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After five years of opening California’s governments to the public, developing data-driven policy analysis, and educating citizens about how California governments work, the California Common Sense team is proud to announce our nationwide expansion to United States Common Sense.

Our mission remains the same, but we are excited to now provide data, open government resources, and analysis relevant to all 50 states and their local governments.

In addition to our CACS work, you can find our newly-enhanced nationwide research and data products at

With your support, we’ll continue striving to make governments across the country more open, more accessible, and more accountable to you.


The US Common Sense Team


Author Archives: admin

Sunlight Foundation – OpenGov Voices: Crowdsourcing state and local transparency

According to census figures, the U.S. has over 91,000 state and local governments. The vast majority of these institutions produce documents that affect the citizens they serve. While many individual governments offer document repositories and diligently respond to public records requests, disclosure is inconsistent and not standardized. This poses challenges for researchers who wish to compare multiple governments. California Common Sense (CACS), a think tank focused on data-driven policy analysis, encountered this problem and has devised an interesting solution. CACS is collecting a large number of local government documents, storing the documents on the cloud and making them available to other researchers. The group is also encouraging governments, researchers and citizens to contribute additional documents for hosting on the CACS cloud.

Daily Bruin – State budget’s pension deal met with concerns from UC faculty

Some experts have said they think the changes in the pension plan are necessary, given the financial condition of the UC’s pension liability. Adam Tatum, research director of California Common Sense, a think tank dedicated to public policy, said he thinks the UC’s pension liability should be one of the University’s primary concerns. “The liability of the UC (is) very high right now,” Tatum said. “They haven’t developed overnight and most certainly won’t be solved overnight.”

Fox & Hounds – California: A Textbook Example of the Perils of Short-Sighted Policy

From a budget stand-point, taken together, California’s last 15 years are a textbook example of the perils of short-sighted policy. Long-term planning and fiscal responsibility are always public goods, but the state government’s budgeting decisions have now taken them from good governance principles to practical necessities. As it turns out, years of short-sightedness tends to beget short-sightedness, thereby limiting any real discretion policymakers may want (or actually think they have).

Podcast Episode 2 – The Squeeze on High-Skill Visas

  • The Juice – 02

May 6, 2015 – Every April since 1990, hundreds of thousands of foreign nationals have applied for H-1B visas, employer-sponsored high-skill work permits that would allow them to work in the States as non-U.S. citizens. And every April, many applicants are turned away due to the tight 65,000-visa annual cap. Read More…

Today, U.S. companies – especially giant technology companies – are hungry for the best science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent in the world. With a purported shortage of American STEM workers, many say H-1B visas are vital to growth and that more should be issued. Others worry H-1B visas undercut the American workforce, thereby creating more problems than they solve.

So, is the juice worth the squeeze? CACS spoke to policy experts on either side of the H-1B debate to help you decide. Emily Lam is the Vice President of Health Care and Federal Issues for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. She has lobbied in Washington on behalf of Silicon Valley companies for seven years. Dr. Ron Hira is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Howard University and a Research Associate with the Economic Policy Institute. He has testified before Congress regarding outsourcing trends among American companies.

Thirsty for More?

From the Economic Policy Institute:

From the Brookings Institute:

From the New York Times:

From the Los Angeles Times:

From Microsoft:

About The Juice Podcast

Welcome to The Juice, California Common Sense’s new podcast. The Juice delivers smart policy discussions directly to your earbuds. We’ll tackle one policy issue per episode, asking informed policy thinkers to weigh in on a heated topic of debate.

In each episode, we’ll ask our guests which government initiatives are worth their cost and why? In other words: when is the juice worth the squeeze?

Previous Episode (High-Speed Rail) | Next Episode

Podcast Episode 1 – Debunking California’s High-Speed Rail

  • The Juice – 01 – High Speed Rail

March 17, 2015 – After years of political and financial debate, construction on California’s High Speed Rail (HSR) project has begun in the Central Valley, with construction of connections from Los Angeles to San Francisco planned through 2022. Its slated total cost? At least $68 billion. Read More…

Our guest is Christian Edwards, a young professional in the healthcare consulting sector and a Central Valley native. In this debut of The Juice, Christian expresses his not-so-apologetic disapproval of HSR, and we parse out the issues at stake.

Thirsty for More?

From California Common Sense:

From the Atlantic:

From the New York Times:

From the High Speed Rail Authority:

About The Juice Podcast

Welcome to The Juice, California Common Sense’s new podcast. The Juice delivers smart policy discussions directly to your earbuds. We’ll tackle one policy issue per episode, asking informed millennials to weigh in on a heated topic of debate.

In each episode, we’ll ask our guests which government initiatives are worth their cost and why? In other words: when is the juice worth the squeeze?

Previous Episode | Next Episode (High-Skill Visas)

Sacramento Bee – Sac City trustees struggle to fill huge gap in retirees’ medical fund Read more here

In a survey last year of California’s 300 largest K-12 districts, California Common Sense found that 87 percent had no funding set aside for promised retiree health benefits. The Mountain View-based nonprofit has called on state and local governments to tackle pension costs. In the Sacramento district, the unfunded health benefit liability amounts to nearly $13,300 per student, the group said. That puts Sacramento behind only the Los Angeles and Fresno unified school districts in the per-student cost comparison.

Reason – California Tax Hike Touted as Landmark Tax Reform

Indeed, the top one percent of income earners pay more than 50 percent of the state’s overall revenues, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. The state’s tax structure would top the list of any issues ripe for serious bipartisan deal making. And a recent study makes the issue more pressing. “We’ve found that income inequality between the top one percent and bottom 99 percent rose with economic growth and fell with economic slowdowns,” according to Autumn Carter, of the reform-oriented California Common Sense. “California has staked the bulk of its annual budget on the one ercent’s ability to keep growing its income through taxable income like capital gains. We’re actually balancing our state budget on income inequality.”

Contra Costa Times – Richmond’s $446 million retirement debt works out to about $4,150 for every city resident

In California, the state, University of California, cities, counties and the top 300 school districts have set aside less than 5 percent of the roughly $158 billion they should have built up by now for retiree health care, according to a 2014 survey by California Common Sense, a Mountain View-based non-partisan think tank. For Richmond to pay off its $126 million debt over 30 years requires spending about $13 million annually, or about $9 million more than the current cost of directly paying the benefits out of city funds. With the additional funding, in nine years, the debt would be cut nearly in half.

OC Register – Make a deal on retirement benefits

In his January 2015 budget proposal, Gov. Jerry Brown acknowledged that unfunded liabilities for retiree health care costs for state employees now stand at $72 billion and will increase to $90 billion if nothing is done. The tab for taxpayers is higher when factoring in health care benefits for local government retirees. In estimating the costs for both state and local government workers, the nonprofit California Common Sense found an unfunded retiree health care liability of $157.7 billion.

California Healthline – Calif. School Districts Struggling To Cover Lifetime Health Benefits

As school districts look to stem costs, many likely will seek to scale back health care benefits, the Times reports. Adam Tatum, research director at California Common Sense, said, “You’re going to see more attempts to reduce benefits, maybe not for current employees but for new employees.” However, re-evaluating retiree health benefits could set up debates with teachers unions.

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