Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

May 22, 2014
Tim Donnelly holds about $70,000 for campaign's final stretch

donnellyscrum.jpgTim Donnelly, laboring to stay ahead of a surging Neel Kashkari in the Republican race for governor, is struggling to maintain even his shoe-string budget, reporting Thursday he had cash on hand of just more than $70,000 as of last week.

Donnelly also reported $155,667 of outstanding debt.

Kashkari, who still trails Donnelly in public opinion polls, has gained ground on the Republican frontrunner after pumping $2 million of his own money into the campaign. In his campaign finance statement Thursday, covering a period from mid-March through mid-May, Kashkari reported an ending cash balance of just more than $1.4 million.

Kashkari is also getting help from establishment Republicans concerned about the effect Donnelly, a tea party favorite, might have on the GOP if he beats Kashkari and advances to a November runoff against Gov. Jerry Brown. Republican benefactor Charles Munger Jr. and billionaire Robert Day this week donated $350,000 and $50,000, respectively, to an independent expenditure committee financing mailers supporting Kashkari and opposing Donnelly.

One mailer incudes former Gov. Pete Wilson's public rebuke of Donnelly last week and brings up his past criminal cases. Donnelly has said Kashkari's self-financing and outside assistance is a sign of desperation.

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly speaks with reporters at the California Republican Party's biannual convention in Burlingame on March 15, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 22, 2014
Steinberg scales back California preschool proposal

PreschoolGalt.jpg

Senate leader Darrell Steinberg unveiled a modified version of his plan to offer free preschool to California 4-year-olds on Thursday, slashing the cost of the program to the state by more than two-thirds by focusing on children from the poorest families.

Steinberg's earlier plan would have provided preschool to all 4-year-olds regardless of family income and cost the state about $1.5 billion once fully rolled out. But Gov. Jerry Brown showed no interest in expanding state spending that much and left Steinberg's plan out of his budget proposals.

The Sacramento Democrat said his scaled back plan would cost an additional $378 million. It would offer preschool to 4-year-olds whose families qualify for free and reduced lunch -- about 234,000 children, Steinberg said.

"Every low-income child in California would have access to full-day, full-year quality preschool if (at least) one parent works," Steinberg said during a budget subcommittee hearing Thursday.

Children whose parents are poor but don't work would get a half-day of preschool under the plan, Steinberg said.

"Too many kids - especially low-income kids - are starting school far behind. And it's not right," Steinberg said. "This is an opportunity to do something assertive about it."

Brown's Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer pointed to a Standard & Poor's report issued Thursday that praised Brown's May budget proposal and warned the Legislature against spending more than the governor suggested.

"Like any other proposal from the Legislature we will certainly review the details," Palmer said. "That said, our overriding concern and caution is committing the state to higher levels of ongoing spending based upon revenues that are one-time in nature."

Steinberg also advocated for other approaches he said would help the youngest children learn more and make it easier for poor parents to work: changing the state's "transitional kindergarten" program and increasing state subsidies for child care.

Right now, transitional kindergarten is a year of prekindergarten for children who turn 5 between September 1 and December 1 -- those who are too young to meet the cutoff created a few years ago when the Legislature moved up the age for starting kindergarten. Transitional kindergarten is free to children whose birthdays fall in the three-month window, regardless of family income.

Under an idea Steinberg floated Thursday, transitional kindergarten would be available to all 4-year-olds, but on a sliding fee for those whose families earn too much to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.

"I've always believed it is right to look at using existing dollars more effectively, and that is largely what we're doing here," Steinberg said.

He also advocated for a proposal Democrats in the Legislature's women's caucus made earlier this week to spend more on child care for children up to age 12. Steinberg called for spending an additional $550 million on child care subsidies to increase the rate the state pays providers and allow more children to attend.

Various pieces of Steinberg's proposals would roll out over the next five years.

PHOTO: A preschool class at Fairsite Elementary School in Galt, photographed on February 4, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

May 22, 2014
VIDEO: Neel Kashkari pressed on social views, vote for Obama

kashkarifederated.jpgFRESNO - Republican Neel Kashkari has gained ground on rival Tim Donnelly in the race for governor in recent days, aided by $2 million of his own money and support from establishment Republicans.

But the GOP's most conservative crowds remain problematic for Kashkari, who is repeatedly asked to explain his moderate social views and vote for Barack Obama in 2008.

When Kashkari took the podium at a lunch in Fresno on Thursday, a Donnelly volunteer was in the audience to press the case.

"How do I handle this with my child, when someone is calling themselves a Republican?" said Gina Wallace, who teaches political science at California State University, Fresno. "How do I explain to him, it's Ok, he voted, he voted for Obama."

Kashkari said, "To me, being a Republican is about personal responsibility, and it's about fiscal responsibility, and it's about economic growth."

Donnelly, a tea party candidate who also addressed the crowd, was unimpressed with Kashkari's answer.

"I think people want to know what your record is," he said. "I think they're going to vote based on what your record is."

PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari addresses a lunch hosted by the Fresno County and City Republican Women Federated in Fresno on May 22, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 22, 2014
S&P warns California Legislature on increasing budget spending

brownbudget.JPGStandard & Poor's, a major credit rating organization, praised Gov. Jerry Brown's revised 2014-15 budget Thursday, but warned the Legislature not to go beyond the budget and spend higher revenue estimates from its budget analyst.

Using the Legislative Analyst's Office revenue projections that are several billion dollars higher than Brown's "for the purposes of increasing ongoing spending", S&P said in a report, "could endanger our current and positive rating outlook."

The Legislature, however, appears to be doing exactly that this week as its budget subcommittees vote to increase spending on education and health and welfare services, based on the LAO's projection. However, the final budget will be negotiated by Brown and legislative leaders.

Overall, S&P said, Brown's budget "is continued good news for California's credit quality" and praises Brown and the Legislature for asking voters to create a "rainy-day fund" to absorb some revenues and save them for revenue downturns.

However, it notes that the budget does not address some major issues, such as unfunded liabilities for state retiree health care.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown holds up poster boards with graphic information regarding revisions to his budget, specifically related to his projected increase in spending on health care and teacher pensions during a press conference at the state Capitol on Tuesday, May 13, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 22, 2014
Census Bureau: California 16th lowest in per-pupil spending in 2012

schoolkids.JPGCalifornia spent an average of $9,183 each on its six million K-12 public school students in 2012, about $1,500 below the national average and the 16th lowest level among the states, according to a new Census Bureau report.

The Census Bureau number, unlike many other state-to-state comparisons, includes funds from all sources. And it does not count substantial increases in California school spending since 2012 - nor changes in other states.

Gov. Jerry Brown's 2014-15 budget, if adopted, would spend $75.9 billion on K-12 schools from all sources, including $45.1 billion from the state general fund, and that would amount to more than $12,500 per pupil.

The national number in 2012 was $10,608 and the states ranged from a high of $19,552 in New York to a low of $6,659 in Idaho.

PHOTO: At right, Maiya Miller, 8, hugs Principal Shana Henry on the first day of school at Pacific Elementary school in Sacramento on September 3, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer

May 22, 2014
High population growth shifts from California to other states

frisco_resized.JPG
California cities once led the nation in urban population growth, but sharp declines in migration and birthrates have slowed the state's human expansion to well under 1 percent a year, a third of what was happening during the go-go 1980s.

Now, a new Census Bureau report indicates, rapid growth – for better or worse – has shifted to other states.

The nation's five fastest growing cities over 50,000 population in the year ending July 1, 2013, were in Texas and Utah and Texas also had four other cities in the top 15.

San Marcos, Texas, led the nation in municipal growth at 8 percent during the year, followed by Frisco City, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.

The Dallas suburbs have become a major destination for movement of corporate headquarters, including, it was announced recently, Toyota's U.S. headquarters from Southern California. Smaller Texas cities, meanwhile, are enjoying an oil boom.

The Census Bureau's list of top numerical gainers included California's three largest cities – Los Angeles, San Diego and San Jose – but in percentage terms, all lagged well behind other areas.

Three smaller California cities joined the 50,000-plus list during the year – Aliso Viejo, Dublin and Palm Desert.

PHOTO: In this 2013 file photo, a sign announces the future home of the Dallas Cowboys football team headquarters and training facility in Frisco, Texas, the second-fastest growing city in the U.S. Associated Press Photo/LM Otero

May 22, 2014
AM Alert: Darrell Steinberg refocuses pre-kindergarten proposal

Headstart.JPGIn his final year in the Legislature, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has made the expansion of pre-kindergarten to all California four-year-olds one of his biggest policy priorities.

While public support for the idea was high in a Field Poll released last month, Gov. Jerry Brown has never gotten on board with the proposal.

So with the final budget due in less than a month, Steinberg is scaling down his plan. He will present a revamped transitional kindergarten proposal that focuses on early learning and child care for low-income children during the Senate budget committee's education subcommittee hearing at 1:30 p.m. in Room 3191 of the Capitol.

VIDEO: Do proposed ethics reforms in the scandal-ridden state Senate go beyond damage control?, Dan Walters wonders.

OM(KENNY)G: Smooth jazz saxophonist Kenny G is one of the best-selling musical acts of all time, as well as an eternal pop culture punchline. Now he can add "legislative advocate" to his resume. He'll join state Sens. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, and Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, to advocate for funding of musical education in schools, noon on the west steps of the Capitol. The event is part of Stand Up 4 Music's lobby day, which begins at 9 a.m. with performances by school bands from across California.

ANTE UP: A push and pull of competing interests has kept efforts to legalize Internet poker in California on hold for several years. Capitol Weekly and the UC Center Sacramento sponsor a daylong conference to discuss the issues surrounding the effort, including regulation and the effect on tribal gambling, starting at 9 a.m. at the Masonic Temple on J Street. Among the speakers is Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, the author of one of two current bills that would authorize Internet poker.

MILK AND CAKE: The California Legislative LGBT Caucus – including Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, state Sens. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Lara, and Assemblymen Richard Gordon, D-Menlo Park, and Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – hold a reception for what would have been activist Harvey Milk's 84th birthday, 1:30 p.m. at the Capitol Park fish pond.

EXPANDING CARE: How will insurers adapt to meet the diverse needs of those newly covered under the Affordable Care Act? The California Association of Health Plans holds a daylong seminar to discuss new strategies and trends in health care, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Embassy Suites on Capitol Mall.

FOSTER STUDENTS: With a new school funding formula in place that provides additional money to districts with low-income and other needy students, foster youth advocates are asking schools to look out for students from foster care. The Stuart Foundation sponsors a legislative briefing on the educational outcomes and needs of foster youth at 10 a.m. in Room 3191 of the Capitol.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, R-San Diego, who turns 45 today.

PHOTO: Headstart students Adani Devlin, 5, left, and Jocelyn Walls, 4, work on their paintings during class at Washington Elementary School in downtown Sacramento on August 21, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 22, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Do Senate ethics reforms go beyond image?

steinberg.jpgOnly time will tell if new ethics rules make substantial changes to the scandal-ridden state Senate, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, right, pumps his fist after one of the state budget bills was passed by the Senate on June 14, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli



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Capitol Alert Staff


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

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. jmiller@sacbee.com. Twitter: @jimmiller2

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. akoseff@sacbee.com. Twitter: @akoseff

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

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