Friday, December 7, 2012

In Jerry We Trust

61% of the employer premium and self-insured deposit increase is “preparation for implementation of SB 863,” California Department of Industrial Relations (DIR) spokeswoman Erika Monterroza told WorkCompCentral yesterday.

To implement various provisions in the reform bill, the division believes it will need an additional $89.8 million more than it collected this year, $72.6 million of which is needed for the Workers’ Compensation Administration Revolving Fund (WCARF), which pays for the day-to-day operations of the Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC).

Greg Edwards, chief financial officer of the Department of Industrial Relations, said during a telephone interview that he can’t provide additional information on where the money for implementing SB 863 will be directed until the governor releases his budget.

The Department of Finance said the governor plans to release his budget on Jan. 10.

“In a normal year, if any year can be called normal, we usually can communicate quite specifically on what is in the assessment and what is driving the assessment,” Edwards said.

For the 2013 assessment, Edwards said he can’t discuss details about the impact of the reform bill “because it does contemplate some elements of SB 863, and because elements of SB 863 will be included in the governor’s Jan. 10 budget, which is considered confidential until it is released.”

Edwards told WorkCompCentral he can’t even talk about which provisions of SB 863 drove the assessment increase.

In other words, people at the top know - they just don't want US to know.

Secrecy is how the Brown Administration works. The Governor's office would rather not be engaged in debate, would rather not elicit the feedback of constituents who are affected by top-down decisions, would rather that people figure it out on their own, after the fact, with little time to adjust, so that the next big spending project can be conjured and implemented without debate.

What is more frustrating, however, is that The People are just fine with how this governor operates.

Jason Schmelzer, a lobbyist for the California Coalition on Workers’ Compensation, said “Employers would be silly to say, ‘Hey, state of California, we want you to fix the workers’ comp system, but we will be outraged at paying for implementation of reform provisions that are supposed to pay for benefit increases and also save us money.’”

With all due respect to Schmelzer, I don't know of any employer who is taking the position that they don't want to implement reforms (that in my opinion likely won't garner much if any savings over the long term). The issue is not the sum total of what is being spent.

The issue is HOW the money is going to be spent.

California government has a long history of picking the pockets of its citizens with promises of prudent spending and gregarious claims of benefit and value, only to find later that the spending had to be more than anticipated, and that the benefits would be much less than promised.

A glaring example of this was the 1984 passage of Proposition 37, the California State Lottery Act.

The California State Lottery Act of 1984 was intended to provide more money to schools without imposing extra taxes. Accordingly, the Lottery was required to provide at least 34% of its revenues to public education, supplementing (not replacing) other funds provided by California.

On April 8, 2010, Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law Assembly Bill 142 (Hayashi, D-Hayward), amending the Lottery Act, which directs "the commission to establish the percentage to be allocated to the benefit of public education at a level that maximizes the total net revenues allocated to the benefit of public education."

Since 1984 billions of dollars have filtered through the California lottery system to "benefit" public education. But that wasn't enough.

Well, it WAS enough for a while. But government being government, the lottery funding source eventually has become taken for granted. Budgets became reliant on lottery money. Then budgets outstripped lottery revenues, particularly in lean years. The money that had been taken for granted in so many public school budgets wasn't enough.

That brought us Proposition 30 (I know, I know - I keep going back to Prop 30...), a massive tax increase on the citizens of California with no succinct rules in place ensuring good fiscal management. Just promises - and we know politicians and promises...

I had been taken to task a bit in my earlier columns about the employer assessment, the argument being that in fact employer assessments represent such a small "contribution" by employers and is not that large of a "tax" in the grand scope of things - it's just a small amount of money relative to overall revenues and expenses.

That's not the point - the point is that this Administration seems to go to any length to ensure that its citizens are kept uninformed for as long as possible to avoid any semblance of educated debate, particularly when it comes to lifting dead presidents from wallets.

That private enterprise has to pay for the administration of public self-insured employers, and that such a provision was glossed over by everyone associated with SB 863, leaves a bitter, bad taste in my mouth.

And it should in your's too.

When does secret taxation stop? When do we hold our politicians and bureaucrats responsible for telling the truth? When do we hold them accountable for failing to do what had been promised?

The fact is, we don't. We never will. Californians are as apathetic as ever. We're happy with our little special interests - it's okay that government spends without oversight to implement a law that presumably will "pay for benefit increases and also save us money.”

In Jerry We Trust...

That's the message we continually send to Sacramento.

Next week I'll have to pick on something other than California. I've had enough frustration this week.

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