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California Editorial Rdp

January 24, 2018

Jan. 24

Santa Cruz Sentinel on Brown’s budget legacy and the next California governor:

It’s the final year, we think, of Gov. Jerry Brown’s 16 as California’s chief executive.

And, in this second lease on political life that concludes next January, Brown will apparently leave the state in decent financial shape.

It’s a far cry from when he took office for his third term in 2011, when the recession still was in full-misery overdrive and California was trying to make up a $27 billion shortfall.

But Brown, the sequel, became the penny-pinching governor the state needed. His reluctance, with some unfortunate exceptions, to hold down spending and sock money away for the next downturn, has served California well — aided and abetted by a roaring economic expansion, and voter-approved tax hikes.

The result? An expected general fund budget surplus of $6.1 billion for the next fiscal year starting in July.

So open the floodgates, and let the spending begin, right?

Not according to Brown’s latest budget proposal released earlier this month — his last as governor and one that will be inherited by his successor.

The $132 billion general fund plan (Brown’s first-ever budget, unveiled for the 1975-76 fiscal year was a bit more modest — $11.5 billion) calls for only modest spending increases and puts more money into his recession-weatherproofing rainy day fund, which would rise to $13.5 billion. It fully funds the Local Control Funding Formula for public schools two years early and also proposes paying down state debt and putting more toward improving the state’s long neglected infrastructure.

But the political winds are already brushing against the lame-duck governor’s budget. On the left, Democrats, including his would-be Democratic successors, want to spend more. Republicans, what’s left of them in California, want to save more and cut taxes.

And there’s other storm clouds. Although the governor relented on education funding and now agrees that school districts should disclose how they spend money intended to help the neediest students, the reality is that dozens of state school systems with dismal test scores and major academic achievement gaps won’t get any extra funding help this year, due to a new rating system.

And Brown will leave office with unfunded liabilities for public employee pensions and health care still looming like a tsunami (that fortunately did not come calling after Tuesday’s earthquake off Alaska). These have expanded by tens of billions of dollars during his watch.

Then there’s the governor’s pet project, high speed rail. The first phase of the state’s high-speed rail project is now estimated to cost $2.8 billion more than previously thought.

This recent hike in estimated costs for the 119-mile Central Valley portion of the project is not the first revision. The project was originally expected to cost $6 billion — but the California High Speed Rail Authority revised its estimate to $7.8 billion in 2016. The segment now is expected to cost $10.6 billion, a 35 percent increase over the previous estimate.

This latest revision could result in the authority asking the state for more money — and this is just the first segment. And just the latest issue. The state auditor needs to take another look at the project to see if it’s being properly planned and funded — which could lead to Brown’s successor having to pull the plug.

So while we applaud the governor for delivering a fiscally responsible budget as a final testament to his long stewardship of the state, the good fortunes Brown has enjoyed may not carry over to the next governor. After eight years of penny pinching, Democrats are going to want to open up the spending tap again. Inevitably, another economic downturn will come calling, along with political headwinds that will be hard to resist in what has become a one-party state.

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Jan. 24

The Mercury News on Trump’s solar tariff costing U.S. jobs, threatening California’s clean energy future:

Donald Trump is launching a major assault on renewable energy in the guise of a free trade policy.

His 30 percent tariff announced Monday on solar panel imports from nearly every country around the world deals a major blow to the clean energy industry in the United States. It will cost thousands of jobs here — installation is the big job creator in this industry, not manufacturing — and it will raise costs of solar for California homeowners and utilities.

All so the president can further line the pockets of oil and coal tycoons whose industries pollute the environment and deplete the finite supply of fossil fuels.

Trump claims the tariff is necessary to give U.S. solar manufacturers a level playing field. He notes that imports from China, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam constitute more than 80 percent of the solar panels sold in the United States.

But Solar Energy Industries Association CEO Abigail Ross Hopper forecasts that the new policy will cause a net loss of 23,000 jobs because of anticipated delays or cancellations of billions of dollars in solar investments. And energy experts say the tariff is too little, too late to spark a significant increase in solar panel manufacturing in the United States. It will just reduce demand.

Say this for Trump: He is consistent. The president yanked the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord last summer, giving us the dubious distinction of being one of only two countries (the other is Syria) rejecting a goal of reducing carbon emissions. He has opened vast new areas to oil, gas and coal extraction, rolled back regulations on power plant emissions and initiated tax reforms that damage solar and wind financing,

Solar panels have dropped in price by roughly 30 percent since 2016 and, before the tariff, were projected to drop another 27 percent by 2022. That would have helped California meet the Legislature’s mandate for half of the state’s electricity coming from renewable sources by 2030, about double what it is today.

Good luck hitting the target now. The tariff is generally projected to result in a 10-15 percent reduction of solar installations through 2023.

The tariff also risks starting a trade war with China. The president rants and tweets about the trade imbalance between the countries, with China exporting four times more goods to the United States than it imports. If the solar panel tariff draws a response from the Chinese government, however, the battles could affect U.S. steel, tech and agriculture industries. Big ag in particular could be damaged in a trade war with China, and it’s another Trump base.

But this is not about trade, or even about China, since the tariff affects nearly all panel imports. It’s about destroying a clean energy industry to shore up the dirty ones that the president’s friends run. The ultimate cost will be paid by American consumers who will lose the ability to dramatically lower their utility bills.

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Jan. 23

Ventura County Star on what’s next for women’s rights marchers:

Marchers again gathered en masse in Ventura County and across the nation to support women’s rights and resist Donald Trump, putting to rest any questions about the staying power of last year’s rallies.

The numbers may have dropped a bit this year, and the energy may have been more subdued when compared with the 2017 marches, which came only a day after President Trump’s inauguration. Yet the movement endures to again face the question: What next?

There will continue to be plenty of battles — immigration and abortion rights, environmental regulation, health care, the #MeToo campaign against sexual assault and harassment. But a popular protest sign at Saturday’s marches may offer the best what-next answer: “Grab Him by the Midterms.”

The Ventura County Rising march in Ventura drew an estimated 1,500 people Saturday, compared with 2,500 a year ago. Estimates at the Los Angeles march ranged from 500,000 to 600,000, similar to last year’s numbers.

That so many people returned this year was a good sign for organizers looking to solidify the movement as they seek to change Congress in the midterm elections this November. “Last year, I just felt kind of angry and impassioned,” marcher Ann Dee Allen told the New York Times on Saturday. “This year, I just feel like I’m in it for the long haul.”

In fact, 390 women are planning to run for House seats so far, including 314 Democrats, according to Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers. And of those 314, 184 are seeking seats held by Republicans, Walsh told the Times.

“Women have become the foot soldiers and emerging leaders of a two-pronged effort: sustained political resistance to the Trump presidency, as they run for office in unheard-of numbers; and a broader cultural challenge to men’s power and privilege, embodied by the #MeToo uprising,” writes Susan Chira, the Times’ senior correspondent for gender issues.

The Ventura County groups that formed after Trump’s election — Justice For All Ventura County, Indivisible: Conejo, Indivisible Ventura, Suburban Women’s Advocacy Network — have been active this past year. They’ve formed committees to tackle specific issues, sponsored rallies and movie screenings, offered book clubs and monthly forums, swamped legislators with phone calls and letters, and registered voters. Some observers told The Star they hadn’t seen so much activism since the Vietnam War.

One of their next big tests will come June 5, when California holds a primary election featuring a host of local, state and federal races. No matter where you fall in this debate, we encourage you to register to vote by the May 21 deadline.

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Jan. 23

The Orange County Register on Amazon ‘HQ2’ bidding cronyism by definition:

Last week, Amazon announced the 20 finalists under consideration for the company’s second headquarters. The Los Angeles area is the only West Coast entrant to make the cut.

Back in September, the internet giant announced plans to open a second headquarters in North America and solicited bids from states, counties and cities for why their respective jurisdictions should be chosen as the site for the headquarters.

The announcement sparked a frenzy of offers across the country to encourage Amazon to select their areas. More than 200 jurisdictions in the United States, Mexico and Canada submitted proposals, which were largely kept secret.

Some localities sent gifts, including a cactus from Tucson. The city of Stonecrest, Georgia offered to de-annex a portion of its boundaries to create “the city of Amazon.” Others appealed, through video or newspapers, for the sake of bringing jobs to their communities.

But above all, what Amazon sought — and received — was offers of massive taxpayer subsidies, promises of favorable regulatory treatment and other such incentives.

The governor of Maryland is seeking passage of a $5 billion incentive package to lure Amazon to Montgomery County, which is among the finalists. New Jersey has offered $7 billion in incentives to bring Amazon to finalist Newark.

While it isn’t known if the Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. bid being considered by Amazon will include similar incentives, Gov. Jerry Brown last year publicly offered Amazon $200 million in tax credits, local property tax abatements and expedited permits and approvals if the company selected a site in California.

What is known so far is that the LAEDC proposal includes nine locations throughout Los Angeles County, including three in the city of Los Angeles. Further details have not been disclosed.

Meanwhile, the details of a rejected combined Long Beach and Huntington Beach bid for Amazon has been released. The Press-Telegram reported that the two cities were willing to allow Amazon keep a portion of sales tax dollars that would have come from Amazon employees spending in the city, set aside a portion of bed tax revenues for services and infrastructure needs near Amazon locations and form a “red team” to speed up permits.

Fundamentally, the idea of state and local governments giving special privileges and breaks to large corporations capable of financing their own operations should offend taxpayers and business owners across the state. If local governments recognize that lower taxes and speedier permits make their respective jurisdictions more competitive, they should reduce taxes and hurdles across the board.

The tax credit program Brown has offered to leverage to solicit Amazon was recently called out by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office for poor metrics of success. The LAO instead suggested the state consider reducing the corporate tax rate, reducing the minimum tax or pursue other changes to improve the state’s business climate.

Large corporations should not receive special treatment or special tax breaks from government. Crony capitalism is antithetical to a free enterprise system and wrongly privileges those with the most money and most political clout.

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Jan. 19

The Santa Clarita Valley Signal on getting involved in issue of homelessness:

It’s time to have an honest conversation about homelessness.

For starters, the Santa Clarita Valley is not immune from the housing crisis.

Rents continue to climb on what seems like a monthly basis.

Multigenerational homes are the norm, and the path to being a homeowner just isn’t as easy as it used to be 10-15 years ago — some of that’s for good reasons, but the reality is, as they say these days: The struggle is real.

And accordingly, we hope our community approach and views on homelessness, and how to help those less fortunate, continue to evolve.

We must move past the Not-In-My-Backyard, or NIMBYism, and make it a community concern.

And we can’t be quite so arbitrary in who we help, or how we address the problem.

As the concerns associated with homelessness continue to grow, we start to see it even in the more rural parts of Los Angeles County, such as Castaic, where the issue traditionally and largely has been “out of sight, out of mind.”

More recently however, we began to notice residents posting about such concerns.

In fact, “Castaic Community 411,” a Facebook group that discusses the good, the bad and, more generally, what’s happening in that corner of the Santa Clarita Valley, started a thread of concern regarding a younger, blonde transient who had taken up residence near a freeway off ramp.

The group was initially concerned the young adult was a transient who might have been an out-of-state victim of human trafficking — another very real concern in this population, and a term that’s only really become more common in recent years as our societal views on the sex trade have evolved — and then it later became apparent that the woman, who frequently appears under the influence of controlled substances, was not the person reported missing.

Maybe she suffered the same apparent fate as the elderly homeless man who usually sits in front of a nearby doughnut shop not far from that same Castaic off ramp - out of work, short on luck, long on hardship - but he sits there, daily, without a Facebook group to track his movements, regular visitors who offer help or much else, save for his tall beer can that’s wrapped in a paper bag.

But whether that’s his choice, her choice or the only station they’re at in life because they’re a victim of a circumstance we can’t know or don’t understand, don’t they all deserve the same compassion?

They all, as fellow humans, deserve the same access to services we’d want our family members to have in an unfortunate accident.

And that’s why next week is such a hugely critical event, not just for the city of Santa Clarita, but for L.A. County, and for human nature.

The homeless count taking place Tuesday is perhaps the most important thing you can partake in to help the homeless.

For years, the numbers have been low, for a number of reasons: the population is hard to track, some of these folks have put themselves in dangerous or bad situations due to choices they’ve made and others seek to avoid the stigma that can come with being perceived as weak or needy in our nation.

But they count, and must be counted.

We must have accurate numbers, so we can adequately address a problem so it can be treated.

Whether you think those folks have chosen to be there, and they can go help themselves, or you’d like to see them have more access and services - which is still basically the spectrum for the discussion - we need to know how many of those are less fortunate, and what it would take to help those in need.

We implore residents to become involved, if not by volunteering, or sharing what can be spared, then clear an evening. Stop by The Center on Tuesday, and help the homeless stand and be counted.

Ignoring their problems, our problems and the community’s concerns will not make them go away — of this much we can be certain.

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