Thursday, October 7, 2010

Just What's Really Wrong with the California Budget?

No matter how the votes in Sacramento come out today California is still in a huge mess. Despite all the claims that this new budget will "erase" the deficit with no new taxes or "fees" there are major problems that our Legislature is just sweeping under the rug.

First, look at items such as Lease-Revenue Bonds. Seriously do you think any lender would allow you to take a 30 year construction "loan" off of your liabilities when looking at your creditworthiness? That's what the State has been doing for years. These items are not considered "constitutional debt", and so don't even show up for accounting on California's Budget. So bonds that are paying out $2. for every dollar borrowed through the bond sales are not considered "debt". If that is not a debt the State of California owes then what is?

And then there are all the items the Legislature has moved off the "General Fund" Budget, so they don't even have to consider them when balancing the budget. A lot of these are done by making the funding of agencies and departments "fees". Such as Vehicle License Fees. We've all seen how well that works just in the past year. The State needs more money, can't pass a tax? Just increase "fees". Local agencies need more money? Just increase the VLF !

Well, that works just fine, right? It doesn't if you consider that while raising money, it violates two items that the California Legislature should be doing. They don't have to have a 2/3rds vote to raise those funds, nor are they counted in the General Fund Budget.

"Fees" aren't taxes you see...according to California's Legislative Analyst Office and California law "fees" are "voluntary"...

OK, so you want to say it's voluntary to drive a vehicle, or a "privilege"? Even giving you that, how do you explain that the accounting never shows in California's Budget? Or that the uses, which change with the economic conditions, to which the VLF is put, are not put to a 2/3rds vote?

Or how about the oversight that the Legislature is supposed to have over the different departments and agencies? A part of that is supposed to come with the Legislature's General Fund Budget vote. Where's the oversight when an agency is no longer funded by the Budget?If an agency is improperly doing their job, the Legislature is supposed to be able to financially tell them to get their act together. When the Legislature is no longer responsible for the agency's funding, how do they do that?

So, now we come to this year's neat little package...

How many of you knew California now has a second State Fire Department? One that has no firefighters by the way? Only fire trucks and "emergency" equipment.

OK, I'll back up and explain how we got there. To start I'm sure most of you are aware of CalFire, the State Fire Department that is a part of CDF, the California Department of Forestry. So how did a Fire Department that is tasked with protecting State Forests end up being the State Fire Department and having precedence over local Fire Departments?? By becoming the Fire Department for many of the cities and counties in California, in part by convincing the counties and cities it would be cheaper for them to use CDF. At the charge of $20/acre/year in 2009 I don't know how true that is today. And now local and county fire departments not a part of CalFire, are subservient to CalFire and eMA(who's eMA you ask?hang in there I get to it. Promise!). But it gets worse.

That $20/acre/year turns into a $2Billion dollar budget for CalFire. That $2B does not show up on the General Fund Budget. CalFire was placed on this year's budget with a $2million funding, which looked to be just barely enough to cover the salaries of the 6,000+ firefighters. But that is above that $2Billion they take in from the counties and cities. But it gets worse.

California has an "Emergency" Fund that in the past was funded in the $5Million range. Last year CalFire hit that Emergency Fund up for $375 Million, a large part of which could not be justified as emergency use. But it was spent as if it was, although it should have been charged to their General Fund Budget monies according to California's Legislative Analyst Office. The Legislature not only did not do their job in overseeing how that money was spent, but in addition just rubber-stamped those expenses out of the Emergency fund.

Now it could be honestly argued that the Emergency Fund was not big enough, and should have been bigger in the first place. But the Legislature did not do it's job, and CalFire just went ahead and spent the money because they could. No one was over-seeing what they did.

So that brings us to this years budget. The Governor wants to take CalFire completely out of the General Fund Budget, and fund it like several other agencies in California. By creating a "fee" on the insurance of every home, personal real estate and business property in the state.

And what would be wrong with this?
  • A "fee" has to be voluntary. There is no way this "fee" could be voluntary according to the LAO
  • CalFire has no oversight now, as the Legislature has not done their job in the past to make sure they stayed within their budget
  • Taking them out of the funding from the General Fund budget means there will be no oversight as to how they spend their funds.
OK, you say since the Legislature hasn't been doing their job anyway what difference does this make? Should CalFire not be responsible to some entity in the State other than themselves? Is CalFire such a sacred cow that they are allowed to make their own rules and not have to account for how they are spending the State's money? And when they decide that that 4.8% fee on your property insurance is just not enough, and they want even more?

Think of them as the DMV on steroids...

Oh, that second State Fire Department? That would be eMA, Emergency Management Agency. That is also to be funded by that "fee". A fire department without firefighters, telling county and city fire fighters how they will perform under mutual aid responses, and using eMA's equipment instead of their own since the State won't be helping local fire departments upgrade as they could have done if eMA didn't "need" to buy the equipment...

Now, just multiply these problems by how many agencies and departments in the state operating under similar "rules".

The California Legislature has refused to do their job and has created for many agencies the moral hazard of both having no real oversight and the ability to have almost unlimited budgets. Until this problem and others are seriously dealt with by the Legislature, instead of voting away their responsibilities, California will never be able to fix the problems.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The mask comes off

Not for the weak of stomach. But this is what the fascist "Greens" want for you... They do not care about the "environment", they care about controlling how you live.They "care" about getting rich  while making you live as cattle in their "planned green communities". AB32, and the opposition to Prop 23 here in California are all about making your life more expensive and letting the State decide how you live.

Now you know how those "caring" people really think...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

There's Hope for California Yet! Meet Alvaro Day running in California's Assembly District 44

Meet Alvaro Day. He's what California needs a whole lot more of, young, bright, and conservative! From Alvaro's Campaign webpage

At the age of 11, Alvaro arrived in the United States with his mother to start a new life. His first obstacle was learning the English language. With great dedication, he managed to attend regular English-speaking classes in a matter of months.  As he learned more about this incredible country, he became captivated by its greatness, its love for God, and its liberty.  Eventually Alvaro’s new adoptive American father taught him about the endless opportunities this country had to offer, and the importance of service to building strong communities.  Alvaro came to believe that in America you could make your dreams come true if you just worked hard .  Alvaro completed high school at 17, completed his general education courses in nine months at Pasadena City College, and by age 20 had graduated from UCLA with degrees in political science and history.

La Canada Flintridge, Pasadena, Altadena, Arcadia and six other cities form this heavily Democratic district in Los Angeles County. But  with Alvaro's articulate message and go get 'em spirit,you never know!

  He is endorsed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association;  iCaucus ; the Mayor of Arcadia, Peter Almunson ; and California Assemblyman Chuck DeVore amongst many others

My motto is: “Never support, vote for, or advocate the passing of bills that promote the misuse of taxpayer money.”

As your representative in the state assembly, my mission will be to stop this mockery of California families, small businesses, students, and hard-working taxpayers affected by these irresponsible policies. Unlike many state legislators who believe that overspending, selling bonds, borrowing money, and increasing taxes are the answer to our problems, I propose a simple rule: Never spend beyond our means, and always use public funds wisely.  By using legitimate cost analysis, we can reduce spending on unnecessary programs and develop realistic expectations, while avoiding indebting Californians in perpetuity. At the same time, we need to reduce taxes, encourage investment, and bring more jobs to our state.
As ICaucus says in their endorsement ~

Alvaro is an example of a new generation of young people who aspire to lead this country on principles of integrity, personal responsibility, and hard work, qualities he developed at an early age.
Motivated by the desire to give back to a country that has done so much for him, Alvaro has been working hard to develop a platform that includes cutting taxes to encourage entrepreneurship and job creation, balancing the budget, and fixing our schools. His efforts are focused on concrete steps specifically tailored to the needs of the state of California and the 44th State Assembly District, which he will represent with integrity and honesty if giving the opportunity.
So, go visit his webpage and contribute to his campaign if you can. He's the future of California.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Andy Vidak, California's 20th Congressional District

Over at RedState Congressman Kevin McCarthy (CA CD22) has a post up about  Andy Vidak, a Central Valley cherry farmer,who is running against Jim Costa. We all remember Jim Costa, don't we? of those Dem turncoats who sold out California agriculture last spring for a photo-op with Senator "Don't call me ma'am " Boxer. Where they "announced" they had worked so hard to get the pumps turned back on in the Delta, so California farmer's would be able to grow the food we all eat? The water that was turned off A WEEK LATER, with much less fanfare? That Jim Costa!!
This is Andy Vidak

I have the real life expertise in the area of water to bring sense to this issue and the skills and commitment to work with others to get results and lasting solutions. I believe strongly in the principals of the free market, fiscal responsibility and limited government. By bringing honesty, accountability and common sense back to Washington your voice will be heard and we will provide opportunity and security for our communities long into the future

So get over to RedState, and then go visit Andy Vidak's campaign page!

Friday, September 3, 2010

CD11: David Harmer and Jerry McNerney in Dead Heat

This is great news! According to the latest polling data from American Action Forum David Harmer the Republican candidate in California's 11th Congressional District is tied with the incumbent Democratic candidate Jerry McNerney and there's this headline from Hotline on Call ~

Bad News For Dems Out West ~
When the Ayres, McHenry and Assoc. surveys -- which were conducted at end of August -- are combined, only 37 percent of respondents say their Dem incumbent deserves re-election while 52 percent say it's time for someone else. By a three-to-one margin, respondents said the country is on the wrong track.

Go visit Harmer for Congress and see why this is the candidate California's 11th Congressional District should elect, and see what you can do to help.

Follow David Harmer on Twitter @Harmer4Congress

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Is California Greece or Rome?

Over at Chlorinated Liberty is a great article on the un-seriousness of the California Legislature. "California Burning"
Now 55 days into the new fiscal year, California's Legislature has yet to emerge from its duck-the-heavy work hibernation. As has been customary, Lawmakers would rather tackle trivial legislation than balance the budget.

 They link to Diane Harkey (R-Dana Point), where she points out that the California Legislature just isn't willing to do the hard job of fixing the State of California's budget problems. Over at Red County she says ~
It doesn't take an economist or financial wizard to know that beginning with $84 Billion in revenues and facing $20 Billion dollar annual shortfalls for the next 4-5 years, you can't tax nor cut your way to solvency.  Like any business or household, the state has fixed costs, or expenses that must be paid to stay alive, constitutional and Federal.  If you, as a business or household, continue to buy "extras" and spend more borrowed money, you will never dig out of your financial hole. You must show some discipline and implement a strategic work-out plan, reducing expenses, definitely not increasing future liabilities, and display the ability to repay your debts over time. In other words, exercise discipline and show your creditors that you "get it." Otherwise you face bankruptcy, or for a state, federal receivership or a form of federal debt guarantee.
It seems none of our Legislators want the "bad press" of being the one to say "No!". Assemblywoman Harkey starts her article thus ~

In this highly-charged election year and the age of term limits, the incentive to achieve more than positive "press" is nearly zero.

She goes on to explain what sounds like progress for the State in cutting back spending. But in reality results in a sleight of hand, and an increased obligation California has taken on.

This week, pension reform was approved for six of the state's 21 contract bargaining units (unions). The reform is a step in the right direction, but unfortunately increases our debt obligations in future years.  How does this happen? Probably exactly as occurred in 1999 when SB 400 was approved with 7 voting "no."  SB 400 was the bill that increased pensions in a "boom" year, and estimates are that the state now has $500B in unfunded pension liabilities. (emphasis mine)

In this op-ed at Sign On San Diego, Assemblywoman Harkey breaks down what these "savings" aren't ~
While there is roughly $68 million of general fund savings in 2010-11, that savings is quickly reversed the very next year and increases to $39 million in extra costs by 2012-13. Other fund account costs also increase in out years. Imagine the net negative cash-flow effect magnified when the remaining bargaining units scoop up the “deal.” (emphasis mine)
(The "deal"? Me-too union negotiations where a bargaining unit gets the same deal another bargaining got in their contract.)

Be sure to read both of her excellent articles about how our California Legislature is just not taking their job seriously and needs to face the music now, not down the road.

Then be sure and visit her Facebook page! This is a lady that gets it!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Be careful what you ask for...

Over at Patterico's Pontifcations Jack Dunphy has this post Starting with Chapter Two ,where he comments on last Friday's Los Angeles Times op-ed piece Lose the Ruling, Attack the Judge ,that the writer puts the cart before the horse.

Dunphy points out that of course, the writer Jon W Davidson likes the decision. After all he is the the legal director of Lambda Legal, the organization that brought the federal lawsuit attacking California’s Proposition 8. But that his reasoning is flawed, as he starts in the middle of the debate. Of course he likes the decision, but he fails to address the background.

Jack Dunphy proposes an alternate title for the op-ed ~

One of the commenter's on Jack Dunphy's piece writes ~ 
“When you don’t win the argument at the ballot box, as indeed advocates for homosexual marriage have failed to win in even a single instance in the 31 times they’ve tried, take the campaign to the more accommodating venue of the courtroom. There, a lone judge, blessed with finely attuned senses denied to both his predecessors and the ignorant proles of the voting public, can discover a constitutional right that mysteriously remained undetected through all our nation’s history. That seems to be the favorite tactic of groups advocating for same-sex marriage.”

The real issue here is not “gay marriage”. It’s the most important issue in all of politics, perhaps in all of life: Who decides?

Are the people the ultimate deciders, or the judges? Is this a country where the people govern themselves, or a country where the people are governed by an unaccountable elite? These are the question the American Revolution was fought to resolve. Clearly, they are still not settled.

— 8/15/2010

Another commenter ~

Had the people voted to accept same sex marriage, I would have accepted it in spite of voting against it. Since this has been imposed by a single judge, who seems to have a political agenda, I will not accept it. The judiciary has usurped the legislative power, and for that matter the executive power, for a long time. It is time to impeach and remove some judges. They serve for life but as a condition are required to conduct themselves in accordance with the Constitution and the laws.

When rights assured by the Constitution are in conflict, it is the judiciary’s job to protect and define those rights. It is not their job to go searching for “rights” that only apply to specific groups and elevate them over those that apply to all. Our out of control courts are acting as agents of a political agenda, and one that cannot win at the polls. Judges are not gods.

— 8/15/2010

Another comment in reply to a commenter noting that customs have been different in other times and places ~

It doesn’t have to be (and never had to be) THE inflexible rule. What matters is that it has been OUR rule.

We’re not bound by the customs of the Yanomami or the Seljuk Turks. But we in the West DO have our OWN customs, and yes, we’ve been bound by them for thousands of years. (see ancient Rome, that’s 3 millenia ago, and so yes, thousands of years.)

Now it’s certainly true that we might elect to change our rules and customs over time, so… goodness me! Did I just use the word “elect”? Didn’t we in fact hold an election on this very subject?

“One man, one vote” is a pretty principle, if the one man in question just so happens to be a federal judge.

— 8/15/2010

From Time Magazine ~

And to add another twist, at least one constitutional-law scholar in California is suggesting that by trumpeting the issue of standing, Walker has opened a hornet's nest he may have been better off leaving undisturbed. "If the proponents don't have standing to appeal, then it's entirely plausible that the courts will rule that they did not properly have standing to go to trial," Vikram Amar, a law professor at the University of California at Davis, told TIME Thursday evening. "This is an issue he glossed over when he allowed them to intervene in the trial."

Amar says that if the Ninth Circuit agrees with Walker that the proponents don't have standing to appeal, the judges may well decide they shouldn't have been allowed to intervene in the case at all. If they do, he says, they could decide to vacate the trial entirely, sending it back to Walker to start over. The governor and attorney general would be unlikely to intervene — but on the other hand, come November, voters will choose new candidates for both of those offices.

In that event, what happens next is anybody's guess. "We're in uncharted waters here," Amar told TIME. (Read more At Time Magazine)

Patterico has a couple other posts up on this subject, see here which starts ~

I have an upcoming essay about the way in which the value of our votes has been diminished over time. One of the reasons our votes are worth less nowadays is the negation of our votes by liberal federal judges, who issue rulings striking down our laws — sometimes after a trial where the people supposedly charged with defending the law actually disagree with the law.
A comment on this post~

Jerry Brown should be out on his butt for non-feasance of office. He “didn’t feel” it was right? Who the hell asked you?

 — 8/13/2010 
  So, what do we have...a constitutional amendment passed by the voters in California. Undefended by the folks that are charged with defending California and Californians. Declared un-constutitional by a judge finding a "new right" that did not exist before his ruling;changing the meaning of a "word" and an institution that has not ever in our culture included that right. Standing a great chance of being thrown out of court entirely by a higher court since the trial judge says the same folks he gave standing to, he now declares have no standing after he gave them standing in the trial. Or, as Patterico points out his reasoning in his latest post that there is a rather good chance Prop 8 will be vindicated by the US Supreme Court.

  But that final option leaves us with a bigger problem, if it isn't heard on correctness of the grounds of the trial judge's ruling, rather than the correctness of Prop 8

"Are the people the ultimate deciders, or the judges? Is this a country where the people govern themselves, or a country where the people are governed by an unaccountable elite?" 

   No matter your stand on Prop 8 or the ruling, we should all be throughly unhappy with this travesty.

See also Tyranny of the Minority from Saturday's Washington Times

update 8/16/10 Ninth District Issues Interim Stay on Prop 8

Again at Patterico's The increasing worthlessness of your vote.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Cordoba House vs St Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church

  When the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, right in the shadow of the South Tower stood a tiny historical building. St Nicholas was originally built in 1832 and had served the Greek Orthodox community continuously since 1922. Needless to say this building was completely and immediately destroyed when the South Tower fell. But here we are now with nothing but obfuscation from the NY Port Authority which originally wanted to buy the site and relocated the church a block to the south.  The Church leaders had agreed to the deal, but apparently this land swap currently not in the works.

  George Demos, Republican candidate for the NY1 Congressional District explains~

  Needless to say, it's been 9 years and St Nicholas still has not been able to start working on replacing their building. They have their plans, they have their funding, but the Port Authority refuses to meet with them to approve the rebuilding. The plans (pdf,see pg 15 ) of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation as of Feb 2007 were to move the church to the corner of Liberty and Greenwich Streets, a little to the south of their original location. At some point last year, that plan and position was withdrawn by the NY Port Authority.

  But Cordoba House gets fast tracked...

  Then we get from our President (emphasis mine)~

But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.
  So, what about the Greek Orthodox Mr President? Is your "commitment to religious freedom" unshakeable here too? They can't even get St Nicholas rebuilt in nine years time, with no solution to that problem in the near foreseeable future. What about their "right to  build a place of worship"? To not be "treated differently by their government"? It seems they are definitely being treated "differently by their government" than a group that plans on groundbreaking ceremonies in a year's time, and doesn't even own the property they want to build on!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sacred Cows and Fixing California's Budget Woes Part 2

Even more on the sacred cows in the California Budget ~

 Let's look at CalFire...From the California Legislative Analyst's Office ~

Initially, CalFire’s mission was the prevention and suppression of wildland fires in undeveloped areas. Over time, however, there has been considerable “mission creep” and the department now spends considerable time and resources protecting homes in SRAs from wildfire, as well as responding to medical emergencies and other non-wildfire calls.

   So, CalFire as a part of CDF or the California Department of Forestry, was to manage undeveloped wildland areas. Yeah, times and job descriptions change. Fire Departments across the country now spend on average 6% of their time fighting fires, and most of the balance goes to medical emergency response. CalFire is no different, and I'm sure most of their time goes to "other non-wildfire calls."

Sacred Cow? You bet! Who would ever say they didn't like fire fighters? But does that give CalFire the right to be totally unaccountable to the people of the State of California? I don't think so...

CalFire collects and spends over $2B every year from the Fed's(National Forest coverage and large wildland fire suppression), California counties, and cities it contracts with. Then they still get an additional $2M from the General Fund with a proposed additional $200,000 increase this year, PLUS they now want a SECOND Emergency Fund created. (about $238 million in the 2010-2011 budget year and about $480 million per year thereafter)

A new Emergency Fund(ERI ~ Emergency Response Initiative) created by "taxing" (being called a "fee" by the Governor's office!) every homeowner’s and commercial property owner’s insurance policy 4.8% (this of course will never show on "The Budget"...).This AFTER the state's Legislative Analyst's Office has said there are serious abuses by CalFire of the "old" Emergency Fund (E-Fund), and that the way the governor wants to fund this new "fee" won't fly. It's still there in the proposed Budget months after the LAO said it would have to be changed.

   Abuses by CalFire of the E-Fund  CalFire's day-to-day operations are supposedly financed out of revenues collected from contracted users, and General Fund monies.The E-Fund monies are to be use to cover large wildfire fighting expenses such as overtime, additional staff, and fire fighting costs that are not considered day-to-day. The Legislature has oversight of how CalFire budgets the use of their money thru the General Budget process. First 24hr responses to wildfire incidents are to be considered day-to-day costs; the seasonal Tahoe CalFire station is fully funded from the E-Fund, whether they fight a fire or not. Staffing is considered 3 full-time fire fighters to each engine, per General Budget requirements. CalFire has been "staffing" four fire fighters to an engine, and charging that additional salary to the E-Fund. Half of CalFire's aviation fleet(11 helicopters) is charged to the E-Fund, a DC-10 firefighting plane is fully charged to the E-Fund year-round. Whether they ever are used to fight a fire or not. CalFire also wants an additional $150M to replace all of their helicopters in the next six years.

  While any of these expenses might be justified out of General Fund monies, the problem is there is no Legislative oversight of how and when the Emergency Funds are being spent. The systemic over-use by CalFire policy of the E-Fund makes it unaccountable to the Legislature, and an additional emergency fund with no oversight makes it insane! CalFire is spending funds that the Legislature has no control over and is asking for more.They have no incentive to keep costs down, as there is no effective oversight on how they spend the State's money. CalFire decides how they spend money. This is neither in the State's best interest, nor the way it is supposed to work according to the California Constitution. The Legislature is supposed to control CalFire's spending. As the LAO says ~

Current E-Fund Budgeting Practice at Odds With Original Legislative Intent.

Best answer for THIS sacred cow? Break it up! Give it back to the counties(about half of California's counties use CalFire as their County Fire Department, as they were told it would be cheaper for them to contract it out to CalFire). More local control (or effectively ANY control), and the State would only have to pay each county for coverage of State Responsibility Areas, instead of supporting 6,000 State fire fighters and 56* fire stations(yeah, that’s all there are!) to the tune of over $200B,220M projected for this year alone! Plus whatever Emergency Fund(s) that CalFire is currently wasting. A win for everybody! Less cost to the State, more monies for the Counties. Only one that loses is the State Firefighters Union...(you know, those folks collecting $60 every pay period above and beyond regular dues to do the political PR work to keep CalFire as an unaccountable, untouchable sacred cow)

More to come. There are over 400 State agencies to highlight abuses in...

* 8/12/10 correction there are apparently 205 stations. but you get a different number depending on which gov. page you are on...

Sacred Cows and Fixing California's Budget Woes

   I got into a discussion today regarding an article at the SacBee about the State furloughs.

One of the commenters had written this ~

   My answer to this ~
   "What? You think the sacred cows will ever be touched by this? Never gonna happen!

   Besides furloughs are designed to hurt the public, with the extra added value of hurting the least paid state employees...

   Best thing the Gov and Legislature could do is kill the 20% increases to every department that is now listed in the proposed budget (it will take you days to read through and get a general understanding, sorry!). Start by making them use the same amount of money they had budgeted for last year. And then go back and cut out any excesses"

  Which got me thinking even more...which got me digging around again in the Governor's proposed budget...which led to this post ~

   A good example of the duplicity in the budget is shown in the budget summary (PDF. See pages 4 and 5). Take just K-12 funding. The Governor would have you believe that K-12 is taking a 2.1% hit on funding(Oh! The kids!!). Turns out that is only from general fund monies(the ones that show on the budget, and have to be voted on by the Legislature) All together, the budget summary plans for K-12 to spend $35,898M for 2010-2011. That's $19M more than 2009-2010. Why are local schools having to cut their budgets again?

   Or to continue on this line what about Higher Ed? How is it a system than is charging over 205 thousand students (UC undergrad/grad student population 2009) an average of $12,255 per year, not counting room and board or transportation (that's on average another $13,000, a good percentage of which goes to UC), not able to operate in the black? That's $2,512,275,000 a year they are taking in. But they still want an additional $12,928M to use from the California Budget. And then there's the Lease Revenue Bonds... UC wants $59M this year alone from this off the Budget source, and that's not even talking about the huge list of replacement/repairs they want the state to pay for. It's just two new buildings on one campus.They're making CalFire look like pikers in asking for $800,000M to repair/replace 56 fire stations in the state. The Governor asked for 3 of these stations to get Lease Revenue Bonds for the work this budget cycle. (short primer on Lease Revenue Bonds at the bottom, for those who are interested)

   And then there's the Endowment Funds. The UC Regents control over $16,700B in Endowment Funds plus an additional $8B yearly from private support such as their individual Campus Foundations. Then there are uncountable special private endowments such as the UC Davis/DeLeuse Family Endowment for one, with a funding of over $1M. I'm guessing you could spend weeks and months running down all the many private endowments that are not controlled by the UC Regents! While it is understandable that endowments do not spend principal, you would think that there should be enough there to fund a very large portion of the UC budget. Apparently you would be thinking wrong

  Another income source for UC is patent and invention licensing agreements. The UC system took in $130B in 2008 alone on everything from medical devices to new strains of strawberries. They also receive over $2B yearly in Federally funded research grants. Their Medical facilities also bring in approximately one fourth of the UC operating budget.

  Can someone really answer why the UC system needs state funding at all at this point in time and especially why they need an additional 20% over last years budget?

    Revenue Lease Bonds. Say the state wants to replace a building. They do this by mortgaging that building to themselves, same as in Monopoly, they turn the card over, and the money magically appears. This gives them "capital" for an on average 30 year construction loan. Then they turn that mortgage"card" into a bond, and then that "card" disappears along with the debt never to be seen again on the Budget, as the Lease Revenue Bonds are not considered "Constitutional Debt". These bonds are then sold to pay off their "debt" at a higher rate than a normal California bond, making then currently little better than junk bonds and paying on average 4% to the buyer. They end up costing the state something like $1. for every $3. borrowed. We can only guess at how much the State owes in total for these bonds...
"If that were to be true, shouldn't ALL state employees be furloughed and not picked on based on favoritism, cough CHP, cough, CDF, cough"

Update 8/30/10 Cal-Poly Auxillary Funds While it's not a bad idea for the UC, USC to have these funds, once again we have no idea how much money the California University system uses or how much money does the State really have to spend to fund for these colleges? Can't tell...

Friday, July 30, 2010

California's 15th Senate District Race

   I live here in the 15th Senate District which includes all of San Luis Obispo County; Santa Maria, Orcutt (69.6 of residents), and Guadalupe in Santa Barbara County and the unincorporated areas north of these three cities; Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, San Jose (7.5% of residents),Saratoga, Lexington Hills, and San Martin in Santa Clara County; Carmel-by-the-Sea, Del Rey Oaks,Marina, Monterey, Pacific Grove, Sand City, Seaside, Aromas, Bradley, Carmel Valley, Del Monte Forest, Elkhorn, Las Lomas, Moss Landing, Pajaro, Prunedale, San Ardo, San Lucas,and Spreckels in Monterey County; Scotts Valley, Watsonville, Amesti, Aptos Hills-Larkin Valley, Corralitos, Day Valley, Felton,Freedom, Interlaken,and Rio del Mar in Santa Cruz County.

  If you managed to read through this boring little list and didn't skip to this paragraph, you may have noticed that most of the district is small towns or unincorporated areas. Did you blink and miss San Ardo on your trip north on the 101? Forty-three percent of the population in San Luis Obispo County(and in fact most of the District) live in the unincorporated areas... The San Luis Obispo County Chamber of Commerce calls it a "post-industrial" area. But it is more likely an area that was never truly "industrial" and could better be considered rural and agricultural.

   So, now we have a special election here to replace the total squish Abel Maldonado (R-retired, but doesn't know it yet, Lt Governor's Office).

   And who do we have running to finish his term?

  First we have reliable "nice guy" and squish Sam Blakeslee, who according to one of his campaign flyers "Wrote a law creating new, clean, tech green jobs that keep businesses from leaving California" Apparently he is an inventor, as well as a legislator!(OK,he does actually hold a patent on something oil-industry related) But unless "conservatives" are now using the progressive definition of "job creation", government can not "create (invent) new jobs" (oh, did I tell you his wife is on the Executive Board of the Nature Conservatory?).

  Got an endorsement from Abel Maldonado ~ "Sam Blakeslee is an independent-minded reformer who has reached across party lines to help turn California around." (Where, oh where have we heard THAT line before?)

 And this from the San Luis Obispo Tribune online today in an article about State workers furloughs ~

Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, said Thursday the furloughs can be demoralizing to workers.
“I’m no fan of these furloughs,” he said. “I’m concerned that there are better ways to negotiate and probably smarter ways to save money.”

He is pushing for a closer look at the size of various agencies and departments in Sacramento.

“We may in fact need to economize,” he said. “There may be situations where we have, frankly, too much fat up here in Sacramento.”

"There may be...too much fat..." You think so Sam?

   He does actually respond to constituent's letters and phone calls, and you don't get a form letter either. Even when his position is not yours, you do get a well thought out reply.

    Back in May when he declared his candidacy for this seat his statement included the "fact" that he had "always been a strong fiscal conservative" (excuse me while I throw up a bit!) His votes during the special budget sessions in 2009 were even worse than Abel Maldonado's!

From The FlashReport ~

His voting record is more moderate than members of the California Republican Assembly would prefer, with Scorecard ratings of 83% in 2005, 71% in 2006, 55% in 2007, 87% in 2008, and 69% in 2009.

   But then there's his opposition! Someone who actually makes Sam Blakeslee look like a "fiscal conservative"!

Also from The FlashReport ~
According to the California Republican Assembly Scorecard, John Laird’s record is as bad as any legislator’s record can be. For each of his six years in the Assembly, Mr. Laird scored a perfect zero on the California Republican Assembly Scorecard (2003 through 2008). In every category, he voted for bills that were so extreme that many of his liberal colleagues cringed and abstained. He supported tax and fee increases, job-killing employer mandates, special privileges for homosexuals, drivers licenses for illegal aliens, racial identification on voter registration affidavits, free college tuition for illegal aliens, AB 32, prohibition on smoking in your own car, elimination of secret ballots for union elections, etc (emphasis mine)

And then there's the little matter of this perfect zero being a carpetbagger, which unfortunately seems to be perfectly legal. Less than 10 days before John Laird filed his nomination papers, he did not live in the 15th Senate District. He somehow acquired a "residential" address in Aptos, when he has actually lived in Santa Cruz for many, many years (if you want to go check that boring little list again, Santa Cruz is not on it...hmmm...). YOU would have had to have lived in the district for more than 15 days in order to register to vote in said district. But those mundane little rules are only for plebs. You too can carpetbag in any district, if you can afford to rent a second residence!(AND get the SEIU State Council and the San Jose SEIU Local to help bankroll your campaign! Remember that list up there again?...only 7.5% of San Jose is represented in this District)

So there you go California, we can hopefully elect a squishy conservative. O we can get stuck with a progressive who has never seen a tax he didn't like, or a "social justice" cause he couldn't support; giving the completely insane D's in the California Senate the numbers to pass the additional $25 million in taxes on Californians they are drooling over!

Please, if you know anyone who lives in the California 15th Senate District ask them to vote for Sam Blakeslee (Squish - but not suicidal)


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Atascadero Teaparty and a Conservative Candidate (or two)

  Not too bad a turnout today for an event that didn't even get off the ground til the first of the month. Bad news is there was less than half the number of people there as last year, good news is these folks are fired up! The crowd was between 500 and 700 people.

 I guess I will have to take some blame here, as I spent a lot of time with last year's organizers. This year I made the mistake of waiting to hear from them...But someone did step forward, and last Friday I and many of the people I spoke with did find out about this year's event.

 I spent a lot of time talking to folks in the audience asking them to support ChucK DeVore, passing out around a 100 flyers with his qualifications and his website address. Folks were very enthusiastic about the prospect of a truly Conservative candidate for our US senate seat. Many had heard of Chuck,and those who had not were quite receptive to his message! if you haven't already follow @chuckdevore on twitter and facebook!

  i also got to speak with another California Conservative candidate. Matt Kokkonen who is running for the 33rd Assembly District here in California. This is a man that gets it! Smaller government, lower taxes, and less Federal interference both with the states and in our lives. I hope you are lucky enough to find such candidates running in your districts. He is also very tech-savy! Before I had gotten home he'd updated his website with pictures from today's teaparty! He's new to twitter at @MattKokkonen and can be found on facebook as well.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Well, California...Are you Paying Attention?

  The other day as I was reading the news and some of the political blogs I follow I found this from the Legislative Analysis Office of the State of California. What is the LAO you might ask? Apparently they go through items on the Governor's proposed budget and say whether or not the item can ,or should be done. A surprise to me was that they would then suggest changing how an item was to be put on the budget, or hidden as an "off-budget" item.From the LAO dated March1,2010 (all bolding will be found in original unless stated otherwise)
Governor’s Proposed Budget-Balancing Solutions Largest Budget Solutions Involve New Alternative Revenue Sources. The primary budget balancing solutions proposed by the Governor in the resource area involve new revenue sources to replace General Fund support for (1) state parks and (2) wildland fire protection and emergency response.
  Looks like the way to "balance" a budget is to remove items from the budget, then you don't have to worry about them...You still have to pay them, but so what?

 Well, one big item here caught my eye, CalFire...

  At first glance, it didn't seem too bad, CalFire was asking for a 10% increase to their budget from $200Mil to $220Mil. Not too bad, but why is any California bureaucracy asking for an increase to their budget when the State already has a $20 Billion(and growing!) budget shortfall? My guess is that every "department" in California has done the same.( I haven't yet had time to look through the Governor's complete proposed budget, but the few departments I have had time to check have done just that...surprised? not!)

 Back to CalFire...It seems that that $20 Mil increase just wasn't enough for them...Nor was the "old" emergency fund that they have used in the past. From the LAO:
The budget includes a reduction of $33 million for emergency fire suppression, reflecting an estimate that a lower level of resources will be needed in the budget year following a high level of spending on firefighting activities in the current year significantly beyond the amounts initially budgeted. Still, even with this decrease, the $223 million from the General Fund proposed for emergency fire suppression in 2010-11 is the largest amount ever initially proposed in the Governor’s budget plan. (bolding mine)
...the budget reflects two major funding shifts in the resources area for the budget year: (1) the replacement of $140 million General Fund support in the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) with new revenues from the proposed Tranquillon Ridge oil and gas lease agreement and (2) the replacement of $200 million General Fund support in the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire) with new revenues from a proposed surcharge on property insurance premiums statewide.(bolding mine)

  So what have we got here... looks like money to come from a oil and gas lease...can we say Santa Barbara County?...that money will never happen!

  Next we have a shift from monies accountable from the general fund, and a part of the governor's budget being shifted off budget as a "special" new revenue from a proposed surcharge. In addition we find...

Current Emergency Fund Budgeting Practice at Odds With Original Legislative Intent.

The CalFire has access to an Emergency Fund (commonly referred to as the E-Fund) that was intended originally to pay for large-incident firefighting costs. We are concerned about the expanded use over time of the E-Fund by the department—in particular, its practice of charging day-to-day operating costs not related directly to a large incident to the fund. We make recommendations to establish stronger fiscal controls on the use of the E-Fund so as to improve legislative oversight of the department’s expenditures. (bolding in original)

  So, it looks like we have a Department that has been mis-using the Emergency Fund they already have, and now the Governor wants to shift the responsibility for that fund from the Legislature to the folks who have been mis-managing it...Oh, and at the same time effectively remove $200Million from the budget the legislature has to approve....

 Sleight of hand, anyone?

  Oh, and then there's this!(add a New and Improved Emergency Response Initative!(to the tune of an additional $175 Million!!)

Governor’s ER I and LA O’s Fee Alternative
The Governor’s budget includes ERI—a proposal to levy a new surcharge on all property insurance policies statewide.
This would have been a surcharge on all property owner's insurance policies to the tune of 4.8% of the premium of every insured. The LAO said that the governor can not do this as it is a tax and not allowed under Prop 98. They the LAO proceeded to "hide" the tax by recommending that it be called...

....enactment of a new wildland fire protection fee.

State Is Responsible for Wildland Fire Protection.

Under existing statute, the state is responsible for providing wildland fire protection in State Responsibility Areas (SRAs). These SRAs encompass

about 31 million acres of the state, primarily privately owned timberlands, rangelands, and watershed areas. There are an estimated 860,000

homes in SRAs. Initially, CalFire’s mission was the prevention and suppression of wildland fires in undeveloped areas. Over time, however, there

has been considerable “mission creep” and the department now spends considerable time and resources protecting homes in SRAs from wildfire,

as well as responding to medical emergencies and other non-wildfire calls.
  Oh, where to start, where to start! How about SRAs ~

State Responsibility Areas ~ those are the following...

The State Board of Forestry identifies those lands where the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has the primary duty for wildland fire prevention and suppression.(from the Office of the State Fire Marshall)

  So, you would think that CalFire has responsiblity for wildlands, correct? But as many as you probably know CalFire is also used by most counties in California as the COUNTY Fire Department. So, are those counties now a State Responsibilitity Area, do they become one under these new "fees"? What are those counties and cities that contract with CalFire for Fire Protection already paying to Calfire? I don't have all those numbers, but I do have the City of Redlands bill from CalFire for 2009-10(PDF see pg 8). Every city or county that uses CalFire is paying at the rate of $19.11/ac/per year now. Are they considered a SRA? Is this put into CalFire's budget,or is it dumped into the General Fund?

  Back to the LAO's recommendation...

 We recommend that the Legislature enact a fee on the owners of structures in SRAs that would be proportional to the additional costs imposed on the state as a result of the presence of those structures.
 What additional costs if those structures are in a county that already has a CalFire presence? Looks like the State is already collecting for the presence of those structures...
 BUT, it gets worse! CalFire in addition to wanting to shift responsibility for the emergency fund(s) to themselves also has a request for $800,000,000. in the "regular"Budget... in Lease Revenue Bonds to replace or rebuild approximately 48 fire stations. These are Bonds that do not come out of the General Fund either, and do not require a vote by taxpayers to be approved. This is a real slight of hand folks. What happens is CalFire (and the State) will mortgage their own buildings to themselves, and then "lease" the buildings back to themselves. The "mortgage" will be financed with taxfree bonds. CalFire will make the "lease" payments from monies from their original "budget" approved by the legislature as General Fund items. But, where does the "mortgage" money come from...the sale of non-taxpayer approved bonds that are not considered "constitutional debt". They get an even lower rating than California's General Fund Bonds which do have to be approved by voters. These bonds cost the state on average $2+ dollars for every $1. But they don't show on the Budget as State debt!
  Like I said earlier, CalFire isn't the only government entity doing this. In the short time I've had to look, it seems the Highway Patrol wants to add a cool Million to their budget this year, and the UC system wants $50Million in Lease Revenue Bonds also in addition to whatever they asked for in the budget!(you remember those bonds not approved by voters, or considered constitutional debt)
  Ok folks, I'm flustered here..Enough to start writing a blog besides the one my dog has! What do we do about this? And is this how our state operates? Hidings expenses, moving stuff off-Budget, and then making up new fees to cover things they've hidden from the "budget? If this wasn't government these folks would be in jail for fraud!
 I don't have time to catch all these little tricks, but the CalFire example should be stomped on! Anybody want to help?