3rd Most Dangerous Californian Makes Bid for #1

Now-retired San Francisco financier Tom Steyer’s flashy entry into Progressive campaign financing earned him Crazifornia’s designation as the third most dangerous Californian. Here’s what we wrote then:

steyer2Steyer, a ridiculously wealthy San Francisco wealth manager, first entered our consciousness when he pumped $30 million of his own money to pass Prop 39. That’s the 2012 ballot initiative that increased taxes on out-of-state corporations and sprinkled the largess on alternative energy companies like those his company, Farallon Capital Management, owns pieces of. This year, he was the Big Spender that got Terry McCaullife, a politician so slimy he taught Bill and Hillary dirty tricks, elected governor of Virginia. If your money is in OneCalifornia Bank, move it, because Steyer owns it.

According to a New York Times report, Steyer’s gunning for #1 in this year’s ranking of most dangerous Californians.

A billionaire retired investor is forging plans to spend as much as $100 million during the 2014 election, seeking to pressure federal and state officials to enact climate change measures through a hard-edge campaign of attack ads against governors and lawmakers. …

In early February, Mr. Steyer gathered two dozen of the country’s leading liberal donors and environmental philanthropists to his 1,800-acre ranch in Pescadero, Calif. — which raises prime grass-fed beef — to ask them to join his efforts. People involved in the discussions say Mr. Steyer is seeking to raise $50 million from other donors to match $50 million of his own.

That’s some big money – and Steyer told the NY Times it might be a low-ball estimate compared to what he would spend to influence climate policy. By comparison, the long-established League of Conservation Voters spent about $15 million on campaigns in 2012.

Steyer’s San Francisco-based Next Gen Climate Action political machine is said to be targeting campaigns for Florida governor (GOP incumbent Rick Scott is … gasp! … a climate change skeptic) and Iowa’s Senate race because “a win for the Democratic candidate, Representative Bruce Braley, an outspoken proponent of measures to limit climate change, could help shape the 2016 presidential nominating contests.”

No word on what Steyer plans to spend in California. But since the state is already certifiably climate-crazed, he just might spend all his money elsewhere.

Abominations Dodged, Abominations Passed

Photo: Josh Arason

Photo: Josh Arason

The Legislature has wrapped up its work, passing on a passel of truly bad bills to Gov. Brown, who will sign most of them. A few truly abominable bills didn’t pass, thankfully. Here’s the rundown:

Abominations Passed

California is on its way to once again having the most onerous gun control laws in the nation, as these bills passed:

  • SB 374 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento — would add all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines to the state’s list of banned assault weapons.
  • SB 475 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco — would ban gun shows at the Cow Palace exhibition hall for all intents and purposes, since its requires approval from San Francisco and San Mateo supervisors for such shows.
  • SB 683 by Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego — would require owners of long guns to earn safety certificates like those already required of handgun owners.
  • AB 48 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley — would ban conversion kits that allow people to turn regular magazines into high-capacity magazines.
  • AB 180 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland — would give Oakland an exemption from state pre-emption so it can pass its own stricter gun registration or licensing statutes.
  • AB 711 by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-South Gate — would ban use of lead ammunition in hunting. One of my clients, Tejon Ranch, jumped the gun on this one (pardon the pun), banning lead ammo a number of years ago in order to protect condors from lead poisoning they were getting from consuming lead shot in carrion they were eating. That’s great, truly, but I worry that anti-gun forces now have an easy lift to find reasons to ban copper and other types of ammo as well.

Other abominations:

  • Planned Parenthood-sponsored AB 154, would allow nurses, midwives and other non-doctor medical professionals to perform abortions in Planned Parenthood clinics – saving the big abortion group big bucks – and elsewhere.
  • AB 10 by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville — would hike the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $9 next July and to $10 in January 2016. Gov. Brown has signaled enthusiasm for this bill, which (natch) will give California the highest minimum wage in the land,. And that will make California less competitive. Fortunately, an indexing provision that would have resulted in automatic increases was dropped.
  • SB 4 by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabasas — would impose regulations on fracking and other alternative means of extracting oil and gas. Most fracking in California occurs 1,000 feet or so below aquifers, so the risk of damage by fracking is tiny compared to the economic benefits fracking will bring. Greens opposed this bill because they thought it didn’t go far enough, but they needn’t  worry: This is California where regulations just get tougher and tougher, until they go far beyond what logic and science would dictate.
  • AB 4 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco — the TRUST Act, would partially withdraw California’s cooperation in the federal Secure Communities deportation program. The California Immigrant Policy Center, which would like to see illegal immigrants treated as citizens (at a minimum), loves the bill: “The TRUST Act limits cruel and costly requests from immigration authorities to detain people in local jails for extra time, and local expense, just for deprotation [sic] purposes.” In other words, lawful jailing of illegal immigrants pending deportation is now unlawful in California.
  • More notoriously on the immigration front, AB 60 by Alejo would let illegal immigrants living in California obtain driver’s licenses. Brown has signaled he will sign it, which would break his campaign pledge to fight drivers licenses for illegals. Another slide down the slippery slope to no borders.

Abominations on Ice

Before popping open the champagne, remember that any of these bills not passed by the Legislature could come back next year – and several likely will:

These gun control bills didn’t make it on their first try:

  • SB 47 by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco — would have banned “bullet buttons” that allow fast swapping of rifle magazines.
  • SB 53 by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles — would have required background checks for ammunition purchases.
  • SB 396 by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley — would have forced Californians to give up all ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, no matter when they were bought. Its a short step from being forced to turn in your gun components to being forced to turn in your guns.

Also on ice:

  • One of the worst bills of the session, SB 323 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach, didn’t make it this year. It would have revoked the tax-exempt status of any “public charity youth organization,” such as the Boy Scouts, that discriminates on the basis of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, nationality or religion.
  • Some may think I’m out of my gourd saying SB 135 by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Van Nuys  is an abomination, since it would require that the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services develop a comprehensive earthquake early-warning system. What could be wrong with that? Well, for starters, there currently is no feasible earthquake early-warning system to install. It would be smarter to watch China and Japan, which are dumping billions into developing a system, to see if they come up with something that works. If they do, we can copy it and save the billions California would waste on overwrought systems that don’t work, as is our tradition.
  • AB 976 by Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego — would have allowed the California Coastal Commission to impose fines. The Commission is, as I wrote in Crazifornia, already the Star Chamber of the coast. More power is something it does not need.

The Democrats and their friends in the media insist on calling this session a moderate one, saying they restrained themselves from charting too Progressive a course in order to protect their chances in 2014′s elections. So, this mess is moderate, Crazifornia style.

 

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California’s Mullet Budget

It’s all hoopla in Sacramento today as Jerry Brown and the Legislative leaders sign the 2013-2014 California state budget into law. Jerry calls the balanced budget a sign that things are rosy in California again.

I say rose is just another shade of red.

The budget keeps the state employee pension gravy train intact, along with its $500 billion dollar hit on future generations. It doesn’t do nearly enough to address our debt, which is now pegged at $100,000 per California household. And it keeps the multi-billion-dollar boondoggle known as California High Speed Rail on track.

But wait, it gets even worse than that.

mulletThe guy with the best line about this dangerously expensive sham of a budget is Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell of Camarillo who called it “the mullet budget” – Conservative in front, very liberal in back.

He pointed to how the budget defers the restart of several expensive social welfare programs that were cut during the recession until the 11th month of the fiscal year. If those very expensive, very ongoing programs were implemented at the start of the budget year, or even  half way through the budget year, the budget would not be balanced. So … conservative up front, liberal in the back. Brilliant!

Of course, the next California budget will have to start with the assumption those programs will be in effect for all 12 months, so a new trick will be needed to balance the books. Maybe a new tax on millionaires ….

For more on what’s wrong with the budget Brown and the Democrat super-majority are pretending to be so happy about, read this post by Katy Grimes at CalWatchdog.

 

Small Respect for Small Business

Cagle - Fleeing California

Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) recently tried and failed to get the California Assembly to pass a resolution in support of small business. Democrats in the Assembly Committee on Jobs, Economic Development and the Economy killed the resolution on on orders from Assembly leader John Perez (D-Los Angeles) and replaced it with a new resolution.

The new resolution transformed the specific pro-small-business recommendations Allen had included in his resolution into platitudes that included no hint that state taxes, laws and regulations might actually hinder small businesses.  Undeterred, Allen offered an amendment which would have added this language:

California’s policymakers can act to relieve the uncertainty of doing business in this state by keeping taxes low, fair, stable and predictable, by reducing the regulatory and litigation costs of operating a business, by investing in public and private works that provide the backbone for economic growth, and by ensuring the availability of high-quality skilled employees.

What a good bunch of ideas! That’s why, as Katy Grimes reports at Fox & Hounds, “Democrats, led by Majority Floor Leader Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, killed Allen’s amendments in a hostile parliamentary move and vote.”

Heaven forbid that California should do anything to support small businesses – the employers of 52 percent of the state’s workforce.

 

Jerry Brown’s Zombie Budget

Gov. Brown presentation of the annual May revise of the state budget this morning wasn’t the duck-and-shuffle we’ve grown used to, in which our gov du jour confesses that revenues weren’t nearly as good as “projected” (read: in our wildest dreams) when the budget was first released in January, then launches into a long list of proposed cuts.

PlagueZombiesNope, the Prop 30 tax increase and an improved California economy have the state economy up and walking again … if a bit zombie-like. Brown led the zombies with a dreary but true warning that the economy is still under threat, with lots of stuff at the federal level (sequestration key among them) trickling down to hurt the state.

There’s also plenty wrong in California, as it trudges along dead-eyed and scary with a burden of up to $1.1 trillion of combined state and local government debt, and an over-sized, over-paid, over-coddled and under-performing quarter million state employees. We’re also waiting to see if the recent tax hikes and California’s ongoing regulatory zealotry will increase the exodus of business owners and the wealthy from the state, taking their tax payments with them.

Dem Response: Polite Hostility

The Democrat super-majority knows it has to say it’s dedicated to not squandering the current cash flow, but look at their reactions and you see some between-the-lines and not so between-the-lines clues that they are cued up and ready to spend, baby, spend. All quotes are from the SacBee.

I agree we must aggressively pay down our state’s debt and set aside money for a reserve, but there’s a disappointing aspect to this proposal. It’s important that we also begin making up for some of the damage done to tens of thousands of Californians. – Sen. Pres. Pro Tem  Darryl Steinberg

Our economy is showing signs of recovery but our budget is sending us mixed signals. The modest surplus we now possess took a lot of sacrifice to obtain and we cannot squander it. With many Californians still out of work, this budget is not just about paying down debt and saving money for a rainy day. It is also about growing our economy and broadening opportunities for Californians to succeed through education and a better environment for small business. – Assembly Budget Committee chair Bob Blumenfield

The May Revise continues to shortchange the most vulnerable in our state–such as those who need health care, child care, access to justice, or essential support services to escape poverty. – Dem Assemblyman Robert Dickinson

Mr. Dickinson, have you not heard that California spends three times more per capita on social welfare programs than it should, based on national per capita averages? We need to shortchange many welfare recipients more, not pay them more.

California’s fundamentals are still wrong. We are too dependent on taxing the wealthy, we are a long way from getting control over burgeoning pension and benefit costs, far too much education funding is wasted on fulfilling unnecessary reporting mandates from Sacramento and paying under-performing teachers, and, as mentioned above, our social welfare programs need to be brought in line with other states’.

But at least the budget’s in the black for a change.

 

The State of the State of Despair

casosGovernor Brown had something to say to Crazifornia this morning as he kicked off his State of the State speech:

Against those who take pleasure, singing of our demise, California did the impossible.

That would be me – about 300 pages worth of singing of our demise, or at least the increasing probability of our demise.

The impossible, as Brown defined it, is that “We have wrought in just two years a solid and enduring budget.” I agree it’s two years since he took office. I’m not at all ready to call the budget solid and enduring, as it is based on a lot of assumptions that still could go sideways.

Brown was quick to give credit to those who had a part in “doing the impossible.”

You, the California legislature, did it. You cast difficult votes to cut billions from the state budget. You curbed prison spending through an historic realignment and you reformed and reduced the state’s long term pension liabilities.

That’s a pretty impossible characterization of what the state did. Pushing prison expenses off to counties instead of addressing the root causes isn’t fixing anything, and it’s certainly not heroic. It just transfer to pain to counties that can’t fight back.

The touted reform and reduction of the state’s long term pension liabilities, while welcomed, was akin to the rate of speed of a great Roman galley when only one oarsman is rowing. Trimming around the edges is not a haircut. Reducing benefits for new hires still saddles us with 30 years of unaffordable liability from the previously hired. (More on this in a minute.)

Then, the citizens of California, using their inherent political power under the Constitution, finished the task. They embraced the new taxes of Proposition 30 by a healthy margin of 55% to 44%.

Yes they did, and now we get to watch the Legislature burn through that money instead of approaching it, to use a favorite word of the Sacramento majority, with sustainability as a goal. And watch tax revenues drop off in the latter years of Prop 30′s seven year life as business owners peel out to other states, taking their taxability with them.

Members of the legislature, I salute you for your courage, for wholeheartedly throwing yourself into the cause.

What else is he going to say to his Democrat super-majorities? Now came the most telling 22 words of the speech:

I salute the unions–their members and their leaders. You showed what ordinary people can do when they are united and organized.

And there you have Jerry Brown. A union guy through and through. A guy who knows who’s buttering his bread. A guy who knows that big, fat public employee unions equal big, fat Democrat election margins.

Things are looking better in California since I wrote the last word of Crazifornia. Unemployment is down. That’s good; we’re all for less human suffering. And tax revenues are up. That’s certainly one way to close a deficit – not my favorite way, but certainly a way.

Still, sorry Jerry! I’m still singing of our demise. I’ll change my tune when taxes go down and California starts treating businesses like assets instead of asses; when the union grip on Sacramento is loosened and we seriously address the $250-$500 billion shortfall in public employee benefit funding by rewriting contracts and reducing benefits for existing employees; and when we have a governor who kills High Speed Rail and stops trying to single-handedly save the world from climate change.

It’s not too much to ask. But in California it is, to use Brown’s words from earlier today, doing the impossible.

The Twelve Days of Crazifornia

“On the twelfth day of Crazifornia,
Gov. Moonbeam gave to me twelve months of craziness,
Eleven propositions
Ten UC tuition hikes,
Nine “high-speed rail links,”
Eight states’ worth of takers,
Seven-ty percent underfunded pensions,
Six billion in debt
Five fleeing comp’nies,
Four bankrupt cities,
Three falling bridges,
Two super-majorities
And a tax hike on millionaires.”

California was even crazier than this in 2012.

It looks like Guv Moonbeam re-gifted us this year. After all, we got twelve months of craziness last year, and the year before that, and the year before that, and the year ….

I am one day late posting the twelfth of the twelve days because my wife and I are in Arizona visiting our oldest daughter, who fled California because of one of its major crazy features: unaffordable housing. In California, the cost of over-regulation adds 30 percent or more to the cost of housing, which explains why all ten of the nation’s top ten cities for regulations’ burden on housing costs are in California.

Legislators are well aware of the impact their regulations are having on the housing industry, and they know how important new home sales are to the state’s economy.  As recently as 2007, new home sales – not resale homes, just new ones – generated more dollars in sales than any other industry in the state, even more sales than all the retail sales combined.

If they would dial back the regulations, it would help they state. The Democrats in Sacramento know this. So what did they do in this crazy year? They increased the energy efficiency standards for new homes, which will add at least $1,500 to the cost of even the most modest home  – and even more in the most hard-hit parts of the state.

Crazily, California already has the nation’s most demanding home energy efficiency standards. We’re doing a great job. We can rest on our laurels and still be the best in the nation. But no, recession or not, the Legislature ratcheted up what the state demands of homebuilders.

Why? To save the world from global warming of course. Will a small incremental gain in the energy efficiency of homes in a state where new homes already are extremely energy-efficient cause global temperatures to drop? No, of course not. It will do nothing but make the state less attractive.

Here’s some more California craziness from 2012:

One-third of the nanny-state laws passed in the nation were passed by California legislators, including most famously one that would make it illegal to try to turn around gender confusion issues in children.

California became the #! Judicial Hellhole in the nation, the #1 state for outrageous pay to state workers, topped by a state psychiatrists’ “earnings” of $822,000, and the #1 state for the number of people in poverty.

During the year, school districts all over the state started obligating themselves to expensive bonds to meet their outrageous pension obligations. Schools in Poway (San Diego County), for example, took on bond debt that will cost $1 billion in order to meet pension obligations of $100 million. A school district having pension obligations of $100 million? That’s almost as crazy!

Speaking of San Diego County, San Diego sued itself over a bridge that cost twice its estimated cost.

The year also saw the state’s first carbon credits auction under its first-in-the-nation state carbon cap-and-trade program. (Less crazy states aren’t considering such a program, or have delayed them because of the recession.)  Moonbeam wanted $1 billion  from the auction but only got $289 million. Do you sense the whole campaign against carbon is more about raising state revenue than saving planets?

On and on it goes. Obviously, the craziest thing that happened all year occurred in November, when voters sized up the Democrats who are so responsible for much of the state’s crazinesses and decided to award them with a legislative super-majority.

Expect things to be even crazier in 2013.

 

The Eighth Day of the Twelve Days of Crazifornia

“On the eighth day of Crazifornia,
Gov. Moonbeam gave to me eight states’ worth of takers,
Seven-ty percent underfunded pensions,
Six billion in debt
Five fleeing comp’nies,
Four bankrupt cities,
Three falling bridges,
Two super-majorities
And a tax hike on millionaires.”

All the presents are wrapped ‘neath the tree with great care – stacks of the materials stuff that is definitely not the reason for Christmas. And guess what? We worked very hard all year to earn the money needed to buy them all. Not one was bought on credit, and certainly no welfare checks contributed to the goodies.

Not so with many in the Golden State – those who came here or stay here because of the state’s overly generous social welfare programs.

Am I being a Grinch for calling out California’s largess towards the “less fortunate” (including a great many “less hard working”)? Not at all. California has eight states’ worth of takers, or put another way, there are as many people on welfare programs in California as there are in the next eight states combined. Yes, our population is bigger, but when you adjust for our size, we still have three times more welfare recipients than we would have if our eligibility rules and benefits were average instead of exceptional.

Obviously, there’s room for sizable cuts in our social welfare programs. But whenever even symbolic cuts are suggested, newspaper headlines and TV teleprompters are full of headlines of doom, of “swaths cut through programs for the poor.” Don’t count on the media to tell the truth of the situation – that you could cut a couple swaths through the programs and still be more generous than most states.

So, here’s the new, unfortunate California paradigm: The state’s full-frontal assault on business (See “Five Fleeing Comp’nies.”) is driving at least five, and probably more like 15, companies out of the state each week. With them go the producers, the taxpayers, the supporters of society.  Meanwhile, exceptionally generous welfare programs attract other states’ takers, the folks who don’t pay taxes, those who drain society.

You would think it would occur to the Dem-packed California legislature that this arrangement is not a sustainable, to use one of their favorite words. But  they’re Progressives, so caring and feeling good is more important than fiscal reality.

Oh, well. It’s Christmas Eve, so on this night of our Savior’s birth, let’s not quibble over political fare. Giver and taker alike, may everyone’s plate be full, may there be gifts and family that bring joy, and may there be praise to God on this most blessed night!

The Second Day of the Twelve Days of Crazifornia

“On the second day of Crazifornia,
Moonbeam gave to me two super-majorities
And a tax hike on millionaires.”

I finished writing Crazifornia immediately after the June 2012 primary election, so it ended a bit more up-beat than I thought it would. After all, voters in San Diego and San Jose had just voted overwhelmingly to aggressively address those cities’ public employee pension programs.  What could go wrong?

November could go wrong – and boy, did it!

California voters passed two tax hikes and rejected a much-needed end to public employee unions’ ability to mandate political contributions from their members, which was bad enough. Then they made things infinitely worse by granting the Democrats – who are most responsible for the state’s sad condition – super-majorities in both the Senate and Assembly.

Their new super-majorities mean the Democrats will no longer have to look for a Republican or two who will join them in voting for tax increases. With two-thirds of the votes in both houses in the Democrats’ hands, they will now be free to raise taxes whenever, on whomever and however much they want to.

Do you think the wealthy and successful will stand for this? Or will they pack their bags?

And it gets worse. Two super-majorities mean Democrats can impose new legislation retroactively, rush legislation through the process and increase the amount of high jinx they can pull off during marathon end-of-session legislation orgies.

And it gets even worse. Gov. Brown is now our only defense against Dems Gone Wild – how scary is that? – but with super-majorities, the Assembly and Senate can override the governor’s vetoes.

Happy New Year … not.

Into The Belly Of The Beast

San Francisco and Sacramento, watch out! Here comes Crazifornia!

At 7 a.m. this Monday, Dec. 10, I’ll be talking Crazifornia on the Armstrong & Getty Show, which airs on KKSF 910 AM in San Francisco and KSTE 650 AM in Sacramento. This is really exciting, because the battered minority of people who “get it” in those two cities need some moral support, and the vast majority in both cities definitely need to hear what their crazy politics and policies are doing to this once-wonderful state.

The show also airs in Stockton on 1280 KWSX. Stockton, as you may recall, recently filed for bankruptcy, so folks there could use a little Crazifornia, too.

If you’re in listening range and aren’t still sleeping, tune in! You can also listen online by clicking the “Listen” tab here. A podcast also is available.