Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 14, 2011
California Democratic Party's John Burton files tax proposal

John Burton, chairman of the California Democratic Party, is adding his own tax proposal, on oil production, to an already crowded field.

Burton filed paperwork with the state Tuesday that proposes a ballot measure for the oil severance tax. It comes as Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to place his own tax measure -- temporarily increasing the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest earners -- on the November 2012 ballot.

A few other groups have filed other proposals to raise revenue.

Burton, who is proposing the oil severance tax to fund higher education and the state's sagging general fund, said in an interview this evening that his proposal would not interfere with the Democratic governor's.

"It's two separate deals," he said. "Two ain't too many."

December 14, 2011
House hearing lifts California high-speed rail to national stage

HSRimage1.jpgIt's unlikely many will be swayed by a high-profile House hearing Thursday on California's high-speed rail program.

Pro and con, political minds are already made up. The hearing's title, crafted by Republican leaders of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, says it all: "California's High-Speed Rail Plan: Skyrocketing Costs and Project Concerns."

Still, the session isn't strictly for show. With testimony scheduled from seven California lawmakers, as well as from seven additional witnesses, the hearing will put one state's ambitions on a national stage while underscoring the difficulties ahead.

"The bottom line is, we want answers," said Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater.

December 14, 2011
UC Berkeley offers new aid to families earning less than $140K

A day after the state cut $100 million to the University of California system, UC Berkeley announced a new plan this morning to cap costs for families earning less than $140,000 a year.

The UC Berkeley aid program, dubbed the Middle Class Access Plan, would limit the required contribution for total attendance costs at 15 percent for families grossing between $80,000 and $140,000 annually. That amounts to a cap between $12,000 and $21,000. The current in-state cost of attending UC Berkeley is $32,634, which includes tuition, living costs and books.

Students would still be required to contribute a share of costs beyond their family contribution, this year set at $8,000, according to spokesman Dan Mogulof.

UC Berkeley estimates the plan will cost the campus an additional $10 million to $12 million starting in 2012-13. The school plans to pay for it with existing financial aid funds, donations and higher revenues generated from out-of-state students.

Families of an estimated 6,000 students would save more than they would under current guidelines, Mogulof said. It was not immediately clear which income groups would benefit most. Those at the upper end of the plan's income range, between $120,000 and $140,000, currently receive little aid, so the plan may provide new relief for those families.

December 14, 2011
Census Bureau pegs California state spending at $210.4 billion

The 2010 census pegged California's population at 37.3 million, 12.1 percent of the nation's, and a new Census Bureau report says California's government accounted for 13 percent of all state government spending last year.

California's general fund budget accounted for roughly half of its $210.4 billion in "general expenditures" last year, with federal funds, bond funds and special funds accounting for the remainder. The total was almost a billion dollars lower than 2009 spending.

The Census Bureau report also revealed that education accounted for $70.3 billion or 33.4 percent of California's spending, which is about two percentage points below the national average, while social service spending, $63.8 billion, was 30.4 percent, 1.4 percentage points higher than the average.

December 14, 2011
Arnold Schwarzenegger to speak at Jerry Brown's climate event

BB LAW SUIT 033.JPGUpdating a previous announcement to include a "new participant," Gov. Jerry Brown's office confirmed this morning that former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will be among the speakers at a climate change conference hosted by Brown in San Francisco on Thursday.

The conference, "The Governor's Conference on Extreme Climate Risks and California's Future," also includes Nobel Prize winner Rajendra Pachauri and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.

Both Brown, a Democrat, and Schwarzenegger, a Republican, are expected to speak.

PHOTO CREDIT: Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and then-Attorney General Jerry Brown walk together to a news conference to announce the filing of California's lawsuit against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Nov. 8, 2007. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

December 14, 2011
Video archive: Jerry Brown on Jimmy Carter, gallons per flush

It was a series of "small steps" that Gov. Jerry Brown was proud of after a year and half in office when he was governor before.

"For example, last month I signed a bill that starting next year will limit the amount of water that a toilet can consume, from seven gallons per flush to three and a half gallons," Brown said in this KPIX-TV clip of Brown at a rally when he was running for president in 1976. "You see? That's progress."

The crowd cheered, and Brown went on, "Last week I signed a bill to give a 10 percent tax deduction to anyone that will install a solar heating unit."

As it is today, the economy was high on Brown's mind.

"We have yet to really make a commitment to full employment," Brown said. "That's the Democratic tradition, and that's the No. 1 priority if I am fortunate enough to get this job, to put this country to work, from one end of the coast to the other."

Later that year, at a huge rally in Cupertino, Brown defended running for president after only a year and a half in office.

"We work 12, 15 hours a day, six days a week," he said in this KPIX-TV clip. "And based on a 40-hour work week, I'll have in my full four years in time for the inauguration in '77, and I'll compare that with Jimmy Carter any day."

Said Brown, "And that's the choice right now. It's either Carter from Georgia, or Brown from California."

The video clips are part of the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive, a project of the J. Paul Leonard Library at San Francisco State University.

December 14, 2011
AM Alert: UC campus protest procedures up for discussion

Lawmakers will take on UC officials' response to recent campus unrest at a 10 a.m. joint legislative hearing today at the Capitol.

Among those scheduled to speak: University of California President Mark Yudof, UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi and Michael Risher, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. The hearing was called by Sen. Alan Lowenthal and Assemblyman Marty Block.

At issue: November incidents in which UC Davis police officers pepper-sprayed protesting students and UC Berkeley police rammed and swiped at students with batons.

"Was there a meeting to discuss how to appropriately disburse protestors in the event it was necessary, and who participated in that planning?" asked Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg in a statement advancing the hearing.

"Was the use of force discussed? Were any explicit instructions given? The answers to these questions are crucial to determine responsibility and accountability."

2012 PENSION NEWS - Our companion blog, The State Worker, is gearing up for a year of pension-related news. Jon Ortiz is offering e-mail alerts on the topic and other subjects of interest to state employees. You can sign up here.

PLANNING AHEAD: Mike Doyle reports that California's high-speed rail debate comes to Capitol Hill on Thursday, as a key House committee conducts its first hearing devoted solely to the state's project.

The Republican-led House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is setting the tone for what participants can expect, calling the hearing "California's High-Speed Rail Plan: Skyrocketing Costs and Project Concerns."

Minds may be already made up, but the witnesses do reflect the competing sides in this debate. Following a presentation by House members, a panel of seven witnesses will make their case. They include Roelof Van Ark, chief executive officer of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, as well as skeptics like Madera County farmer Kole Upton. A committee briefing paper provides background.

The hearing starts at 7 a.m. California time and will be webcast.


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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