Posts Tagged ‘Budget’

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 need less to say, Kay Hagan vited 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:

  • 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).

  • 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.

    Texas vs. California Roundup for June 3, 2014

    Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014

    Lots of news on the Texas vs. California front. An audit turns up $31 billion in California budget mistakes, Democrats hike the minimum wage there, Jerry Brown tries to do something about the growing CalSTARS pension deficit, and people and businesses continue to depart the “Golden State” for Texas…

  • You know how Democrats were crowing that California had a budget surplus? Forget about it:

    The California Bureau of State Audits set off a scandal on June 1st by disclosing that the State Controller’s Office made accounting misstatements amounting to $31.65 billion. The timing of the announcement may be devastating to the Democrats who expected to use their super-majority to pass billions of dollars in increased spending, but may now find the net effects of the accounting restatements are a $7 billion General Fund deficit.

    Snip.

    As the former Treasurer of Orange County, California it is my preliminary judgment that under state law the negative $7.847 billion impact from overstating general fund assets and revenues and overstating deferred tax revenues may create an “on-budget” deficit to the state’s $96.3 billion “General Fund Budget.”

  • From the same audit: “There was a deferred tax-revenue figure posted as $6.2 billion when it was actually $6.2 million.”
  • California Senate votes to hike minimum wage to $13 an hour. It’s like they want to export ALL their jobs to Texas.
  • Wealth continues to move from high tax states to low tax states. “The nine states without a personal income tax gained $146 billion in new wealth while the nine states with the highest income tax rates lost $107 billion.”

    Union-dominated states are sinking further into economic stagnation as Democratic politicians increasingly dominate the local political climate. In 2012, California Democrats won a supermajority in both houses of the legislature and proceeded to accelerate a tax and spending spree that has been ongoing for two decades. For example, California now has the nation’s top state income-tax rate, at 13.3 percent.

    Those kind of policies have consequences. The Manhattan Institute released a report in 2012 that found that since 1990, California had lost nearly 3.4 million residents to other states with lower tax rates.

    Snip.

    The U.S. is swiftly becoming a tale of two nations. States that are following the Reagan model of low taxes and incentives are booming while states that are opting for the Obama model of wealth redistribution and European welfare-state economics are stagnating.

  • Texas’ unemployment rate “has now been equal to or below the national average since January 2007 and below California’s rate—4th highest in the nation—for 93 consecutive months.”
  • A look at how many more billions per year California taxpayers will be coughing up for the inevitable CalSTARS bailout.
  • Alameda Unified’s pension costs could nearly triple and those of its teachers could rise by 25 percent under Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to reform the California State Teachers Retirement System.”
  • But even though its a step in the right direction, Brown’s proposals stretch out installments so far that they’re still not fiscally responsible. “Even with the higher rates, the debt would continue to grow until 2026. That’s because the amortization over 32 years means the payments would essentially not even cover the interest costs for the first 12.”
  • And the assumptions behind the repayment schedule sound like fantasy: “The state still faces a huge unfunded liability in the teachers’ pension fund—the governor’s proposal would increase employee’s contributions by 3 percent and increase school district’s by nearly 2 ½ times and it would still take 30 years to close the gap with a generously estimated 7.5 percent annual return.”
  • Judge rules CalPERS can be sued for mishandling a long-term insurance program.
  • Thanks to various legal rulings, there will be more felons on California streets. “Release on parole continues a steady climb in California. In just the past five years, over twice as many convicts serving life sentences have been paroled than in the last two decades combined.”
  • Cargo aviation firm Ameriflight is relocating from Burbank to Dallas/Ft. Worth.
  • Sony Pictures Imageworks visual effects house is relocating to Canada.
  • Tesla narrows down list of possible factory locations to Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico and Texas. Not on the list: His home state of California. “The winning state will need to have all the necessary permits approved by the time Tesla plans to break ground next month. With the onerous requirements of the California Environmental Protection Act (CEQA) and other environmental regulations, Tesla would be lucky to break ground by 2017 – when its battery factory is scheduled to open.”
  • New effort to bring California’s underfunded health liabilities onto the books. “Legislation in the early 1990s created an investment fund for California state worker retiree health care, but lawmakers never put money in the fund.”
  • Remember the FBI agent who shot and killed a suspect connected with the Boston marathon bombing? Turns out he receives $50,000 a year in disability pay from the Oakland Police Department. And he’s been getting that since 2004, when he retired at age 31. “59% of Oakland Police Department retirees have received disability retirements.” (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Why people are moving to Texas:

    As a growing number of Americans choose to call Texas home, it is critical that policymakers not lose sight of the reasons why: low taxes, limited government, and personal responsibility. Liberty is popular. That’s a message that needs reinforcement, particularly at the local level where some of the macro level trends involving taxes, spending, and debt are moving in the wrong direction. We can keep Texas and our cities beacons of prosperity and flourishing — but to do that, we must understand the principles that got us here, and defend them in policy and the public square.

  • Some California cities have hidden taxes just to fund government worker pensions. (Hat tip: Pension Tsunami.)
  • Lawsuit over California teacher’s union seniority rules to go to trial.
  • Jerry Brown may let California commit more Kelo-like eminent domain abuses.
  • Sriracha followup: The Irwindale City Council voted Wednesday night to drop its declaration that the hot sauce plant was a public nuisance.
  • Just so I’m not accused of glossing over the occasional bit of bad Texas economic news, Motorola Mobility (which is owned by Google) is closing their Texas smartphone assembly plant. But I think this says more about Motorola Mobility’s viability in a smart phone market dominated by Apple and Samsung than about Texas’ economy…
  • Texas vs. California Update for May 14, 2014

    Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

    Time for another Texas vs. California roundup:

  • Chief Executive ranks the states for business friendliness. Once again, Texas is ranked the best state for doing business in. And once again, California is ranked the worst.

    “Texas is the best state for business and I don’t see anything to slow TX down. The education and quality of eligible employees is excellent right now. Business is booming and growing quicker and more rapidly in 2014 than any other year. It’s an exciting time in Texas.”

    “California goes out of its way to be anti-business and particularly where one might put manufacturing and/or distribution operations.”

    “California continues to lead in disincentives for growth businesses to stay.”

    “California’s attitude toward business makes you question why anyone would build a business there.”

    “California could hardly do more to discourage business if that was the goal. The regulatory, tax and political environment are crushing.”

  • California Governor Jerry Brown unveils a budget that takes baby steps toward actual pension and budget reform. Naturally Brown’s fellow Democrats in the state legislature are fighting him every step of the way.
  • Texas vs. California? Try Houston vs. California:

  • California state rep thinks the minimum wage in the state should be $26 an hour. I agree, especially if they call it the “Let’s Drive All Remaining Business to Texas Act”…
  • When he was a San Diego City Councilman, California Democrat Congressman Scott Peters not only underfunded the city’s pension plan while hiking benefits, he indemnified the pension board for doing so.
  • More on Peters, via an attack ad:

  • “A new analysis of California’s independent public retirement systems suggests they are more woefully underfunded than they appear, and that Los Angeles County is among the worst of all.”
  • Bankrupt Stockton’s last remaining big creditor refuses to take 1¢ on the dollar for debts the city owes. (Remember: State pension fund CalPERS didn’t take any haircut at all.)
  • In bankrupt San Bernardino, talks between the city and CalPERS are making the federal judge overseeing the case impatient.
  • Chuck DeVore on why Texans trust their state government more than most:

    Then factors that appear to explain from 13 percent to 30 percent of the differences in trust among the states: rate of union membership,with more trust in states with lower union membership; state’s level of soft tyranny, a measure of the power of state government over its people; percentage of state and local taxes as a share of income, with lower taxes leading to more trust; the right to keep and bear arms, with citizens trusting a government that trusts them to defend themselves; a business-friendly lawsuit climate; the days the legislature is in session, with less trust as the legislature approaches full-time; and the average commute time, with less time spent in traffic leading to more trust.

    Lastly, a combination of from two to four of the previous factors correlates to 34 to 41 percent of the trust in each state with a mix of four: taxes, gun rights, lawsuit reform and commute time, showing the highest link to trust. Comparatively speaking, Texas lawmakers have done well in these four areas of public policy.

    When building trust in state government, enacting liberty-minded legislation is a good place to start.

  • But it isn’t all sunshine in Texas Local debt continues to rise, though Eanes School District voters finally decide that they’ve had enough and defeat a bond proposal.