California Roundup: Wine, Weed or Taxes? Decide, Golden State!


* CalPERS Asleep: Why would the California Public Employee Retirement System ignore a massive salary explosion that CalPERS itself would inevitably have to pay for? The L.A. Times' Evan Halper and Marc Lifsher report that the fund discovered the inflated salary of since-ousted Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo during an audit back in 2006:

Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia told CalPERs in writing in October 2006 that the city manager's salary was hiked "to reflect his contributions to the city," which included helping Bell resolve a multimillion-dollar deficit. She said her own pay hike was "provided to reward her for her efforts and new responsibilities" related to a promotion the city had given her.

"It should also be noted that the City Council, also members of the Executive Management classification, were compensated accordingly for their contributions and efforts toward the City's dramatic financial recovery," Spaccia wrote.

CalPERS responded a week later that the city had provided sufficient documentation to authorize "a one-time compensation adjustment" for the officials. The fund conducted no follow-up audits, and Bell salaries continued to soar.

Again, you can get a sense of how far from straightforward market incentives we have traveled when you see how little CalPERS protected itself in this situation. The fund will eventually have to pay out the engorged pension Rizzo's engorged salary produced. Yet it didn't consider this liability to be a problem, because?

Because when God has ordained that you will make an eight percent return each year, you don't have to worry about spending?

* Prop. 25 swindle exposed in court: Sacramento Superior Court Judge Patrick Marlette rules that the language "retains the two-thirds vote requirement on taxes" in the ballot title of the union-backed Proposition 25 is misleading. The measure would allow Sacramento to pass budgets with a straight majority rather than the two-thirds majority now required. However, it claimed to retain the supermajority requirement for new taxes—a proposal that as I noted last month is like an order to grab yourself by the hair and hold yourself at arm's length.

* Speaking of the two-months overdue state budget: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger claims to be close to a deal, with only a puny $4 billion gap left.

* Protegen al vino: La Opinión is a paper you must read if you're serious about California news (and thanks to Google translate you can). But it's such a socialist paper that even when it's agitating against a business-killing regulation—as  Araceli Martínez Ortega does in this attack on the federal anti-direct-alcohol sales bill HR 5034—it phrases the case as one where you "Protect Wine" for Hispanic vintners rather than just, you know, allowing people to go about their business without interference.

* Stand athwart history blowing hits: NORML official Paul Armentano and transparent society martyr Dom Armentano (are they like the Jay and Jules Strongbow of libertarianism?) make the case that conservatives should support the legalize-and-tax-pot initiative Prop. 19 "based on core conservative principles such as free markets, limited government and the rule of law."