Morrell Monthly: August 2015

Friday, August 28, 2015

Tax Proposals Abound as Session Hits Busy Season

“I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” -- Winston Churchill

Every year, without fail, Democrats in Sacramento float the possibility of increasing taxes. No matter if the state budget is in good or bad condition, they argue that new money is still needed to pay the state’s bills. As we near the end of the 2015 legislative session, nothing has changed.

I mentioned in my previous newsletter that this year’s budget is a record-setting $265 billion - $10 billion more than was expected by experts. Even though we experienced this bump in revenue, the Governor called special sessions of the legislature to find more money (code for raising taxes) for transportation and health care.

Proposals that have already surfaced and/or been put forward by legislative Democrats this year include:

  • A $2 billion tax on the health plans of millions of Californians.
  • A $4.3 billon, 12-cents per gallon increase in the gas tax.
  • A $35 increase in the vehicle registration fee.
  • A $52 annual road usage fee.

The appetite for new taxes and fees is insatiable. Other proposals to increase taxes include SCA 5, which would eliminate Proposition 13 property tax protections for California businesses, and SB 8, which would impose $10 billion in new taxes on services in our state.

California already has among the highest sales and income taxes in the nation. According to the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, Californians have to work harder than the residents of 46 other states to pay their total tax bill each year. Despite these facts, the majority party still cannot seem to find a way to use the money the state already has wisely enough and abandon its calls for more.

By legislative Democrats’ assessment of the state’s fiscal situation, new taxes should not have to be considered. I will continue to join my Republican colleagues in standing firm against plans to raise taxes, ensuring that you and your family can keep more of the money that you work hard to earn every day.

As Winston Churchill’s so aptly explains in the illustration above, more and more taxes are not the answer to improving our state’s outlook. The answer is to be responsible stewards with the taxpayers’ money in the first place.

As always, it is a privilege to represent you in the State Legislature. I’ll keep you posted.


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What's Going On Around District 23

Photo of Senator Morrell and the Yucaipa High School Softball Team.
National Champions! In June, the Yucaipa High School Softball Team beat Mission Viejo to finish out a fantastic 31-3 season atop the CIF-SS Division 2 rankings and achieving the status of national champions. I joined the entire community for a celebration recognizing them for this achievement. In front with me are Head Coach Dave Kivett, Assistant Coach Courtney Kivett, and Assistant Coach Stephanie Landavazo. Read more about the evening here. We’re all very proud of you, Thunderbirds!

Photo of Sentor Morrell at the Eastern Municipal Water District in Perris
Inland Empire Caucus Discusses Water. The Inland Empire Caucus is a bipartisan coalition of legislators from San Bernardino and Riverside counties committed to effective representation of our region’s unique needs at the Capitol. This month, we joined local elected officials to talk about the drought, water conservation efforts, and the California WaterFix at the Eastern Municipal Water District in Perris. (Photo credit: Western Riverside Council of Governments)

Photo of Senator Morrell at the Art Institute of California - Inland Empire
The Art Institute of California - Inland Empire. I was invited to visit with culinary students pursuing their careers at the student-run restaurant Seasons on the campus of The Art Institute of California - Inland Empire. Back row (from left to right): Donny Melara, Martin Pelayo, Sherlyann Wade, Chef Clifton Lee Van On, Lorinda Martinez, Chef George Tucker, myself, Crystal Delgado, Lauren Williams, Nicole Ruiz, Jose Lopez Front row (from left to right): Amy Heil, Elys Soto, Blanca Vasquez, Denise Garcia, Kaila Alvarado

Photo of Senator Morrell with Hemet/San Jacinto Valley Chamber of Commerce staff
Hemet/San Jacinto Valley Chamber of Commerce. Stopped in to see the Chamber staff. Pictured here in the back row (from left to right) are Francesca Wade, myself, Felix Parker, and Executive Director Andy Anderson and in the front row, Linda Livesay, Yolanda Saenz and Jo Shaw. Thanks for your hard work and for what you do for our local businesses!

Photo of Shane Massoud with Aldo Doninelli
Los Angeles Special Olympics. This summer, the Los Angeles region hosted the 2015 Special Olympics World Games. Several cities in our area served as “Host Towns” for the visiting athletes. Here is our field representative Shane Massoud with Aldo Doninelli, the Swiss Special Olympics sports director. The Mountain Communities of Lake Arrowhead hosted the team from Switzerland. Thank you to everyone who supported this inspiring event. Congratulations to all the athletes!

Photo of Senator Morrell at the A.K. Smiley Public Library
Visiting with Up-and-Coming Readers. The question “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” never seems to get old. Thanks to the A.K. Smiley Public Library in Redlands for having me!

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“Kate’s Law” Resolution Stalled

This month I was informed by the Democrat chair of the State Senate Committee on Public Safety that a hearing will not be held to hear Senate Joint Resolution 17 before the legislature adjourns in September. The measure would encourage Congress to pass “Kate’s Law.” I believe the majority party is using procedure as a convenient way to avoid debate on the dangers posed by sanctuary city policies. Despite this setback, I remain committed to protecting our communities and working to pass this important resolution. Read more about SJR 17 here.

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Op-Ed: Taking care of California’s most vulnerable

Throughout the budget process, Republicans advocated for adequate funding for services for those with cerebral palsy, autism, and other developmental disabilities as well as health care services for the poor. It was evident then, and is still clear now, that we can support these programs without imposing a new tax on the health plans of 24 million Californians. Read more about our proposals here.

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Op-Ed: Giving veterans a break in earning degrees

Earlier this month, my Senate Bill 418 was signed into law, ensuring that all California State University campuses are up-to-date with federal policy allowing student veterans up to five years of accumulated absence due to military service in order to continue working toward their degrees. These students can have a difficult time maintaining continuous enrollment in college because of the unpredictable nature of their careers, especially during deployments. It is a necessary and prudent change to the law protects the rights of those in our Armed Forces. Read more about the bill here.

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September 17 • Ark of Safety Forum

Photo Collage of Ark of Safety ForumThis September, I will again partner with Building Resilient Communities at the 3rd Annual Ark of Safety Forum. The free event is an opportunity for community and faith-based leaders across San Bernardino and Riverside counties to join in discussions on how to best prepare for a crisis. Experts will provide resources for individuals and houses of worship and lead discussions on your role in the community during a disaster. To see highlights from last year’s forum in San Jacinto, click here.

WHEN: Thursday, September 17, 2015 from 8:00 AM to 3:00 PM

WHERE: Christ’s Church of the Valley - Etiwanda Gardens, 7576 Etiwanda Avenue - Etiwanda, CA 91739

TO RSVP OR FOR MORE INFORMATION: Contact the District Office at (909) 919-7731 or visit

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Honorees Announced! 11th Annual Women of Distinction

Photo of Senator Morrell at the Women of Distinction Awards

Each year, the Women of Distinction Ceremony showcases the service of women from throughout our region. Awardees are nominated by members of the public from business leaders to colleagues and friends. Finalists are selected by a panel of previous Women of Distinction honorees.

This year’s ceremony will also highlight the work of two “Women of the Year” - Sally Myers of Riverside County and Maribel Brown of San Bernardino County. A full list of honorees - 44 altogether - can be found here. Congratulations to all!

Please join me on Friday, October 16, as we honor these outstanding women who give back so much to our communities.

WHEN: Friday, October 16, 2015 (doors open at 5:00 p.m.)

WHERE: Orton Center on the University of Redlands Campus

For more information, click here.

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 Patriot Spotlight: Michael Warren

Photo of Michael Warren    Photo of Michael Warren

I had the privilege of recognizing Redlands resident Michael Warren as a Patriot of the Past in the Community Service category at the 2nd Annual Patriots of the Past, Present, and Future this past spring.

Michael joined the Air Force in 1967 and served two tours in Vietnam between 1968 and 1971. Following his military service, Michael became an advocate for Vietnam Veterans, serving as President of the Riverside Chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America and Treasurer of the Riverside National Cemetery Support Committee. Michael has also been instrumental in founding the Salute to Veterans Parade in Riverside and the Redlands Veterans Day Parade.

For ten years he has taught Sunday school at First Baptist Church in Redlands and loves to be “Santa Claus” during the holidays for various nonprofits. He is a board member for the Inland Empire Lighthouse for the Blind and has served as a board member and President for the ARC since 1993. He has been married to his wife Martha for 25 years. Their son, Sam, is currently attending Crafton Community College.

Please join me in thanking Michael for his service!

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 The Next Generation: Spencer Street

Image of Intern Spencer StreetReturning to his hometown of Sacramento after completing his second year at Santa Clara University, Spencer began interning in our Capitol office at the beginning of June 2015. Spencer’s interest in politics took form as he followed the 2012 election. While following the course of the election, he says he was drawn to issues of foreign policy and the responsibilities of government here in the U.S.

When he started at Santa Clara, his studies concentrated on business courses. However, after reading works of Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, and Sir Francis Bacon in a Philosophy of Politics class, the direction of his interests shifted to the field of public policy.

He is currently pursuing his Bachelors of Science in Finance degree, with a minor in Political Science. His interest in both fields contributed to his close attention to the recent process of passing our state’s budget. Additionally, he has focused his course studies to matters of public policy to integrate politics with his finance coursework.

This month, Spencer was also awarded the B.T. Collins Scholarship through Santa Clara University. Students are chosen who have shown dedication to public policy and leadership, reflecting the values of the former California state politician and Santa Clara alum, Brien Thomas Collins.

Outside of classrooms and offices, Spencer is a member of the Santa Clara Men’s Rugby Club, which he joined at the beginning of his freshman year and has since risen to be part of the team’s leadership counsel. He also has a passion for the outdoors, taking advantage of any opportunity to go fly fishing, hunting, or camping to enjoy the California wilderness.

Spencer plans on continuing his career in public service and hopes to bring more financial responsibility and sustainable spending to government.

Thanks for your work this summer, Spencer!

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Recommended Listening: American History Podcasts - Hillsdale Dialogues

Image of President Abraham LincolnIf you’re a podcast listener or have an interest in our nation’s history, I recommend subscribing to a series offered by Hillsdale College. Called the “Hillsdale Dialogues,” these podcasts highlight and profile those individuals, books, and political principles that have laid the foundations of both our country and Western civilization.

The latest episodes have focused the speeches and debates by President Abraham Lincoln, including the famous Lincoln-Douglas debates from 1858. You can find the podcast archive here.

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Taxes Aren’t the Solution to Fixing California Roads

Chart showing Gasoline Motor Fuel Taxes
Source: API

As shown in the chart above, California’s gas taxes are now the nation’s 4th highest, behind only Pennsylvania, New York and Hawaii. Combined with new taxes imposed by cap-and-trade (not included in the 61-cents per gallon figure), these taxes have made the price of gas in our state the highest in the country. What do drivers get for their money? Right now, it does not seem like much.

An estimated 34 percent of California’s roads are ranked as being in “poor” condition, costing drivers $17 billion annually in repairs. In fact, California’s roads rank near the bottom in every category, including:

  • 46th in rural interstate pavement condition
  • 49th in urban interstate pavement condition
  • 46th in urban interstate congestion

In recent months, majority Democrats have made it clear that they believe more taxes are the answer to pay for our roads and highways. At the same time, they are also pushing legislation (SB 350) that would force drivers to reduce gasoline use by 50 percent by 2030.

The reality is that the state already has money it should be putting toward our aging transportation infrastructure. For example, every year over $1 billion in truck weight fees is used to pay off debt. Those are resources that should be used to repave streets and fill in potholes. The state also brought in $10 billion more than expected this year. Do we really need more taxes when revenue continues to beat estimates?

Republicans have a plan to pay for roads and highways - without raising taxes. Legislation we have introduced would ensure that transportation funds are actually spent for transportation purposes. Read more about our proposals here.

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