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FlashReport Weblog on California Politics

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BOE Member George Runner

Tax Freedom Day Delayed Again

Like it or not, Californians must work 114 days this year to pay federal, state and local taxes—that’s four more days than last year.

Although the average American celebrates Tax Freedom Day on April 18, Californians must wait nearly a week longer—until April 24—to join the celebration.

Tax Freedom Day, calculated annually by the Tax Foundation, is the day Americans have earned enough money to pay their annual tax obligations at the federal, state and local levels. This year’s national Tax Freedom Day is five days later than last year.

California’s Tax Freedom Day is four days later than last year and eight days later than two years ago. Compared to other states, our Tax Freedom Day is now the sixth latest in the nation, up from eleventh last year. Only Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Illinois have later dates.

As bad as California’s rank is this year, the Legislature seems intent on making it even worse. It’s churning out so many new taxes and fees it’s hard for the experts to keep up, let alone the average California taxpayer.

Although the Tax Foundation considered the impact of Propositions 30 and 39,… Read More

Katy Grimes

Really good state budget transparency bills – will they be killed?

In 2012, the state Legislature passed 80 budget “spot” bills — empty bills with no details. Such measures just sit on a shelf and await last-minute bill language, then are put forward for late-night passage on the last day of the budget session.

These are often the most controversial bills of each session. When lawmakers use them to avoid the legislative process, which requires committee hearings for all bills, it is clear that their goal is to avoid transparency and public involvement.

This has long been the norm. It has arguably been encouraged since the 2010 adoption of Propositions 25 and 26 into the state Constitution, allowing the Legislature to pass a budget on a simple majority vote and requiring a supermajority vote to pass fees and taxes by the Legislature, respectively. Lawmakers routinely take major policy changes and potential tax increases and drop them in trailer bill language.

Gorell and other Assembly Republicans target ‘waste, fraud and abuse’

To counter this practice, Assembly Republicans are pushing budget reform and transparency measures.… Read More

Katy Grimes

Legislature uses anti-gun laws as diversion

How convenient. Instead of focusing on criminals released the last two years under AB 109 and now committing new crimes, the California Legislature is diverting citizens’ attention by taking up gun control. AB 109 was the prison “diversion” law that dumped thousands of criminals from state prisons onto local jails, many subsequently being released into the general public.

A hearing in the Assembly Public Safety committee Tuesday advanced the diversion while making the majority Democrats seem “tough on crime.”

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence was one group that testified at Tuesday’s hearing. It advocates more gun control, while saying, “We all deserve to live in communities free from the fear and threat of gun violence.”

For a group to make such a definitive statement about public safety, there is oddly nothing on its website about… Read More

Katy Grimes

Caltrans director about to be quietly reconfirmed

Caltrans is an agency in trouble. The most recent buffoonery involves putting California motorists at risk, with the 30 broken bolts discovered on the newly renovated San Francisco Bay Bridge. And apparently Caltrans knew about this.

A recently released report from the California League of Cities , California State Association of Counties and other transportation organizations found only 56 percent of California’s local streets and roads were deemed to be in “good” condition, and 49 of the state’s 58 counties were rated “At Risk” or in “Poor’ condition.

“By ‘streets and roads,’ the report is also referring to bridges and essential components like sidewalks, storm drains, curbs and traffic signs,” the AllGov California website… Read More

Katy Grimes

Neighborhood Legislature could restore accountability

Big spending on California politics has become one of the state’s largest industries. But the return on investment is lousy.

California’s political system has become so heavily manipulated by labor unions and other big money interests that the system is broken. Legislators have become professional fundraisers instead of managing public policy. And the individual voter no longer has much voice or influence.

It may sound farfetched, but the only way to fix this system is to expand it. California needs more lawmakers.

For democracy to work, it must be representative democracy. It must be a government of, by and for the people.

The Neighborhood Legislature

Last year Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, pushed an initiative for a part-time Legislature. She succeeded in bringing much needed attention to the broken system. And… Read More

Katy Grimes

Alameda County ‘secretary’ will retire wealthy

Is anyone still buying the idea that government workers are “public servants,” and so valuable they must be paid so much more than their counterparts in the private sector? Or are some just better scammers?

Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi is currently paid more than $420,000 in pay and benefits… and she will receive more than $420,000 annually for the rest of her life.

“The County Administrator is responsible for the implementation of policies and decisions of the Board of Supervisors,” the Alameda County website says. She’s the top secretary. It’s what we used to call today’s ‘administrators.’ Her office is responsible for managing the clerical support work for the County Supervisors.

ABC News in the East Bay reported Susan Muranishi is paid a base salary of nearly $302,000. And Muranishi is allowed to pile on more than $121,000 in other compensation,… Read More

Katy Grimes

Sacramento jumps the shark on arena deal

Some people want something so badly, they’ll sell their souls to the devil, they’ll ignore facts, reason and important details. A case in point is Sacramento politicians, and the ongoing arena obsession.

Sacramento’s Mayor Kevin Johnson, tweeted Saturday evening he and city officials have reached a $447.7 million arena deal at the Downtown Plaza with a public-private partnership.

There’s only one problem — Sacramento can’t afford it.

Billed as “the largest redevelopment project in city history,” the project will have up to 1.5 million square feet of offices, housing, stores and a high-rise hotel.

The deal would require the city to commit “$258 million in value, or 58 percent of the arena cost,” according to the Sacramento Bee. “Of that, $212 million would come from selling bonds backed by future revenues from city downtown parking… Read More

Katy Grimes

Sacramento growth plan: more low-income housing

When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. But not in downtown Sacramento. There isn’t anyplace to shop in Sacramento’s downtown any more, other than the one remaining Macy’s in the wilting Downtown Plaza shopping mall. But even that store is on the chopping block, should Mayor Kevin Johnson’s vision of a “world-class city” with a downtown arena, actually come to fruition.

But now, there is yet another new plan to “save” downtown and the K Street Mall.

The historic K Street Mall

K Street, along with J Street, was Sacramento’s original main street, chosen because it was the most direct route to Sutter’s Fort from the river.

During the gold rush, K Street became the main business street. Dry goods stores and hotels appeared along K Street to sell goods to new arrivals and miners. Many of Sacramento’s first fortunes were made… Read More

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