Government Shut Down Fall Out

by Carla Hansen

Remember the 16-day government shut down debacle of October 2013? Sometimes our political memory gets a little fuzzy. As the  inncessent news coverage reminded us everyday how disfuntional the House and Senate have become, I couldn’t help but wonder if any good to come of it. Could this be the catalyst for a more-compromising less- brinkmanship type of governing? My only solance came in one word: Midterms.  I read an article by Shadee Ashtari at the Huffinton Post:

“The shutdown that furloughed 800,000 workers and cost the U.S. economy $24 billion dollars has largely been pinned on House Republicans, making many of them vulnerable in the 2014 midterm elections.

Numerous polls have shown that a majority of Americans assign a larger share of blame for the shutdown to congressional Republicans, who tried to tie government funding provisions to defunding the Affordable Care Act.

“Even prominent Republicans like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have criticized their colleagues in the House for damaging the GOP’s image.

“Fifty-four percent of Americans now oppose Republican control of the House, according to a CNN-ORC poll released on Monday. And a series of polls commissioned by progressive advocacy group and conducted by Public Policy Polling released in batches over the last several days indicate Democrats may have enough momentum to take back the House.

“Democrats only need to lock up 17 additional seats in the November 2014 midterm elections to secure a House majority. The new polls show the recent government shutdown may cause as many as 37 Republicans to lose their House seats next year.

“PPP pollsters surveyed 61 Republican-held congressional districts around the country from Oct. 1 through Oct. 18. They concluded that ‘Democrats not only have an opportunity to take back the House of Representatives next year, but that they could win a sizable majority if voter anger over the shutdown carries into 2014.'”

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Prop 13 Reform Gains Momentum

by Scott Lyons

In 1978, Californians passed Proposition 13, which capped annual increases in property tax assessments at 2% and allowed market-value reassessments only on a change of ownership. The proposition did what it was intended to do, and has held down tax revenues even as property values across the state skyrocketed.

The results have been dismal. Reduced budgets have forced local agencies to raise sales taxes, to run an endless series of one-off parcel tax measures, and to cut services. Our per-pupil school spending, for example, is ahead of only Nevada and Utah, according to Education Week magazine.

Worse, the measures enacted by Prop 13 applied not only to residences but also to commercial properties. And because ownership changes on commercial properties are very rare, the share of property tax paid by commercial property owners has dropped substantially as their tax assessments have fallen behind their market values.

Evolve-CA's chart of property tax payments in Contra Costa county.
Evolve-CA’s chart of property tax payments in Contra Costa county.

A new grassroots organization, Evolve California, is pushing for reform of Prop 13 and has begun making presentations to local government agencies and groups. According to their data, the share of Contra Costa property tax payments paid by homeowners rose from 48% in 1970 to over 73% in 2009, reflecting the decline in the commercial share. Evolve is asking groups to pass a resolution calling for support of “commercial property tax reform that will require non-residential commercial properties to be reassessed regularly while maintaining residential property owners’ protections under Prop 13.”

At the Oct 25 meeting of the West County Mayors’ Conference, chaired by El Cerrito Mayor Greg Lyman, a discussion about possibly scheduling a Prop 13 item on a future agenda drew a large and unfriendly crowd. Despite that, the mayors agreed to schedule several presentations on Prop 13 at their next meeting, Nov 21 at 8 AM at El Cerrito City Hall. Evolve will be among the presenters. The meeting is open to the public.

This is a great opportunity for ECDC members to voice support for Prop 13 reform and for splitting the rolls, as the Evolve resolution asks. There will be many attendees opposed to reform, so please plan on attending and adding your voice to those calling for fixes to this disastrous law.

ECDC Co-Sponsors Resolution on Non-Profit Hospital Regulations

ECDC member Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto is sponsoring a resolution to require clarification of the charitable activity of non-profit hospitals. At its Oct 22 meeting, the ECDC Board agreed to co-sponsor the resolution at the CDP meeting on Nov 19.

Rochelle described her motivation for authoring the resolution. “The issue started to come up back in 2011 when [the California Nurses Association] started our negotiations with Sutter Health. Questions at that time were being asked by the nurses such as: how can a not-for-profit organization make three quarters of a billion dollars in profit in one year and get away with it? We were also perplexed as to why Sutter could give one million dollars to the Sacramento Kings and call it “donating to charity.” Meanwhile they were shutting down units that were not considered profitable and while out on the picket line we began to find out they were turning away patients in the ER that could not afford to pay. Sending them to the Alameda County Hospital.”

Rochelle supported AB 975, a bill from Assemblymen Weikowski and Bonta that would have required additional reporting on charitable activities from non-profit hospitals. While that bill died on the floor, Rochelle hopes that it will be re-introduced in the next session.

The text of the resolution follows:

California’s Nonprofit Hospitals and Charity Care

WHEREAS, nonprofit hospital’s in California frequently conduct business similar to for profit hospitals and, the profit (or excess revenue) of California’s nonprofit hospitals has soared into the billions of dollars while their top administrators’ salaries have climbed into the millions, while they continue to maintain a tax-exempt status; and

WHEREAS, according to the State of California Auditor, in the 2012 audit, the amount of charity care they provide has dropped to a percentage of service that is the same as or less than that of for-profit hospitals, while economically struggling counties and cities in California lose more than $1 billion as a result of the tax exemption of nonprofit hospitals, in addition to the direct payments counties make to hospitals in their geographic area to provide hospital care for the poor, thus effectively subsidizing the hospitals profits with taxpayer dollars; and

WHEREAS, the California State Legislature and Board of Equalization have already began to investigate nonprofit hospitals as well as questioning what nonprofit hospitals consider charity care and community benefits since there is currently no clear definition of what constitutes charity care or community benefits nor are there any clear enforceable penalties for non-compliance.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the California Democratic Party calls on Governor Jerry Brown and the California State Legislature to enact legislation to clearly define charity care and community benefits. 

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that this legislation holds nonprofit hospitals accountable by protecting both the rights of all patients and the rights of the tax payers of California.

Authored by Rochelle Pardue-Okimoto, AD 15; Sponsor: Hilary Crosby, California Democratic Party Controller