The Public Policy

When Gold Turns to Dross

California's nanny state is even destroying the babysitter industry.  

By 9.8.11

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California is still a land of political surprises--outlandish, foolish, and mischievous ones. Consider the latest:

The state legislature is about to pass a bill (AB 889) requiring that adult babysitters (age 18 and up) be paid the minimum wage, overtime pay and worker's compensation insurance. In addition, they must have a break every two hours, plus a meal break. This means parents will have to hire two babysitters at the same time, one on duty, the other to take over during the breaks. It's the Nanny State run wild, for the sitters would have to keep time sheets and the parents who engage them would have to issue paychecks, keep payroll records, and pay an employer's share of payroll taxes. Outraged parents in the state have dubbed it "The Babysitter Bill." 

Governor Jerry Brown announced recently that before any new state regulation can go into effect it must be analyzed for its potential impact on the state's economy in order to make sure it is justified. Guess who does the analyzing? The regulators who promulgated it. 

In the mischievous category is an idea being considered by the Democrats' large majorities in the legislature. It would move all initiatives (of which California usually has several in every election) to November. This would not be done out of some philosophical constitutional concern, but rather to help defeat a pending initiative that would bar unions from collecting political funds through members' payroll deductions. The Dems think that if the initiative gathers enough signatures this fall it could appear on next June's ballot when there will be less interest in the uncontested Democratic presidential primary than in the hotly contested Republican one. Moving it to November would mean a bigger Democratic voter turnout--or so they think. In order to do this, however, they cannot single out one particular initiative to move, but must make it a permanent blanket change.

When liberals rail about CEO compensation they mean, of course, corporate ones. They never bother to include very highly paid public employees. At the end of June the state's Controller's Office issued a report on the 10 highest-paid non-academic state employees. Nine of them work outside the General Fund, hence do not show up as part of the state's costs. Among them is one Alan Trounson, president of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, a stem-cell research agency. His annualized pay is $490,008. It comes from bond funds. And who pays to retire the bonds and pay the interest on them? The taxpayers.

Next is Thomas Rowe, president and CEO of the State Compensation Insurance Fund whose annualized salary is $450,000, which comes from special fund revenues (mostly paid by companies that must carry compensation insurance). Also in the top 10 are five employees of the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CALPERS) and one from the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CALSTRS). Last but not least is Roelof van Ark, executive director of the High-Speed Rail Authority, whose annualized salary is $375,000. He is in charge of the infamous rail line from Nowhere to Nowhere.

Less a surprise, but a source of anguish just the same, is the latest unemployment report. California's rate has nudged up to 12 percent, nearly three points above the national rate. Aggravating the situation is the fact that California's vaunted agricultural output has been cut by 200,000 acres thanks the efforts of ultra-environmentalists to get a judge to cut water going to Central Valley farms based on their allegation that a small fish, the Delta Smelt, was being sucked into the canal system's filters. Unemployment in the Central Valley is now running 30 to 40 percent. 

Who says gold can't tarnish?

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About the Author
Peter Hannaford was closely associated with the late President Reagan for a number of years. He is a member of the board of the Committee on the Present Danger. His latest book is “Presidential Retreats.”