MOORLACH UPDATE — Baring Data with SB 1251 — March 21, 2016

In the short time since we rolled out SB 1251, the California Transparency Act of 2016, two editorial boards have already weighed in with their support, the OC Register (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Caltrans Insubordination — March 18, 2016 march 18, 2016 john moorlach) and the Desert Dispatch (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Sunshine Week — March 16, 2016 march 16, 2016 john moorlach).

Sunday’s OC Register provided the "Watchdog" piece on this proposed legislation below. For the opposing comment, Dave Low was selected. Mr. Low has been the spokesman for public employee unions and has been acrimonious toward anyone sounding the alarm about public employee defined benefit pension plans. It looks like he’s willing to broaden his area of expertise. He has spoken fondly of me before, but on the topic of pensions:

"He’s developing a reputation as sort of a zealot on this issue," said Dave Low, a lobbyist for the California School Employees Assn. and chairman of a group of public employee unions seeking to safeguard pension benefits.

(See MOORLACH UPDATE — Voice of OC — July 31, 2012 july 31, 2012 john moorlach).

The electronic version of the Watchdog piece also includes the following:

From Moorlach’s fact sheet on SB 1251:

“Over the past two decades, Californians have been asked to make decisions regarding billions in spending and bond measures, as well as decide on candidates who have differing viewpoints regarding fiscal issues. These decisions impact the state’s finances for decades, yet in the midst of the election frenzy, most voters find it difficult to access basic, reliable, non-partisan financial information before making their ballot choices. There are non-partisan and highly credible sources for various measures of California’s financial status. SB 1251 provides that the information is compiled and reported to the Secretary of State, prior to each statewide election, select data measures regarding the state’s fiscal health.

“The listed fiscal data includes: immediate past fiscal year state revenue; immediate past fiscal year state expenditures; current unfunded state pension fund and retiree medical liabilities; current issued bond debt; current net unrestricted assets/net unrestricted liabilities from the most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).”

BONUS: A fundraiser invitation for Thursday, March 31st, is provided below.

Should California bare its financial data on ballot initiatives?

By TERI SFORZA / STAFF WRITER

As voters prepare to decide on billions of dollars worth of new borrowing for Very Important and Worthy Projects this year, a state senator from Orange County proposes bringing a fire hose to the party.

Senate Bill 1251 – otherwise known as the California Financial Transparency Act of 2016 – would ensure that a simplified, one-page summary of the state’s financial data is included in the official voter information pamphlets that land in your mailbox.

“Before you vote on a $9 billion school bond measure, wouldn’t it be good to know how much debt the state has?” asked Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa. “If you could just show the balance sheet and give voters a little more information, it would help them make more informed, educated decisions.”

Right now, voters who seek a clear-eyed, nonpartisan snapshot of the state’s finances can peruse California’s audited financial statement. Online. All 285 pages of it.

“I just don’t think people are doing that,” said Moorlach, a certified public accountant.

Moorlach, whose crusades against expensive public pensions have earned the wrath of public worker unions, hopes it will be hard for lawmakers to argue against a simple transparency measure. But there are already rumblings of opposition, as some say it could cost millions of extra dollars to add an extra page to the official pamphlet, and that the information is already publicly available.

The Republican’s proposal may face formidable resistance in the Democrat-controlled Legislature. A committee hearing on the bill is slated for April 12. No official support or opposition has been logged yet, and no nonpartisan analysis has been done on what the extra page might actually cost.

“We don’t have a position at this time. Our staff is reviewing,” said Dave Low, chair of Californians for Retirement Security, coalition of 1.6 million public workers and retirees. “Generally speaking, we are not in favor of having Senator Moorlach self-selecting what specific data to include in order to pursue his personal agenda.”

There are myriad measures concerning dollars and cents on or angling for the ballot this year. They include:

• A $9 billion bond funding proposal to improve K-12 schools and community colleges , that would cost $17.6 billion to pay off over 35 years, according to the state’s summary.

• A water measure that would redirect $10.7 billion in unused bond authority from high-speed rail and other ventures to water storage and irrigation.

• Another measure would prevent the sale of more high-speed rail bonds entirely.

“I’ve always thought that if you could just do legislation that just makes sense, that would be kind of fun,” Moorlach said. “It will be interesting to see who votes against this. Why wouldn’t you want your stakeholders to know this?

California’s latest audit is due out in a few weeks. It will, for the first time, record unfunded pension and health care liabilities on the state’s balance sheet, resulting in what observers expect to be a loss of hundreds of billions from its bottom line.

Contact the writer: tsforza

Mailing address: P.O. Box 3167, Costa Mesa, CA 92628-3167

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