It’s not my imagination — State Senate President Darrell Steinberg has been much more prominent and verbose than his counterpart, Assembly Speaker John Perez, when it comes to the state budget. Maybe it is because while Steinberg (in his immature way) is focused on trying to pass a state budget complete with massive tax increases, Perez is focused on his quixotic quest to eradicate the City of Vernon. That’s his prerogative, of course. This isn’t new, last year he obsessed over legislation concerning carpets, dragging it into Big 5 budget negotiations. Yes, carpets.
As I have written before, I am not about to start defending some of the indefensible, outrageous conduct of Vernon politicians and top staff members going back a century. The Vernon City Council is working overtime to try and implement governance chances, which has earned them kudos from former State Attorney General John Van de Kamp. The former AG was hired by Vernon, but says his review was independent. I don’t agree with Van de Kamp’s politics in general (though I like the family bakery donut holes), but I don’t question his integrity. The ever-aggressive City of Vernon, which has every reason to go “all in” to avoid an extinction event has hired (among others) a mucky-muck lawyer, Kathleen Sullivan, the former Dean of Stanford Law School. She publicly articulated in a column in yesterday’s Sacramento Bee the case for why Perez’s legislative efforts to “undo” Vernon do not pass constitutional muster.
Ever since Perez went public with Assembly Bill 46 the business community of Vernon, which is pretty sizable (according to a recent study, Vernon businesses directly employ 55,000+ people, $1.1 billion in taxable sales, and nearly $350 million in generated state and local tax income), has been working overtime to try and kill Perez’s legislation because disincorporation, if I can be blunt, would end Vernon’s only reason for existence, which is to be an incubator for industry. The city has functioned for a century in a more or less “benevolent dictator” form of government. Many out there have already penned anecdotes about how Vernon’s own power utility, and other business-friendly policies create a uniquely positive business environment — so I won’t go into it here. The prospects of being “absorbed’ into LA County, or even worse over the long term, the city of Los Angeles, undoubtedly causes these Vernon employers, and their employees, a great deal of concern, as well it should.
But wait, suddenly there is new legislation being put forward by Perez, Assembly Bill 781, to supposedly address the concerns, not of the business owners, but of the union bosses that represent over 10,000 union members in Vernon. One of the big problems with the kill-Vernon plan is that it dumps all of these businesses into relatively business-unfriendly Los Angeles County jurisdiction, where they would all be under the thumb of a Board of Supervisors dominated by a liberal majority that over taxes and over regulates businesses on a consistent basis (my good friend and former employer Supervisor Mike Antonovich, a Republican, could spend hours and hours talking about the misplaced priorities of the Democrat board majority with which he must contend).
This new Perez bill creates a false impression that it “protects” Vernon businesses by creating a new Community Services District (CSD) to “transition” the area formerly known as Vernon until eventually, after some time, everything would become part of the Borg that is Los Angeles County. The problem is that the bill would actually make the five LA County Supervisors the governing board of the CSD. And almost all of the so-called “protections” for Vernon businesses can be undone by the Supervisors. Frankly even if the CSD wasn’t governed by the Board of Supervisors, it is still a lame idea. It would put Vernon’s businesses on the equivalent of the Titanic after striking the iceberg, just waiting for the ship to eventually sink. So I am prepared to call “BS” on this phony Perez bill.
I’m thinking that I would not be in a hurry to nuke Vernon just yet. But then again, today the Los Angeles Times editorializes against Perez’s AB 46. As a conservative Republican, I typically just take the opposite position of the elitist liberals on the Times’ editorial board. So maybe I should change my mind…
In the meantime, perhaps the fact that Perez himself will start forfeiting his pay if Democrats don’t pass a truly balanced budget by month’s end, maybe the Speaker should focus more on budget negotiations, and less time on job-killing legislation.