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Commentators Question Value, Motivations of California Legislature’s Far Left Political Agenda

The 2015-16 Legislative Session is in the books but some high-profile commentators are questioning what appears to be a far leftward drift in the policy agenda of the liberal California Democrat Legislature that has forgotten about the state’s middle class and the need to grow our economy.

The dust has not even settled on the end of session battles, and there is a pile of hundreds of liberal bills on the Governor’s desk, but analysts appear to agree that the 2015-16 was perhaps the most liberal or far-left legislative session in recent history.

George Skelton, a prominent left-leaning LA Times Columnist, opined “The California Legislature capped its two-year session by passing a load of liberal bills to help poor people, including farmworkers.  That’s good, but what about middle middle-class folks?” according to Skelton’s recent column.

“They were snubbed again.  Ignoring the declining middle class has become the norm, both in Sacramento and Washington,” Skelton concludes.

Skelton cites a Public Policy Institute of California report noting that California “is primarily a middle-class electorate, something that seems to escape ruling Democrats in the Legislature as they push through bills lobbied by the labor unions representing the poor,” wrote Skelton.

Skelton goes on to provide countless examples including increased farmworker overtime, additional welfare benefits, increasing the minimum wage, and paid family leave.  But Skelton says the problems that the Legislature does not seek to address are glaring and include almost nothing for the middle-class, small businesses, roads, and infrastructure, among other key issues.  “If there was any gesture toward small business, we didn’t hear much about it,” Skelton states.

George Skelton, Columnist for the LA Times, believes that the California Legislature repeatedly ignores the interests of the middle class by actively and continuously passing legislative bills lobbied for by labor unions.

“It’s great to help the poor.  But too often the Legislature overlooks everyone else—everyone, that is who doesn’t contribute to a reelection kitty,” Skelton concludes, taking a swipe at the state’s labor unions who control the Democrat Legislature.

The state’s public employee unions were ecstatic with the results of the 2015-16 Legislative session, with labor leaders saying they are proud partners of the California Legislature and glad the officials they elect share their values and agree to collaborate on a staunchly pro-labor agenda.

“The California Labor movement is proud to partner with the Speaker and Legislature to make the American Dream possible for all workers,” said Art Pulaski, executive Secretary-Treasurer of the California Labor Federation in a press release issued by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon(D).

“We’re lucky in California for the most part to have elected officials who espouse the values of the labor movement,” said California Labor Federation chief of staff Angie Wei, according to a Sacramento Bee report.

The far left Courage Campaign, was quoted as stating 2016 capped the most left wing or “progressive” legislative session in the state’s history, with a “sweep that should warm the hearts of most liberal constituencies,” according to the Bee.

“What we’ve accomplished collectively will go up there with any other legislative period in the history of California,” said Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon (D), according to the Sacramento Bee.

Most business and taxpayer groups, including those who back moderate Democrat candidates, suggest that the legislature has lost touch with economic realities and the best interests of the general electorate.

“If this state does not start seriously focusing on the business climate.  Probably the only thing that is going to be left is high-tech, Pharma and the motion picture industry,” said Tom Scott, the California Director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in a recent interview just prior to the end of session.

 

Tom Scott, the California Director for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), believes that the bills and propositions passed by the California Legislature continue to negatively impact and deteriorate the State’s business climate

Scott said there are “about 1,000 things wrong with the state’s business climate” but things appear hopeless at the moment because the leadership of this state has lost touch with the economic realities of the state’s business climate continues to head in the wrong direction.

Scott says business in California has already taken a number of hits this year including the minimum wage increase, sick leave, paid family leave, multiple regulations, and increases in fees and taxes.   “It is this piling on effect which is just killing small business.  The big corporations can dodge a lot of this stuff,” Scott says.

Big business is also complaining about recent actions taken by the liberal Democrat Legislature.

Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, wrote a report released on Labor Day questioning the California Legislature’s commitment to improving the California economy and creating jobs, particularly in the less prosperous areas of the state.

Lapsley raised a series of questions about important economic issues in the state that are not being address, particularly those related to limited job creation and economic growth outside the Bay Area, and suggests that the California Legislature needs to place a bigger focus on the economy and economic growth.

Lapsley stated that the state’s economy “has been subjected to an unrelenting expansion of regulation, fees, and taxes since 2000.”

“We hope 2017 will bring a broader discussion on the economy we can offer to future generations,” Lapsley concluded.

“California is clearly becoming more hostile to business,” states Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, adding that there has been an accelerated decline of the state’s business climate, due in large part to heavy taxation and onerous regulation.

Coupal said the state’s hostility to business should concern every Californian because the state’s future is closely tied to health of the California economy.   Some recent media reports even found evidence pro-labor Democrat leaders, including Senate Pro Tem Kevin De Leon, were “punishing” the California business community during this session for objecting to the Legislature’s far left liberal agenda.

“From the perspective of fiscal sanity, it is a shame that every two year legislative session in California is an exercise in trying to prevent damage to taxpayers and the economy. Rarely is there anything remotely worthwhile in the hundreds of bills passed by our esteemed political leadership: No pension reform, no education reform, no civil justice reform or tax reform. While other states run clean, effective and efficient governments, the California Legislature resembles a three ring circus more times than not,” Coupal wrote in a recent column.

Coupal says California policymakers should be concerned about the impacts of the state’s poor business climate instead of asking “how high?” when public sector union bosses say “JUMP.”

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.

Taxpayer Group Pushing to Gut California’s Prop. 13 is Union Front Group

One lingering success of the Right in California is the public’s continued association of taxpayers’ organizations with fiscal responsibility, lower taxes, and limited government. Statewide groups such as the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and regional groups such as the San Diego County Taxpayers Association maintain credibility as leaders in resisting foolhardy tax increases and wasteful spending.

This reputation translates into political power. In 2000, various interest groups wanted California voters to approve what became Proposition 39, a ballot measure that reduced the threshold from 2/3 to 55% for voter approval of K-12 school districts and community college districts to borrow money for construction by selling bonds. To create the impression of responsible oversight for spending, Prop 39 required the establishment of a Citizens Bond Oversight Committee, with the requirement that “One member shall be active in a bona fide taxpayers’ organization.”

Not surprisingly, labor unions are cleverly trying to hide behind alleged taxpayers’ organizations as a way to advance their own political agenda, which typically entails higher taxes and more government spending. One example is the San Diego-based “Middle Class Taxpayers Association,” which succeeded in 2011 in getting the Southwest Community College District board to boot a representative of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association from the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee and replace her with their own representative.

The new “bona fide taxpayers’ organization” representative was the political director of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, District Council 36 and Local 831. As you have probably guessed by now, construction unions wanted to neutralize any internal resistance to their lobbying campaign for the college board of trustees to require their contractors to sign a union Project Labor Agreement. (That requirement is now in effect.)

Then there’s the Richmond-based “Contra Costa County Senior Taxpayers Group.” It issued a letter in 2012 critical of a study produced by the head of the National University System Institute for Policy Research, who was scheduled to speak at a meeting of the legitimate Contra Costa Taxpayers Association. Little information is available on the web about this group, but considering that it seems to pop up only when construction unions are lobbying for Project Labor Agreements, it’s obvious that this group serves union interests.

Another example is revealed in the January 29, 2014 column “Lack of Leadership a Big Obstacle in Updating Prop 13” by George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times. It asks “Are California voters ready yet to change Proposition 13 so that all corporations pay their fair share of property taxes?”

Corporations are not paying their “fair share” in taxes, according to the perspective of this column. A reader might wonder what “fair share” means, and think there’s a balanced, objective, data-based argument when reading this:

Lenny Goldberg, executive director of the California Tax Reform Assn., has been pushing for years to modify Prop. 13 and close the corporate loopholes.

“We’re trying to organize, educate and expose what’s really happening,” he says. “We’re developing data and looking at some of the largest landowners in the state. If it turns out people don’t care, they don’t care.”

“My modest goal is to get it out front and center so people can have a discussion and not avert their eyes.”

According to the columnist, this taxpayers’ organization has a “modest” goal for a public “discussion” about an injustice it has identified in the tax code. Sounds reasonable. Perhaps the group wants corporations to pay their “fair share,” so that ordinary taxpayers can get a tax cut.

Or perhaps not.

Mr. Skelton has written for the Los Angeles Times since 1974, and new challenges face newspaper columnists in 2014 that were not around 40 years ago. One of them is busybody readers and their access to a newfangled “series of tubes” called the Internet that can be filled with information, such as the real identity of taxpayer groups. Any gadfly who wonders why a taxpayer organization wants to increase taxes can research it and expose it through social media.

Done! The California Tax Reform Association – of course – is yet another union front group. In 2012, 60 percent of its revenue came from these unions:

California Tax Reform Association 2012 Union Contributions

Still not sure? Here is the 2012 board of directors for the California Tax Reform Association:

California Tax Reform Association 2012 Union Board of Directors

The group hasn’t posted on its web site since May 23, 2012. That’s one highly-credible source! But it’s a convenient one, and deceiving too.

A lesson for citizens: just because an organization calls itself a taxpayers’ group does not necessarily mean it doesn’t want to raise your taxes or control government spending. Plenty of union money and personnel are being used to undermine one of the last defenses of fiscal responsibility in California. Check every group carefully and expose the union control to the public when you find it.

Sources

Lack of Leadership a Big Obstacle in Updating Prop. 13 – column by George Skelton in the Los Angeles Times – January 29, 2014

Proposition 39 (2000)

Real Taxpayers’ Associations

Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association

San Diego County Taxpayers Association

Contra Costa Taxpayers Association

Union-Backed Taxpayers’ Associations

Middle Class Taxpayers Association

Builder Decries Loss of Oversight Members: SWC Board Replaced Two on Prop. R Committee over the Summer – Southwestern College Sun newspaper – October 7, 2011

Breaking: Labor Corruption…SD Labor Council Seeks to Oust Taxpayer Advocate from Oversight Committee – posted on San Diego Rostra by Ryan Purdy – July 12, 2011

California Tax Reform Association


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.