California public employee pension crisis an increasing drag on cities and counties

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Judge smacks down Attorney General for ‘misleading’ language on gas tax repeal ballot initiative

By Katy Grimes | In a stunning court rebuke of the state Attorney General’s Office, a Sacramento Superior Court Judge announced Friday that Xavier Becerra’s title and summary for the Repeal of the Gas Tax initiative is “misleading and is likely to create prejudice against the measure”— and that he’d “do a rewrite himself” to make it clear the measure would repeal Jerry Brown‘s increases gas taxes and vehicle fees.

Katy GrimesCalifornia Attorney General Becerra’s title placed on the gas-tax repeal reads: “Eliminates recently enacted road repair and transportation funding by repealing revenues dedicated for those purposes.”

Assemblyman Travis Allen, R-Huntington Beach, who is running for Governor, filed the ballot initiative to repeal the gas tax, and sued the Attorney General over the misleading ballot title and summary.

Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley said in court Friday that the words “tax” and “fee” don’t even appear in the title of the gas-tax repeal effort. “The problem with the Attorney General’s title and summary is that an ordinary, reasonable elector, who is otherwise unfamiliar with the initiative, would not be able to discern what the initiative would do,” Frawley wrote in a preliminary decision Tuesday.

The initiative seeks to repeal a package of taxes and fees that would generate more than $5 billion annually.

To qualify for the November 2018 ballot, Allen’s campaign will gather more than 365,000 valid signatures from registered California voters within 180 days from when he receives the newly written title and summary.

To read the rest of this column on the FlashReport, click here.

Posted in Ballot Measures, Gas Tax, Josh Newman, Katy Grimes, Travis Allen | Comments Off

Reminder: Mayor’s ‘Talk Around Town’ is tonight at CSUF at 6:30

The free event will be held at the Alumni House, 800 State College Blvd. between Nutwood Avenue and Yorba Linda Blvd., and there’s free parking. Click on the graphic below to enlarge the map.

Talk Around Town - September 26

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Will taxpayers trust the GOP again?

By Jon Coupal | The California GOP is rapidly approaching the edge of a black hole from which there is no escape. But rather than reverse course by appealing to the needs and aspirations of average Californians, the response by some Republicans in the Legislature is to rush forward to throw themselves into the abyss by supporting policies that punish the middle-class.

A weekly column by Jon CoupalOnly a quarter of California voters are registered Republicans, barely more than those declaring no party preference. In the Legislature, Republicans number less than a third of lawmakers in each house.

There was a time when even some Democrats in the Legislature supported a healthy economy, taxpayers’ rights and Proposition 13. If any still exist, they are hiding under their desks. Over the last two decades, that party has lurched to the left and those now in Sacramento are devoted to serving the interests of government (aka public sector unions), the ever-expanding entitlement class and the wealthy denizens of coastal enclaves.

To read the entire column, please click here.

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

Today’s update on the Newman recall and the initiative to repeal the gas tax

Carl DeMaio was again a guest on the John and Ken Show on KFI Radio for a brief segment:

Posted in 29th State Senate District, Jon and Ken Show / KFI Radio, Josh Newman, Recall | Comments Off

Last week Josh Newman cast key votes for billions in new taxes and debt

Yesterday the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association sent the following email message to subscribers:

It’s always bad when politicians hit us with new taxes and add to our ballooning debt with new spending we can’t afford. But it adds insult to injury when they increase our taxes and debt in last-minute, late-night votes right before leaving town – and that’s exactly what Sacramento did late last Friday night.

Josh Newman

Tax raisers rubber-stamped $300 million a year in new taxes and $8 billion in increases to our debt – and again Josh Newman cast key votes in support.

You can read the vote records for yourself here, here, and here.

Newman has shown he will not stop approving tax increases, despite tens of thousands of his constituents demanding his recall for casting the deciding vote in favor of the recently-approved gas tax hike.

The Newman recall is moving forward and your support is more critical than ever for our effort to send Newman home and deny tax-raisers their supermajority power.

Click here to donate now to recall Josh Newman.

REMEMBER: The lobbyists and special interests know they can count on Newman to keep raising taxes and distributing taxpayer money to them. They plan to spend big to keep Newman in office.

Posted in 29th State Senate District, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Josh Newman, Taxes | Comments Off

California legislative session ends with higher taxes

By Steven Greenhut | California’s legislative session, which completed its work in the wee hours Saturday morning, was one of the more controversial ones in years, given the degree to which the Democratic majority was able to secure various tax and fee increases. It was also one of the more divisive recent sessions from a partisan standpoint.

Steven GreenhutThe most significant measures passed long before the session’s deadline. In April, lawmakers passed a controversial 12-cents-a-gallon gas-tax increase by a razor-thin margin. The law also increased vehicle-license fees. In July, they passed a 10-year extension of the state’s cap-and-trade program, with the help of several Republican legislators. The Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates the measure could increase gas prices as much as 63 cents a gallon by 2021.

But the final hours of the session were still filled with tension. The housing package worked out between Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and legislative leaders had stalled in the final days, but snuck past the finish line. The package includes three bills. One (Senate Bill 35) would streamline the approval process for high-density affordable housing projects, but requires contractors to pay union-based prevailing wage rates on those subsidized projects in return.

The other two parts of the deal have a bigger tax-and-spend element to them. SB2 imposes new fees of $75 to $225 on various real-estate transactions to help fund subsidized high-density housing projects. SB3 will place before voters on the November 2018 ballot a $3 billion state housing bond that likewise will fund the construction of low-income housing units.

The gas tax increase has sparked a GOP-led recall effort of Fullerton-area Democrat Josh Newman, mainly because of his vote to support the increase—and because he represents a GOP-heavy district. Democrats passed two bills this session to change the recall rules to help the embattled senator, but that issue is working its way through the courts. If Newman loses, Democrats would lose their supermajority in the Senate. Anti-tax activists also are gathering signatures for an initiative that would repeal the new gas tax and license fees.

To read the rest of this column on the Reason website, please click here.

Posted in Josh Newman, Steve Greenhut | Comments Off

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

City Hall Closure Dates

January – 1*, 2*, 13, 27
February – 10, 20*, 24
March – 10, 24
April – 7, 21
May – 5, 19, 29*
June – 2, 16, 30
July – 4*, 14, 28
August – 11, 25
September – 4*, 8, 22
October – 6, 20
November – 3, 10*, 17, 23*, 24*
December – 1, 15, 25*, 26*, 31*

*Holiday observed

Fullerton City Hall

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Cities throughout the state are ‘gravely concerned’ about ‘unsustainable’ pension costs

By Ed MendelThe city manager of once-bankrupt Vallejo expects soaring police pension costs to reach 98 percent of pay in a decade. Lodi employees dropped from 490 to 390 in the last decade. And Oroville, after cutting a third of its staff, recently cut police pay 10 percent.

Eight cities struggling with rising pension costs urged the CalPERS board yesterday to analyze two ways to reduce the cost of pensions, even though the proposals were said by the CalPERS attorney to be unconstitutional under current law.

Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, asked the CalPERS board to analyze the cost of suspending cost-of-living adjustments and giving current employees, for work done in the future, the lower pension for employees hired after Jan. 1, 2013, under reform legislation.

John MoorlachThe chairman of the League of California Cities pension committee, Bruce Channing, Laguna Hills city manager, told the CalPERS board that cities throughout the state are “gravely concerned” about “unsustainable” pension costs and all options should be considered.

“Cutting staff, as we have done in my city, is becoming a recurring pattern,” Channing said.

Five unions and retiree groups urged rejection of Moorlach’s request, saying a COLA cut would harm retirees with small pensions. They said Moorlach wants to do away with pensions and should do his own analysis, rather than pass the cost to CalPERS.

The CalPERS board president, Rob Feckner, said he won’t repeat what he said on first seeing the Moorlach letter. He said the request did not come from the entire Legislature, and if Moorlach really believes in his “pet project” he should find another way to fund it.

Vallejo filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and did not cut pensions, a trend followed by the Stockton and San Bernardino bankruptcies in 2012. Vallejo said CalPERS threatened a long legal battle. The other two cities said they needed to be job competitive, particularly for police.

There was speculation several years ago that Vallejo, which had higher costs than the other two cities, may be headed for a second bankruptcy. The Vallejo city manager, Daniel Keen, said he took office three months after Vallejo exited bankruptcy in 2011.

Keen told the CalPERS board yesterday that Vallejo has the same gradual erosion of services that the other seven cities talked about, despite an increase in the sales tax and a tax on medical marijuana.

“We are facing dramatic increases in our pension rates, as are many cities,” Keen said. “We will be looking at 98 percent rates for public safety by ’27-28 and 55 percent rates for our miscellaneous employees in that time frame.”

The Lodi city manager, Steve Schwabaurer, thanked the board for its courage in acknowledging there is a “crisis” and taking some steps. But he said he has not seen a discussion of options other than asking the cities for more money.

He gave examples of Lodi’s reduced services and employees: “In 2008 we had 490, today we have 390. In 2008 we had 78 police officers, today we have 71. In 2008 we had five active fire stations, today we have four and a quarter.”

Schwabaurer said CalPERS is projecting that Lodi’s pension rates will increase to 38 percent of pay and 78 percent of pay. He said the projected rates will burn up the general fund reserve and the pension stabilization fund.

To give union representatives in the board audience a sense of what that means, he said: “That is one of my police officers 24 hours a day. It’s a fire station. It’s all of my parks and rec, and all of my library. It’s not a choice we can make.”

The Oroville finance director, Ruth Wright, said the city’s workforce was cut by a third two years ago to balance the budget. A recent 10 percent pay cut negotiated for police was “very hard, very sad,” she said, and now pension rates are projected to double in seven years.

“In three to four years our cash flow is going to be gone,” Wright said. “We don’t even know how we are going to operate past four years. We have been saying the bankruptcy word, which is not very popular.”

West Sacramento’s assistant city manager, Phil Wright, said the city was able to successfully bargain with unions to get through the financial difficulty after the recession began in 2008.

“Now I’m sitting at the table telling them there is no money after they have taken 5 percent cuts, paid all of their PERS, and it’s because we can’t afford any money,” Wright said. “Every penny that has been returned to our general fund in property tax and sales tax is going to pay for our PERS benefit.”

Others urging CalPERS to do the cost analysis requested by Moorlach were Concord, Santa Rosa, Chico, Yuba City, and the California Special Districts Association.

To read the rest of Ed Mendel’s column, please click here.

Posted in CalPERS, John Moorlach, Pensions | Comments Off

Watch last night’s city council meeting

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