The state Supreme Court will review San Diego’s five-year-old pension cutbacks that, if overturned, would require the city to spend millions creating retroactive pensions for more than 3,000 workers hired since 2012. The court voted unanimously on Wednesday to review an April ruling by the Fourth District Court of Appeal that had vindicated the city and its pension cuts.
Republicans were not just casually supporting this bill. After countless negotiations with the governor, industry groups, taxpayer associations and community groups, Republicans have finally attained an equal seat at the legislative table. To echo the California Manufacturers Association, the California Chamber of Commerce, and countless other groups that share the common interest of the taxpayer, a free-market based cap and trade program is much better than a costly “command and control” alternative.
California is poised for a swift transformation of its electricity landscape — and that could bring tumult if preparations aren’t made soon to maintain quality and avoid reliability problems like rolling blackouts, the state’s leading energy regulator is warning. After decades of dominance by investor-owned utilities, electricity markets in the state are becoming more competitive. Ratepayers today have a growing number of choices for powering their lights, laptops and electric cars — from installing rooftop solar panels and consumer-scale batteries to joining increasingly popular government-run electricity programs known as community choice aggregation, or CCA. Currently, investor-owned utilities such as San Diego Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric together buy and sell more than 75 percent of the state’s electricity. Their collective share could plunge to 10 percent within the next five years, with CCA programs causing most of the change, according to the state’s most aggressive forecast. More conservative estimates still show major shifts away from the utilities.
Here’s a cynical view: Maybe the law’s stated goal wasn’t its real goal. Maybe influential teachers unions wanted to shower big districts with money to pave the way for teacher pay raises denied during the state’s long revenue recession. Want evidence?
On the micro level, consider what happened in Los Angeles Unified, the state’s largest district. In August 2014, the United Teachers Los Angeles issued a statement calling for a 17.6 pay increase and asserting the raise was affordable because of all the “extra dollars [that] have already flowed into the district as part of the state’s new funding formula.” In May 2015, the union ended up winning a 10 percent, two-year raise, and a year of retroactive higher pay. The following month, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson overruled an underling and said that Local Control Funding Formula money could be used for teacher raises. As Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, immediately pointed out, this is not what the Legislature intended when it passed the law.
On the macro level, consider what’s happened in Sacramento. The Brown administration has been implacably opposed to attempts led by Weber and Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, to determine how school districts have spent their Local Control funds. It doesn’t want the public to know.
The new economy is not like the old economy. Once that settles in, there is an obvious strategy to pursue: overhauling our education system so it produces far more people with elite job skills. These skills often involve critical thinking and a facility with science and technology. Fields such as information technology, life sciences, cybersecurity, robotics, automation, artificial intelligence-assisted research and advanced statistical analysis are certain to grow in coming years.