Is there hope for California?


Nothing cheers up an old tax-and-spend liberal than word that two major new sources of state revenue -- enough to begin closing the gap in education funding -- are at least on the table in Sacramento.

At the state Democratic Convention April 13, delegates approved a resolution calling for a split-roll property-tax system, removing commercial property from the protection of Prop. 13. There's a group called Evolve working on this statewide, and Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has a bill that would end a loophole that allows corporations to buy and sell property without reassessment.

And now there's also a campaign gearing up to establish an oil severance tax -- something that every other oil-producing state already has. As oil and gas companies try to create a new oil rush in California, fracking their way to billions, the public ought to get a little something. After all, the oil below the ground belongs, in a sense, to all of us, not just to the companies that can stick a pipe into it.

Meanwhile, organized labor is attacking the Enterprise Zone Tax Credit, which is basically a corporate giveaway.

Not all of this is going to happen this year. Even with the overwhelming Democratic majorities in both houses, tax reform is tough; there are armies of lobbyists who will fight it all the way. And any ballot measure would need serious deep-pocket funding, since the California Chamber of Commerce, the real-estate industry and Big Oil would pour tens of millions in to defeating it.

Still: You have to start somewhere, and five years ago, none of this would have even been under discussion. So maybe there's hope for California after all.








We'd have to see the language on split roll first. Every homeowner's fear is this is just he first step to repealing Prop 13 - something Tim has long lusted for on these pages

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 2:50 pm

does not drive out expro, I'm very wary of any erosion of Prop13 on the slippery slope principle.

With CA income and sales tax both the highest in the nation, it's not clear why CA residents and businesses should not get a break on at least their property tax, especially since the cost basis for properties is so high here.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 3:45 pm

so there's a nibbling around the edges with the long-term goal of repealing it entirely and going back to the 60% average annual property tax increases of the 1970s. What homeowner in CA wants their property tax bill doubled every other year?

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 4:01 pm

the 1970's, so they do not fully understand how much at the mercy of corrupt politicans people were back then. You can move income, purchases and indeed yourself if taxes go up too much. But you cannot move your house so you are a sitting duck for corrupt policies unless you have a protection like Prop13.

People like Tim also forget that Prop13 was easily approved by the voters and remains very very popular.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 4:17 pm

Prop 13 was the number one way The Boomer screwed all the generations after them. You enjoyed great public education and a free UC education and made sure that no one else after you had those things. "I got mine, screw you" became the motto of the Middle Aged Boomer.

Even more obscene is that Prop 13 was followed by Prop 58 and Prop 193 where wealthy Boomers passed their low tax rates on in perpetuity to their privileged heirs. Just because your Daddy bought some property 100 years ago shouldn't give you the right to get public services tax free.

That is the kind of shit that led to the French Revolution. You do know that right?

Posted by glenparkdaddy on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 11:10 pm

taxes, which are both the highest in the nation.

CA property tax revenues have increased by 7% per annum on average since Prop 13. That is not restraint; it is excess.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 12:46 am

compared to any Republican plan past or present, and it shows every sign of remaining so.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 3:36 pm

It's essentially a form of vote buying.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

Tax breaks for the rich in exchange for kickbacks of campaign cash. The calculus of modern American democracy practiced by both parties; though the Repugs naturally stand in the fore.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

Everyone uses money to try and influence things. It's part of the point of having it.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 4:19 pm

The unions are not very effective at leveraging their resources, which are a pittance compared to corporate resources and an abundance compared to anyone else.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 5:23 pm

Disagree. I met with the head of an education reform group in Sacramento recently. He said that the California Teachers Association is the fourth branch of government in this state. They control that town.

Posted by The Commish on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 6:42 pm

but on the other hand, the wealthiest Americans have seen their income skyrocket in recent decades under policies realized through their monetary donations.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 8:39 am

Teachers, likewise, are on the retreat. The unions are incapable of confronting the corporate attack on them unless the unions cut deals with corporations to save themselves at the cost of their rank and file. It is a terrible situation. You can't expect for those facing mortal threat to act as rationally as those posing the mortal threat.

We should pay teachers $100K per year and be done with it. That investment will be money well spent.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 9:02 am

Look at the Prison Guards Union- a very influential organization. AFL-CIO is also very effective at organizing get out the vote campaigns etc.

Posted by Whackamole on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 8:15 am

The prison guards, like the building and construction trades, have alliances with conservatives and that is why they are successful.

The AFL-CIO should be disbanded given the deterioration of economic circumstance and security amongst the vast majority of American workers over the past 40 years.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 8:31 am

Tax breaks for the rich in exchange for kickbacks of campaign cash. The calculus of modern American democracy practiced by both parties; though the Repugs naturally stand in the fore.

Posted by lillipublicans on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

Reagan did a good job of simplifying and lowering taxes, but critically he failed to reduce spending. Same thing with W.

Politicians love to cut taxes but they love to spend as well. Then they wonder why we have deficits.

Jerry Brown took a better approach. Although he raised some taxes, he really took an axe to spending, and I respect him for that.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 4:14 pm
Posted by The Commish on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 4:10 pm

That's why I always vote NO on revenue measures. Every time, regardless. The only exception was one time on a police bond.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

"Is there hope for California?"

Not as long as people like Tim Redmond control the politics of the State.

Posted by Demented, Yet Terribly, Terribly, Persistent on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 4:11 pm

The voters routineluy reject his ideas and policies.

Otherwise we really would be in a mess.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 17, 2013 @ 4:24 pm

Actually, people like me don't control much of anything in Sacramento. If we did, DYTTP, the state wouldn't be broke, the gap between the rich and poor would be much smaller, school funding would allow true educational excellence and free higher education ... all crazy commie ideas. Like the 1950s.

Posted by tim on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 3:26 pm

be living in mud huts paying 75% taxes on our grub worm pickings.

Free higher education is a do able and good thing, but we would also be paying for all the crazy stupid shit you would dream up that always comes well before education.

Living in a mud hut at 22 learning for free to do multiplication tables so as to get a job at the grub worm farm isn't an appealing utopia.

Posted by Matlock on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 12:02 am

This is not a "direct assault" on Proposition 13.

It is merely trying to close the loophole that lets commercial property owners pay the 1979 tax paid on their property.

For example, the Bank of America building has changed hands six times since 1979. But the tax has not.

Posted by Troll The XIV on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 6:47 am

But the fact that much of the tax funds will go to cover teachers' pensions, not to classroom education, needs to be addressed:

"No pension problem is in greater immediate need of attention than the one at Calstrs. Unless addressed, more and more tax dollars will go to pension costs instead of to the classroom. In fact, not only would the proposed tax increase provide just two-thirds of the Calstrs request but a recent study from Stanford University says the system actually needs to triple, not just to double, its current contributions. That means even less money will make it to the classroom.
If children are to succeed in this very competitive world, they must receive a world-class education. In California, that won’t be possible so long as politicians continue to steal from them by refusing to address the single most important issue affecting school funding. Money from tax increases should make it to the classroom, and for that to happen, politicians must address pensions."

Posted by Troll The XIV on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 10:01 am

Teacher retirements are deferred compensation--those dollars are paid forward into the classroom and compensated later.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 10:20 am

I am sure that argument is convincing to the students in California who are getting a shitty education.

Posted by The Commish on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 10:46 am

But it's not a winning one. People don't want to hear it. They cannot see how guaranteed medical benefits after such a small term of employment and quick vesting into the pension plan is good for anyone other than union members. And they're correct. The unions are concerned about their member's benefits - not about the impact of those benefits on the general fund. They're out to protect themselves. This argument that they're operating altruistically is as bogus as the ones made by corporations that they're operating in the interests of anyone but their officers and stockholders.

Politicians operate in the interest of the strongest special interest group. The citizenry as a whole is now totally left out of the discussion. A fine example is the defeat of gun control - the entire debate was argued on the basis of which group would be better served and the stronger group won. National or "public" interests are no longer part of the conversation.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 1:37 pm

If you think that the quality of education is bad now, then wait until the compensation is further diminished and the pool of applicants broadens down to the truly mediocre. Teachers are different.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 4:04 pm

That's bullshit. No one EVER feels like they receive enough compensation. $60,000 a year average SFUSD salary + benefits is not "diminished" compensation. Besides - aren't teachers always banging on about how they don't do it for the money - but rather for "the children?"

Zero connection between compensation and quality of education. ZERO.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 8:29 pm

So why are private schools so expensive and pay teachers so well? Why do exclusive enclaves with broad tax, deep bases pay teachers so well?

Whenever people who give a damn about educating their kids set out to educate their kids, money is no object. Not that money should be no object, but it takes money to educate kids.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 9:43 pm

But somehow - it's never enough. And the answer is always: more money. Despite the fact SFUSD spends less on classroom instruction that most other school districts - 45% vs. a statewide average of 62%.

More money for administration = less for classroom instruction.

Private schools often, if not ALWAYS, have more motivated and involved parents for obvious reasons.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 18, 2013 @ 10:21 pm

Money spent on teachers is money spent in the classroom. We should pay teachers something like 110% the median income. That statement does not suggest that we should pay for bloated bureaucracy.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 7:26 am

although it seems arbitrary. But only if teachers agree to annual or bi-annual recertification in a process not controlled by other admins and teachers and only if they agree to give up tenure.

Private school teachers do not receive tenure.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 11:05 am

There should be quality control to be sure but that task is difficult as the quality of the product of the teaching process is not observable until decades after the fact and as the nature of each student differs.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 11:11 am

Where there cannot be measurable standards. Only teachers dare to make that argument: "Our work cannot be measured in any quantifiable way so therefore we deserve our jobs for life."

What a load of horseshit.

Posted by Lucretia Snapples on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 4:18 pm

I'm not suggesting lifetime employment. But there is more to measuring teacher effectiveness than teaching to testing which has grown to consume a significant amount of many districts' budgets. If other teachers can't measure teachers, then who is qualified to make professional evaluations as teaching standards change over time and feedback is delayed by decades?

Posted by marcos on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

Public school teachers are paid better than private school teachers in San Francisco. That's a fact.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 5:41 pm

Prove it.

Posted by glenparkdaddy on Apr. 22, 2013 @ 11:12 pm

Wow, as a private school teacher in San Francisco who would love to teach at a public school, but won't because I my young family would watch me take a $20K pay cut to do so, I disagree. And I love teaching and love working with kids of all grade levels, but my kids will attend public school here and I'd like to be a part of a movement to get private school teachers into public schools. We are just paid well in independent schools - without the need for a credential- and we stay put as a result. Independent schools are amazing but questionably sustainable and highly exclusive. Most public school parents I know are well-educated and willing to attempt to make up the low per pupil spending that is tolerated here. I am originally from a blue-collar, Republican state where education is highly valued - our only private schools were parochial. It is very strange in this state and it seems obvious to transplants that Prop 13 is the cause of the loss of middle class access to a high quality, world class, public education. California is certainly not a progressive state with regard to education, which is our norm in the Midwest, where we also have many immigrants and refugees - we are more heterogeneous than Californians might believe. Tuition in SF at independent schools (think of it as per pupil spending) ranges between $20-38K/yr - that is how much it takes to educate a child and treat your faculty tolerably well in this town. Education, if it is to be good, is an investment and it is clearly not cheap if you look at our private school success stories. We are invested in our schools because our school communities invested in us. Middle class and poor kids deserve environments where "tuition" (public investment) could at least be $15K to engage, challenge and support them as learners. I've heard that incarcerating youth incurs costs similar to those for schooling. It shouldn't be a risky proposition for students to attend public school in this stellar state. Occasional, catered lunch meetings for teachers in private schools are nice treats that we appreciate, but I imagine that public school principals would be in trouble if they bought anything other than bulk items from Costco. Public school teachers should be compensated, valued for their craft and experience, and treated very well to attract the best in the field.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 22, 2013 @ 11:17 pm

State employees, our beloved "City Family" , public employees, and The 1%-ers, are almost the only people left in the world who still have "defined-benefit" pension plans. The rest of us are stuck with 401-K and/or social security.

The city family and teachers are GUARANTEED 7% returns on their investments in retirement funds. They negotiated these contracts in the 1990s, when everybody assumed that the stock market would rise 7% a year indefinitely.

The stock market rose 0% in 2000-2010. But public employees, with their guaranteed compounded 7% returns, now have huge underfunded pensions waiting for them. And hence, larger chunks of funds intended for public-school students in California have to be funneled into the retirement pot instead of into the classroom.

This is unsustainable. And I hope parents become aware of how much tax money is going into pensions instead of the classroom

Posted by Troll the XIV on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 5:40 pm

The average retirement benefit for a Cal public-school teacher is $51,000 annually. I've been working all my life, and SS says I can collect about $2,000 a month if I retire at 70. Teacher's deserve decent wages and retirement income. But their underfunded retirement plans will increasingly mean more money taken out of the classroom:

"CalSTRS is the retirement fund for public school teachers in California. The average annual salary for teachers in 2010 was $64,156 and the average retirement benefit was $51,072 annually, more than the average salary for teachers in 28 states.

According to a 2011 report California teachers receive on average $25,440 per year. In comparison, retired teachers in Texas receive an average of $18,372 a year.

CalSTRS was dubbed a "high risk" problem for California by the state auditor in 2011. Without additional dollars from taxpayers, CalSTRS' assets "will be depleted in 30 years," the auditor's report says. CalSTRS is considered riskier than CalPERS because of a quirk in state law: CalPERS can impose higher taxpayer contributions, but CalSTRS must go to the Legislature for higher rates.
At the end of the 2011 legislative session, leaders of CalSTRS opted to begin a lower-key, multiyear lobbying campaign to convince Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers to approve a gradual increase in state, community college and school district contributions for the retirement of 852,000 public school educators. Without a contributions boost CalSTRS faces a projected $56-billion funding gap and could run out of money in 32 or 33 years, according to Chief Executive Ehnes. The fund has only 71 percent of the money estimated to meet pension obligations, a drop from the 110 percent funding level it had at the beginning of the decade. Experts consider 80 percent to be the minimum secure level.

The Legislative Analyst's Office announced California needs to pay an additional $4.5 billion a year for the next 30 years to bolster the teacher retirement fund. The report said if the state does not take action, the pension fund will run out of money by 2044. [41] The fund is facing a shortfall of $73 billion. [42] CalSTRS gets a combined $5.7 billion a year from the state, teachers and school districts. The LAO wants contributions to increase by a total of $4.5 billion a year, starting in 2014. [43] ABC reported combining the $4.5 billion with the current $1.4 billion annual contribution, the state would pay more for the pensions of retired K-12 teachers and community college instructors than it does for the entire University of California and California State University systems combined."

From "Sunshine Review"

Posted by Troll The XIV on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 6:00 pm

SO a contract is a contract when it is a MBS but a contract is not a contract when it is for retirement benefits. Makes perfect sense.

Posted by marcos on Apr. 19, 2013 @ 9:20 pm

Yes, a contract is a contract. So these obligations must be met. So, we must have either (or both):

1. Higher taxes
2. Reduced funding for the classroom.

Also, I'm sure these good retirement contracts will be negotiated for incoming workers. It has already happened for our beloved "city family" and for many police departments.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Apr. 21, 2013 @ 3:52 pm

and I fully hope that happens when the taxpayers and students anger at public sector pensions finally reaches boiling point.

Posted by Guest on Apr. 23, 2013 @ 12:49 am

The victimhood education complex has got to go. We don't have money for or need graduates in racial/gender grievance studies.

Posted by Chingon on Apr. 20, 2013 @ 6:01 pm