The federal government is right to audit California’s bullet train project

By Jon Coupal | Last week, the federal government announced that it would audit California’s high-speed rail project. This is welcome news for those who have believed from the very inception of the project that it was doomed to failure.

A weekly column by Jon CoupalBullet train cheerleaders and their allies in the California Legislature have worked hard to conceal the true status of the project as well as its viability. Only recently, after years of rising costs and blown deadlines, has the legislature finally agreed to conduct its own audit.

Whether the state audit will be meaningful remains to be seen, given the enormous political pressure to paint Gov. Jerry Brown’s pet project in the most favorable light. Certainly the federal government is more likely than the state to conduct a serious and impartial audit.

The audit will be conducted by United States Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation. Like other OIGs — there are 73 such offices in the federal government — the inspector general will employ both forensic auditors and a variety of other specialists. Their mission includes the detection and prevention of fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement of government programs and operations.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Posted in High Speed Rail (HSR), Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Jon Coupal | Leave a comment

Fullerton City Hall is closed today for another three-day weekend

City Hall Closure Dates and
Observed Holidays

2018
January –1*, 12, 26
February – 9, 19*, 23
March – 9, 23
April – 6, 20
May – 4, 18, 28*
June – 1, 15, 29
July – 4*, 13, 27
August – 10, 24
September – 3*, 7, 21
October – 5, 19
November – 2, 11*, 16, 22*, 23*,30
December – 14, 24*, 25*, 26^,27^, 28, 31*

*Holiday observed
^Winter Closure

Fullerton City Hall

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Annual HJTA report documents almost half a trillion dollars in government waste, fraud and abuse

As many Californians raced to meet Tuesday’s deadline to file their tax returns, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association released its annual Follow the Money report, exposing waste, fraud, and abuse of almost half a trillion hard-earned taxpayer dollars.

The report documents examples of bureaucratic fraud and negligence, including a $440 million train meant to haul trash that will likely never be used, a group of doctors defrauding Medicare of $147 million by submitting false claims for prescription drugs, and $175 million in the University of California’s budget reserve funds that were “hidden.”

“At every moment of every day, Californians are taxed,” said Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. “Follow the Money not only documents our government’s imprudent waste of taxpayer dollars, but gives taxpayers the ability to call foul on politicians’ claims that they don’t have enough money and need higher taxes.”

To read the report, please click here.

Posted in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Jon Coupal | Leave a comment

Watch last night’s city council meeting

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Tonight’s city council meeting agenda

The AgendaTo read or download tonight’s detailed council meeting agenda, please click here (pdf).

The public participation portion of the meeting begins at 6:30 with presentations and awards. Actual city business normally doesn’t start until 7:00 or thereafter.

And you can also watch it on cable Channel 3 (Spectrum — formerly Time Warner Cable).

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Time to terminate Townsend

By Jack Dean | Item #8 on tomorrow night’s Council meeting agenda is a proposed four-month extension of the contract with Townsend Public Affairs — the city’s lobbyist — for $5,000 per month.

Rather than extend it, the Council should terminate it.

Last August, the City Council voted to oppose SB 714 — a bill by state Senator Josh Newman that would interfere with years (decades, actually) of negotiating and cooperating with the owner of West Coyote Hills and would, in effect, be a state take-over of the property.

Below is the letter of opposition sent by the Fullerton City Council to Senator Newman:

Note that this letter was sent to Senator Newman last August after the Council had been blind-sided by SB 714 . Townsend had not kept the Council informed about the planned legislation. Plus, Townsend’s staff member assigned to Fullerton, Cori Williams, had colluded with Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva, Councilmember Doug Chaffee, and enviro-obstructionist Angela Lindstrom on the bill and purposely kept the Council out of the loop until after the legislation had already been introduced. It made for a pretty heated discussion at that August 1st meeting.

So the Council immediately sent this letter of opposition to Senator Newman.

But in checking up on the status of the bill in February — six months later — I was startled to see this summary of opposition/support by the Office of Senate Floor Analyses stating that no opposition to SB 714 had been registered:

No Opposition Received?
Isn’t it the job of our $60,000-a-year lobbyist to monitor communications like this and make sure that the city’s position — especially on an important issue like West Coyote Hills — is accurately reported to members of the Legislature?

Townsend Public Affairs should have been fired last August. Their fecklessness should not be rewarded with an extended contract now. It’s time to terminate Townsend.

You can download the City of Fullerton’s letter of opposition to SB 714 here.

You can download the four-page Senate Rules Committee analysis of SB 714 here.

Posted in 29th State Senate District, Bruce Whitaker, Josh Newman, SB 714, Townsend Public Affairs | 2 Comments

Did the enemies of Proposition 13 blink on ‘split-roll’ initiative?

By Jon Coupal | A reporter for the Bay Area News Group stopped by the government office in Santa Clara County and concluded that while people standing in line to pay their property taxes were upset with the heavy burden, they had scant knowledge of California’s iconic Proposition 13. What most were probably unaware of is that their taxes would be at least twice as high without Prop. 13.

A weekly column by Jon CoupalMany people who live in California today were not here in 1978 when Proposition 13 was passed overwhelmingly by voters. Today’s younger homeowners have little idea how frightened and angry citizens were in the mid-1970s when their property taxes doubled or even tripled from the previous year.  Homeowners were literally being taxed out of their homes.

But despite having no personal memory of the pre-Prop. 13 era, most Californians have at least heard of Proposition 13 and, when prodded, recall it somehow helps to keep escalating property taxes in check.

In June, Proposition 13 will hit its 40th birthday. While long-time homeowners will surely celebrate, those in government with an insatiable appetite for taxpayer dollars are hoping that voters will be ready to weaken it.  But previous attacks on Proposition 13 have come up short. At most, Prop. 13 was weakened by court decisions involving fees and charges as well as attacks on the two-thirds vote requirements.  But those attacks were quickly countered by subsequent ballot initiatives such as Proposition 218 in 1996, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, which reinforced Prop. 13’s original intent.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Posted in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Jon Coupal, Prop. 13 | Leave a comment

Nearly 1 million signatures filed for initiative to strike Prop. 13’s ‘moving penalty’

By Jeff Collins | Backers of a statewide initiative aimed at expanding Prop. 13 for senior homeowners have submitted almost a million signatures to election officials, more than enough to qualify the measure for next November’s ballot, the California Association of Realtors, the initiative’s principal backer, has announced.

Now election officials must verify the petitions to make sure they contain the required 585,000 voter signatures needed to place the measure on the November 2018 ballot.

If approved, the Prop. 13 “portability” measure would allow homeowners who are 55 or older to take their low property tax base with them after selling their home and buying a new home anywhere in the state. There would be no limit on how many times they can use the provision and no limit on home prices (although buying a more expensive home would result in a slightly higher “blended” tax assessment).

To read the entire news story, please click here.

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That ‘split roll’ you heard about? It’s less a Prop. 13 fix than a pension bailout

San Diego Union-TribuneEditorial, The San Diego Union-Tribune | Proposition 13, the landmark 1978 ballot measure credited with touching off a national anti-tax revolution, has never stopped being controversial. Critics say its cap on annual property tax increases and its two-thirds voting requirement for government bodies to impose new or higher taxes has hamstrung California and been a public policy disaster. That argument, of course, is undercut by the fact that — despite these obstacles — state residents still have among the nation’s highest overall tax burdens.

Nevertheless, it’s far past time to fix a jaw-dropping Proposition 13 loophole that makes it easy for businesses acquiring property to avoid the automatic reassessments faced by people buying homes. All they have to do is ensure that no one in a partnership taking ownership of the property has more than 49 percent control of the partnership. In such a transaction, it is the maddening conclusion of Proposition 13 that there is not a change in ownership.

Even the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, whose namesake sponsored Proposition 13, realizes this is wrong. It backed reform legislation introduced in 2014 that would have defined ownership as having changed whenever at least 90 percent of a property shifts hands, even if there is not a majority owner.

But that legislation died abruptly in the California Senate amid rampant scuttlebutt that Proposition 13’s critics didn’t want to fix its biggest flaw. Why? Because that flaw is a powerful argument for “split roll” — the insider term for a plan to preserve Proposition 13’s protections for homeowners while ending them for commercial properties such as hotels, shopping centers, warehouses and factories.

Now the split roll push has begun. Public employee unions and liberal groups are gathering signatures to put a measure before state voters in the high-turnout November 2020 election that would mandate annual reassessment of commercial properties. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates this would generate $6 billion to $10 billion annually in new revenue, of which 60 percent would go to local governments and 40 percent to schools. A fact sheet touting the measure depicts these funds as manna from heaven that will improve schools, parks, transportation, health care and a long list of services.

But the truth is the new revenue instead inevitably would go to deal with the pension tsunami inundating local governments and school districts.

To read the rest of this editorial, please click here.

Posted in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Prop. 13, Property Taxes | Comments Off

Popeye character’s bad credit a model for California spending

A weekly column by Jon CoupalBy Jon Coupal | “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today.” That was the catchphrase of J. Wellington Wimpy, simply known as just “Wimpy” on the “Popeye” cartoon show. For good reason, the proprietor of the diner rejected Wimpy’s request because of his reputation for not paying on Tuesday.

The inability to repay one’s debts can come with severe consequences, as anyone who has borrowed money from a loan shark can attest. California, despite record revenue coming into the state treasury, has a real problem with debt. High on that list, of course, is the state’s multi-billion-dollar unfunded liabilities for its pension obligations. But we have a problem with bond debt as well.

State-issued bonds can be a legitimate method to finance public projects that have a long useful life. But key to bond financing is a clear and predictable plan to repay those bonds.

California is now on the verge of adopting a second massive boondoggle plagued with financing issues. We are all familiar with the notorious high-speed rail project that was sold to voters as a safe and economical alternative to air travel between Northern and Southern California. A third of the money was to come from the private sector, a third from the feds and the rest from the sale of Proposition 1A bonds. All three of those revenue sources have disappeared in a puff of smoke and, instead, the HSR project is kept on life support through “cap-and-trade” revenue that didn’t even exist when voters approved the original bond.

To read the entire column, please click here.

Posted in Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Jon Coupal | Comments Off