Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 23, 2011
Molly Munger changes tax initiative to address budget deficit

Responding to concerns by Gov. Jerry Brown, Democratic leaders and budget stakeholders, civil rights attorney Molly Munger today submitted a new version of her initiative to increase income taxes for California schools.

The latest version uses $3 billion for state bond repayment for the first four fiscal years, starting in 2013-14, and the remaining $7 billion for K-12 schools and early childhood programs. For the final eight years of the 12-year initiative, $10 billion would go toward K-12 and pre-kindergarten programs.

The state would have to prioritize repayment of school bonds before using the money on other debt. It raises $10 billion by hiking income taxes on all but the poorest Californians, at increasing marginal rates up the income ladder.

Brown has filed his own proposal to raise an estimated $7 billion annually through higher income taxes on the rich and a half-cent sales tax increase.

The governor is trying to persuade Munger and other tax initiative proponents to back away from their measures. Political strategists believe that if multiple tax proposals qualify for the ballot, voters will be confused and less inclined to vote for any of them. Munger's change is the latest development in negotiations among tax proponents.

"This alternative version of the Our Children, Our Future Act has been drafted in recognition of California's dire short-term fiscal situation," Munger said in a statement issued by the Our Children, Our Future campaign. "Voters may want to help close our state's budget deficit in the near term as a relatively small part of making a transformative long-term commitment to education as their highest priority."

December 23, 2011
California Senate Republican leader to step down in January

Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton said today he will step down in January, and Sen. Bob Huff expects to replace him as the legislative session kicks back into gear.

Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said this morning that the minority caucus must still vote, but that he has enough commitments from colleagues to take over the job.

"I have the signatures for that, which signifies intent, so I anticipate that happening," Huff said in a phone interview.

Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, officially assumed the post last October and served as Senate GOP leader during Gov. Jerry Brown's first year back in office. In a departure from recent Capitol protocol, Brown mostly negotiated with five members of Dutton's caucus rather than the GOP leader himself on the budget.

In a statement today, Dutton said, "It makes sense that we have a new leader in place before the governor announces the new budget, so he or she can begin to negotiate immediately with the majority party on a budget solution that ends California's fiscal crisis and the state's economic uncertainty."

But Brown has shown little desire to reopen budget talks with Republicans. Under a 2010 voter-approved law, Democrats can pass the budget on their own, while the governor is going straight to the voters to ask for higher taxes. He said recently that he'd be willing to talk with Republicans over drinks - if they buy, he mused - but didn't expect serious negotiations to take place.

Huff, who served as his caucus' point man on the budget, said, "There's always a role, even if we're outside the door banging on it. We're willing to work with him if he's willing to."

December 23, 2011
Catch up on the ProPublica redistricting debate

California's redistricting process this week was the subject of a controversial piece by ProPublica that argued Democrats stealthily and unfairly sought to sway the decisions of the citizens commission that drew the lines.

In case you want to catch up quickly on the conversation, here are the pieces Capitol Alert recommends:
Dan Walters
John Myers

And, just for fun, check out ProPublica's music video on the subject.


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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