25 Apr

How Much Tax Money Do We Need for Mah Roads?

Gas Tax Increase Ahead

How much money do we need to raise yearly for our roads and infrastructure? If you listen to Governor Brown he’ll tell you that we have a $59Billion backlog of Highway Repairs with $71Billion in local repairs needed. That’s why we needed to pass SB1 because the new taxes are slated to raise $52Billion over 10 years.

Of course we have a backlog because the legislature is more interested in waste/fraud such as the Governor’s Legacy Choo-Choo than they are in actual repairs. That has historically been the case and it will continue to be the case. We never prioritize the basic functions of government or the items for which we specifically tax.

Need to repair the Oroville Dam? That can wait a decade or two. Want to give out tax credits so the 1% can buy Teslas? No problem. Priorities, you see.

But getting back to the math of SB1. If we have a $130Billion backlog is that on top of the repairs we ARE doing or is that just everything we haven’t done yet? Because the amount we need to raise varies based upon that answer.

It also matters because before we raise taxes we should really focus on how much money we’re already bringing in as well as where it’s going. If it isn’t going where it’s supposed to we need to change that and fire the people ripping us off. Let’s look at that first point.

Last year Los Angeles voters approved Measure M which is slated to raise $860Million/Year. Orange County’s Measure M took in approximately $300Million last year.

LA Measure M Impacts

In fact according to the California Department of Transportation as of 2014 there are  around 20 Counties that have passed similar measures.

County Sales Tax Increases

That says $3.793Billion for 2014. Los Angeles’ Measure M from 2016 isn’t included in that so that would add an additional $860Million taking the total to cool $4.65Billion.

I’m unsure of these numbers because I find it interesting that the chart says “2 Million” for Orange County when OCTA says (Page 145) we did $60,097,127,000 in commerce last year and .5% of that would be  $300,485,635 with 2014 (the date of this report) at nearly $278Million.

277 > 2.

OCTA CAFR

2014 Shows $277,939,000

It needs to be noted that those numbers are Sales Tax based and not based upon Gas Mileage and therefore didn’t drop with higher fuel efficiency. Also, those totals go to local city & county roads and not Federal or State projects.

But what about the dropping fuel taxes? Doesn’t that eat into our funding which is necessitating these new taxes?

Estimates that I’ve seen say that we’re using approximately 8-10% less in gas than 10 years ago thanks to more fuel efficient vehicles. That decrease has led to a drop in state gas tax revenue of about $200Million/year which is a lot.

However a drop doesn’t mean we aren’t getting enough to do the job the money is intended to do in the first place. If I win $10Million in the lottery and then it turns out that I had to split it and only won $5Million I’d still be able to do the many things I wanted to do with my windfall.

This is government logic though. First they misspend money. Then they enact legislation that decreases their own funding and finally they find other taxes to raise to start the cycle anew.

Seriously California gets between 85-90% (depending on the source) of the $0.18.4/Gallon Federal Excise Tax back from the Feds in the form of grant money (which isn’t bad considering how bad the State bends over Cities/Counties). If that 8-10% drop is true and we’re only using about 14Billion gallons of gas in CA how much are we getting?

Let’s Math.

$0.18/Gallon x 14Billion = $2,520,000,000.

$2,520,000,000 – 15% Fed Finders Fee = $2,142,000,000 per year from the Feds to pay for MAH ROADS.

Then we had Proposition 1B from 2006 which allowed for $19.9Billion in General Obligation Bonds for Infrastructure.

So less fuel is being used therefore we can say $2,142,000,000 x 10 fairly because today is less and therefore the smallest number. Between Prop 1B ($19,900,000,000) and the Federal Fuel Excise Tax ($21,420,000,000) over ten years we’ve blown through $41,320,000,000.

Plus the $2.95 Billion that those counties shown above have been getting each year through their sales tax increases (excluding the taxes that took place after 2006). That’s another $29,520,000,000 locally.

So now we’re up to $70,840,000,000 for Mah Roads since 2006. 70Billion. Seventy Billion! In ten years.

Plus the money we got from the “The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009”. Plus Plus Plus.

We haven’t even begun talking about the Excise/Sales taxes paid inside California. Or the Vehicle License Fees. Or Diesel Fuel Taxes. Or Weight Fees. Or. Or. Or.

It seems we keep upping the amount of money that we raise for MAH ROADS but never manage to actually, you know, pay to fix them regardless of how much money is out of our pockets and on the table.

How much money do we have to collect before we actually spend it on what we claim we’re going to spend it on?

All of it. Obviously.

24 Apr

Should Hate Crime Laws Protect Police?

Hate Crime

Is it reasonable for police officers to be treated as a protected class in hate crime legislation?

That’s one of the many questions in front of the California legislature. This issue currently comes in the form of AB-2 which was introduced by Jay Obernolte (R), Co-Authored by Rudy Salas, Jr. (D) and sponsored by  Jim Cooper (D) & Tom Lackey (R).

This bill is a bipartisan effort to afford police officers with the protections of hate crime legislation going forward. The merits of Hate Crime Legislation notwithstanding is it reasonable to offer that protection to a career choice? If so, why only police officers?

24 Apr

CA Legislature Not Done Criminalizing Open Carry

On 20 April 2017 the California Assembly Passed AB7 which closes a “loophole” banning open carry of non-handgun related firearms.

AB7 Assembly Votes

AB7 Assembly Votes

The bill covers non-handgun firearms specifically and is designed to close a “loophole” regarding unincorporated areas. California banned “Open Carry” essentially because a YouTube Video made people realize that open carry was legal and police didn’t know how to react to it.

Like all nanny-state measures the reaction to learning that Californian’s had a freedom they didn’t like the legislature ran to ban something. Now they’re simply back to making sure it’s MOAR BANNED.

24 Apr

Why Does Kevin McCarty Hate Disadvantaged Children?

Smoking is bad. MmmmKay?

California Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) wants to make your cigarettes more expensive by making it illegal to buy them with coupons. The logic? The (D)s in this state managed to get voters to kick the per pack taxes on cigarettes up to $2.87 and coupons make smokes cheaper. And?

Well, Smoking is bad. MMMKay?

The trouble with this anti-coupon idea is twofold. First of all 80% of the revenue generated from tobacco taxes goes directly to funding programs for children under five years of age, specifically disadvantaged children. If your stated goal for a tax is to discourage bad behavior then you cannot rely on that very tax revenue to pay for things. In this particular instance we’re paying for programs for disadvantaged children. By stopping people from smoking we’re de facto defunding those programs. I’ll explain further for the math challenged legislators out there.

If you get tax money when Johnny buys “X” product. And then you raise that tax so high that Johnny cannot afford to buy “X” product (the stated goal here), you don’t get that tax money. There is no tax collected on a product that isn’t sold. Well, not yet anyways but this is California so give it time.

I’ll let the California Department of Public Health explain my second point:

Do Higher Tobacco Prices Lead to Tax Evasion and Smuggling?
Following a tax increase, many smokers will find a way to buy cheaper cigarettes. Some smokers will try to find cheaper cigarettes on the internet; others will buy their cigarettes on Indian reservations and in casinos or even travel across state lines. This type of individual “casual” evasion does not have a significant fiscal impact on the illicit cigarette market whereas, large-scale bulk tobacco smuggling can be a problem.
That’s right boys are girls. People will simply find ways to not get robbed by the taxman.
That “casual evasion” is about to get a lot worse with a $2/pack increase. How do I know? Because some drugs are totally illegal and people still do the hell out of them. This isn’t just run of the mill anti-market stupidity from McCarty. No, he opted to have some of that and throw in a side of cause-and-effect stupidity to boot.
23 Apr

Another Great High Speed Rail Train Robbery

Jeff Morales, the Chief Executive Officer for California’s High Speed Rail boondoggle is stepping down this summer. After goosing the taxpayers for about $2Million in Salary/Benefits since 2011 he finally has decided to step down before the High Speed Rail gets anywhere near completed or let alone high speed. From 2011-2015 Mr. Morales made just over $1.5Million in Salary/Benefits so unless he miraculously took a pay-cut in 2016 his total compensation comes near or just over the $2Million mark for 5 years of work. Great unaccountable work if you can get it.

Because he’s stepping down, and the position isn’t being eliminated, we’re going to have to replace him with some other goon who’ll get that fat paycheck. No wonder we keep needing to sell bonds to finance this nonsense boondoggle of 19th Century technology.

In the Press Release announcing Morales’ decision to leave they give some highlights of his tenure. Here’s a partial list with my notes in red:

  1. Injected upwards of $4 billion into California’s economy. Bond Debt with no way to pay for it. This is bad.
  2. Supported thousands of jobs in areas that have suffered chronic unemployment and put almost a thousand tradesmen and women to work. Make work jobs for the low-low price of $4 billion so far…
  3. Engaged well over 300 California small and disadvantaged businesses. What does “engaged” even mean here?
  4. Grown from just over a dozen employees to more than 200 employees. MOAR Bureaucracy! MOAR Make-Work! I’m not sure how that’s a good thing.
  5. Managed three successful procurement bids totaling more than $3 billion in contracts for 119 miles of construction, with each bid coming in hundreds of millions of dollars below engineers’ estimates. They are literally selling the point here that he spent $3 Billion. I could spend $3 Billion better for no money, let alone $500K/year. That’s another bad thing.
  6. Advanced the unprecedented environmental approval of the remaining segments. “Unprecedented”. In California? This stuff can’t be made up. For those who think environmental concerns in CA can EVER be “unprecedented” see: Smelt, Delta.
  7. Secured approval of the “d” plan for expenditure of bond funds, with first bond sales occurring this week. More plaudits for spending money we don’t actually have. He’s getting praised for saddling my kids with debt.
  8. Improved the right of way acquisition process, recovering from early delays. Improved? First of all this is something that should have been figured out BEFORE we started spending money and building Not Really High Speed Rail. Second the word “imrproved” is setting the bar pretty low here isn’t it?

I’d continue but you get the point I hope. This man is being applauded for spending money we don’t have, borrowing more money (bonds) we don’t have and getting things slowly moving on a project that will likely never get completed. Or if it does get completed won’t be used unless the State just bans all other forms of transportation. It seems the only thing High Speed about this project is the speed at which they spend money. I await finding out which HSR-Connected private firm Mr. Morales ends up working for after his departure.