It’s doubtful whether more than a relative handful of Californians have heard of the Unemployment Insurance Fund. It is, however, one of state government’s largest activities – and a case study in political mismanagement. Currently, California employers pay about $6 billion in payroll taxes into the UIF each year. And currently, the state Employment Development Department annually pays almost that much to jobless workers. Superficially, that would appear to be a sustainable equation, but in reality, it’s not. During periods of high payrolls and low unemployment, such as this one, the UIF should be building reserves that could cope with an economic downturn, when claims for jobless benefits increase. That’s the way it used to work – until political expediency and recession undid it.
Industries regulated under California’s cap-and-trade program reduced greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 5% in 2016, according to new data released by state officials. Richard Corey, executive director of the California Air Resources Board, said the numbers show the state is on track to meet its emission-reduction targets in 2020 and 2030.
A key moment in the modern myth-making around small business came in 1978. That’s when MIT economist David Birch published claims – which he repeated in testimony before Congress – that small firms had accounted for 80 per cent of all new employment opportunities between 1968 and 1976. Critics quickly pointed out that Birch’s findings were quite wrong, largely because he defined firm size according to how many employees worked in a given location (like a branch office, factory, or store), not how many the firm employed altogether. In fact, most job creation, in the 1970s and today, comes from a small number of very fast-growing firms, while most small firms either fail (killing jobs) or remain small. Birch later admitted that the 80 per cent figure was a ‘silly number’, but the claims took firm root in popular mythology and political rhetoric by the 1980s. ‘Small businesses create eight out of every 10 new jobs,’ said Richard Lesher, president of the largest pro-business lobbying organisation, the US Chamber of Commerce.
California’s Unemployment Insurance Fund is projected to have a positive balance by the end of 2018, marking the first time since 2008 that the employer-funded account will end in the black, the California Employment Development Department (EDD) reported October 31. California in 2009 began borrowing from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits, and in 2012 the debt triggered a reduction in California employers’ Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) credit. The FUTA credit reduction has carried over every year since then, costing employers approximately $9.5 billion in additional tax from 2012 through 2018 (as projected by the EDD).
We know this destructive gas tax will disproportionately hurt working families and struggling small businesses, but unfortunately the list of new burdens does not stop there. Governor Brown signed a slew of additional bills which will make California even more hostile to small business.