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California State Government October 7, 2003 Election
Smart Voter


By Carl A. Mehr

Candidate for Recall of Gray Davis; State of California

This information is provided by the candidate
1. Introduction

2. The Recall

3. Legislative Responsiveness

4. Improved Governance

5. Improved Business Climate

6. Indian Casinos

7. Schools

8. Incarceration

9. Colorado River Water

1. Introduction

Anybody reading my position on the following issues important to California would recognize me as fiscally conservative. Although born a US citizen, I was raised in Nazi occupied Denmark and did not return to the USA until 1952. I was a poor de facto immigrant#I still have a Danish accent. Thus, I appreciate more than many born here the spirit of opportunity and rewards for initiative in the US. I do not respect those who constantly expect handouts. I do not respect legislators that represent only power brokers#unions, special interest groups. These power brokers raise funds for captive votes whose main interest is to protect their incumbency and patronage. Thus I do not expect your vote if you are a lobbyist, a tort attorney, a state government official, an existing state legislator, a Howard Jarvis tax dinosaur or an avid union member. I seek the vote of the average man and woman who desires excellence in governance, not a perpetuation of the present. This web site gives me the opportunity to speak out for fairness and against entrenched politics. I am the voice of the common man.

2. The Recall

The recall of Gray Davis for other than malfeasance is a mistake. But, since he has failed to demonstrate the leadership and competence we expect from the governor of the most populous state in the union, it would be a worse mistake to vote him back into office, if the recall is successful and he succeeds in being a candidate for election. For that reason, I offer my candidacy for governor. However, I would encourage and promote a State proposition to restrict the recall of all elected state officers for criminality activity only. Incompetence is properly recognized at the regularly scheduled elections.

3. Legislative Responsiveness

We need in our State House of Representatives and Senate people who are truly representative of their community, not party hacks slavishly following party leadership commands so as to protect their incumbency. The party leaders now control their members by threatening to redistrict them out of their districts or finance another party candidate, if they do not toe the party line That is exactly what Republican leader Bruite said recently, if any Republican dared to vote for an increase in taxes in order to pass the State budget. Such threats push out moderates of both parties; consequently, we have a polarized legislature. It prevents compromise, the art of good government. So I propose that redistricting be taken out of the legislature and given to a truly independent commission. Swing districts will promote better governance. I will encourage and promote a State proposition to that effect.

4. Improved Governance

4.1 General Fund Revenues

In 1995, people earning over $100,000 per year paid $10.7 billion to the State in income taxes. By 2000, that number had increased to $32 billion. This increase represented most of the growth of the State's general fund over this period. When the stock bubble burst, that number declined to $8 billion, the principal source of the current budget deficit that the legislature and the governor have papered over for the past two years. Government officials should have foreseen this potential economic volatility and not expanded spending accordingly. Those increased tax revenues could have been used for one-time capital-improvement projects or used to pay off existing callable State bonds. The tax-and-spend folks in Sacramento did a good job soaking the rich during this period, and now have to pay the piper. Instead they have failed to address the issue; they are borrowing money and destroying California's credit rating. The sensible position is the combination of significant spending cuts and modest tax increases, one which the ideologues of both parties will not compromise on.

4.2 Property Taxes

Proposition 13 , a popular public sponsored measure, was passed in 1977 because property taxes were rising at an exorbitant rate and local government agencies failed to restrict their spending. However, that proposition restricted the yearly reassessment of properties to a 2% increase only, far below the average inflation rate since that time. Further, the Courts ruled that schools could not be funded solely by property taxes, because it gave rich districts an unfair advantage. Consequently, it was mandated that property taxes were to be turned over to the State and returned to local governments under an equalizing formula that is not fair#San Diego is poorly treated . In addition, those funds now come with strings from Sacramento.

As these redistributed property taxes did not keep up with inflation, the State gave local governments one percent out of the nominal six percent of sales taxes. This meant that local governments preferred commercial over residential construction. Further, local governments greatly increased development fees for new construction. In some cities, development fees of about $30,000 for each new apartment are required before the first stone is turned. Thus for a developer to make a profit, he has to construct an upscale apartment building. That there is now a shortage of rental housing for low income families is hardly surprising.

Properties are reassessed upon sale, consequently property taxes increase. Thus large differences in taxes arise in identical properties, one recently purchased and one long held by the same owner. This is manifestly unfair. It is particular galling that commercial properties, which are typically held for long term, pay so much less property taxes than houses that have more frequent turnover. This distortion of the income sources for local governments is a major source of poor governance.

Proposition 13 should be modified to return more control of funds to local governments, to reduce development fees to actual costs instead of de facto taxes, and reduce reliance on sales taxes as a revenue source for local governments.

4.3 Government Waste

Abraham Lincoln said: "Power corrupts, and all power corrupts absolutely." It is a propensity of legislators to try solving problems by creating regulatory boards and commissions without auditing or monitoring those new entities. Once created, those boards and commissions lobby for expanded jurisdiction and funds and thus become captive to special interests who through campaign contributions capture legislator votes. In addition, appointment to these boards and commissions is a source of patronage to the governor and legislative leaders.

Consider that a development near the coast and approved by the local planning department will require review and approval by the Coastal Commission, the Hillside Commission and perhaps even an Architectural Commission. Each review and approval takes time which increases development costs. Why could not all these functions be combined into the local planning department? There are many local activists to challenge developments that do not satisfy the Coastal Act or other applicable law.

Every commission and board in the State should be reviewed for their performance and cost effectiveness, and, wherever possible, eliminated. Any useful regulatory function would be sent to a local agency or to a government agency headed by an elected official.

4.4 State Budget

Good governance demands leadership. It requires legislators to raise or lower taxes, to eliminate or start new programs. Less government is reflective of the unique American trait of the individual making decisions for himself and taking responsibility for them. If we achieve a more representative legislature, then we can afford to reduce the percentage to raise or lower funds to fifty percent. This avoids the impasse in passing the state budget which has been delayed past the statutory deadline year after year with its concomitant impact on contractors and state vendors and their employees. The exception to this fifty percent would be bonds which bind us to the future. If we don't like the results, then we can vote the rascals out. I will promote and encourage a State proposition to this effect.

5. Improved Business Climate

Recently, Buck Knives in El Cajon, a long established business with a national reputation, announced that it was relocating to Iowa where labor are lower and state taxes less. We cannot afford to be significantly less competitive than other states. Our wonderful climate and our technological resources are not sufficient to overcome the excessive burdens placed on our businesses. We need to increase employment, not put laid off workers on welfare. The pertinent issues are discussed in the following.

5.1 Workman's Compensation Insurance.

Did you know that to insure his worker against death or injury, a roofing contractor IN California pays $106 for Workman's Compensation (WC) insurance for every $100 that his worker earns? Did you know that a general contractor pays $70 for that insurance for every $100 his carpenter earns? These rates are staggering#the highest in the nation#, yet the benefits are among the lowest. How can that be? Because the legislature expanded eligibility and failed to audit the overuse of the system. Consider that the average number of visits to a chiropractor on a WC claim is 14, nationwide. In California it is 34. Compensation for injured workmen is supposed to be a no fault system, yet employers and insurers must hire lawyers for 29% of claims in which the employee lost a week of work. And the employee who hires an attorney will lose some 30% of his award. Reform is urgently required.

5.2 Excessive State regulation.

As a reward to the Unions, Governor Davis, approved overtime provisions for workers that are more generous than those mandated by the Federal government. Legislators have no concept that they are spending other's money and eroding business competitiveness. In addition, the legislature has mandated that the prevailing wage--the highest local union pay scale-- be utilized in public construction. Why cannot local communities make or decline that choice instead? Does big brother know better?

5.3 Frivolous Lawsuits.

Lawsuits are the consequence of parties failing to agree. If we could encourage or pressure parties to agree, then there would be less lawsuits. Liability insurance costs would then decline, courts would be less clogged and justice would be swifter. The best way to accomplish this would be for the loser in a lawsuit to generally pay the prevailing party's court costs and attorney fees. Tort attorneys violently oppose this idea because it would greatly reduce their revenue. They claim it would allow strong parties to intimidate weak ones. This claim may be overcome by requiring that each party make a settlement offer known only to the judge, not the jury. The judge would then be required in any court settlement to award court costs and attorney fees to that party whose settlement offer was closest to the final court award. Such an approach would improve the business climate in California. Lets not shoot tort attorneys, merely put them out of business.

6. Indian Casinos.

Indian gaming revenues in California were $3.42 billion in 2002, and more Indian casinos are to open in 2003. Compare to the gaming revenues in Nevada of $9.45 billion for 2002, taxes on which provided 36% of that State's general fund. For California, there is no revenue sharing from Indian gaming unlike other States. In addition, Indian casinos are not subject to State environmental regulations. Consider the Barona Indians in San Diego County who constructed a golf course, watered from a local aquifer, which they depleted so much that their neighbor's wells ran dry. This would not have happened if the Barona Indians had been required to observe State environmental restrictions.

Further, the Indian casinos are not subject to State employment statutes, nor do they believe they should be regulated by the California Gaming Commission. This results from the gaming compact, sloppily written by Governor Davis after receipt of large campaign contributions from Indian tribes. While, I sympathize with the past misery of Indian tribes with successful casinos, it is unreasonable to expect that their exclusive license for gaming has no price. As governor, I would renegotiate that compact.

7. Schools

Our schools are presently funded at less than the national average per pupil when we are the richest State in the union. We need to do better; our children are our future. It is not sufficient merely to increase the funding per child. We need a system that objectively evaluates each child in the school system and the teachers. We should reward teachers who create big improvements to their students, regardless of the levels of those pupils. This means maintaining records of each child throughout his or her entire school life with those records following whenever he or her transfers to a new school.

This objective system allows us to fire those teachers who are ineffective and are presently protected by seniority and a powerful union. It also allows us to recognize and reward excellent teachers. We need to give incentives to good teachers to work in minority schools to improve the state average academic scores. We need to impose the discipline of testing and the ignominy of failure. It is unacceptable to give diplomas to students who cannot read or do arithmetic. Such students should have been given remedial education earlier or channeled into an education of practical rather than academic skills. We need to oppose those who think that increased funding for schools is the sole answer.

We also need to examine the inefficiencies in the school system. Are the school districts administration heavy? Are they burdened by excessive regulation from the State? Can the incentives given to many good teachers at minority schools lead to reduced busing requirements? Remember that it is difficult for bused students to participate in after school athletic and academic enrichment or remedial programs. Can we better utilize the school buildings by offering year round education, a full time job for teachers with a concomitant increase in pay?

8. Incarceration

We need to reduce our rate of incarceration that is among the highest in the nation. Many prisoners are there for drug related offences. It is cheaper to spend the money on rehabilitation than on incarceration with its financial and social impact on prisoner-families. We need to look again carefully at the "three-strikes-you're-out-law" which has imprisoned many for minor third time offences and has caused angst among judges and led some district attorney to deem the third offence a misdemeanor. Such long-term imprisonment for minor offences frequently takes people out of a productive workplace and into costly non-production. Note the yearly cost of incarceration is equal to the yearly cost of a Harvard University education.

This high incarceration rate has lead to excessive construction of prisons and the creation of a powerful union of correction officers. That union wants no change in the status quo and heavily funds those politicians that support them, e.g. Gray Davis. It is time to empower the people and reduce this union's influence.

9. Colorado River Water

The loss of Colorado River water is a major blow to Southern California, especially San Diego and Imperial Counties. We need to vigorously seek a solution that reverses the recent cut off by the Secretary of the Interior. We must reach a compromise that ensures our water supply, protects agricultural interests and does not sacrifice the Salton Sea. The solution requires leadership and effort, qualities missing from the present governor.

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