Archive for the ‘Budget’ Category

Texas vs. California Update for January 29, 2014

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

To a certain extent, this Texas vs. California roundup is incomplete, since we’re hot and heavy into the new legislative session and I haven’t had a chance to fully digest the proposed budget numbers yet. By the Legislative Budget Boards numbers, they’re only projecting a 1.5% increase in the 2016-2017 biennium budget over 2014-2015. But see the first link…

  • Setting the story straight on the Texas budget. TPPF uses a different baseline…
  • California’s public employee unions would prefer that you not know how well they’re compensated.
  • How California’s public employees use sick leave to spike their pensions.
  • Supreme Court may take on California union mandatory dues case.
  • Though not nearly as bad as California, Texas state and local public employee pensions are also in need of reform.
  • California’s Kern County declares a fiscal emergency over dropping oil prices. “Collapsing crude prices are squeezing the finances of Kern County, home to three-fourths of California’s oil production.” Thankfully, oil and gas extraction is a lot more widespread in Texas.
  • The City of Sacramento’s unfunded liabilities have reached $2.3 billion. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “Fresno? No one goes to Fresno anymore!” Except for job growth percentage, that is, where Fresno outpaced Silicon Valley.
  • Remember the Newport Beach police department firing a whistler-blower? Via Dwight comes a followup: “A husband and wife who sued Newport Beach and its police department for alleged retaliation and wrongful termination have settled their lawsuits for $500,000, according to city officials.”
  • “Physician-assisted suicide has returned to California’s political agenda.” Well, why not? California’s ruling Democrats have been attempting fiscal suicide for well over a decade now…
  • Toyota breaks ground on its new Texas headquarters.
  • A public school in California is having a Hijab Day.
  • The UT Law Scandal: Bigger Than Previously Reported

    Monday, January 26th, 2015

    Back when the University of Texas Law School “forgivable loan” scandal broke, I said it was for all intents and purposes a slush fund and a serious ethical problem for UT.

    I didn’t know the half of it.

    This piece by Jon Cassidy at Watchdog.org (based in part on documents he obtained from UT) paints ex-UT Law Dean Larry Sager as wetting his beak even more than previously suspected.

    For years before a forgivable loan scandal forced him to resign as dean of the University of Texas Law School in 2011, Lawrence Sager was running up annual six-figure bills on a credit card paid for by the UT Law School Foundation.

    From 2007 to 2010, Sager racked up $401,498.29 on that card, all of it paid by the foundation, apart from tens of thousands in other expenses for conferences, computers, club dues, food, travel, storage units and other items.

    I can imagine numerous scenarios where a UT law school dean could rack up $400,000 in credit card expenses, but most of them involve words like “gambling,” “hookers” and “blow.”

    More from Cassidy:

    In all, the foundation has spent more than $1 million in compensating and reimbursing Sager. That’s just a fraction, however, of the $68 million the foundation has spread around UT during the past decade, most of it compensating the school’s faculty and administrators.

    The question the attorney general’s report does not answer, or even ask, is whether the members of the Law School Foundation have received anything in return for their largesse. Reporting by Watchdog.org has established that many children of generous foundation members have been admitted into UT Law, although there is little evidence that would cast doubt on their qualifications.

    More on that “forgiveable loan”:

    The report says that “under Dean Sager’s leadership the Law School provided incorrect or incomplete responses to requests for salary information by both University management and the public pursuant to the Texas Public Information Act. To settle a lawsuit, both Foundation and public funds were expended in order to paper over a climate of non-disclosure.”

    Scott also faulted Sager for concealing the $500,000 forgivable loan he procured for himself, reporting that “the Law School maintained two forgivable loan lists — one that contained Dean Sager’s $500,000 forgivable loan and one that excluded that particular loan.”

    Keeping two sets of books is a classic indicator of financial fraud.

    Thus far I have only skimmed the official Attorney General report on the loan issue (much less dug through all of the appendices), but there are several other questionable practices highlighted, like an unrecorded, $25,000 payment to one faculty member.

    As Dallas Observer writer Jim Schutze notes, the state media continues to ignore the scandal regent Wallace Hall uncovered:

    Cassidy’s and Williamson’s reporting was uniformly ignored by reporters and editorial pages of the state’s mainstream media. Most of the state’s major editorial pages joined the exposed members of the Legislature in denouncing Hall. An ad hoc committee of the Texas House of Representatives labored for months to find a way to remove Hall from the board of regents. When their own lawyers told them Hall hadn’t done anything for which he could be impeached and was in fact carrying out the duties of a regent, the committee slapped Hall instead with a gratuitous and toothless “censure,” an act with the legal meaning and gravitas of “fuck you anyway.”

    And while he may no longer be Dean, Sager is still listed among UT law faculty.

    The report goes to show, once again, that Wallace Hall was right about the need for tighter and deeper board oversight at UT. And that UT’s stables still haven’t been fully swept out…

    Far-Left Syriza Wins Huge Victory in Greece

    Sunday, January 25th, 2015

    Greece’s far left-wing Syriza Party has won a big victory there, claiming about half the seats in Parliament.

    What does it mean? I took a stab at analyzing it before. Even with a majority, there’s a good chance Syriza will have to continue meeting the EU’s demands (which means pretending to impose austerity measures) if they want mean old Aunt Angela to keep loaning them money. Remember: Greece has never practiced real austerity. Not once since the European Debt Crisis hit has Greece balanced its budget, and its deficit for 2014 was 12.2% of GDP.

    But even the fake austerity imposed has been too much for the Greek people, who collectively want a cushy welfare state but don’t want to pay the sky-high taxes required to pay for it. Promising people something for nothing has been the left’s popular electoral strategy for more than a century, but reality can only be held off for so long. Germany is not due for a federal election, so it’s entirely possible Merkel might still underwrite another bailout or two if Syriza is willing to continue the farce. A Greece shorn of the Euro would still be broke and badly in debt, and newly Drachma-backed securities would likely be toxic investments for all but the most speculative of bond traders. (Perhaps Syriza should investigate how well that printing money thing is working out for Venezuela.) “Forgive our debts or we won’t let you give us more loans!” is a proposition Merkel would probably find quite easy to refuse, and I suspect the risk of a Greek exit from the Euro is already priced into European markets. If Syriza insists on anything more than (possibly) a token debt haircut, the EU will probably be willing to call their bluff.

    It’s generally best for the driver of a 1974 Ford Pinto to avoid engaging in a game of chicken with a Tiger tank…

    In Which I Point To Hot Air’s Venezuela Update and Say “What He Said”

    Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

    It was about time to do another update on Venezuela’s failing socialist economy when I dropped by Hot Air and saw that Ed Morrissey had already done all the heavy lifting for me:

    “The currency in what should be the richest country in South America has collapsed, as well as its economy, under the dual weight of falling crude prices and the Chavista socialism that has been choking the country for more than a decade.”

    More:

    Venezuela’s Chavista policies have always ignored economic reality. Socialism is a fantasy economic system, especially as implemented by Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro.

    The difference between Venezuela and the nanny-state petro-economy in Norway is that the latter preserves itself by respecting private property and foreign investment. From the beginning, Hugo Chavez attacked both, nationalizing oil production and criminalizing private investors as part of his “Bolivarian” revolution. When it did that, it chased off the talent needed to run oil production and the investment needed for all other kinds of goods and services. For a short period of time, their oil revenue allowed it to succeed in ignorance. When that failed, Chavez and now Maduro reacted to those predictable consequences by predictably imposing all sorts of rationing mechanisms which only decreased incentives for production and investment, especially in the legitimate economy. Now that the price of oil has collapsed, so has the official Venezuelan economy — and a populace used to a high standard of living now endures massive shortages and ever-increasing oppression to cover it up.

    Morrissey, in turn, quotes a big chunk of this Matt O’Brien piece in the Washington Post:

    Venezuela’s government is running a 14 percent of gross domestic product deficit right now, a fiscal hole so big that there’s only one way to fill it: the printing press. But that just traded one economic problem—too little money—for the opposite one. After all, paying people with newly-printed money only makes that money lose value, and prices go parabolic. It’s no wonder then that Venezuela’s inflation rate is officially 64 percent, is really something like 179 percent, and could get up to 1,000 percent, according to Bank of America, if Venezuela doesn’t change its byzantine currency controls.

    What he said. Er, both of them.

    Texas vs. California Update for January 21, 2015

    Wednesday, January 21st, 2015
  • The working poor benefit from a lower cost of living in red states.
  • Five of the top ten U.S. cities in economic growth in 2014 were in Texas: Austin, Houston, Ft. Worth. Dallas and San Antonio. (There were also two in California: San Francisco and San Jose.)
  • The Texas Comptroller has released the Biennial Revenue Estimate 2016-2017, which estimates $113 billion in general revenue-related funds available. The report details also notes that “In the past six years, Texas created two-thirds of all net new jobs in the U.S.”

  • By contrast, with the California budget more or less temporarily balanced, Democrats want to start spending like drunken sailors with a stolen credit card again. Legislative analyst: You don’t want to do that.
  • The average CalPERS pension is up to five times comparable Social Security payouts.
  • Jerry Brown says he wants to tackle California’s pension crisis. Good luck with that. While Brown has occasionally been willing to buck his party, and may feel he has nothing to lose in his last term, there’s no reason to believe the Democrat-dominated state House and Senate share his sentiments. I predict a few cosmetic measures passing combined with a whole lot more can kicking until actual default looms. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • “Central Valley farmers say farming is doomed in their areas.” California’s water regulations are driving them out of business.
  • Stockton’s bankruptcy judge: screw secured debtors, we’ve got to start paying retirees.
  • Key figure in CalPERS pension fraud case apparently committed suicide. Hmmm…..
  • California’s Set Seal retail chain files for bankruptcy.
  • John G. Westine of California convicted of 26 counts of mail fraud in a phony Kentucky oil well scheme.
  • Bankruptcy lawyers gone wild!
  • Texas vs. California Update for January 6, 2014

    Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

    Here’s your first Texas vs. California update of 2015:

  • Real personal income increased by 1.4% in Texas in Q3, the most of any state. And that with the oil bust just starting to bite, which I’m guessing helps explain why South Dakota’s personal income decline by .2%. (Well, that and getting six inches of global warming in September….)
  • Texas was the number one magnet state in the country for people moving here yet again.
  • “The real reason for the tuition increase is that the UC system needs funds to bail out the mismanaged pension system that covers retired employees of its ten campuses.”

    This is all the result of the regents’ irresponsible oversight. In 1990, UCRP had 137 percent of the assets it needed to meet its obligations, so regents suspended employer and employee contributions to the pension fund. State legislators also stopped allocating money to UCRP. This “pension contribution holiday” lasted 20 years. To top it off, during this period, university officials boosted pension benefits a half-dozen times. By 2012, more than 2,100 UC retirees were each collecting six-figure pensions for life.

    (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)

  • Former Pasadena (California) employees arrested on 60 count, $6 million embezzling charges. (Hat tip: CalWatchdog.)
  • More on outrageous California pensions: “In 2013, an assistant fire chief in Southern California collected a $983,319 pension. A police captain in Los Angeles received nearly $753,861.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami).
  • California’s doomed high speed rail boondoggle breaks ground today.
  • More on the same theme from Twitter:

  • Opponents of California’s statewide plastic bag ban have gathered 800,000 signature for a referendum to overturn it, which will also keep the law from going into effect on July 1.
  • California charity hospitals to be sold to for-profit company to keep them open.
  • Greece Inches Closer to the Endgame

    Monday, December 29th, 2014

    Just because the European Debt Crisis hasn’t been in the headlines much as of late doesn’t mean it’s gone away.

    Greece’s government has fallen again and they’ll be holding general elections next month. “Opinion polls point to a victory by the radical leftist Syriza party, which wants to wipe out a big part of Greece’s debt, and cancel the terms of a bailout from the European Union and International Monetary Fund that Greece still needs to pay its bills.”

    The problem is that Greece wants to continue spending other people’s money to prop up a bankrupt welfare state, and the rest of Europe has decided they would really prefer to stop pouring money down that particular rathole. Syriza is against “austerity,” which is to say they oppose the Greek government even pretending to practice fiscal restraint. Because pretending is all they’ve done.

    Remember, real austerity is reducing outlays until they match receipts. All those “austerity” street protests were over lowering Greece’s budget deficit from 9% of GDP to 7.5% of GDP. The rest of Europe didn’t ask them to stop digging their own grave, they just asked them to dig more slower. And this year, Greece’s budget deficit stood at 12.2% of GDP. Evidently even fake austerity is too much to ask of them; even the illusion of fiscal restraint is intolerable. This is why all news that Greece has “balanced” next year’s budget should be taken with several grains of salt.

    So we’ll see another election, and if Syriza wins we’ll see another round of demands for more bailouts and debt writedowns, with Greece threatening yet again to exit the Euro. We’ve seen this movie before. The most likely outcome is that another cabal of EU-phillic insiders in the Greek government will engineer a last-minute cave-in to demands from Brussels and Frankfurt, ram another toothless austerity measure through parliament in exchange for still more credit (and perhaps even a small symbolic measure of debt forgiveness), dissolve the government again following the inevitable public outrage, then have the Greek bureaucracy ignore even those woefully inadequate reforms, setting the stage for the farce to repeat itself in another 12-18 months, or until mean old Aunt Angela finally cuts up the credit card.

    Europe has had several years to acclimate itself to the fact the Greece might exit the Euro, and the possibility of a “grexit” has been priced into the markets for some time now. I do not pretend to understand the intricacies of the European banking system, but my impression is that much of the “stress testing” of European banks this year was to prepare for one or more of the PIIGS leaving the Euro. I suspect that the European elite have minimized their own exposure to a Greek default (which is really all they care about), and that the EU and the European Central Bank has found new, sneaky ways to put taxpayers on the hook for any possible sovereign defaults, strengthening the banking system without addressing Europe’s long-term economic problems (unsustainable levels of debt to support cradle-to-grave welfare states for shrinking populations).

    It would be great if Greece actually undertook real structural reforms of their bloated, dysfunctional government, but I see precious little evidence that they’ve actual done so. Expect more pain ahead, and at least one more bailout…

    LinkSwarm for December 12, 2014

    Friday, December 12th, 2014

    You might not know from scanning the headlines of what the mainstream media wants to focus on, but there’s been a lot of liberal meltdown this week, among the MSM themselves especially:

  • Social Security to become insolvent in 2024. Thanks Obama! (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • The Gruber hearings: More “I don’t remember” than a Peter Gabriel video.
  • Wendy Davis earns Texas Monthly‘s Bum Steer of the Year. You know a Democrat had to have an epic train wreck when the lefty sorts over there are pretty much forced to put them on the cover…
  • Rapes by Democratic bundler Terry Bean or Democratic Capitol Hill staffer Donny Ray Williams? “Meh.” “The Press isn’t all that interested in stories that reflect badly on Democrats.”
  • Feminists prefer narrative to truth. “There is nothing that is nice or kind or empathetic about the subordination of truth to narrative.”
  • More on the same theme: “When questions first emerged, a number of people treated quashing those questions as the moral equivalent of war, attacking the questioners as if being skeptical of a story was itself wrong — rather than exactly the spirit of inquiry that makes science, and public debate, work…When we get wedded to our narratives, we become blind.”
  • “After four years of disastrous liberal Democratic rule, led by President Obama, the desperation of the left is now contributing to its own decline. And it’s not just recent defeats at the ballot box: The Democrats’ systematic overreach is destroying the credibility of their messengers and belittling the causes they want to promote; making it harder for them to identify and solve real problems.”
  • 35 federal agencies plan to share your health data. What could possibly go wrong?
  • Feminists have used Title IX as a far-reaching tool to reorganize higher education to their ideological agenda.
  • “How feminism left me.”
  • We have a strong candidate for Most Clueless Example of Liberal White Female Privilege On Salon. Granted, it’s a target-rich environment…
  • Obama official who enabled illegal alien flood is resigning in advance of hearings How convenient…
  • “It is now clear beyond all reasonable doubt that Hitler and his associates believed they were socialists, and that others, including democratic socialists, thought so too.”
  • How 401Ks are killing off defined-pension plans. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • #GamerGate is winning. “The ‘gamergate’ controversy cost Gawker Media ‘seven figures’ in lost advertising revenue, the company’s head of advertising Andrew Gorenstein said at an all-hands meeting on Wednesday afternoon.”
  • “All lives matter.” “APOLOGIZE!” WTF? Congratulations, Social Justice Warriors. You’re now officially a cult.
  • ISIS beheads four children for refusing to convert to Islam.
  • Joe Biden lectures Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Islam, which is like Kayne West lecturing Stephen Hawking on quantum physics.
  • Indonesia editor to face blasphemy charges for mocking ISIS. (Hat tip: Jihad Watch.)
  • India judge decides that country’s Child Marriage Act doesn’t apply to the Religion of Peace. (Hat tip: Jihad Watch.)
  • Yet he who has never had a snake-throwing fight at a Tim Hortons cast the first stone. (Hat tip: Bill Crider.)
  • “Man With Gender Studies Degree Terrorizes Party”. (Hat tip: Instapundit.)
  • And I’m not covering the CROmnibus debacle yet because I haven’t even read the summary of the summary of the summary of what’s in that monster…

    Venezuela Takes The Express Lane To The Dustheap Of History

    Thursday, December 11th, 2014

    There’s been a lot of talk of how low oil prices are screwing Russia, but Venezuela is, if anything, more screwed thanks to the Magic Power of Socialism™:

    U.S. currency is vital to Venezuela, which imports as much as 80% of what it consumes; 96% of its exports are petroleum products…In effect, the one-third decline in the price of oil means that the state oil company must either raise or divert enough production because Venezuela effectively owes China 67 million barrels of oil, roughly 27 million more than it did before, for this loan alone. And there are billions of dollars in other loans to consider.

    And the outlook for the immediate future is equally grim:

    Venezuela’s economy is expected to contract in 2014 and 2015, and even though it’s already recognized as the 14th least competitive economy in the world (according to the World Economic Forum) and the eighth-worst economy for doing business (according to The World Bank), [President Nicolas] Maduro’s laws seem to discourage private investments even more. The new laws reinforce bureaucracy and the difficulty of doing business in the country, particularly in the area of taxes.

    “Increasing numbers of low-income Venezuelans are souring on Maduro as they suffer a declining economy, the highest inflation in the Americas, chronic shortages of basic goods and one of the world’s highest murder rates.”

    If Venezuela’s economy collapses, they might take Cuba down with them, since the Castro brothers are so heavily dependent on Venezuelan oil subsidies to prop up their own moribund economy.

    Compounding Venezuela’s crises is the fact that it’s probably going to default on its bonds. So they’re finally reaching the point in socialism where the run out of other people’s money. Next to that singular problem, U.S. sanctions on government Venezuelan officials for killing protestors are a trivial irritation…

    Texas vs. California Update for December 4, 2014

    Thursday, December 4th, 2014

    It’s another Texas vs. California update!

  • The real reason the University of California system is raising taxes: “The real driving force behind the tuition hike is the university’s woefully underfunded pension system, which currently serves 56,000 retired employees. It’s a generous system, despite some reductions the university made for new hires in recent years. An Associated Press analysis found 2,129 retired UC employees collect pensions of more than $100,000 a year; 57 receive more than $200,000; and three receive more than $300,000.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Here’s the rare Texas vs. California item where both Texas and California get dinged: “Calpers holds about 75% of its portfolio in stocks and other risky assets, such as real estate, private equity and, until recently, hedge funds, despite offering benefits that, unlike IRAs or 401(k)s, it guarantees against market risk. Most other states are little different: Illinois holds 75% in risky assets; the Texas teachers’ plan holds 81%.”
  • A look at the relative pension costs of three bankrupt California cities: San Bernardino, Stockton and Vallejo. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Magpul, is moving its headquarters from newly gun-hostile Colorado to Austin. This is on top of moving its manufacturing facilities to Wyoming.
  • “Something is happening in California. An unstoppable movement for reform is building, attracting support from conscientious Californians.” Much as I’d like to believe it, I remain skeptical that real education and pension reform can happen in California as long as it remains a one-party Democratic state… (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • How California’s three-decades old Proposition 65 is threatening to bankrupt small businesses and enrich trial lawyers.
  • California: Roads? We don’t need no stinking roads. 57% of San Diego County’s projected infrastructure spending is on mass transportation…and critics are saying that’s not enough.
  • I’m surprised that I stumbled on this piece on the Newport Beach Police Department before Dwight did:

    In recent years, daily examples of faithful public service inside the Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) have been overshadowed by alarming corruption. City officials ignore or downplay the misconduct, but NBPD bosses turned the agency into a darker, stupider version of Animal House. Court records and internal documents show the city’s boys in blue have accepted gratuities in exchange for favors, gotten frat-boy drunk at work, lied under oath, passed out confidential information to pals, encouraged oral sex from female job applicants, committed wild adultery on duty, doctored official reports, hurled feces, dished out horrific domestic violence against wives and girlfriends, engaged in intoxicated bar fights, issued criminal threats, vandalized property, converted powerful agency spy equipment to personal use, and rigged promotion systems to ensure mostly see-no-evil, management-loyal employees rise–and let the hijinks continue.

    Plus open war against whistle-blowers.

  • Speaking of public employees behaving badly, from Dwight comes this story of LA firemen being investigated for faking certifications.
  • Texas home sales reach their highest level in five years.
  • The headquarters of national buyer’s co-op NATM Buying Corp. is moving from Long island, New York to Irving, Texas.
  • Finally, in case you missed it a few days ago, three Texas budget links from the Texas Public Policy Foundation:

  • A detailed call for greater transparency in the Texas budget
  • A look at what an actual conservative Texas budget would look like; and
  • A real Texas Budget Worksheet, with historical budget data.