Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

March 8, 2012
100 Californians on new Forbes list of global billionaires

California's economy may be hurting, but Forbes magazine, in its latest listing of the globe's 1,226 billionaires, says that 100 are Californians.

Standing at the top of the California billionaires is Oracle Corp.'s Larry Ellison at $36 billion, the world's sixth richest person and third richest American behind Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. Mexican media mogul Carlos Slim and his family top the global rankings at $69 billion.

The California list includes Meg Whitman, the Republican candidate for governor in 2010, who ranks 913th globally with a fortune estimated at $1.4 billion, about 10 times what she spent on her unsuccessful gubernatorial run. The poorest of the 100 California billionaires, No. 1153, is Charles Munger, a Los Angeles lawyer who is Buffett's business partner and whose wealth was tabbed at $1 billion.

Munger has shared his wealth with his children.

Charles Jr. is a Republican scientist at Stanford University who bankrolled successful ballot measure campaigns to shift legislative and congressional redistricting from the Legislature to an independent commission.

Daughter Molly is a Democrat who is spending heavily this year on a ballot measure that would raise income taxes and devote proceeds to education.

March 8, 2012
Jerry Brown: 'I don't know' about arena for Sacramento Kings

Two days after the Sacramento City Council approved a financing plan to build a $391 million arena for the Sacramento Kings, Gov. Jerry Brown was asked today for his opinion.

"Don't ask me about that," the Democratic governor told The Sacramento Bee's editorial board. "I don't know. I don't know how Santa Clara borrows $850 million (for a football stadium). I don't know how any of these things happen. I don't know where the parking revenue's going to go. I just haven't dedicated myself to that proposition. But I do think it's something we ought to look at."

Brown said Mayor Kevin Johnson invited him to a game the other night. But the governor, who doesn't attend many sporting events, was out of town.

March 8, 2012
Jerry Brown: Millionaire's tax will 'pretty well' ensure defeat of tax plan

Gov. Jerry Brown, in an increasingly public effort to clear the November ballot of competing tax measures, said this afternoon that his own initiative to raise taxes could survive the presence of one of those other proposals, but likely not the other, more popular "millionaires tax."

The Democratic governor said the "millionaires tax," sponsored by the California Federation of Teachers and Courage Campaign, would siphon supporters from his own initiative to raise the state sales tax and income taxes on California's highest-earners, leaving both to fail.

"That would, I think, pretty well ensure the defeat," Brown told The Sacramento Bee's editorial board, his second meeting with a newspaper this week to promote his initiative. "I don't want to say it's an absolute, but it's - I want to choose my words wisely - but I wouldn't be counting on that tax measure."

Brown said his initiative could withstand the presence on the ballot of an income tax proposal backed by attorney Molly Munger, because he said that measure is sufficiently less popular.

Neither Munger nor the California Federation of Teachers have suggested they will back down.

March 8, 2012
Business Roundtable opposes two tax plans, but not Brown's

The California Business Roundtable announced Thursday that it opposes two tax initiatives rivaling Gov. Jerry Brown's plan, but the large-business coalition stopped short of endorsing the governor's proposal.

The group's board voted to oppose a "millionaires tax" sponsored by the California Federation of Teachers and Courage Campaign, as well as an income tax hike on most earners backed by attorney Molly Munger.

The Roundtable's members include some of the state's largest corporations, including Chevron, Blue Shield of California, PG&E and Safeway. Among other concerns, the group noted the longer duration of the initiatives filed by Munger (12 years) and CFT (permanent).

It marks the latest in strategic endorsements by groups aligning themselves with the Democratic governor. Officials at the California Budget Project and Western Center on Law and Poverty announced this week they were backing Brown's plan but not taking a formal position the other proposals. Their nuanced stance reflects their longstanding support for taxes even though they prefer Brown's initiative.

March 8, 2012
Torlakson calls Jerry Brown's spending cut triggers 'blatantly unfair'

Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of schools, said Thursday that while he supports Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase ballot measure, he considers Brown is being "blatantly unfair" to schools in targeting them for spending cuts should voters reject new taxes.

Brown holds school financing level in his proposed 2012-13 budget, which assumes passage of his package of sales and income tax increases, but would whack the schools by more than $4 billion if voters reject the package via automatic "triggers."

The either-or nature of the budget is seen in political circles as a way of selling the tax package because schools, polls say, are the single most popular areas of government spending. But it still must be enacted by the Legislature, which is already balking at many of Brown's budget proposals.

Torlakson's criticism of the school spending triggers was just one of several aspects of Brown's budget that drew criticism from the schools chief in an appearance before a state Senate budget subcommittee.

He said he agrees with Brown that a first priority should be to beginning pay down the state's multi-billion-dollar debt to schools from aid deferrals. And he likes Brown's notion of recasting school finance to put more emphasis on schools and students who are performing poorly.

But Torlakson was critical of Brown's plans to move away from academic testing and flatly opposed the governor's proposals to overhaul child care, calling them "misguided" because they would neglect early childhood development while reducing state support.

March 8, 2012
High levels of income inequality found in California urban areas

The highest levels of income inequality in California are found in its most urbanized regions - Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay Area - and in a few rural areas, according to a new Census Bureau report.

The Census Bureau used data from the American Community Survey to calculate income disparities for every one of the nation's counties, using a "Gini index" of zero (perfect equality, in which all households have precisely the same incomes) to one (perfect inequality, in which just one household has any income).

The index does not measure income itself, but rather its distribution within the population. Thus a very high income county or a very poor one could both have low levels of inequality if most of their populations were in similar economic circumstances, or equally high levels if they have broad spectra of incomes.

Overall, the nation's inequality index stands at .467, and since 1967, it has risen by 18 percent, although "more recently, the growth in income inequality has tapered off," the Census Bureau says.

The nation's highest incidences of income inequality are found in the South while the lowest are in the Midwest. East Carroll Parish in Louisiana has the nation's highest level of income disparity at .645 while Loving County, Texas, has the lowest inequality at .207.

The indices of California's 58 counties are all over the map, with very low levels of inequality in a few mountain counties, but relatively high ones in Los Angeles (.489), the San Francisco Bay Area, Santa Barbara County, Humboldt County and Imperial County, which is by far the state's poorest in terms of income. The rest of the state falls into the middle quintiles of inequality.

March 8, 2012
AM Alert: Trigger cuts for K-12 schools on Capitol agenda

It's Thursday, so both houses are holding floor sessions, after which four Senate hearings highlight Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposals and related matters.

Education takes center stage in Room 3191, where legislators take up Brown's plan for K-12 schools during this fiscal year and next, with Proposition 98 and trigger cuts on the agenda. State schools chief Tom Torlakson is among those expected to testify. In Room 4203, the departments of Managed Health Care, Public Health, and Health Care Services are among the agencies getting scrutinized.

Over in Room 112, lawmakers are discussing state and local finance as well as business development, including debt service on general obligation bonds and interest payments on general fund loans. And in Room 113, the agenda includes CalPERS, CalSTRS, and the Employment Development Department as well as the departments of Industrial Relations and Human Resources. All four hearings start at 9:30 a.m. or after session adjourns

An Assembly select committee, meanwhile, is taking a field trip to Sacramento's Oak Park neighborhood, where Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and others will urge state health officials to help low-income children opt out of the city's program for dental care, which this story chronicled last month. Pan, a pediatrician, is holding the 11:30 a.m. presser at The Effort Oak Park Community Clinic, where he sees Medi-Cal and uninsured patients. The select committee, which he heads, will then look at the state's dental care safety net starting at noon.

The June primary is months away, but the two measures on that ballot have the support of about two-thirds of likely voters, according to the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll. Proposition 28 would cut the amount of time that state legislators could serve from 14 years to 12 years and would allow all 12 years to be served in one house. Proposition 29 would increase cigarette taxes by $1 a pack, raising an estimated $735 million a year that supporters say would be used for cancer research and anti-smoking programs.

The institute's Dean Bonner will give a briefing today on the survey, whose topics also include the Republican presidential primary, plus economic and social issues. The luncheon runs from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, 1017 11th St., Sacramento. Click here for more information or to RSVP. You'll find the survey itself at this link.

Speaking of Proposition 29, its rival camps go head to head in Sacramento Superior Court this morning over the ballot initiative on tobacco taxes. Teresa Casazza, president of the California Taxpayers Association, is helping lead the No on Prop 29 campaign, and she has sued over the ballot language that the state Attorney General's Office drafted for the measure.

Casazza's beef is that the truncated ballot label doesn't mention the nine-member committee that would be created to allocate the new revenues. Proponents have dismissed the filing as a "silly lawsuit" aimed at confusing voters, saying in a statement that the tobacco companies funding the opposition campaign are "trying to use our courts to manipulate the process." The court issued a tentative ruling Wednesday against the No on 29 campaign, and the judge will hear arguments at 10:30 a.m. in -- appropriately enough -- Department 29.

LEGISLATIVE CALENDAR: Click here for the Senate's daily file, and click here for the Assembly's.

CAKE AND CANDLES: Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, turns 71 today.

The Bee's ever-intrepid Torey Van Oot contributed the item about the Proposition 29 lawsuit to this alert.


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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