Rants & Raves for the Week of May 24th, 2010
The most ridiculous quote of the week comes from the Guv's flack, Aaron McLear, in response to calls for a suspension of unnecessary corporate tax giveaways to help deal with the budget crisis: “After the largest tax increase in our state’s history we cannot ask California taxpayers to continue to pay for Sacramento’s mistakes,” McLear said. Hey Aaron, this may be news to you and your boss but we ALREADY ARE paying for the Governor's mistakes with fewer teachers in the classroom, cops on the street and drastically reduced services to the state's most vulnerable. It's time for Arnold to end his scorched earth campaign and get serious about real budget solutions that won't completely eviscerate our state as we know it.
The U.S. House decided not to vote on the crucial jobs bill this week – but lawmakers might move a little faster if they take a look at the latest report on the jobs bill. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) estimates that the bill’s package of aid to states, infrastructure projects, extension of unemployment insurance (UI) and COBRA benefits, creation of summer jobs, loan guarantees for small business and other provisions will help save or create well over a million critically needed jobs. Call 877-442-6801 and tell Congress to pass HR 4213 now!
The BP oil rig disaster is the worst oil spill in U.S. history and is devastating the Gulf coastline and the economy. Yet the spill is anything but an accident. A new report the Interior Department details how deregulation, a lack of accountability, corruption and a drive for profits all contributed to the BP oil spill. Under the Bush Administration, offshore drilling regulators had a cozy relationship with the oil industry, including accepting gifts and private consulting jobs for oil companies—while on the payroll as inspectors. Another source describes how oil companies were allowed to fill out their own inspection reports of their rigs. Now we are paying the price for the Bush Administration's willingness to sell our coastline to the highest bidder.
Despite the fact that our state universities are still reeling from billions in devastating budget cuts and drastic fee increases, the CSU Stanislaus Foundation is paying Sarah Palin nearly $100,000 to speak at an anniversary event at University. comparison, she was only paid $35,000 to speak at a recent Republican Party event in Oregon. Senator Leland Yee said it best: “”If Ms. Palin truly cared about our students, she should have waved her speaker's fee, or at least not overcharged. Every dollar that goes to Palin is another dollar not going to the students at Stanislaus, who have already seen their scholarships lost this year.”
Finally, there’s a budget proposal worth fighting for, and it couldn’t have come at a more critical time. On Tuesday, Assembly Democrats, led new Speaker of the Assembly John Pérez, proposed an innovative budget plan that closes the nearly $18 billion budget gap while focusing on jobs, as an alternative to Gov. Schwarzenegger’s all-cuts budget that threatens to kill 430,000 jobs. The proposal would protect working families from devastating cuts in services like home care and child care, and would save and even create jobs. A new oil severance fee will help fund a private sector job creation program. And delaying unnecessary corporate tax breaks will save $2 billion that can be invested in job creation, child care, health care, and job services for the working poor.
Last week, the California Labor Commissioner’s office investigated 247 carwashes throughout California for violating labor laws, after the CLEAN car wash campaign, which represents the USW Car Wash Workers Organizing Committee, reported numerous violations at a number of carwashes to the Labor Commissioner. The investigation resulted in more than $700,000 in fines issued to carwashes. The recent statewide sweep follows a similar campaign last year that resulted in 469 citations to carwash operations for various labor law violations, with fines totaling $3.1 million for the year. In addition, the agency collected some $311,325 in back wages on behalf of carwash workers last year. Despite the investigations and fines, as well as the car wash worker registry law, the carwash industry continues to violate even the most basic laws protecting workers. The industry’s widespread problems with compliance underscore the need for workers to have a union to help enforce standards in their workplace.
Insurance premiums have skyrocketed over the last decade and premiums are up 180% for small business and 146% for large employers. Anthem Blue Cross withdrew a proposal for a 39% rate hike for insurance premiums, but even so their average rate hikes this year are 13%. This was just after Wellpoint, Anthem Blue Cross’ parent company, reported quarterly profits of $2.7 billion in the last quarter of 2009 alone. Fortunately, Assemblymember Dave Jones has introduced legislation, AB 2578, which would require state approval of increases to health insurance premiums, deductibles or co-pays, similar to what is required of auto insurers. This bill would give the state a valuable tool in containing costs and keeping health insurance accessible and affordable for all Californians, and today, AB 2578 overcame an important hurdle passing out of the Assembly Appropriations Committee.