Why is California’s Air Board Using Chinese Research to Ban Diesel Trucks?

CARB used two Chinese studies on Air Pollution and Mortality in the Medicare Population

“The California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced on Friday that the sale of all new diesel big rig trucks and buses will be banned in the state starting in 2036, coming in a year after a similar new gas-powered car bar was previously voted on,” the Globe reported Friday.

“In addition to the 2036 sales ban on new diesel trucks and buses, CARB, also announced that all trucks in California are to be zero-emissions by 2042. Under these new regulations, also known as the Advanced Clean Fleets rule, CARB hopes to achieve a total zero-emissions truck and bus fleet by 2045, as well as have at least 1.6 million zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty trucks operating in the state by 2048.”

Why is California’s Air Board using Chinese research to ban diesel trucks in the state? California has record low pollution levels. And CARB admits trucks represent only 6% of the vehicles on California’s roads. Other than further destroying the trucking industry and the businesses of independent owner/operators, what is the purpose of this new law?

The science behind these regulations is not only dubious, it is from China, which has a strong motive to see that the United States succumbs to the climate change movement, much of which is funded by China, as Real Clear Energy reported: “For China, climate change offers a strategic opportunity. Decarbonizing the rest of the world makes China’s economy stronger – it weakens its rivals’ economies, reduces the cost of energy for its hydrocarbon-hungry economy, and sinks energy-poor India as a potential Indo-Pacific rival.”

The US economy is being deliberately held back as China builds 2 new coal power plants per week = 8 new coal plants a month = nearly 100 new coal power plants a year, according to a report by energy data organizations Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. China quadrupled the amount of new coal power approvals in 2022 compared to 2021, NPR recently reported.

Dr. James Enstrom contacted the CARB Board and Research Screening Committee Members about their latest pending decision:

I am a highly accomplished California epidemiologist who has had a 50-year career at UCLA and the Scientific Integrity Institute in Los Angeles.  I have published overwhelming epidemiologic evidence that there is NO relationship between PM2.5 and mortality or life expectancy in California.  In addition, there is very strong evidence that the current average personal exposure to air pollution in California is below the level of known adverse health effects.

PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which is about 3 percent the diameter of a human hair and can only be detected with an electron microscope. Back to Dr. Enstrom’s letter to CARB:

Thus, the CARB Research Screening Committee (RSC) must reject both the Su Proposal on “Impacts of Air Pollution on Life Expectancy” and the Zhang Proposal on “Characterization of PM2.5 in the San Joaquin Valley”. 

The RSC must examine the evidence in my disqualified January 23 Proposal that there has been NO relationship between PM2.5 and mortality or life expectancy in California from 1960 to 2020 (http://scientificintegrityinstitute.org/CARBProp012323.pdf).  My proposal has ZERO cost and includes extensive epidemiologic, statistical, and toxicological expertise, as I explained to the RSC on January 26  -(http://scientificintegrityinstitute.org/JEECRSC012623.pdf).  All of the null evidence in my proposal has been deliberately ignored by Su and his collaborators Jerrett, McConnell, Burnett, Zhu, Ritz, Ghosh, and others. Detailed research misconduct complaints have previously been filed against Jerrett (http://scientificintegrityinstitute.org/Jerrett040623.pdf) and McConnell (http://scientificintegrityinstitute.org/McConnell040623.pdf).

By evaluating only the Su and Zhang proposals, the RSC is participating in a pre-determined CARB process to improperly award sole-source contracts that deliberately exaggerate PM2.5 health effects in California.  In addition, there are many technical problems with these proposals. For instance, Su’s proposed use of Medi-Cal records for air pollution epidemiology is totally inappropriate and violates HIPAA confidentiality requirements. I will strongly oppose approval of the Su proposal by the Human Subjects Review Committees of UC Berkeley and the California Department of Health and Human Services.

In conclusion, these Chinese investigators should be focused on the very high pollution levels in China, not on the record low pollution levels in California.  RSC approval of their proposals will be immediately appealed.

Thank you very much for your consideration of my comment.

Sincerely yours, James E. Enstrom, PhD, MPH, FFACE

Retired UCLA Research Professor (Epidemiology)



Enstrom told the Globe, “This crazy, destructive regulation that has nothing to do with public health. The current personal exposure to AP in CA is below level of proven health effects.”

To no avail. The CARB Board has an obvious mandate. They admit it:

And the Governor and Legislature allow them to illegally make law based on fraudulent, doctored science from China, a foreign country which says it will “own America” inside the next 15 years.

So is someone at the CARB on China’s payroll? For that matter, who in state government is helping China along with their nefarious goal? How is this information easy for us to find, but the CARB either can’t or won’t.

Remember, this is the same California Air Resources Board which has a rich history of fraudulent diesel emission studies, violations of California’s open meeting act, and even experimented on children with dangerous diesel exhaust. The CARB also launders cap and trade funds extorted from California businesses by way of carbon offset auctions, through Western Climate Initiative, Inc., “WCI Inc.,” a Delaware Corporation formed by the California Air Resources Board under Mary Nichols, CARB Chairwoman.

Additionally, the Globe reported in 2019:

California Globe can report that a number of USC professors in the Department of Preventive Medicine have received at least $268 million in air pollution research funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, according to Dr. James Enstrom, who believes that this massive amount of research funding has influenced their research findings and their continuing support for the South Coast Air Quality Management District regulations.

Enstrom says his belief is reinforced by USC Preventive Medicine Professors Duncan C. Thomas and Kiros T. Berhane who have failed to respond to Enstrom’s January 2019 and June 2018 emails, which summarize the latest epidemiologic evidence that PM2.5 does not cause premature deaths and that there is no justification for new SCAQMD regulations.

The Globe also reported:

Tasked with overseeing climate change policy and improving California’s air quality, the California Air Resources Board operates like no other state agency. The rogue agency conducts its business in private, without the scrutiny of the public it is accountable to, despite legislative and public outrage over the shroud of secrecy.

In 2012, the CARB, with help from the Democratic Assembly Speaker, figured out a way to exempt itself from the state’s open meeting act. Government Code 11120, the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, is explicitly exempted in the language of a 2012 budget trailer bill authored by then-Assembly Speaker John Perez, a Democrat from Los Angeles.

The California Air Resources Board has not played by their own rules for a long time, and even moved the goal line. The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB 32, charged the California Air Resources Board with the responsibility of reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. This represents a 25 percent reduction statewide. However, the CARB took it one step beyond, and instead adopted the United Nation’s goal: “To avert catastrophic warming,” the world’s scientists have concluded we must reduce GHGs to 80 – 90% below 1990 levels by 2050.”

Many believe the motive is entirely economic by the “world’s scientists,” who want to maintain existing funding, as well as keep future funding flowing in. In order to do this, they must go along with the EPA’s and CARB’s goals.

The EPA and the CARB board insist their goals are the protection of the most vulnerable in society. It’s difficult to believe the EPA and the CARB are sincere when the EPA conducted diesel exhaust experiments on children at UCLA and USC, I wrote in 2015. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency paid the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles to conduct experiments on children, to determine whether exposure to diesel exhaust harms humans.

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe

State Republicans Call on Newsom to Back Fentanyl Legislation

After the California Senate Public Safety Committee agreed to hold a special hearing to address a number of fentanyl-related bills this month, it did not take long for said bills to stat getting shot down.

California Republicans have now called on Gov. Newsom to support some of the legislation. Assembly Republican’s letter to the Governor can be viewed here.

Click to watch full interview at KUSI

Lt. Gov. Kounalakis Announces 2026 Run to Replace Newsom

LOS ANGELES – Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis Monday declared her candidacy for governor in the 2026 election, seeking to be the first woman to hold the post.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is barred from running for re-election that year because of term limits.

“As a proud mother, daughter, advocate, and leader, I know the struggles Californians face and have the experience and grit to bring meaningful change to our state,” Kounalakis, 57, said on social media.

“I will fight fiercely to build a future where everyone — regardless of race, class, or immigration status — has the same opportunity that my family and I had.”

A Democrat, Kounalakis in 2018 became the first woman elected as California‘s lieutenant governor, succeeding the man she is seeking to succeed as governor. She was re-elected in November.

Mona Pasquil served as acting lieutenant governor between John Garamendi’s election to the House in a 2009 special election and Abel Maldonado’s confirmation in 2010 to be Garamendi’s successor.

Born March 3, 1966, in Sacramento, Kounalakis worked for her family’s Sacramento-based housing development firm, AKT Development, for 18 years, building master-planned communities. She was United States ambassador to Hungary from 2010-13 and a virtual fellow with the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 2014-17, specializing in international trade and immigration.

Kounalakis also chaired the California Advisory Council for International Trade and Investment and was a member of California’s First 5 Commission and the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism.

Three women have been major party nominees for governor of California — Democrats Dianne Feinstein in 1990 and Kathleen Brown in 1994 and Republican Meg Whitman in 2010 — but all lost.

Kounalakis’ announcement came on the sixth anniversary of her announcement of her candidacy for lieutenant governor.

Click here to read the full article in the FoxNews11

Jon Coupal: Big problems for California’s Income-Based Utility Rates

In a recent column I referred to SBX1-2, a dangerous legislative proposal to define “excessive profits,” as setting a new speed record in California’s headlong rush toward Soviet-style central planning. Well, let’s add one more bad bill to the state’s perpetual march toward a collectivist state. Fortunately, this one may not be legal for long.

Like SBX1-2, Assembly Bill No. 205 from last year, bypassed many of the normal procedures for enacting legislation. It did this because it was a so-called “budget trailer bill.” While the “budget bill” is constitutionally mandated to be enacted by June 15, it only passes by that date for one reason—so the legislators can continue to receive their paychecks. Moreover, after the enactment of the budget, there are so-called “junior budget bills” amending the fake June 15th budget as well as last-minute “budget trailer bills” directing the spending of billions in ways that the budget bill itself did not direct.

AB 205, the “energy trailer bill,” received scant public attention and no meaningful public hearings were held. But its impacts are profound, and not in a good way.

Following the new law’s mandates, California’s big utility companies have announced a radical change in the way they will charge customers for service. Soon, residential electricity charges will depend in part on the ratepayer’s income. Specifically, electricity bills will have two components: a fixed infrastructure charge that varies with income, and an electricity use charge, which would vary based on consumption. Next year, the CPUC will determine what charges are imposed, and on whom.

Not surprisingly, the announcement from Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas & Electric has resulted in a huge negative reaction from taxpayers and the media – for good reason. Trying to shoehorn an income component into utility rates converts “ratepayers” into “taxpayers,” and Californians have had their fill of high taxes.

The difference between a tax and a fee is more than semantics. Taxes are imposed for generalized government services like education, public safety, transportation, and even for a reasonable safety net for the less fortunate. But a “fee” or “charge” has always correlated to the receipt of a specific service. Californians readily understand the difference and have wholly embraced “cost of service” principles by approving several amendments to the California Constitution.

For example, immediately after Proposition 13 passed in 1978, voters approved the Gann Spending Limit (1979) to limit the growth of government spending to increases in population and inflation. The Gann definition of “proceeds of taxes,” subject to the spending cap, includes user fees except when those fees “exceed the costs reasonably borne by that entity in providing the regulation, product, or service.”

Likewise, in 2010 California voters specifically approved language to clarify the difference between taxes and legitimate user fees. Proposition 26 provides that a tax does not include certain fees as long as the charge “does not exceed the reasonable costs to the State of conferring the benefit or granting the privilege to the payor.”

The income-based utility rates are not scheduled to be in effect until 2025, so ratepayers, taxpayers and voters will have an opportunity to correct this mistake though political means.

But even if politicians do nothing to stop this tax increase, backers of income-based utility rates have another problem. A coalition of taxpayer and business organizations have already qualified the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act (TPA) for the 2024 ballot. Among its many provisions is not only further clarification of what a “tax” is but also a provision that requires any tax to be approved by a legislative body rather than some administrative agency or other authority not directly accountable to voters. That includes the PUC. If the income-based utility rates are deemed to be taxes – an incontrovertible fact – then the tax would have to be approved by the California legislature. Moreover, since the TPA requires any statewide tax increase (this one authorized by AB 205) to be approved by the statewide electorate as well as a two-thirds vote of both houses, voters, one way or another, will have the final say.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Here’s What You Can Do About Fentanyl, Gavin Newsom

Housing without behavioral conditions creates unquenchable demand, whereas housing with behavioral conditions reduces demand

On April 19, during his excursion into one of California’s countless drug infested neighborhoods, a man on the street asked our governor a very explicit question.

Question: “Gavin, tell me what you’re going to do about the fentanyl epidemic?”

Newsom’s answer: “What should I do, JJ? What do you want me to do? You tell me what we need to do.”

There are plenty of answers that could have been offered, since what has been allowed to happen in San Francisco and almost everywhere else in California is one of the most appalling cases of political malpractice in the history of the world.

Two days later, on April 21, the governor announced that he “is directing California Highway Patrol and California National Guard to identify personnel and resources to assist the city in combatting fentanyl trafficking.”

That’s a start, but absent a more comprehensive strategy that involves every afflicted region and affects the consumers along with the distributors, it isn’t going to solve the related problems of addiction and homelessness. 

So if you’re serious about handing California back to law abiding citizens, here’s what you can do next, Governor Newsom:

You should now announce that you will extend this “public safety partnership” throughout the state, and send the California National Guard into every remote county and overwhelmed rural municipality in California and root out the drug cartels. Flood the zone. Smoke them out. Lock them up.

Next, you can clean up the neighborhoods throughout California’s cities that are overrun with the “unhoused.” It is in these lawless enclaves where drugs like fentanyl find their way to retail distributors and end users. To do this, begin by instructing your attorney general to identify and aggressively challenge every court ruling and misguided statute that prevents law enforcement from getting vagrants, addicts, drug dealers, thieves and violent thugs off the streets. Wage lawfare. Don’t quit.

Meanwhile, and remaining in compliance with existing law, construct low cost, minimum security detention facilities, and classify them as “permanent supportive housing.” Locate them on state owned land in rural areas with mild winters, and set up at least three types. One for criminals, one for drug addicts and alcoholics, and one for the mentally ill. The remaining small fraction of homeless individuals who are none of the above will be easily accommodated in already built shelters and already built supportive housing in urban areas.

By taking this approach, you will create a deterrent. A sizable percentage of the entire homeless population in California will melt away once this program is implemented. Once they aren’t permitted to sell drugs and consume drugs while having access to free social services including needles and “safe injection” sites, they’ll find family or friends to stay with. Once they can’t steal without facing certain incarceration, they’ll stop stealing.

There will be plenty of money to pay for these facilities, as well as to pay for supervision and counseling personnel. As it is, California’s taxpayers spend, on average, well over $500,000 for every unit of “permanent supportive housing.” This money, with the full complicity of politicians, goes into the hands of politically connected real estate developers, often to build on some of the most valuable coastal real estate on earth. The magnitude of this corruption defies description. End it. End it now.

Why, governor, does a methamphetamine addict from Tulsa have a “human right” to a free apartment in an expensive neighborhood on the California coast? Instead, give them free housing in a tent. Since a spacious, durable tent will cost under $1,000, that leaves $499,000 to pay for other amenities including supervision and counseling. If you did this, governor, even in a state as corrupt as California, most of that money could be given back to the taxpayers.

Consult with the UN Commission on Refugees to learn how to construct tent cities at minimal expense. The work they’ve done in Syria, for example, shows that semi-permanent encampments, providing all of life’s essentials, can be built and managed at a reasonable cost.

There is a fundamental moral imperative here that eludes almost every progressive politician and analyst. It is not compassionate to let people die on the street. If you accept this, there is only one solution: build low cost tent cities on inexpensive real estate and move the homeless off the streets and into these encampments. Force them to withdraw from drug and alcohol addiction. Compel them to take their anti-psychotic medication. Hold criminals accountable by making them pay their debt to society.

There is no way around this. Everything else costs too much, takes too long, and won’t work anyway.

The reason you don’t solve the problem of homelessness in California, Governor Newsom, is because you’re afraid to stand up to the Homeless Industrial Complex. And until you do, they are going to take all the money, corrupt all the laws, and California will remain a magnet for every junkie in America.

Housing without behavioral conditions creates unquenchable demand, whereas housing with behavioral conditions reduces demand. And to build publicly funded housing at a cost of $500,000 per unit, when that amount of money would pay for 500 tents (or more), is a scam. You don’t just give drug addicts housing units that are better than the housing units that working people scrap their lives away to pay for and can barely afford. When you do this, you turn society upside down. You reward indolence, and disrespect diligence.

The reason the fentanyl problem just keeps getting worse, governor, is because you haven’t been willing to prosecute and convict the people who manufacture, traffic, and sell hard drugs. Harsh penalties are a deterrent. You don’t have to lock everyone up. Once a few thousand of the hard core culprits are locked up and doing hard time, the rest will decide the risk outweighs the benefits.

Click here to read the full article at California Globe

Supreme Court Upholds Approval of Abortion Pill — What It Means for Californians

Medication abortion is still legal in California and across the U.S.

A preliminary U.S. Supreme Court order today preserves the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s two-decade-old approval of the abortion pill mifepristone until the full merits of the case are heard by the high court.

“The U.S. Supreme Court is right to take this action to protect access to medication abortion,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “For now, the Court has followed science, data, and the law rather than an extreme and out of touch political agenda.”

Ahead of the Supreme Court’s highly anticipated decision, California Democratic lawmakers and members of the state’s Future of Abortion Council gathered Tuesday to reaffirm the state’s commitment to protecting abortion rights. 

“We want folks to know that we’re here, and we remain steadfast in our determination to respond appropriately,” Newsom said during the press conference.

Backed by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Senate pro Tempore Toni Atkins, Attorney General Rob Bonta, Legislative Women’s Caucus Chair Sen. Nancy Skinner and other top Democrats, Newsom announced his intention to introduce legislation that would blunt any future legal action in California. Newsom intends to introduce legislation protecting pharmacists who dispense abortion pills and shoring up the state’s supply chain of the drugs but was unable to offer specifics Tuesday.

In a joint statement, Legislative Women’s Caucus leaders Skinner and Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry commended the Supreme Court’s stay. 

“(Mifepristone) should remain legal and accessible, and we will continue to fight any court action that seeks to cut off access to this proven and safe medication,” the statement said. 

The Supreme Court’s one-paragraph order is a positive signal for the FDA and mifepristone manufacturers, Stanford University law professor Henry Greely said. In considering a stay, the court must weigh four different criteria: the likelihood defendants will win an appeal, the likelihood defendants will be irreparably harmed if the stay is denied, the balance of harm caused to others, and the public’s interest.

“To grant a stay you are supposed to find all of the elements,” Greely said.

Greely was one of 20 FDA legal scholars to sign an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to grant a broad stay of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision last week to reinstate significant restrictions on the use of mifepristone pending a full court hearing. The order, however, falls far short of indicating what the high court thinks of the case merits, Greely said.

“We know the Supreme Court is not enamored of abortion. This is not a pro-abortion court. That would count in favor of the plaintiffs here, but the conservatives of the court are also concerned about broad overreaching district court opinions,” he said. “But predicting what the Supreme Court will do is about as useful as betting on horses.”

Today’s preliminary order halts a lightning round of conflicting rulings that has played out in the lower courts over the past two weeks, allowing mifepristone to stay on the market unrestricted. The Fifth Court has already scheduled a first hearing for the case on May 17.

In a statement, Attorney General Bonta underscored the state’s commitment to fighting legal challenges to abortion and offered words of encouragement. 

“I am hopeful that this decision is an indication that better days are ahead for our country,” Bonta said.

California lawmakers, however, will be hard pressed to prevent the original Texas federal court decision from impacting abortion access and providers in the state if it eventually stands. The Texas court case that precipitated the Supreme Court’s order challenges the authority of the FDA to approve pharmaceutical drugs for market: It’s a challenge that reaches across state lines regardless of party politics.

“The reality is we’re not immune,” Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California President Jodi Hicks said.

The recent court decisions have clearly disrupted California’s carefully laid plans to protect abortion rights, with officials scrambling behind the scenes to prepare and react. The state did not join a separate lawsuit out of the Eastern District of Washington state in which a federal judge ruled mifepristone availability must remain untouched in the 17 Democrat-led states and District of Columbia that were part of  the case.

Bonta said Tuesday the state’s decision was “intentional” and “deliberate” to stay in the good graces of the FDA rather than “suing the federal government.”

“We believe there need to be states that collaborate with the federal government,” Bonta said. 

Representatives from the Washington state and Oregon attorneys general offices, who are leading the case, declined to confirm whether California was asked to join the lawsuit. Several FDA legal scholars, however, questioned why California did not join the litigation, which seeks to permanently remove “excessively burdensome regulation” that includes additional documentation and certification requirements for doctors and pharmacies to prescribe the drug.

“Much to my chagrin, California and New York are not in that lawsuit. I’m dying to know why,” said Jennifer Olivia, co-director of the UC College of Law, San Francisco consortium of law, science and health policy. “Sometimes a state decides not to join the lawsuit because the risk could be the ruling could make the current situation worse, but there really wasn’t a risk of that happening here.”

“Thank god it’s preserving access while this moves through the courts.”


Today’s Supreme Court order also avoids creating a conflict with the Washington state ruling, which for one week ordered the FDA to do the opposite of what the Texas ruling ordered. 

Bonta, who has signed briefs defending the FDA in the Texas case, said he believes the “best pathway to defend the FDA’s” authority is through the Texas case.

Olivia, who also signed the FDA legal scholars amicus brief, said the result of the Supreme Court order is the “best-case scenario” for abortion advocates.

Dr. Jennifer Kerns, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at UC San Francisco, said the Supreme Court’s decision to maintain broad access to mifepristone was “a huge relief.”

“I’m shocked, really shocked. All of the different messaging threads that I’m on with people at work, people are speechless,” Kerns said. “Thank god it’s preserving access while this moves through the courts.” 

Hours before the decision, patients visiting the clinic for abortion medication expressed worry about what might have happened if they had come in a couple days later, Kerns said. The order gives abortion providers a glimmer of hope, Kerns said, but everyone is still acutely aware of how tenuous abortion access remains.

“We all still think if this makes it up to the Supreme Court, that this is not going to go in our favor, but at least there is enough thought that for now maybe there wasn’t enough legal grounding to support this latest attack on abortion,” Kerns said.

In anticipation of a ruling restricting mifepristone distribution and use, a number of states have also stockpiled the drug to circumvent a law that prevents interstate shipping. But the ruling leaves a gray area about whether pharmacists can dispense pills already on hand. Newsom previously announced a state stockpile of as many as 2 million misoprostol pills with 250,000 doses currently on hand.

Mifepristone, the drug locked in court battles, blocks the pregnancy hormone progesterone, while misoprostol causes the uterus to empty. Misoprostol can be used safely alone to end a pregnancy, but the medical standard of care for the past two decades has been to use both drugs together for both abortions and miscarriages.

The state Legislature is considering more than two dozen abortion bills this session, most of which strengthen privacy protections.

Julia Spiegel, deputy legal affairs secretary for Newsom, said the state intentionally stockpiled misoprostol instead of mifepristone because its legality is not in question. Lawmakers wanted to ensure medication abortion remained accessible “no matter what is happening in the courts” in the event that a rush by other states to purchase misoprostol causes shortages, Spiegel said.

On Tuesday, Newsom told reporters California also has an “ample supply” of mifepristone. A spokesperson later clarified pharmacies across the state have enough mifepristone on hand to meet demand but there is no stockpile. 

The state Legislature is considering more than two dozen abortion bills this session, most of which strengthen privacy protections for medical records and abortion providers and prohibit state law enforcement from sharing information with states opposed to abortion. The Future of Abortion Council, a political powerhouse of reproductive rights advocates and lawmakers, is supporting 17 of this session’s bills.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Public Transit’s Problems Have Little To Do With Money

California’s public-transit systems are facing a crisis, as already-declining ridership levels fell another 80 percent in the midst of COVID-19. They have only rebounded to 60 percent after the end of the shutdown. Most agencies are facing fiscal calamity and, predictably, state lawmakers are seeking to infuse them with additional cash now that federal pandemic-related subsidies are subsiding.

With the state government now staring down a $25-billion deficit, there’s no extra general-fund cash to prop up struggling systems. That may be a silver lining. Transit’s problems have little to do with inadequate subsidies, so perhaps this challenge will force policymakers to rethink the fundamental problem: Our transit systems are so unpleasant that people don’t want to use them.

State planners have been dumping record amounts of money into transit for years in the hopes that Californians will abandon their cars, but to no avail. The Southern California Association of Governments found that the region’s “median” resident made zero transit trips in a year – and that transit ridership is concentrated in a fraction of the area’s census tracts.

“Without the state stepping in,” transit agencies “say they may have to cut service or increase fares,” according to a CalMatters report. That’s the definition of a death spiral. Because of less revenue, the agencies will reduce and charge more for their already shoddy service. As a result, fewer people will use the service and that will lead to more cutbacks and higher fares. Transit’s problems predate the pandemic, by the way. Per-capita transit use plateaued in 1970.

If you peruse California’s transportation documents, you’ll find little focus on the nuts-and-bolts of transportation. Instead of improving the roads that most of us rely upon and building quality transit for those who depend upon it, the state is devoted to a policy of planned congestion that seeks to make us so miserable we abandon the cars that we rely upon. Just check out the trendy “road diets” that eliminate vital traffic lanes in favor of bike lanes.

The transit systems we’re supposed to hop aboard ultimately operate as jobs programs for government workers and schemes that battle climate change. On the former point, the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system has a janitor who earned $270,000 in total compensation in a year. They view the rider – or potential rider – as an afterthought. That undermines their own stated goals.

“Getting more people out of their own gas-powered cars is essential to meeting the state Air Resources Board’s goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 48 percent below 1990 levels by 2030,” the CalMatters article added. The state has been underinvesting in freeways given that it perceives transit as the future – and lawmakers are busy trying to re-order development patterns so that more of us live in high-density, transit-dependent neighborhoods.

But no one stops to ask, “How are we going to entice (rather than force) Californians onto these mass-transit systems? And they plow ahead with a $100-billion “high speed” train that might one day take a handful of residents from Merced to Bakersfield.

Meanwhile, those people who take transit complain about constant delays, long travel times, uncomfortable and dirty buses – and crime. BART is enduring a crime wave. An L.A. Metro survey last year found that ridership among women has fallen off a cliff – with the key cited reason being crime and a lack of cleanliness. After that system experimented with free ridership during the pandemic, vagrants overran their buses and trains. Go figure.

Such mundane consumer-oriented concerns explain why people increasingly avoid transit, yet the California Department of Transportation’s main planning document is preoccupied with promoting “vibrant communities,” advancing “racial and economic justice” and bolstering “public and environmental health.” Those goals are fine, but the agencies can’t even manage systems that commuters feel safe to use.

Transit agencies face a conundrum. Because they view transit ridership largely in equity terms, they design the systems largely as social-welfare programs designed to provide poorer residents with a means to get around. Yet when they dump billions of dollars in boutique rail lines, they inevitably cannibalize funds from the bus routes that serve the bulk of their riders – and few drivers end up taking those rail lines, anyway.

The state’s progressive leaders seem to disdain cars, so they prefer hectoring drivers about their climate footprint and punishing them for driving pickup trucks. They forget that the bulk of lower-income people also rely on their cars – and that car ownership remains a key stepping stool into the middle class.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Did Gov. Newsom’s Capitol Staff Break Campaign Laws on his Red State ‘Political’ Tour?

Was Newsom’s trip ‘on state time and the taxpayers’ dime?’

Did Governor Gavin Newsom and/or his staff break state campaign laws while he toured red states trolling Republican governors?

Fox News did a rather thorough report Wednesday on Newsom’s trip through red states, “running for one job while doing another.” They asked if this was done “on state time and the taxpayers’ dime?” (video below)

The Governor has leeway to campaign, but not using his Capitol staff. As Fox News reporter William La Jeunesse pointed out, most politicians have two sets of staff – campaign staff and their legislative, Capitol staff.

Gov. Newsom launched a new organization paid for by a Super PAC, “Campaign for Democracy,” claiming “America is in an existential struggle for democracy.”

Newsom toured Southern Red States, even managing to irritate Democrats. The Washington Examiner reported, “Local Democrats in red Southern states are not as thrilled about Gov. Gavin Newsom‘s (D-CA) tour as he is. His vocal attempts to overhaul Republican states and turn them blue seem to be missing the mark for residents, who are hopeful about a surge in Democratic control but are realistic about their obstacles.”

“He took on conservatives in southern states where his left-leaning policies are not typically welcome by GOP-dominated counties and cities,” the Times said. “The goal, funded by a super PAC using $10 million of his leftover campaign money, appears to be helping Democrats win in red states and districts.”

Newsom accused Republicans of banning books, stoking racism and banning abortion in Florida, Arkansas and Alabama.

Fox News focused on Newsom’s communications staffers and aids who were Tweeting out his trip during work hours:

  • April 10, Alex Stack, retweeted a video blasting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
  • April 4,5, 7, Deputy Comms Director Brandon Richards slams authoritarian Republicans.
  • April 5, Comms Director Izzy Gardon Tweets “regressive ideologues must be called out.”

Fox News contacted the Governor’s office which replied, “Those accounts are personal accounts, sent from personal devices.” When Fox News said the Tweets were sent during business hours, there was silence from Gov. Newsom’s office.

Using government resources to attack your political enemies appears not only authoritarian,  but also illegal, and an abuse of power.

“The Campaign for Democracy was founded to expose and fight rising authoritarianism across the nation.” Gov. Newsom’s Campaign for Democracy‘s mission “is to confront and defeat unAmerican authoritarianism.” Using government resources to attack his political enemies appears to be the kind of authoritarianism he claims to be fighting.

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe

California Bills to Expand State Tax Credits Could Send $1 Billion to Low-Income Families

When Reyna Bonilla lost her job cleaning hotel rooms in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, she used tax credits and other pandemic relief to chip away at past-due rent so she and her two children could stay in their Koreatown apartment in Los Angeles.  

This year things are different. Bonilla cleans homes a few days a week but only makes about $10,000 a year. Most of her pandemic aid has phased out, so she struggles to keep up with expenses.

Add to that, her youngest child turned 6 in November, making Bonilla ineligible for California’s Young Child Tax Credit. Her tax refund will be $1,083 less this year, squeezing her already tight budget.

“Sometimes I say I’m going to save money and I start saving,” she said, “but the prices go up and I can’t do it anymore.”  

Advocates say California’s tax credits are more crucial now, as low-income families like Bonilla’s struggle to financially recover from the pandemic as other government relief programs end.

For instance, the federal government in 2020 expanded its tax credits to send advanced monthly payments to low-income families with children and, for the first time, included very low-income earners. It helped cut child poverty, but the federal credit expansion ended in December 2021. 

Democratic Assemblymembers Mike Gipson of Gardena and Miguel Santiago of Los Angeles recently authored two bills that would expand California’s Earned Income Tax Credit and its Young Child Tax Credit

Combined the bills would cost about $1.1 billion annually, in a year the state is predicting a $22.5 billion to $25 billion deficit.

Who gets earned income, young child tax credits?

“The need for lower-income tax credits is as dramatic as ever,” said Teri Olle, California campaign director of the Economic Security Project, a national nonprofit based in New York. 

“Gas prices, food prices — none of that is better than it was before the pandemic. Now a lot of these supports that have been in place are expiring and people are left with higher prices, a higher cost of living and nothing to support them. “

Currently the California Earned Income Tax Credit gives credits of $1 to about $3,400 to tax filers who earn as much as $30,000 in annual income.  

In 2022, 3.6 million Californians received the state’s earned income tax credit, according to the Franchise Tax Board. It had a modest impact; about 83% of those filers got less than $300 in state tax credits.

That’s partly by design. The state earned income tax credit is structured to provide an incentive for people to work, so it phases in more cash as earned income increases to $30,000. 

For instance, someone who earned only $200 in 2022 and has three children would receive $67 in earned income credit, while someone who made about $9,000 with three children would receive $3,417.

Those who make $30,000 receive $1, regardless of how many children they have. Those who earn more don’t qualify. 

It targets working individuals with dependents who are most in need. But it leaves out many people who can’t work because they are caring for loved ones and single filers who don’t have dependents but struggle to get by, advocates said. 

“It doesn’t go far enough, especially in the economy we find ourselves in,” Gipson said. 

Raising minimum child credits

His Assembly Bill 1498 would raise the minimum credit to $300 from $1, regardless of number of dependents, as long as a recipient makes less than $30,000 a year. 

On the other hand, California’s Young Child Tax Credit currently gives $1,083 to filers with a dependent under the age of 6. Once a family’s youngest child turns 6, the family no longer qualifies for the credit.

Santiago’s AB 1128 would enable tax filers with dependents who also qualify for the state Earned Income Tax Credit to continue qualifying for the young child tax credit after the youngest child ages past 6. Those families would keep the child tax credit until the child reaches 18, or as old as 23 if they are a student. 

Families with a dependent with disabilities also would qualify for the young child tax credit regardless of their dependent’s age. 

Santiago said the proposal is a “modest” ask that would greatly benefit  families that suffered the biggest financial losses during the pandemic. 

“This program is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs we have,” he said. “We can expand the current program and help more people than have ever been helped.”

The young child tax credit bill would benefit 700,000 to 1 million more children each year, said Monica Lazo, a senior policy manager of Golden State Opportunity, an anti-poverty organization. 

Lazo believes there is ample support for stretching California’s tax credits. 

“The will is there,” she said. “We are in a recession, but there’s a lot of folks that always come out unscathed — because they have certain tax credits those of us in the working class don’t have access to.”

‘Essential workers’ could benefit 

Many very low-income workers were forced to go to work during the pandemic, she said, while higher earners often could work from home. 

“These are people who are helping our local economy; we declared them essential,” she said. “So this is a way we can help them and really prove to them they are essential.”  

Research shows that people spend tax credits almost immediately on basic needs, such as school supplies for their children, which means the money immediately goes back into the economy. For every $1 of  tax credit, $1.70 is invested in a local economy, said Anna Hasselblad, director of public policy for United Ways of California. 

“Where you’re going to see the greatest economic stimulation and impact is if you invest it in folks with lower incomes,” Hasselblad said. “They’re going to put that money to work immediately.” 

Bonilla said she has spent her tax credits on electricity bills, clothing and shoes for her children. If she were to get an extra $1,083 in child tax credits each year, Bonilla said, she would save it for future expenses for when her daughter starts college. 

“There wouldn’t be so much worry. I would have extra money,” she said.

Expanding California’s earned income tax credit would benefit people of color the most because they make up three-quarters of eligible workers in the state, said Alissa Anderson, policy researcher at the California Budget & Policy Center, a research nonprofit.

It also would simplify the process of claiming tax credits; the Franchise Tax Board would more easily identify qualifying workers and automatically send funds, Anderson said.

Seeking bipartisan support

Tax credits traditionally receive bipartisan support, but the two bills may face a challenge in the projected state budget deficit. If passed, the proposed earned income tax expansion would cost about $460 million annually and the proposed expanded youth tax credit would cost about $700 million annually. 

Both bills are new versions of a proposal last year which would have provided a one-time payment of $2,000 per child to families who received California’s earned income tax credit. 

That proposal, also sponsored by Santiago and anti-poverty organizations, included a permanent increase of the earned income credit’s $1 minimum payment to $255.

“When you recognize the contribution people are making and allow them to reinvest that money themselves, instead of allowing government to take that discretion, it’s a better pathway.”ASSEMBLYMEMBER TOM LACKEY, REPUBLICAN FROM PALMDALE

Last year, the state had a projected surplus of $31 billion. But as inflation rose, other state priorities arose, such as the “middle class tax refund” that gave households $9.5 billion in financial relief. 

Santiago pulled the bill from the Senate Governance and Finance Committee because it did not have enough votes to pass, a spokesperson for Santiago said. 

Assemblymember Tom Lackey, a Republican from Palmdale, said the long-term benefits of tax credits outweigh the short-term financial challenges. Lackey co-authored the earned income credit bill and supports the young child tax credit expansion bill. 

“The Republican Party believes in fiscal responsibility,” he said. “When you recognize the contribution people are making and allow them to reinvest that money themselves, instead of allowing government to take that discretion, it’s a better pathway. It’s the people’s money.”

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

How Will Newsom, Legislators Deal With Growing Revenue Shortfalls?

When Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a 2023-24 budget in January, he acknowledged that the revenue estimates made six months earlier were way too optimistic and that the state had evolved from a nearly $100 billion surplus to a $22.5 billion deficit.

Never mind. Nine months into the current fiscal year, it’s evident that revenue, principally from personal income taxes, will fall well short of that downward revision. The deficit could hit $30 billion as he and legislative leaders begin to focus on a final version for adoption in June.

Through February, the administration reported, revenues were running nearly $5 billion below expectations and they fell short by nearly $1 billion more in March.

The numbers bolster contentions by the Legislature’s budget analyst, Gabe Petek, that the state’s fiscal situation was unhealthier than Newsom was admitting. In his initial response to the January budget, Petek said, “Our estimates suggest that there is a good chance that revenues will be lower than the administration’s projections for the budget window, particularly in 2022-23 and 2023-24.”

The next stop for the annual budget process will come in May, when Newsom must unveil revised revenue estimates and appropriations. The worsening revenue data set the stage for what could be contentious negotiations with a June 15 constitutional deadline for passing a budget.

The essential problem is that when Newsom was forecasting an immense surplus and bragging that “no other state in American history has ever experienced a surplus as large as this,” he and the Legislature spent much of it on rebates to taxpayers and expansions of programs, especially those benefiting the poor.

Although Newsom insisted at the time that much of that spending was one-time in nature and therefore wouldn’t make unsustainable long-term commitments, it nevertheless raised expectations of permanency. Thus, when Newsom offered a new budget in January, he clawed back many of those allocations, particularly those that hadn’t yet been spent, sparking complaints from would-be recipients.

As revenues continue to fall short, expectations will have to shrink further, the competition for money among budget stakeholders will become more intense and the pressure on Newsom and legislators will increase.

They may be tempted to do something that Newsom says he doesn’t want to do and that Petek says would be foolhardy: tap into the state’s “rainy day” reserves to relieve stakeholder pressure.

The reserves are meant to be used during a severe economic downturn, but California’s fiscal problem is occurring during a relatively prosperous post-pandemic recovery. The shortfall in revenues is occurring because of the state’s narrowly based revenue system, one that is largely dependent on earnings of high-income taxpayers, particular in the shaky technology sector.

The stock market has reacted negatively to the Federal Reserve System’s interest rate increases, which are meant to combat inflation. Declines in the market manifest themselves in lower taxable earnings by investors who are such a large factor in the revenue stream. The system is so narrowly based that lower incomes for just a handful of wealthy Californians can have a big effect on revenues.

Dipping into reserves to cover the revenue shortfall would weaken their ability to cushion a recession if and when that occurs, which is why Petek strongly discourages New

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters