Rants & Raves for the Week of May 3rd, 2010
AB 2690 (De La Torre) was a modest bill that simply would have required these telecom companies to report the location of their call centers so we could better track where these jobs are going and whether the companies are honoring their commitment. Unfortunately, the Assembly Utilities Committee refused to hold these companies accountable, and killed AB 2690 on a 4-9 vote.
The payday lending industry claims to provide an important service to its borrowers, who may have nowhere else to turn for an emergency loan. The problem is those same borrowers, who take out an average of 10 payday loans per year, are charged up to 459% APR. The high fees make it impossible for many borrowers to repay the loans and often they become trapped in a cycle of debt.
As part of effort to reform the financial services industry and expand consumer protection, Congress is currently considering new restrictions on the fees payday lenders can charge. Payday lenders did more than voice their opposition; they actually directed their borrowers to call their Senators to oppose the very protections that would benefit them. Senators Feinstein and Boxer quickly noticed the callers were all saying the exact same thing, and a payday-lending industry group ‘fessed up that they were behind the calls.
This week, the environmental movement and the labor movement joined forces in an effort to keep green jobs in California. A number of leading environmental groups supported the Building Trades' petition to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), urging them to uphold a rule requiring utilities to purchase renewable energy from California sources. Unfortunately, Governor Schwarzenegger was more concerned about utility profits than environmental benefits or economic recovery. He ordered the PUC to reverse its decision and allow out-of-state energy purchases, and the PUC voted 4-1 in favor of the Governor’s plan. This decision will inevitably will result in green construction jobs leaving our state at a time we can least afford it.
On Thursday, a report was released detailing that a loophole in property tax law allows commercial property owners to get out of paying their fair share in property taxes to local governments and schools. To close this loophole, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano has introduced AB 2492, which would clarify the rules which commercial property must be reassessed when it changes ownership and require rich corporations to begin paying their fair share in taxes.
Current law requires that commercial properties be taxed on their full market value if a “change in ownership” occurs, but loopholes in current law do not trigger reassessment even if 100% of a property changes hands. At a time when city and county budgets are hemorrhaging, AB 2492 would close that loophole.
On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer won near-unanimous support for an amendment to the Wall Street overhaul reform bill that prohibits taxpayer funds from being used to prop up failing financial firms. The amendment to ban taxpayer-funded bank bailouts passed 96-1, with the lone “no” vote cast Republican Senator John Kyl of Arizona.
This amendment will help ensure that taxpayers aren’t funding the financial manipulations of super-rich Wall Street hedge fund managers and stockbrokers. Senator Boxer said it best herself: “The reckless actions of Wall Street led to painful job losses, home foreclosures and the loss of retirement savings and consumer confidence. To protect taxpayers, we will create an orderly process to liquidate failing financial firms and ensure that Wall Street pays to clean up its own messes.”
Governor Schwarzenegger and Meg “Wall Street Whitman spend a lot of time blaming public employees for the fiscal mess facing the state and local city and counties. Even though the average public employee pension puts them hovering around the federal poverty line, these workers have become scapegoats in this deep economic downturn.
But a new study released this week disproves the myth that public employees are overpaid. Researchers for the study, conducted the Council on State and Local Government Excellence (CSGE) and the National Institute for Retirement Security (NIRS) and found that public sector workers actually earn 11-12% less than their private sector counterparts. Rather than blaming workers, we need a Governor who is committed to creating jobs to rebuild our economy and our middle class.