Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

November 20, 2013
California voters to decide fate of North Fork casino


California voters will weigh in next year on whether an Indian tribe from the mountains near Yosemite should be allowed to operate a casino along a Central Valley freeway.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen today certified a referendum for the November 2014 ballot that would, if rejected by voters, overturn a gambling compact allowing the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians to open a casino outside of Madera. The location near Fresno has been a source of controversy because opponents claim it is "off reservation" for the tribal members who live in a mountainous community more than 35 miles away.

Opposition to the North Fork compact approved by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature has come largely from competing casinos and their financial backers, whose business could be harmed by a new casino. Supporters of the North Fork casino say it will bring jobs and economic development to a needy part of the state. The project is backed by Station Casinos, based in Nevada.

The casino referendum becomes the fourth measure to qualify for the November 2014 California ballot. Measures concerning water, state finances and health care have already qualified.

The map shows the reservation of the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians and the location of the tribe's proposed Madera casino.

PHOTO: Slot machines at Colusa Casino run by the Cachil Dehe Band of Wintun Indians. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

November 20, 2013
California special election in 45th Assembly District remains close


A special election that could restore the Democratic supermajority in California's Assembly hung in the balance on Wednesday, with uncounted ballots representing far more votes than the current margin between the two candidates.

Vacancies have left Democrats one seat short of the two-thirds majority that allows them to govern without Republican input. The open 45th Assembly District seat, held by Democrat Bob Blumenfield until he won election to the Los Angeles City Council earlier this year, offers a chance for Democrats to re-establish their dominance.

As of Tuesday evening, the Secretary of State's office reported that Democrat Matt Dababneh, a former aide to U.S. Rep. Brad Sherman, held a slender 173 vote lead over his opponent, Republican Susan Shelley.

Ventura County has finished certifying its results, but the bulk of voters live in Los Angeles County. As of noon on Wednesday, 2,841 ballots remained to be counted in L.A. County, spokeswoman Regina Ip confirmed.

Special elections for state candidates rarely spur significant voter turnout, and this one was no exception: the turnout rate in Los Angeles county was 10.5 percent. Dababneh still drew nearly $500,000 in campaign contributions, far eclipsing the just under $50,000 Shelley raised.

Even with that fundraising gap, Shelley managed to keep things close in district that skews heavily Democratic in voter registration. Her campaign has emphasized preventing a Democratic supermajority from tampering with Proposition 13, touting an endorsement from the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

In an interview with The Bee, Shelley attributed her surge to voter discontent with Democrats who are largely inoculated from challenges - "this situation where the incumbent have very low approval ratings and very high reelection rates" - and concerns about a revived Democratic supermajority.

"The idea that taxes could be raised, that things could get on thee ballot without any Republican input" helped motivate voters, Shelley told The Bee, adding that her socially moderate platform lets her focus on the economy.

Despite Shelley's surprisingly strong showing in a district widely perceived as a liberal stronghold, Democrats will pick up another seat after the special election to fill the Los Angeles-area 54th Assembly District seat Sen. Holly Mitchell used to hold.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 4:30 p.m. to include Shelley's comments.

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker John Perez, D- Los Angeles, right, listens during the last day of the legislative session on Thursday September 12, 2013 in Sacramento, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer.

November 20, 2013
California fiscal analyst projects large surpluses

HA_budget11248 mac taylor.JPGCalifornia's budget is on track for multibillion dollar surpluses in the coming years, the Legislature's nonpartisan fiscal analyst said Wednesday in an upbeat assessment of the state's fiscal picture.

An improving economy and continuing revenue from voter-approved tax increases in 2012 have left state finances in strong shape, Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor wrote in his office's five-year fiscal outlook released this morning.

The state is projected to have a $5.6 billion reserve by June 2015. Taylor, though, offered a note of caution in the report, the second-straight rosy review of state finances after years of red-ink warnings.

"Despite the large surplus that we project over the forecast period, the state's continued fiscal recovery is dependent on a number of assumptions that may not come to pass," he wrote.

Taylor projected annual surpluses to grow more slowly after the 2016-17 budget year, as tax increases from Proposition 30, Gov. Jerry Brown's ballot initiative last year to raise taxes, phase out. The impact will be felt over several years, however, and Taylor told reporters "you don't have one really dramatic year in which revenues fall off."

The revenue forecast remains highly dependent on capital gains. Taylor said the market "is not out of line like it was in the dot com boom."

Brown has taken steps in recent weeks to temper spending expectations ahead of the release of his annual spending plan in January, and his administration continued to urge caution Wednesday.

"Recent history reminds us painfully of what happens when the state makes ongoing spending commitments based on what turn out to be one-time spikes in capital gains," Michael Cohen, Brown's director of finance, said in a prepared statement. "We're pleased that the analyst's report shares the governor's view that discipline remains the right course of action. The focus must continue to be on paying down the state's accumulated budgetary debt and maintaining a prudent reserve to ensure that we do not return to the days of $26 billion deficits."

Fiscal Outlook 112013

Editor's note: This post was updated at 1 p.m. to include video and comments from Taylor and Cohen.

November 20, 2013
AM Alert: LAO forecasts California's post-Prop. 30 financial future


As Gov. Jerry Brown and allies have trumpeted the bright fiscal days ushered in by Proposition 30, naysayers have invoked the dark clouds on the distant horizon of the temporary tax increase's eventual expiration.

Their thinking is that Proposition 30 is a band-aid that won't address California's bigger economic issues. Today we'll get preliminary sense of what a post-Proposition 30 California might look like during a forecast by Mac Taylor, the Legislative Analyst's Office's financial guru.

Taylor will be prognosticating in the LAO conference room at 925 L street starting at 11:30 a.m. He'll be talking about the likely status of California's general fund through fiscal year 2019-2020, so most of the ground he'll cover will be when Proposition 30 is in effect - and, it should be added, will also encompass the 2018 gubernatorial election.

VIDEO: California's broad variation in sales taxes has become a confusing jumble, Dan Walters says.

STRIKE!: Lawmakers will join striking University of California workers at picket lines across the state today, backing union members who allege that management cracked down after a previous strike with a campaign of intimidation. Rallying legislators are expected to include Sen. Leland Yee in San Francisco, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner in Berkeley, Assemblyman Mark Stone in Santa Cruz, Assemblyman Richard Pan in Davis, Sen. Alex Padilla in Los Angeles and Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez and Shirley Weber in San Diego.

GREENLIGHT: A few different state agencies will be touting their accomplishments at a Cal/EPA sponsored fair celebrating environmentally friendly resources in honor of America Recycles Day (which was Friday). Organizations with booths will include the California Fuel Cell Partnership, the California High-Speed Rail Authority, CalRecycle and SMUD. At Cal/EPA headquarters on I street.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, who turns 65 today.

PHOTO: Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor held a news conference at the Capitol on November 11, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Mac Taylor.

November 20, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: California's slippery sales tax stats

What's my sales tax again? Calculating the answer in California has become an increasingly convoluted exercise, Dan says.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

November 20, 2013
Outcome of key Assembly seat in Los Angeles too close to call


The outcome of a key San Fernando Valley Assembly seat that would allow California Democrats to reclaim a two-thirds majority remained in doubt this morning, according to preliminary returns reported by the secretary of state's office..

Democrat Matt Dababneh was hanging on to a thin lead, 13,309 to 13,136, over Republican Susan Shelley with all 100 precincts in the 45th Assembly District reporting in Tuesday's special election. Late absentee and provisional ballots remain to be counted.

An election victory by Dababneh would ensure that Assembly Democrats will enter the 2014 legislative session with their supermajority back in place. The candidates are vying for the seat left vacant after former Democratic Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield won election to the Los Angeles City Council.

After the 2012 election gave Democrats an historic two-thirds majority, empowering them to raise taxes and place measures on the ballot without Republican assent, a series of departures left the Legislature under full capacity and dropped the Democratic margin below the two-thirds threshold.

PHOTO: Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles, speaks during a press conference on Friday, December, 11, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.


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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