3. Mt. Diablo Unified School District

On March 3, 2005, the Bond Oversight Committee for Mt. Diablo Unified School District voted 15-1 to recommend against approval of a PLA for future school construction. In the end, a Project Labor Agreement was imposed on some summer classroom renovation projects.

4. Sacramento City Unified School District

On August 3, 2005, members of the Bond Oversight Committee for Sacramento City Unified School District released a 15-page report backing their position that “since a problem does not seem to exist with regard to construction cost overruns, project delays or labor disputes within the district, and since clear and convincing evidence has not been submitted to substantiate the benefits of a Project Stabilization Agreement, the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee recommends that the Sacramento City Unified School District not enter into a Project Stabilization Agreement.” The school board subsequently voted 5-1 for a Project Labor Agreement.

5. Chabot-Las Positas Community College District

On July 25, 2006, the Bond Oversight Committee voted 4-2 to recommend to the board against using a PLA and to include this recommendation in the oversight committee’s annual report. District administrators and legal counsel argued that the oversight committee had no business making a recommendation. The college board voted 7-0 for a Project Labor Agreement.

By 2006, administrators and contract attorneys for school and college districts were obviously trying to suppress the desire of citizens’ bond oversight committees to review proposed Project Labor Agreements. A narrow legal interpretation about the role of bond oversight committees began circulating. This interpretation essentially confined the committees to a role of approving an annual report produced for the district showing that proceeds from bond sales were spent on construction and not on teacher and administrator salaries or general operating expenses.

From 2006 through 2015, numerous K-12 school and community college districts in California considered and approved Project Labor Agreements with unions. While some oversight committees received reports at their meetings from district staff about the proposed Project Labor Agreements, only four citizens bond oversight committees voted on a formal recommendation.

6. San Diego Unified School District

An editorial in the April 24, 2009 San Diego Union-Tribune reported on the district’s opposition to letting the bond oversight committee review Project Labor Agreements:

The policy was hastily adopted without any real scrutiny by district staffers. Voters were never told this costly requirement would be imposed before Proposition S was approved – or else they never would have approved it. But when members of the bond measure’s Independent Citizens Oversight Committee raised these and other issues, they were told to butt out. Mark Bresee, the school district’s general counsel, told committee members that their role as an “independent representative of all taxpayers” – Bresee’s term – didn’t mean they had a right to kibitz about the district’s possible adoption of a Project Labor Agreement…Thankfully, the bond oversight committee told Bresee and the school board majority to take a hike.

Then, as reported in the Voice of San Diego on May 26, 2009:

Staffers from San Diego Unified discouraged the bond oversight committee from weighing in on whether or not to adopt an agreement or how to do so, arguing that the research was so polarized and the question so political that there was no way to make a factual recommendation. The bond overseers disregarded their advice, then deadlocked on the issue of whether a contractor group should join the unions and the school district and the bargaining table.

That vote on May 21, 2009 was 4-4-1, and union officials had been prominent in contending that the oversight committee had no authority to discuss the issue. The board subsequently voted 3-2 for the Project Labor Agreement.

7. San Gabriel Unified School District

In 2010, the Bond Oversight Committee for recommended against a Project Labor Agreement. The board subsequently voted 3-2 for the Project Labor Agreement.

8. Oxnard Union High School District

On December 9, 2014, the district’s Citizens Bond Oversight Committee voted 4-1 to recommend that the board reject a Project Labor Agreement because of the likelihood of increased costs and other reasons. Nevertheless, the board voted 3-2 for a Project Labor Agreement.

9. San Bernardino Community College District

The bond oversight committee voted on December 12, 2014 to oppose the Project Labor Agreement, but the board voted 4-3 to approve it. Here is an excerpt from one of its reports:

More notable was the Board of Trustees passing a “Community Benefits Agreement” this December. This agreement is better known as a “Project Labor Agreement”, and these agreements give substantial advantages to union contractors vs. non-union contractors. The Bond Oversight Committee spent a significant amount of time and effort to determine if there was cost savings, as required under Section 5 of California Educational Code 15278. We gathered information from local businesses, trade groups, staff and other interested parties, and determined there was no clear cost savings, and a potentially significant (10-20%) cost increase with no benefit to the community. The committee made every attempt to communicate this decision to the Board, but we were not allowed to make our findings to the Board prior to the Board of Trustees voting to approve this agreement.

Despite consistent opposing arguments from student organizations and local stakeholders, as well as not taking the time to even hear the Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, regardless of our clear desire to present our well-researched findings and conclusion, the Community Benefits Agreement was approved. This rush to make a decision prior to hearing our report we find irresponsible, and we wish to make these actions known to the public.

Now, in 2015, citizens’ bond oversight committees in a high school district and a community college district in San Diego County want to hold meetings to discuss proposed proposed Project Labor Agreements and possibly make recommendations to the boards about the proposal. Union officials are unhappy about this. One request has been granted and one has been rejected.

10. Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District

At the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, the board voted 3-2 to delay a vote on negotiating a Project Labor Agreement in order to give the Bond Oversight Committee a chance to discuss the proposal and provide input to the board. That meeting is scheduled for November 12, 2015.

11. Sweetwater Union High School District

Despite repeated requests from representatives of its citizens’ bond oversight committee for a chance to make a recommendation, the board of the Sweetwater Union High School District shows no indication of letting that happen. As reported in the October 30, 2015 San Diego Union-Tribune, “Members of the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee criticized the board’s lack of transparency and called for a four-month moratorium to allow for study of the costs and benefits, to no avail.” The October 31, 2015 Chula Vista Star-News explained the view of one board member that the district has to pass the Project Labor Agreement in order for the bond oversight committee to know what’s in it:

Trustee Paula Hall brought the resolution to negotiate a project labor agreement forward. Hall said she has been having issues with her email so she didn’t get a chance to read the CBOC’s letter for a moratorium, but is aware of their concerns from them speaking out at previous board meetings. Hall said the board never sent the item to the CBOC because there is no information for them to look over as the board only passed a resolution. “There’s nothing to review,” she said. “There is no project labor agreement negotiated.”

It remains to be seen if the citizens’ bond oversight committee at Sweetwater Union High School District will ever get the chance to review a Project Labor Agreement and make a recommendation.


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

When Will Unions Fight to Lower the Cost of Living?

A report issued earlier this year from California’s Office of Legislative Analyst “California’s High Housing Costs: Causes and Consequences,” cites the following statistics:  “Today, an average California home costs $440,000, about two–and–a–half times the average national home price ($180,000). Also, California’s average monthly rent is about $1,240, 50 percent higher than the rest of the country ($840 per month).”

It’s actually much worse than that. Anyone living on California’s urbanized coast, from Marin County to San Diego, has to laugh at the idea that a modest home can be found for anywhere close to $440,000, or a decent rental can be found for anywhere close to $1,240 per month. In most urban areas within 50 miles of the California coast, finding a home or a monthly rental at twice those amounts would be considered a bargain.

These prohibitive costs for housing are mirrored in California’s unusually high costs for electricity, gasoline, water, and, of course, California’s unusually high taxes. The cost of living in California is one of the highest in the nation – along the coast, it’s probably the highest in the nation. For this reason, it’s completely understandable that California’s state and local government unions perpetually agitate for higher pay and benefits for their members. But they’re leaving everyone else behind.

The problem with the oft-repeated mantra “teachers, nurses, police and firefighters need to be able to live in the communities they serve” ought to be obvious. Nobody can afford to live in these communities, unless they’re either very wealthy, or they’re early arrivals whose mortgages are paid off and whose children have graduated from college. Otherwise, if they live on the California coast in a decent home, they’re in debt to their eyeballs.

20151027-UW-SJhomes
These homes with 2,000 square foot interiors and no yard, located in a
remote suburb of San Jose, California, are selling for over $1.0 million each.

This is a failure of policy, and the worst possible response is to exempt public sector workers – the most powerful voting bloc in California – from the consequences of these policies. Because the most enlightened public policies that union leadership might advocate – all unions, public and private – are not to raise pay and benefits for their members, but to lower the cost of living for everyone. And the way to lower the cost of living for everyone is to permit competitive development of land, energy, water and mineral resources.

Along with permitting private interests to compete, California needs to change how public money is invested. California’s biggest infrastructure project in decades is the high speed rail project, which was originally sold to voters as costing $9.5 billion. According to a 10/24/2015 report in the Los Angeles Times, here are the latest projections:

“After cost projections for the train rose to $98 billion in 2011, vociferous public and political outcry forced rail officials to reassess. They cut the budget to $68 billion by eliminating high-speed service between Los Angeles and Anaheim and between San Jose and San Francisco.”

The LA Times report goes on to describe how High Speed Rail is again over-budget. If it’s ever built, it’s likely to cost approximately $100 billion. Using an online mortgage calculator, you will see that a 5.0%, 30 year fully amortized $100 billion loan will require total payments per year from taxpayers of $6.4 billion. That’s over $1,000 per year from each of California’s taxpaying households. Don’t count on ridership revenue to help pay capital costs – it is highly unlikely ridership will even cover operating costs.

The opportunity here, however, is that California’s high speed rail project may never be built. Because one of the conditions of the project is attracting a percentage of matching funds from private investors, and these commitments are not pouring in. Unions who are currently fighting for high speed rail will need to find new projects to support. Regardless of what you may think about unions, as long as they have the political clout they’ve got, their support for new projects could be good, if they modify their criteria.

California’s unions need to support competitive resource development and they need to advocate public/private investment in revenue producing civil infrastructure that passes an honest cost/benefit analysis. These policies would not only lower the cost of living, they would create millions of jobs. The problem with high speed rail isn’t that it doesn’t create jobs, the problem is it destroys more jobs than it creates. High speed rail would be a parasitic economic asset dependent on taxes and subsidies to exist, while not even making a dent in California’s overall transportation challenges.

Unions in California need to return to the core ideals of the labor movement, which is to care about ALL working families. And if they care about those ideals, they will make hard political choices. They will take on California’s super-sized environmentalist lobby, along with their powerful friends, trial lawyers and crony green capitalists. They will challenge the biased studies that claim California cannot solve its land, energy, water and transportation challenges without what is essentially rationing. They will recognize that policies that create artificial scarcity only empower the rich and the privileged. They will participate in a new dialogue aimed at identifying measured and decisive ways to unlock California’s abundant resources; aimed at identifying infrastructure projects that are financially viable enough to attract private investment. They will get out of their comfort zone, confronting old allies, and finding new friends.

*   *   *

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

RELATED POSTS

Desalination Plants vs. Bullet Trains and Pensions, April 7, 2015

Raise the Minimum Wage, or Lower the Cost of Living?, March 31, 2015

An Economic Win-Win For California – Lower the Cost of Living, December 3, 2014

Reinventing America’s Unions for the 21st Century, September 2, 2014

How to Create Affordable Abundance in California, July 1, 2014

California’s Green Bantustans, May 21, 2014

Public Pension Solvency Requires Asset Bubbles, April 29, 2014

Construction Unions Should Fight for Infrastructure that Helps the Economy, April 1, 2014

The Unholy Trinity of Public Sector Unions, Environmentalists, and Wall Street, May 6, 2014

Pension Funds and the “Asset” Economy, February 18, 2014

Exclusive Interview with Joel Kotkin, January 4, 2014

Bipartisan Solutions for California, October 27, 2013

Construction Unions Dominate a Marin County Bond Measure Campaign

Construction trade unions in California are likely to be celebrating on November 3, 2015 as voters approve another set of local school bond measures and launch another round of taxing, borrowing, and spending.

Eight school districts in California are asking voters to approve a total of nine bond measures for school facilities construction on the November ballot. These proposals would authorize school districts to borrow money for facilities construction by selling bonds to investors. It would not be unreasonable to predict that voters will approve all nine bond measures.

Two of the nine bond measures are on the ballot for voters in and around the City of San Rafael, in Marin County. San Rafael City Schools is asking permission from voters to borrow $108 for the elementary school district and $161 for the high school district, for a total of $269 million. The district is assuming future enrollment growth and projecting continued increases in assessed property valuation. It has current debt service of $177 million in outstanding principal and interest accumulated from previous bond measures.

San Rafael City Schools Bond History

Pay-to-Play and Other Entanglements

Firms that won district contracts related to preparing the bond measure are involved in the campaign. In a typical example of so-called “pay-to-play” contracts for bond measures,  a financial advisory firm obtained a no-bid contract from the district in June for $15,000 in pre-election and $65,000 in post-election bond advisory services. It has contributed $9500 to the campaign. A consulting firm that won a contract from the district to perform a “Bond Feasibility Survey” for the bond measures – and found the bond measures to be feasible – has earned $13,507 from the campaign. Another firm involved in the feasibility survey has contributed to the campaign. In addition, a public relations consultant who was involved with the feasibility survey is working for the campaign and has received $7,500 so far (see below).

Construction Trade Unions Have Dominated the Campaign to Pass the Bond Measure

Construction unions have directly contributed $31,000 of the $90,950 in reported contributions through October 26, 2015 to the campaign to pass Measures A and B. That is 34% of the total. (See the chart at the end of this article.) Unions had contributed $20,000 of the first $30,000 raised by the campaign, thus supplying valuable seed money for operations.San Rafael City Schools Phone Bank

A Carpenters Union hall is the site of the campaign phone bank. Services from the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council to the campaign are reported through October 17, 2015 as an in-kind contribution of $10,034.

A public relations consultant who used to be the Director of Public and Governmental Relations for the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council has been paid $7500 through October 17, 2015 for campaign-related work. This consultant was also involved in the feasibility study.

There Is No Organized Opposition

No one submitted an argument in opposition to the bond measures, so the Official Voter Guide only includes arguments in support. No one has filed papers with the California Fair Political Practices Commission or the County of Marin to establish an opposition campaign fund. The Marin United Taxpayers Association appears to be dormant on this issue. However, at least a handful of individual informed citizens are vehemently opposed to the bond measures, as shown in posted comments in response to Marin Independent-Journal newspaper articles and an editorial endorsing the bond measures.

The Likely Outcome

Deprived of an opposing perspective, voters in this area of Marin County will likely approve both bond measures at a percentage well above the 55% needed for passage. Then, because of the extensive involvement of construction trade unions in the campaign, the school board will likely vote soon after the election to require construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions as a condition of performing under a contract funded by the bond measures. That union monopoly on construction may cost taxpayers an extra $25-40 million, but with $269 million authorized to borrow and pay back over the next 30-40 years, who’s worried about it today?Donors to Measures A and B San Rafael City Schools - Top Donors as of October 26, 2015Donors to Measures A and B San Rafael City Schools - Other Donors as of October 26, 2015

Source of Contribution Information: Form 460s and Form 497s for Committee For Strong San Rafael Schools – Yes on A&B


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

 

Community College Board in California Will Be Accountable to Voters

The eastern suburbs of San Diego (“East County”) have been and are still regarded as politically conservative. But even this area isn’t impervious to the political movement in California toward European-style social democracy. Labor unions and their political allies have recently gained political control of an East County local government and are now exercising their power.

Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District - a Project Labor Agreement Target.

Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District is a union Project Labor Agreement target.

But there is resistance. While the suburbs of San Francisco and Los Angeles have largely surrendered to “Progressive” policies during the past 20 years, there’s still a well-organized, well-funded effort in the San Diego region to defend fiscal responsibility, fair and open competition for government contracts, and freedom of choice for contractor employees. This effort will be tested at the October 20, 2015 meeting of the elected board of trustees of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District.

Unions Angle for a Monopoly on Suburban Educational Construction

As seen at many suburban educational districts in California, leadership in the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District has shifted during the past few election cycles from traditionally pragmatic board members to board members who are interested in social change and supported by union interests. One recent subtle indication of this transformation was a board endorsement of rather unconventional political activists speaking on campus. Now, the board is becoming more aggressive and obvious in advancing a new agenda through the college.

On October 20, the board will vote on this resolution: “Directing Staff to Negotiate the Terms of a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for Projects Funded by Proposition V, State Bonds/Parking and Other Facilities Funding.” In other words, the board intends to give construction trade unions a monopoly on future construction contracts for the district.

This means construction companies will have to sign a deal negotiated by the college district’s representatives and union representatives. Left out of the negotiations will be contractors and their business associations, including associations that traditionally negotiate labor agreements. Contractors have one role: sign the agreement someone else negotiated for them.

In a typical Project Labor Agreement, unions supply all workers (including apprentices). Fringe benefit payments from employers on behalf of workers are directed into union-affiliated trust funds. And workers pay union dues and fees.

Adopting a government-mandated Project Labor Agreement is contrary to specific language included in the district’s August 7, 2012 bond resolution. That language was meant to assure voters in the November 2012 election that the district wouldn’t require contractors to sign a union agreement as a condition of working on projects funded by the $398 million Proposition V bond measure. Here is the language:

(j) …the District will promote fair and open competition for all District construction projects so that all contractors and workers, whether union or non-union, are treated equally in the bidding and awarding of District construction contracts…

Contrary to common sense and legislative intent, the district now claims that this provision actually means it is allowed to require its contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements. The district’s argument is based on a web of federal and state laws and court decisions often interpreted to mean that if a contractor chooses not to operate like a union company or a worker chooses not to be represented by a union, they’re not victims of discrimination.

23 States Ban Project Labor Agreements

23 states ban government-mandated Project Labor Agreements.

Instead, they’re simply making a free choice to refuse to abide by conditions that a government – as a participant in the marketplace – establishes for awarding a contract. In other words, if you choose not to be affiliated with a union, don’t complain. You’re still free to bid on a different project, find another job, find another trade or profession, or join the exodus of the rest of your kind and leave California for Texas, Florida, or the 23 states that ban Project Labor Agreements.

Groups Decide to Expose the Scheme to the Public

Presumably the college district’s board and administrators haven’t been too worried about pulling this bait-and-switch on voters. In 2000, 53% of California voters approved Proposition 39, which reduced the voter approval threshold for most school and college bond measures from two-thirds to 55%. In the following 15 years, the accountability and oversight protections in the California Constitution and in state law related to Proposition 39 have been narrowed, whittled away, and neutralized to virtual uselessness.

Nowadays California school and college districts routinely circumvent or evade state laws regarding school construction finance and implementation. Their lawyers and advisors exploit every ambiguity in law to justify finance and spending decisions that voters never would have tolerated. (Using bond proceeds – borrowed money that must be paid back with interest – to buy iPads for students is one of many examples.)

Public accountability is infrequent. Legal or political consequences are rare. But in this case of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, people are determined to expose and stop it.

The San Diego County Taxpayers Association issued a press release revoking its 2012 endorsement of Proposition V if the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District board votes for the Project Labor Agreement. Its endorsement in 2012 has been predicated on the bond resolution that committed to fair and open bid competition on district construction funded by Proposition V.

See the press release: Taxpayers Association to Revoke Support of Community College District Bond for Breach of Fair Competition Pledge

To increase public awareness of the betrayal, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association also sent a mailer informing voters of the Project Labor Agreement vote:

San Diego County Taxpayers Association Mailer on Grossmont-Cuyumaca Community College District Project Labor Agreement for Prop V

San Diego County Taxpayers Association Mailer on Grossmont-Cuyumaca Community College District Project Labor Agreement for Prop V

 

At the same time, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction – a statewide organization with significant strength in San Diego – also sent a mailer informing voters of the Project Labor Agreement vote:

 

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Mailer on Grossmont-Cuyumaca Community College District Project Labor Agreement for Prop V

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Mailer on Grossmont-Cuyumaca Community College District Project Labor Agreement for Prop V

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Mailer on Grossmont-Cuyumaca Community College District Project Labor Agreement for Prop V

It’s expected that the board of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District will vote on October 20, 2015 to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement with unions. They are bound to the unions like a contractor and its employees are bound to a Project Labor Agreement. But their political careers may end when East County citizens living in the district express their opinions with their own votes.


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

Union Campaign Contributions Pile Up Before School Board Vote on Union Deal

Whenever California voters approve a sizable bond measure to fund construction at a school or community college district, union lobbyists quickly scramble to win control of the work through a Project Labor Agreement. At the Salinas Union High School District, a flood of union campaign money preceded a September 29 board vote to abandon negotiations and impose a Project Labor Agreement under terms demanded by the unions.

In November 2014, 60.3% of voters in Salinas, California authorized the Salinas Union High School District to borrow $128 million for facilities construction by selling bonds to investors. Information provided to voters about the bond measure did not indicate any intention of the school district to require its construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. In fact, the district had successfully completed a previous bond-funded construction program without a Project Labor Agreement mandate.

Salinas Union High School District Project Labor AgreementFour months after voters approved the borrowing, a Project Labor Agreement discussion appeared as an item on March 24, 2015 board agenda. After the head of the Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers urged the board to mandate a Project Labor Agreement, most of the board members declared their enthusiastic support for it.

On May 26, the board voted 5-1 to negotiate a Project Labor Agreement with the unions. Unless the district could negotiate different terms to protect fair and open bid competition on its contracts, the union agreement would require all contractors on a new high school to obtain their journeymen and apprentices from the unions, pay all employee fringe benefits to union trust funds, and arrange for their workers to pay union dues and fees.

To the dismay of board members, the finalized Project Labor Agreement did not come back for quick approval.

District staff and its attorney tried to work in the interest of the district to negotiate better terms and conditions, rather than simply signing the standard Project Labor Agreement template provided by the union attorney. Throughout the summer, union negotiators were unwilling to budge on a variety of provisions.

In the meantime, the Salinas Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Salinas Taxpayers Association, and several local and regional construction associations informed the public about the union plot. The Chamber of Commerce even publicized the names and official public phone numbers of board members.

It was a rare and unexpected occasion of public accountability for the policy decisions of the school board. In fact, most news coverage of the Salinas Union High School District from March through September was about construction labor issues, not the education of high school students.

Board members responded angrily during board meetings and in local newspaper articles about what was happening. They complained about negative community attention generated by business groups and the barrage of critical phone calls. They also expressed frustration with the district’s failure to surrender to union negotiating demands. At board meetings, they responded to questions from the district’s negotiating attorney by showing disinterest and even contempt for the arcane but important issues disputed in the proposed agreement.

It’s reasonable to assume that the unpleasant public attention to this issue worried the three incumbent board members up for re-election on November 3, 2015. All three of them supported the Project Labor Agreement.

Starting at the beginning of August, the unions supporting the Project Labor Agreement (the Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers, the California School Employees Association, and the Monterey/Santa Cruz Building and Construction Trades Council) began funding the campaigns of those three incumbents running for re-election. In fact, these unions were the only major contributors to their campaigns. See the timeline below.

Major Campaign Contributions from Unions to Salinas Union High School District Board of Trustees

At the September 22 meeting board meeting, the attorney representing the school district began yet another presentation outlining areas of disagreement between the unions and the district regarding the Project Labor Agreements, As usual, she sought direction from the board. But for some reason, a majority of the school board chose this time to terminate the negotiations. They scheduled a special board meeting on September 29 solely to vote on the version of the Project Labor Agreement desired by the unions.

Salinas Union High School District Board

At that meeting, the board voted 5-1 for the Project Labor Agreement. Union officials organized an impromptu celebration rally outside of the school district headquarters and had photos taken with some of the board members who voted for it. The unions’ investment of money in the board members’ campaigns had presumably helped to ensure approval of the Project Labor Agreement.

Whether the union campaign contributions ensure re-election of the board members remains to be seen.


Kevin Dayton is the President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC, and is the author of frequent postings about generally unreported California state and local policy issues at www.laborissuessolutions.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DaytonPubPolicy.

How Government Unions Are Destroying America

Not one presidential candidate, apart from Gov. Walker’s last-ditch rhetoric prior to dropping out, has discussed the problems with unionized government as a major issue. That’s too bad, because these problems are bigger than even most critics acknowledge.

When people discuss the need to reform, if not eliminate, public sector unions, the only reason typically cited is that their demands are bankrupting our cities and states. And reformers also usually fail to communicate the fundamental differences between government unions and private sector unions, or emphasize the bipartisan urgency of public sector union reform. Government unions don’t merely drive our cities and counties into service insolvency if not bankruptcy, they are distorting policy decisions of fundamental importance to the future of America.

With a focus on California, and in no particular order, here is an attempt to summarize how this is occurring:

(1) The Economy

California has the highest taxes and fees in the U.S., and is consistently ranked as the worst state in America to do business. California also has the highest paid public employees in the United States, and with state and local debt and unfunded retirement obligations now hovering around $1.0 trillion – nearly half of the state’s entire GDP – virtually all new state and local taxes and fees are to pay for services that have already been performed. The uncontrollable political power of state and local government unions, combined with their insatiable appetite for more pay, more benefits, and more members, has – across all areas of policy – shifted political priorities from the public interest to the interests of public employees. The primary reason for excessive taxes and fees, as well as fewer services and less infrastructure investment, is because California’s unionized state and local government workers receive pay and benefits that are twice what the average private citizen earns.

(2) Cronyism and Financial Special Interests

When government unions control the government, big business either gets out of the way or gets on board. The idea that government unions protect the public interest against big corporate interests is absurd. Government union backed policies create deficits that bond issuers earn billions underwriting. Excessive pension benefits create additional hundreds of billions in pension fund assets invested on Wall Street. Excessive regulations are enforced by additional unionized government employees, to which only the biggest corporations can afford to comply. Government unions enable and enrich the largest corporate and financial interests at the expense of small independent businesses and emerging competitors.

(3) Environment

When it comes to cronyism, the “clean-tech” sector has risen to the top of the list. Government unions are partnering with “green” venture capitalists to carve up the proceeds of California’s carbon emission auction proceeds, a tax by any other name that will eventually extract tens of billions each year from California’s consumers to fund investments that wouldn’t make it in a normal market. From high speed rail to side loading washers that tear up fabric, strain backs, and require expensive maintenance, “green” projects and products are being forced on Californians in order to enrich investors and corporations. But it doesn’t end there. A bad fire season isn’t because of normal drought recurrence, no, the cause is “man made climate-change,” so fire crews have a claim on CO2 emissions auction proceeds. A heat wave isn’t a heat wave, it’s global warming – and since crime is statistically known to increase during hot weather, police agencies also have a claim on CO2 emissions auction proceeds. Code inspectors and planners? Climate change mitigation via enforcing “additional” energy efficiency mandates and higher housing density. Transit workers whose conveyances replace cars? Ditto. Teachers who insert climate change indoctrination into curricula? Ditto.

An entire article, or book for that matter, could be written on the synergistic symbiosis between environmental extremists, big business/finance, and government unions. What about the artificial scarcity environmentalism creates by restricting development of land, energy, water, and other natural resources? When this happens, the wealthiest corporations and developers make higher profits while their smaller competitors go out of business. Utilities, whose margins are fixed, raise revenues which increases their absolute profits. Union controlled government pension funds, whose entire solvency depends on asset bubbles, ride investments in these artificially scarce commodities to new heights. Property tax revenues rise because home prices are artificially inflated.

(4) Infrastructure

California’s deferred maintenance on existing infrastructure – roads, bridges, rail, port facilities, utility grid, dams and aqueducts – has been assessed in the hundreds of billions. New infrastructure to solve, for example, water scarcity, would include toilet-to-tap sewage reuse, desalination, enhanced runoff capture, and – dare we say it – a few new dams. But none of these projects get off the ground, not only because environmentalists oppose them based on mostly misguided principles, but because artificial scarcity enriches established special interests, and because all the public funds that can possibly be found are instead perpetually needed to pay unionized government workers. More pay. More benefits. More government workers. Infrastructure? It’s environmentally harmful.

(5) Immigration

No matter where one stands on this sensitive and complex issue, they must recognize that government unions win when immigrants fail to prosper or assimilate. While American culture retains a vitality that is almost irresistible to newcomers and may overcome all attempts to undermine and fragment it, if government unions had their way, that’s exactly what would happen. Because the more difficulties new immigrants encounter, the more government workers are required. If immigrants fail to find jobs, if they become alienated and traumatized, if they turn to crime or even terrorism, then we need more welfare and social workers, we need more multilingual teachers and bureaucrats, we need more police, and we need more prisons. The unpleasant truth is this: If we import millions of destitute immigrants into America – people with marginal skills from cultures that are hostile to American values – it is a meal ticket worth billions of dollars for government unions, and for every crony business who services the programs they administer.

(6) Authoritarianism

By over-regulating all activity that so much as scratches the earth, whether it’s to develop land, water, energy, minerals; to farm, transport, build, manufacture; to enforce these rules, more government powers are required. Similarly, by upending the cultural fabric that’s nurtured a social contract in America so strong that volumes of law never had to be written, but were instead the stuff of mutually understood courtesies and customs, we invite strife. To manage this, more rules and referees are necessary, enforced by more government. As society loses its cohesion, and as ordinary honest citizens rebel against excessive taxes and regulations, government unions benefit from training their members to mistrust the fractious and rebellious public. After all, unionized government workers are now a special class. As society fragments, they become more cohesive. As the middle class dissolves, they retain their economic privileges. Perhaps more than any other factor, government unions impel the growth of a police state.

(7) Education

To consider education is to save the most important for last. Because everything that is wrong with where our culture is headed can either be magnified or mitigated by how we educate our young students, regardless of their income or gender or culture or faith. As it is, in California’s public schools, students are taught that open space is sacred, that energy development will destroy the planet, that capitalism is innately flawed if not irredeemable, and that the legacy of Western European culture is a primary cause for most problems in the world. Instead of teaching children to develop functional skills in reading and math, they are being indoctrinated to believe that any failure or disappointment they ever encounter is the result of discrimination. Given the demographics of California’s youth, the union fostered educational environment currently imposed on them is nothing short of a catastrophe.

The reader may not agree with all seven of these assessments, but regardless of the scope of anyone’s reform advocacy, they must confront government unions. Because reform in all of these areas is stopped by government unions. Do you want to unleash California’s economic potential? Do you want to reduce the power of the financial special interests and crony capitalists? Do you want to restore balance to environmental policies, and build revenue producing infrastructure that eliminates scarcity and lowers the cost of living for ordinary people? Do you want to stop importing welfare recipients and instead admit highly skilled and highly educated workers who will enliven our economy and our culture with spectacular success? Do you want to avoid living in a police state? Do you want California’s children to be taught lessons that build their character and give them useful skills?

Reformers must recognize that government unions have a natural interest in preventing any of these reforms from ever happening. Addressing any of these issues without also taking on the government unions is futile. Conscientious members of government unions can play a vital role in reforms, by the way, if they are willing to make their personal interests secondary to their duties as a public servant. If California can be rescued from the grip of government unions, eventually everyone will benefit. And as goes California, so goes the nation.

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Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Policy Center.

Caltrans Union Spokesman Understates Engineers' Cost by $71M

In a hearing on Senator Moorlach’s SBX1-9 (Responsible Contacting for Caltrans) bill, Ted Toppin of the Professional Engineers in California Government (PECG) made a series of demonstrably false claims regarding the cost of Caltrans engineers.

Toppin claimed that the cost of a fully-loaded engineer – including all wages, benefits and even the cost of their office and service truck – was $116,000. A review of the department’s 2014 payroll data reveals that the average cost for a “transportation engineer” was $128,638. This is only for regular transportation engineers and excludes any engineer with a preface such as senior, supervising, principal, etc. Additionally, it understates their total cost as it does not include the cost of their trucks and office space.

In 2014, Caltrans had 5646 full-time regular transportation engineers on their payroll. Consequently, Toppin understates the cost of employing engineers by at least $71,000,000 per year for the department.

The highest compensated regular transportation engineer received $213,000, with principal transportation engineer, Kenneth Terpstra, leading all classifications of engineers with $243,000 in total compensation.

Later, Toppin is incredulous at the notion that a state engineer could make $138,000 a year, stating that, “There is no state engineer in this state, making $138,000 a year…I think it probably tops out for top engineers at around $110,000.”

Here it is clear Toppin is speaking about all categories of engineers, not merely the regular transportation engineers analyzed above. It is also likely he is referring to wages only, not total compensation. To be even more charitable, we will also assume he is referring to “regular pay” only, and in addition to excluding benefits, will also exclude any overtime earnings or supplemental wages classified as “other pay.”

Given the above, how does his claim contrast against the 2014 payroll data?

Six engineers received regular pay in excess of $138,000 last year and 1581, or nearly 20% of all engineers, received over $110,000. If we include total wages, those numbers rise to 69 and 2101, respectively.

Finally, Toppin expressed regret that the director of the department makes only $169,000 or so. He might be pleased to know that thanks to the incomparably generous leave policies offered by California’s public sector, the director was able to cash in roughly $80,000 worth of unused leave to boost his 2014 pay to $247,000, for a total compensation package of $302,000.

Mr. Toppin’s inaccurate testimony before the Senate committee fits a pattern best epitomized by the Legislative Analyst’s Office: “the overarching numbers given by Caltrans are not supported by data.”

Given the poor grasp on matters as straightforward as personnel costs, it is little wonder there exists deep skepticism about whether Caltrans is providing taxpayers with the best value possible for their tax dollars.

Robert Fellner is the Director of Transparency Research at the California Policy Center.