POP’s, GEOP’s and MacGuffins

Alfred Hitchcock often employed a technique in his films known as a “MacGuffin,” which is an object, device or event that draws attention from the real plot but is largely insignificant itself. MacGuffins are also employed in California politics, as the example below demonstrates.

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California’s Conflict-Of-Interest Bonds

Imagine you are a donor to a non-profit organization whose board members receive gifts from employees to whom the board, without your consent, promises retirement benefits. Now the organization is asking you for larger donations to cover surging retirement spending but not disclosing the real reason more money is needed.

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Philanthropy For California's Public Schools

Recently the San Francisco Chronicle carried a story about a corporation donating $17 million to the San Francisco and Oakland Unified School Districts. Philanthropic support of public schools sounds good but what is the impact? Less than meets the eye.

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The Budget Is The Thing

Further to our recent opinion piece about state and local government accounting, a reader asked for an illustration of a state budget ignoring costs. California’s treatment of insurance subsidies provided to retired state employees (known as “Other Post-Employment Benefits,” or “OPEB”) provides one such illustration.

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Potemkin Pension Accounting In California

Accounting for state and local governments is determined by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), which has a too-cozy relationship with the governments it is supposed to regulate. GASB doesn’t stop state and local governments from treating borrowings as revenues, avoiding cost recognition by simply not paying expenses, or claiming balanced budgets that often are nothing of the sort.

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Hoover Institution: California Can Reform K–12 And Medi-Cal, Or Face A Future Of Perpetual Tax Hikes

Here’s another way to look at the complicated question of California’s commitment to public education in these flush economic times, with some compelling illustration of the state’s finances. And an unsettling conclusion: more and more tax increases will be the Golden State’s fate unless lawmakers get serious about reforming two large portions of California’s budget—K–12 schools and Medi-Cal, which account for more than one-half of California’s General Fund spending.

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Sacramento’s Shades of Socialism

Socialism has become a hot topic in the presidential election but that should not be a surprise. Governments in the US have long engaged in various shades of socialism. California is no exception.

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Free CA’s NPs!

For all its progressive talk, California often walks regressive paths. One example is the state’s paternalistic restriction on nurse practitioners (NPs), who are advanced practice registered nurses with post-graduate degrees. California is among the minority of US states, and the only western state, to require NPs to work under physician oversight. In doing so, California has effectively created a feudal system under which physicians get to earn unnecessary stipends even when patients don’t request their participation.

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Assessing Candidates For President

A number of people in the GFC Network have asked our opinion of presidential candidates. To date we have begged off, citing our expertise as limited to state politics. But on reflection we think there’s one piece of advice we could offer: a checklist for assessing candidates. While federal and state governments take on very different tasks — the federal government is (as one pundit puts it) “an insurance company with an army” while states provide most domestic public services — both are American-style democracies with co-equal branches of government that require particular talents from legislators and executives to be successful. So, for what it’s worth, here’s our approach…

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California’s Per-Pupil Spending

New Haven Unified School District students finally returned to school this week after the district and teachers reached agreement on a new contract. But a close vote and angry words are signs no one is happy. The settlement is temporary, just as in LA and Oakland earlier this year. That’s because the district and the teachers want more money but the state already boosted school spending, already raised taxes, and already moved higher among US states in per pupil funding.

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Week Three: New Haven Unified Strike

The New Haven Unified School District teachers’ strike has moved into its third week. We are troubled this subject is not dominating discussion in the legislature.

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All Quiet In Sacramento

The New Haven Unified School District teachers’ strike has moved into its second week, surpassing the duration of the Oakland and Los Angeles teachers’ strikes earlier this year.

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For Whom Senate Bill 29 Tolls

Medi-Cal is an entitlement to health insurance provided to low-income Californians. With 13 million customers, Medi-Cal is a voucher-type system funded by a combination of the state and federal government. Spending on Medi-Cal in the fiscal year starting July 1 is projected to be $102 billion, $23 billion of which is projected to come from the state’s General Fund.

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Scapegoating In Sacramento

Govern For California supports lawmakers who legislate in the general interest. This week two bills will be up for votes in the State Assembly that are pure examples of special interest legislation.

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Fear The Wheelbarrow!

According to the Smithsonian, researchers believe the wheelbarrow first appeared in classical Greece between the sixth and fourth centuries B.C. and could pay for itself in just 3 or 4 days in terms of labor savings. Its invention drove a massive improvement in productivity that freed humans for other endeavors.

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An Open Letter To California’s Senate Education Committee

There’s a scene in the Monty Python film Life of Brian in which a committee meets to discuss a resolution condemning Roman oppression while their hero, Brian, is being led to his crucifixion. A resolution wasn’t the sort of action Brian needed at that time. But at least he got a discussion.

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