Archive for the ‘Budget’ Category

Blogroll Addition: Pension Tsunami

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Since they linked to me yesterday, I’ve finally done what I’ve meant to do for a long time, namely get up off my ass and add Pension Tsunami to the Blogroll. They offer a great daily news roundup on the looming unionized public sector pension crisis that threatens to bankrupt cities and states across the country (especially California).

I’ve also added the new “California/Pensions/Unions/Etc.” link category and moved Kausfiles there as well.

Expect more additions to that blog category Real Soon Now.

Kay Hagan’s Family Dips Their Beaks Into The Stimulus Trough

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

It’s no longer a surprise when Democratic cronies rake in the benefits from pork programs created by Democratic Senators and Representatives. After all, giving out taxpayer money to connected interest groups is pretty much the Democratic Party’s business model. However, the family of North Carolina’s Democratic Senator Kay Hagan has taken it to the next level:

Sen. Kay Hagan’s husband and son created a solar energy contracting company in August 2010, and then, using $250,644 in federal stimulus grant funds, her husband hired that same company to install solar panels at a building he owns.

Public records show that Green State Power was formed seven weeks before JDC Manufacturing — a company owned in part by Greensboro attorney Charles “Chip” Hagan III, Sen. Hagan’s husband — received the stimulus grant for the solar project at a 300,000-square-foot facility in Reidsville, N.C.

A story in late September on the Washington, D.C.-based website Politico revealed that JDC Manufacturing received “nearly $390,000 in federal grants for energy projects and tax credits created by the 2009 stimulus law, according to public records and information provided by the company.”

The story reported that JDC “was one of 27 in North Carolina to be awarded funds for energy-efficient projects, to the tune of about $250,000. The company received the money in 2011, after the first phase of the project was completed in late 2010.”

And needless to say, Kay Hagan voted in favor of the pork-laden stimulus her family so richly benefited from.

From a purely amoral viewpoint, you have to admire the brazen efficiency of sucking down the maximum amount of taxpayer subsidies at every stag of the project pipeline. It’s like The Human Centipede of recycled graft…

(Hat tip: Instapundit.)

Texas vs. California Update for September 17, 2014

Wednesday, September 17th, 2014

Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • The Texas economy continues to hum along:

    During the second quarter, Texas employers added 148,200 net nonfarm jobs—an average of 49,400 per month. This amounts to an 18 percent share of all jobs created nationwide over this period in a state with only 8 percent of the country’s population and about 10 percent of total economic output. Over the last year, the addition of 382,200 net jobs in Texas was more new jobs than any other state. These employment gains increased the annual job growth rate to 3.4 percent, which is higher than those of the national average and other highly populated states.

  • The city of Los Angeles is at an impasse over police raises: the police union (naturally) wants raises, while the city says they can’t afford them. So what happens next? The issue goes before the Employee Relations Board, which just happens to be packed with union-approved appointees. In one-party Democratic cities and states, it’s always government together with unions against taxpayers. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “The ugly reality is that so long as the boards of CalPERS and CalSTRS are controlled by public employee union loyalists, pension reforms enacted by state lawmakers and signed by governors will never live up to their billing.”
  • Jerry Brown lies about pension spiking.
  • Why San Antonio’s public-private partnerships are better at dealing with drought than Los Angeles.
  • A FAQ on Costa Mesa’s pension situation. Including answers to such questions as “How could the $228 million in unfunded pension liabilities affect the city budget?”
  • Watsonville, California passes a sales tax hike solely to pay for additional union pension payments.
  • A judge rules that bankrupt San Bernardino can cut firefighter pension benefits in order to exit bankruptcy.
  • A union-sponsored bill tries to increase liabilities for companies that hire contractors.
  • California is evidently cooking up a whole new batch of unconstitutional gun laws.
  • A look at phony baloney jobs numbers for California’s high speed rail boondoggle.
  • Firefly Space Systems is relocating from California to Burnet County, Texas. “King said Firefly was attracted to Texas partly because of its business and regulatory climate.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out California offers a lousy climate for business. Or to put it another way: My days of underestimating California’s ability to improve its business climate are certainly coming to a middle…
  • Drone-maker Ashima is relocating to Reno, Nevada from California.
  • If you hadn’t heard, Tesla is building its battery factory in Nevada, not California.
  • An actual good law out of California: A law that prevents companies from suing customers for negative reviews.
  • North Carolina offered twice as much incentive money to Toyota but still lost out to Texas for relocating their HQ.
  • Your dedicated BART employee in action:

  • Texas vs. California Update for August 25, 2014

    Monday, August 25th, 2014

    Another look at how Texas stacks up to the no-longer-so-Golden state:

  • Problem: Those lousy taxpayers get pension reform passed. Solution: CalPERS uses “99 categories of ‘special pay’” to go on a pension spiking orgy.
  • What are some of those 99 categories? “Clerks who type well. Cops who shoot straight. Librarians who are “assigned to provide direction or resources to library patrons.” I’m too scared to check if “Teachers who don’t rape their students” is an actual category or not…
  • Governor Jerry Brown is sending mixed signals on the pension spiking issue.
  • Who actually owns the CalPERS gap between actual funding and what they’ll need to pay out? “CalPERS can be risky (and it has been) with no consequences. The taxpayers have all the responsibility, but none of the control.”
  • So how much payroll and pension did Stockton trim in their bankruptcy? Zero.
  • There is no California comeback. “Personal income-tax revenues fell by 11 percent in the first quarter of this year and more than 6 percent through June.”
  • California cities are among the slowest to recover from the recession.
  • The only way California can get pensions under control is through a constitutional amendment.
  • Los Angeles Department of Water and Power is asking for more money. They’re also asking Angelinos to overlook their high salaries and lack of accountability.

    City leaders are battling with DWP’s union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 18, to release financial records of a nonprofit trust, run jointly by labor- and management-appointed trustees, that has run through $40 million in ratepayer money. Brian D’Arcy, IBEW Local 18’s business manager, has refused to turn over the trust’s financial records, and DWP executives have said they don’t know how the money was spent.

  • California voters get to weigh in on a 7.5 billion water bill in November, which seems to have considerably less pork than a previously delayed $11 billion bill.
  • So how does bankrupt San Bernardino plan to climb into the black? Cutting back on outrageous pensions? Ha, you must be high! “Help us, weed, you’re our only hope!”
  • I know this is a shock, but California’s High Speed Rail Authority is behind schedule on buying land for it’s doomed boondoggle.
  • Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz opposes ride share programs like Uber and Lyft. Strangely enough, he’s also received $11,000 in campaign contributions from the taxi industry. Quid pro, meet quo.
  • YTexas helps companies relocating to Texas connect with local businesses.
  • Ridiculous Bureaucratic Compensation in the UK

    Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

    It’s not just California. The bureaucratic apparatus has a way of feathering its own nests across the globe.

    Take the “town hall tycoons” in the UK, for example:

  • There were at least 2,181 council employees who received total remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2012-13, a fall of 5 per cent on the previous year’s 2,295.

  • Despite this, 93 councils increased the number of staff who received remuneration in excess of £100,000 in 2012-13.
  • Keep in mind that at current exchange rates, £100,000 is somewhere north of $180,000.

    Texas vs. California Roundup for July 30, 2014

    Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

    Another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • How Los Angeles is killing itself. (Hat tip: Karl Rehn.)
  • Texas places five cities on list of top 10 growing cities: Austin, Dallas, McAllen, Houston and San Antonio.

  • California school officials are still grossly overpaid. Including 31 janitors who make more than $100,000 each. (Hat tip (for this and a few more): Pension Tsunami.)
  • And many of these munificently compensated employees are double-dipping: “More than 1,000 retired instructors who had already begun receiving their state-funded pension continued to work and receive a salary from districts in 2013.”
  • Only in California could a bill that requires 32 years to catch up and fund parts of the California State Teachers’ Retirement System’s current $74 billion in unfunded liability be hailed as a major reform.”
  • Essential school services in California are about to be cut to pay for doubled pension payments.
  • San Francisco landlords are suing the city over a law that requires them to pay as much as two years rent for evicted tenants. Of course, many landlords were evicting people because insane rent control laws make it almost impossible to sell a building that actually has tenants…
  • How the Texas model supports job creation.
  • Evidently male students simply aren’t welcome in California colleges. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Actual headline: “LA Councilman Convicted Of Voter Fraud Will Continue To Collect $116K Annual Pension.”
  • What a conservative Texas budget should look like.
  • California retail apparel chain Love Culture files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Evidently summer bankruptcies for retail stories are very unusual, since this is the time they start stocking up for the holiday season.
  • Another California for-profit university chain shuts down.
  • Oakland Raiders to move to San Antonio?
  • Are inherited IRA’s exempt from bankruptcy hearings in California? It depends on which precedent the judge chooses to follow.
  • Not news: Houston ISD holds job fairs looking for teachers. News: In North Carolina.
  • Texas vs. California Update for July 3, 2014

    Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

    Enjoy Independence Day tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby wasn’t the only important Supreme Court case last year. The Harris vs. Quinn decision, invalidating mandatory union fees for home health care workers, could have a huge impact on SEIU in California. “where 400,000 state-paid in-home care workers are represented by the SEIU.”
  • Former CalPERS CEO to plead guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges.
  • At least 1,500 Bay Area employees have racked up $50,000 in yearly overtime. “A Monterey County jail guard who worked enough overtime to nearly triple his annual base pay to $264,000 last year.”
  • Wonder why San Bernardino is bankrupt?

    “San Bernardino, California, said that to exit bankruptcy it must terminate a union contract that pays an average annual salary of $190,000 to each of its top 40 firefighters,” according to an article in Bloomberg. That’s just salary. Firefighters receive the generous “3 percent at 50″ retirement package that allows them to retire with 90 percent of their final years’ pay at age 50. And there are lots of pension-spiking gimmicks and other benefits on top of that.

    “These cities are run for the benefit of those who work there. Public services are a side matter at best.”

  • Murrieta, California Protesters greet Obama Administration shipment of illegal aliens with protests, blocking them from being dumped in their community.
  • Judge strikes down Pacific Grove pension initiative.
  • Some bay-area California cities want to hike they local minimum wage. Hey, that won’t hurt businesses here in Texas, so knock yourselves out…
  • More on Toyota’s relocation to Texas, along with some tidbits on the Texas economy:

    Toyota’s move to Texas is a high-profile relocation, but Texas has been used to adding — and filling — new jobs at a superlative pace. The state added more than 1.9 million new jobs over the period from December 1999 to April 2014, more than 35 percent of the entire nation’s total for that 15-year period, noted Michael Cox, an economics professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. And Texas had an unemployment rate of just 5.1 percent in May, 16th-lowest in the United States.

    Meanwhile, Cox noted, Texas’s median wages are 28th-highest in the nation; and they rank 8th-highest after adjusting for taxes and prices. Texas schools rank 3rd, he said, after adjusting for variations in student demographics, a raw statistic which places Texas 28th in the nation.

    “We’re able to accomplish all this and more because the business environment in our state is largely competitive, and free markets solve problems,” Cox told me. “Texas is a meritocracy, where incentives still work to produce good results.”

  • “Six current and former members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were found guilty Tuesday of obstruction of justice.
  • Grand Jury:”Hey, you might want to consider a pension reform task force.” City of Napa: “Get stuffed.”
  • Santa Ana-based Corithhian Colleges could be headed for bankruptcy.
  • Texas is now home to more Fortune 1000 Companies than any other state.
  • Liberals are still upset that Texas’ red state model is kicking the ass of California’s blue state model. Enter the Texas Tribune, which admits that:

    Drive almost anywhere in the vast Lone Star State and you will see evidence of the “Texas miracle” economy that policymakers like Gov. Rick Perry can’t quit talking about….

    This hot economy, politicians say, is the direct result of their zealous opposition to over-regulation, greedy trial lawyers and profligate government spending. Perry now regularly recruits companies from other states, telling them the grass is greener here. And his likely successor, Attorney General Greg Abbott, has made keeping it that way his campaign mantra.

    It’s hard to argue with the job creation numbers they tout. Since 2003, a third of the net new jobs created in the United States were in Texas. And there are real people in those jobs, people with families to feed.

    But the piece also notes that Texas has led the nation in worker fatalities for seven of the last ten years. I’m not going to get into the details of worker compensation that make up the bulk of the piece, and it is quite possible there is some room for improvement in worker safety. But I do want to note that, as the second largest state in the union, and the one with the biggest oil and gas industry, it’s not terribly surprising that Texas would have the largest number of fatalities, since oil and gas has a fairly high fatality rate (though not injury rate) compared to other industries (see page 14 here).

  • Protestors March Against UK’s Non-Existent Austerity

    Saturday, June 21st, 2014

    I see that #NoMoreAusterity is trending on Twitter this morning. It seems the usual leftist protest sorts are rallying against the Cameron government’s “austerity.”

    The only problem is it doesn’t exist.

    Real austerity is cutting government spending until it matches receipts. Under David Cameron, deficit spending has merely gone from 11.4% of GDP in 2010 to a projected 5.8% in 2014. So the UK government hasn’t practiced austerity, it’s merely slowed the rate at which it’s digging its own grave.

    For the protestors, this simply will not do. They want government to give them things, and if it means having the moribund economies of Greece and Spain, so be it.

    But unlike Greece and Spain, the UK won’t be able to get Germany to bail them out, nor to hold down the hyperinflation that is the inevitable endpoint of excess deficit spending.

    Texas vs. California Update for June 20, 2014

    Friday, June 20th, 2014

    Believe it or not, there seem to be a few actual glimmers of sanity in California in the latest roundup:

  • Texas: Not just leading the nation in jobs, but doing it more equitably as well.
  • “The income gap between rich and poor tends to be wider in blue states than in red states.” More: “Texas has a lower Gini coefficient (.477) and a lower poverty rate (20.5%) than California (Gini coefficient .482, poverty rate 25.8%).” (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • Perhaps the biggest crack in the “Blue State” model this month was a state superior court judge ruling that California’s teacher protection laws were illegal, because they violated the equal protection clause for students. How the Vergara vs. California decision plays out on appeal is anyone’s guess, but just recognizing that union contracts that keep crummy teachers employed harms students is a huge step forward.
  • New California payroll and pensions numbers are now available. “The data shows that public compensation in California is growing more out of control, threatening the solvency of the state and local governments.” Let’s take a look at a few locales, shall we?
  • Will wonders never cease: CalWatchdog calls the just-passed California budget “fairly prudent.”
  • The legislature also passed a law almost doubling the amount of money school districts pay into CalSTARS.
  • But don’t let that fool you: California’s legislature is still crazy.
  • Especially since California Democrats just elected a new Senate leader guaranteed to pull them to the left.
  • But Republicans are poised to torpedo California Democrat’s Senate supermajority.
  • Desert Hot Springs is contemplating dissolving it’s police force to avoid bankruptcy. (By my count, 21 Desert Hot Springs police officers make more than $100,000 a year in total compensation. Including five officers who make more than the Police Chief…)
  • San Bernardino has evidently reached agreement with CalPERS in it’s ongoing bankruptcy case, but no details have been reported.
  • They also closed a gap in a yearly budget thanks to some union concessions. But one union is balking, and its members are threatening to join the SEIU instead.
  • The California town of Guadalupe considers bankruptcy. One problem is that the town has been illegally transfering money from dedicated funds (like water bills) to general funds. “If voters do not pass three new taxes in November, Guadalupe is expected to disband its police and fire departments, enter bankruptcy or disincorporate, meaning it would cease to exist as a city.”
  • Ventura County residents collection enough signatures to force a ballot measure on pension reform. Response? A lawsuit to keep it off the ballot.
  • Los Angeles 2020 Commission goes over what changes the city needs to avoid a future where “40% of the population lives in ‘what only can be called misery,’ ‘strangled by traffic’ and hamstrung by a ‘failing’ school system.” Response? “Meh.”
  • Sickout among San Francisco municipal bus drivers. Good thing poor people don’t depend on buses for transportation…
  • Huge growth in Texas apartment complexes.
  • California’s prison system illegally sterilizes female inmates against their will.
  • The Obama Administration Department of Education is driving the California-based Corinthian for-profit college chain out of business.
  • A Californian discusses why relocation to Texas might be attractive, and hears the pitch for Frisco, Texas.
  • “‘Building a business is tough. But I hear building a business in California is next to impossible,’ Perry says.”
  • California regulators can’t be arsed to come out and check flaming tap water.
  • California bill to add warning labels to soft drinks fails.
  • California-based nutritional supplement maker Natrol files for bankruptcy, mainly due to class action suits. I note this because I’ve found their 3mg Melatonin to be really effective as a sleep aid.
  • Grappling With the Texas State Budget

    Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

    There seems to be some confusion over Texas Public Policy Foundation numbers for Texas budget estimates. Take, for example, this post by Erica Grieder. (She seems to be sharing space on Burkablog with the titular liberal fossil; I’m going to assume it’s a Sith-apprentice sort of thing…) She accuses TPPF of walking back their estimate of a 26% increase back to a more modest 9% increase.

    The problem is she’s comparing apples to oranges by comparing their numbers for the amount appropriated by the legislature, which increased by some 26% between biennium, as opposed to the total amount spent, which increased by a far more modest 9%.

    Here’s a chart:

    Here’s an in-depth report by Talmadge Heflin, Vance Ginn, and Bill Peacock that explains it in more detail, including such budget arcana as “backfilling” and “patient income funds.”

    Here’s a table containing the actual numbers. Remember that there are multiple line items that don’t get included in the “official” legislative budget document.

    Here’s an editorial by Heflin and Arlene Wohlgemuth explaining it further.

    Now, I do have one criticism of TPPF: All those documents I linked separately above should be boiled down into a single document. Flannery O’Conner once said “To the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind, you draw large and startling figures.” To which I add “For members of the press, you put key information in the front of the document is visual form so even the skimmers can comprehend it.” Asking some members of the press to look in four places for key information is simply asking too much of them. Especially if there’s drinking to be done, or interviewing another liberal interest group for pull quotes about the perfidious evil of Republicans.

    Ideally there should be a spreadsheet or table near the front of that document with columns showing information just the 2012-2013 and 2014-2015 Bienniums and the % change between them with the following rows of information:

  • Amount appropriated by the legislature
  • Amount actually spent by Texas government for same period
  • Difference between the two
  • Backfilling
  • Patient Income
  • Rainy-Day Fund drawdown (if any)
  • Any other off-budget spending
  • State Revenue
  • Federal Revenue
  • That sort of thing would go a long way toward clarifying state budget expenditures for people who would otherwise protest that they told there would be no math.