Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

July 7, 2014
In Florida, Mike Curb can still stir the gubernatorial pot

curb.jpgMike Curb, the former lieutenant governor who famously made trouble for Gov. Jerry Brown when Brown was governor before and traveled out of state, demonstrated over the weekend that he is still capable of stirring the gubernatorial pot.

The Sporting News reported Friday that a political ad for Florida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist was removed from a car competing in a race at Daytona International Speedway after state Republican officials and Curb, a music producer and sponsor of the car, complained.

"I did it out of respect to Mike Curb, who is a staunch Republican and he didn't feel comfortable and he's been a huge supporter and a partner to us from the very start," Phil Parsons, the car's owner, told the Sporting News. "In respect to Michael, we decided to take it off."

Curb, 69, was lieutenant governor from 1979 to 1983, when Brown, a Democrat, was governor before. Brown traveled out of state frequently in those days, and Curb, left behind as acting governor, made mischief. Among other things, Curb tried to elevate a Republican judge to the appellate court - an appointment Brown rescinded - and signed a bill permitting a temporary increase in the lead content of gasoline.

PHOTO: Acting Gov. Mike Curb with tax crusader Paul Gann on February 26, 1979. The Sacramento Bee/Harlin Smith

July 1, 2014
State subsidy for aircraft contracts has rough landing

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Fast-track legislation that would provide a multi-million-dollar state subsidy to help California win manufacturing subcontracts for a new Air Force plane had a rough landing Tuesday in the state Senate.

The Senate Finance and Governance Committee approved the measure, Assembly Bill 2389, but only after adding amendments to limit its effect on the state's treasury, which proponents said could undermine hopes of gaining the project in competition with other states and companies.

The Assembly approved AB 2389, carried by Assemblyman Steve Fox, D-Palmdale, last week in hopes of getting it to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk before the Legislature leaves Sacramento for a month-long summer recess later this week.

It would grant tax credits totaling $420 million over 15 years for manufacturing, including "major first-tier subcontractors," on a strategic bomber project in which Lockheed-Martin is involved in partnership with Boeing. Qualifying firms would get tax credits for 17.5 percent of wages paid to manufacturing workers on the project and Lockheed Martin appears to be the only potential qualifier.

Lockheed-Martin – which has a major facility in Fox's district – other elements of the state's aerospace industry, business groups and Brown's "Go-BIZ" investment office all support the credit. They say the economic activity generated by winning contracts in California would offset the cost.

But the Senate's leadership, including President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, want the money to come from Brown's "California Competes" program of subsidies to new business, which has financial limits, rather than be paid outside the program, which would increase its hit on the state general fund.

Fox and other backers of the bill said placing those limits might undermine California's position vis-à-vis contractors in other states in the Defense Department and refused to accept them, But the chair of the committee, Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, insisted on their inclusion and they were inserted into the bill on a 4-2 vote, sending it to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Updated at 3:37 p.m. to clarify nature of proposed project.

PHOTO: Pilots fly F-35 jets over Edwards Airforce Base on Dec. 10, 2011. The F-35, dubbed Lightning II, is being built by the world's largest defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp. Photo: Lockheed Martin/Darin Russell

June 28, 2014
Jerry Brown keeps gloves off California bartenders, chefs

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for brownbudget.JPGThree days before health officers in California were expected to begin enforcing legislation requiring bartenders and chefs to wear gloves when handling ready-to-eat food, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Saturday he has signed a bill repealing the legislation.

The measure reverses legislation Brown signed last year prohibiting retail food employees from handling ready-to-eat food with bare hands. The new legislation instead requires food employees to "minimize" bare hand contact.

The original bill was part of a broader food safety code package approved by lawmakers without opposition. Since the bill was enacted last year, however, many restaurant and bar owners raised objections, saying the rule would require employees to constantly change gloves and could lead them to wash their hands less frequently.

"It didn't sound that dissimilar to the existing law, which said that we should minimize hand contact and that there should be good hand-washing procedures," Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, the author of both the original and revised bill, said in February.

After the original legislation passed, Pan said, "we started hearing from local restaurants, smaller restaurants, and also bartenders about the impact it would have on them."
Assembly Bill 2130, the legislation repealing the regulation, passed without opposition, and Brown signed it without comment.

The bill was one of 15 measures Brown announced signing Saturday. Among other bills, he signed Assembly Bill 129, by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, legalizing the use of alternative currencies such as Bitcoin.

June 28, 2014
Jerry Brown elevates former aide's position on court

ha_david_siders_jim_humes_2011.JPGTwo years after naming longtime aide Jim Humes to the First District Court of Appeal, Gov. Jerry Brown announced Saturday that he has appointed Humes presiding justice of the court's first division.

Humes, 54, of San Francisco, was an executive secretary to Brown in the governor's office and was chief deputy attorney general when Brown was attorney general. He will fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice James Marchiano, the governor's office said.

Humes is the first openly gay justice to serve on the California Court of Appeal.

The appointment was one of six judicial appointments announced Saturday, including two on the First District Court of Appeal.

Other than Humes, Brown named Therese Stewart, chief deputy city attorney in San Francisco, to the court's second division. She argued on behalf of San Francisco in litigation against Proposition 8, California's now-invalidated same-sex marriage ban, the governor's office said.

Like Brown, both Humes and Stewart are Democrats.

The appointments both fill vacancies created by retirements, Brown's office said. The pay for each position is $207,463 a year. The positions require confirmation by the Commission on Judicial Appointments.

PHOTO: Jim Humes, right, talks to Bee reporter David Siders in January 2011. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee file, 2011.

June 25, 2014
Jerry Brown signs teacher dismissal bill

brownoaklandport.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation accelerating the teacher firing process in California, his office announced Wednesday.

Brown's action follows a Los Angeles Superior Court ruling this month declaring California's teacher dismissal rules unconstitutional, though the legislation's proponents began working on the issue before the ruling.

Assembly Bill 215, by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, attempts to limit the length of teacher dismissal appeals and contains an accelerated dismissal process for teachers accused of egregious offenses such as molesting children.

Brown signed the bill without comment. The Democratic governor vetoed a similar bill last year, writing in a veto message that he shared a "desire to streamline the teacher discipline process," but that the bill was an imperfect solution.

In a closely-watched decision earlier this month, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf Treu ruled that the state's rules for teacher tenure and dismissal deprive students of their constitutional right to a quality education, finding "no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently in California classrooms."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at an event in Oakland on Nov. 1, 2013. Associated Press/Marcio Jose Sanchez

June 25, 2014
Governor's bond plan seeks tunnel neutrality

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Water bond politics look poised to dominate the remainder of California's legislative session, with Senate leadership and Gov. Jerry Brown billions of dollars apart on the size of a revised water bond for the November 2014 ballot.

But they agree on one thing: the bond can't be about the tunnels.

Earlier this week, the Senate failed to pass a $10.5 billion water bond to replace the $11.1 billion offering approved in 2009 but postponed twice.

In meetings with legislative leaders yesterday, Brown put out his preferences: a bond worth around $6 billion, with about $2 billion for storage (both lower than the leading legislative proposals).

A draft of Brown's blueprint obtained by The Bee also suggests $1.5 billion for water supply and water reliability, encompassing areas like safe drinking water and groundwater cleanup; $1.5 billion for watershed protection; $500 million for flood control; and $500 million for the Delta.

Those numbers likely represent only starting points for negotiations. The document also states a general rule shared by Senate leaders: the bond must be "Bay Delta Conservation Plan neutral."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, made the case Monday that any bond perceived to advance the conservation plan is destined to fail. The BDCP requires money to bolster the Delta's ecosystem, and opponents of a proposed pair of Delta tunnels fear that a bond with Delta habitat money would therefore help lay the groundwork for the massive tunnels.

Ensuring that there is not a connection between a bond and the BDCP would be in the governor's interest, since it could help prevent a water bond vote from becoming a referendum on the tunnels he strongly supports. Developments in recent days, though, suggest that as the Legislature debates a water bond, the BDCP will hover in the background.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, watches as the votes are posted for a measure he supported that would overhaul an $11.1 billion water bond on the November ballot, at the Capitol in Sacramento Calif., Monday, June 23, 2014. Associated Press Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

June 25, 2014
Moody's raises California's bond credit rating

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Moody's Investors Service, one of the nation's largest credit rating organizations, upgraded its rating of California's $86 billion in general obligation debt Wednesday, citing the state's "rapidly improving financial position."

The upgrade from A1 to Aa3 came just a few days after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a 2014-15 state budget whose revenues and outgo are balanced and includes a "rainy-day fund" that will, if approved by voters in November, absorb some excess revenues.

Moody's also cited the state's progress in reducing unfunded pension liabilities and its improving economy in its upgrade, but cautioned that the state's revenue structure remains volatile.

The firm also raised its ratings of other state and local debts in its report.

PHOTO: Looking on behind are, from left, state Sen. Ben Hueso, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. Associated Press Photo/Gregory Bull

June 24, 2014
Jerry Brown signs teacher pension fund bill

budget_signing_2014.JPGGov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Tuesday to begin paying down an estimated shortfall of more than $74 billion in the California State Teachers' Retirement System, acting on the last of a raft of budget-related bills ahead of the July 1 start of the next fiscal year.

Brown's signature was strictly a formality. The pension fund measure was approved by lawmakers June 15 in a budget package negotiated with Brown. The Democratic governor signed the state's main budget bill and most of other legislation related to the $156.3 billion spending plan last Friday.

In a prepared statement highlighting the pension fund legislation, Brown said, "This bill will ensure a decent retirement for hundreds of thousands of teachers, both now and for decades to come."

The teacher pension bill requires increased CalSTRS contributions from school districts, teachers and the state, with much of the burden on districts. The bill had bipartisan support.

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown, center, signs the 2014-15 state budget on June 20, 2014, in San Diego. Looking on behind are, from left, state Sen. Ben Hueso, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, and Senate leader Darrell Steinberg. The Associated Press/Gregory Bull

June 20, 2014
Jerry Brown signs $156.3 billion state budget

brownjanbudget.jpgGov. Jerry Brown signed the state budget Friday, one of the earliest signings in recent history, his office announced.

The Democratic governor announced a relatively small number of line item vetoes to the $156.3 billion spending plan, many of which his office described as technical. The total value of the appropriations Brown eliminated or reduced was expected to be minimal.

"This on-time budget provides for today and saves for the future," Brown, who traveled to San Diego to sign the budget document, said in a prepared statement. "We're paying off the state's credit card, saving for the next rainy day and fixing the broken teachers' retirement system."

The budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is a compromise plan between Brown and Democratic lawmakers. It includes an expansion of child care and preschool for poor children and more money for high-speed rail, Medi-Cal and welfare-to-work. It also puts about $1.6 billion into a special rainy-day account.

For Brown, the budget represents a dramatic improvement from four years ago, when the state faced a deficit of more than $26 billion. The budget he signed that year, the first of his third term, reduced higher education and social services spending. In 2012 he signed a budget that relied on additional cuts and a multibillion-dollar tax increase.

With the economy improving and the passage of that tax measure, however, Brown's last two budget negotiations have proved relatively frictionless. Except for in 2009, when lawmakers enacted a budget in February that fell out of balance and had to be re-opened in May, the budget Brown signed Friday was the earliest on record going back nearly 30 years.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at a news conference at the California state Capitol in Sacramento on Jan. 10, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

June 19, 2014
Jerry Brown to sign budget Friday in San Diego

Brown_signing_bills.JPGGov. Jerry Brown will sign the state budget Friday in San Diego, his office announced Thursday, less than a week after both houses of the Legislature approved the spending plan.

Governors have the right to reduce or strike appropriations in budget bills before signing them, but it is unclear what line-item vetoes Brown will make to the $156.4 billion budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Last year, the Democratic governor made only a small number of line-item vetoes, totaling about $40 million.

This year's budget plan is a compromise between Brown and Democratic lawmakers. It includes an expansion of child care and preschool for poor children and more money for high-speed rail, Medi-Cal and welfare-to-work. It also puts about $1.6 billion into a special rainy-day account.

Brown will be joined for the budget signing by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. Brown is scheduled to travel to Los Angeles after signing the budget to attend a celebration with Latino lawmakers.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills in Sacramento on March 24, 2011 as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco look on. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 19, 2014
Measure to limit football practice heading to Jerry Brown

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Full-contact football practice would be banned in the off-season and limited during the playing seasons for California teenagers under a bill that is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The state Senate on Thursday passed Assembly Bill 2127 by Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, which seeks to reduce brain injuries by putting new limits on full-contact football practice.

"There have recently been many scientific studies that contend that concussions and brain injuries due to football likely contribute to long term brain damage and early onset of dementia," Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina, said in presenting the bill on the Senate floor.

Several states have already taken similar steps, Hernandez said, including 19 states that have banned full-contact practice in the off-season.

Though the measure drew no formal opposition, it squeaked out of the Assembly last month with just one more vote than necessary to pass. The measure passed the Senate Thursday on a vote of 23-5 but generated no debate.

PHOTO: Del Oro High School's Trey Udoffia is taken down by a Bakersfield High School defender during their Div. I state football championship game on Dec. 20, 2013 in Carson, Cailf. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 15, 2014
Lawmakers approve California budget under looming deadline

budgetphoto.jpgby David Siders and Jeremy B. White

California lawmakers passed the state's main budget bill Sunday, less than six hours before the constitutional deadline.

The vote comes after Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders last week reached a compromise on a $156.4 billion budget package for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The spending plan includes more money for Medi-Cal and welfare-to-work and an expansion of child care and preschool programs for poor children. It also begins to pay down an estimated shortfall of more than $74 billion in the teachers' pension fund, puts about $1.6 billion into a special rainy day fund and holds about $460 million more in reserve.

Lawmakers in both the Senate and Assembly were beginning late Sunday to take up the first of 18 related "trailer bills," legislation attached to the budget.

The Senate approved the main budget bill 25-11. Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, broke ranks with Republicans to cast a vote for the budget.

The vote in the Assembly was 55-24.

"This is a much brighter day than what we've seen in years past," said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, adding that only recent years have lawmakers been able to begin restoring cuts made during the recession.

Among trailer bills lawmakers took up Sunday were items inserted with little public review in recent days, including controversial language capping the amount of money school districts may set aside for economic uncertainties if state-level reserves reach certain levels.

The measure, backed by California's influential teachers unions, was opposed by school administrators, and some Democrats who supported the proposal criticized the late hour at which it appeared.

"My main concern truly is with the process," Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, said before the measure cleared a budget committee Sunday. "This is clearly a major policy deviation from the way we've done business, and this is something that could have been discussed over the last several months."

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, said, "To say that this process is inconsistent, I think, is somewhat of an understatement and is the politest word I can think of."

The budget's main points, however, were settled by late last week. In a prepared statement Friday, Brown called the spending plan a "solid and sustainable budget that pays down debt, brings stability to the teachers' pension system and builds at long last a reliable Rainy Day Fund."

In debate in the Assembly on Sunday, Democrats and Republicans split on both the main budget bill and several trailer bills. Members of the majority party praised what they called a balanced approach to spending, while Republicans decried plans to spend carbon-reduction funds on high speed rail and said spending on education is inadequate.

"We do not live up to the promises of Prop 30 in this budget," said Jeff Gorell, vice chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, referring to the tax measure Brown and others promoted in 2012 as a new funding stream for schools.

The budget and it's $108 billion general fund are a product of negotiations between the Democratic governor and majority Democrats in the Legislature. Republican support was required for a two-thirds vote on a reserve fund measure in May, but the minority party was largely sidelined in budget talks.

Hours before lawmakers took up the budget, Senate Republican leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said on Twitter, "Usually on Father's Day, I barbecue meat. I wish I could roast a few Dem priorities."

PHOTO: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, right, receives congratulations from Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, after the Senate approved the state budget at the Capitol Sunday. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

June 13, 2014
VIDEO: No dancing, but Chris Christie calls success in blue state proof Kashkari has a chance

christiekashkari2.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Friday that his own victory in a Democratic-leaning state in 2009 is evidence a Republican can win the governorship in California, but he stopped short of committing resources from the Republican Governors Association to the state's Republican gubernatorial candidate, Neel Kashkari.

"No one thought I was going to win in 2009," Christie, chairman of the RGA, told reporters at a flower store in San Francisco. "I'm out here to support Neel to let him know it can happen, but what you have to do is reach out to everybody."

The appearance was Kashkari's first major event since advancing from the primary election last week, defeating tea party rival Tim Donnelly. But Kashkari faces an uphill climb against incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown. Kashkari finished about 35 percentage points behind the third-term Democrat in the primary election, and Brown enjoys a massive fundraising advantage.

Christie, a potential presidential candidate in 2016, overcame a Democratic registration advantage to win election in New Jersey in 2009. His opponent, Jon Corzine, was highly unpopular, however, while Brown's job approval ratings are soaring.

Christie was in California raising money for the governors association. He suggested any direct financial assistance to Kashkari is not imminent.

Watch: Christie busts a move on "Tonight Show"

"I will do whatever is possible for us to do to make this race competitive," Christie said. "Now, at the end of the day it's up to him. You know, as I said before, each race is up to the individual candidate. And what the RGA can do is when we have a close race we can be the folks who help to push that person over the finish line. He's got work to do. He knows he's got work to do. He didn't just wake up this morning, OK? He knows how difficult this race is. But I believe he's going to do the work, and when he does do the work you're going to see not only the RGA but lots of Republicans across the country, when they see an opportunity to win here in California, are going to be really rushing here to try to make that statement."

PHOTO: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie campaigns with California Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari in San Francisco on June 13, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 12, 2014
Budget deal gives 25 percent of cap-and-trade money to high-speed rail

jerrybrownprisons.jpgGov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders have agreed to a proposal to use 25 percent of future cap-and-trade revenue - money polluters pay to offset carbon emissions - to provide ongoing funding for construction of California's high-speed rail project, according to part of a budget deal legislators will consider Thursday, sources said.

The amount falls short of the 33 percent Brown originally sought but is more than the Senate Democrats proposed.

The use of cap-and-trade money is one of the most controversial elements remaining in a spending plan Brown and lawmakers are finalizing this week. Lawmakers are expected to finish committee work on the budget Thursday, with floor votes Sunday, the constitutional deadline.

Cap-and-trade auctions could generate as much as $1 billion in 2014-15. The deal lawmakers are considering for the $68 billion high-speed rail calls for ongoing funding beginning in the 2015-16 budget year.

In addition to high-speed rail, the deal calls for 15 percent of cap-and-trade revenue to go to other transportation projects and 20 percent to go to affordable housing projects and other programs that help reduce greenhouse gases.

The remaining 40 percent of cap-and-trade revenue would go to various transportation, natural resources, energy and other projects.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at a news conference at the Capitol on Sept. 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 11, 2014
Education officials rip draft budget language limiting district reserves

Thumbnail image for brownbudget.JPGSchool officials are raising opposition to last-minute budget language that would cap the amount of money California school districts may set aside for economic uncertainties.

The draft trailer bill language, which education lobbyists distributed Wednesday, would limit districts' fund balances in most cases to two or three times the minimum required, a potential victory for public employee unions resistant to tying money up in reserves.

In a letter to Brown administration officials and lawmakers Wednesday, the Education Management Group, which represents school boards, administrators and superintendents, said the bill language is "fiscally irresponsible" and inconsistent with principles of local control.

"For most of the last two decades, California has focused on preventing school district bankruptcies by enacting laws that require multiyear projections, enforcement of strict fiscal standards by county offices of education, early intervention, and even the authority to override the spending decisions of local governing boards," the letter said. "It is therefore ironic that, at the very time an initiative has been placed on the statewide ballot to strengthen the state's rainy day fund, that the Legislature and Governor would consider statutory changes that eviscerate provisions at the local school district level that are based on the same premise of fiscal prudence and responsibility."

The Education Management Group also objected to the last-minute insertion of the language in a months-long budget process.

"People's jaws are still agape," said Bob Blattner, an education lobbyist. "At the very last second, it's such a significant policy issue to drop."

The trailer bill language comes as lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown move closer to a deal in this year's budget negotiations, with the Legislature expected to vote Sunday on the main budget bill. Brown and lawmakers last month agreed to a major component of the spending plan, a rainy-day fund measure that, if approved by voters, would increase statewide reserves.

Public employee unions had objected to a rainy day fund measure previously scheduled for the ballot. Kevin Gordon, a longtime education lobbyist, said he suspects "some linkage here to the rainy day fund and the fact that the California Teachers Association didn't object" to the new rainy day fund measure. Jeff Vaca, one of the Education Management Group letter's authors and deputy executive director for governmental relations at the California Association of School Business Officials, said the bill language is "probably as much political as it is policy."

The Brown administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Mike Myslinski, a spokesman for CTA, said he was unaware of any link between the rainy day fund measure and the trailer bill, but he said his organization supports the trailer bill language.

"This is all about understanding that school districts really must spend the taxpayers' dollars that they receive in the classroom," he said.

Fred Glass, of the California Federation of Teachers, said the organization is supportive of limiting reserves, too.

While a prudent reserve account is responsible, Glass said, "there are some districts that have 15, 20, 25 percent ending balances."

He said that "may translate into fiscal security for administrators, but it means limiting programs for students."

Editor's note: This post was updated at 3:28 p.m. to include Myslinski's remarks

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, left, Gov. Jerry Brown, center, and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, right, celebrate a budget deal with a formal announcement at the Capitol on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

June 10, 2014
Tesla-driving Rick Perry jabs California on jobs

perrysacramento.jpgFor the latest round in the Jerry Brown-Rick Perry rivalry, the photo opportunity was especially promising: Perry, the Texas governor and self-proclaimed hunter of California jobs, cruising down L Street in a Tesla just days after the Brown administration announced it is considering steps to persuade the car's maker to build a massive battery factory here.

The Palo Alto-based company's Model S, Perry told reporters after pulling into the Hyatt Regency Hotel, would look good with a "Made in Texas" bumper sticker.

Perry has long boasted about recruiting businesses from California to Texas, but the rhetoric increased last year, when Perry ran a radio ad in California and Brown dismissed his effort as "barely a fart."

On Tuesday, Brown's office referred to that quote when asked for comment.

With the Tesla behind him and his shades on, Perry criticized California's tax and regulatory climate, as he has on previous visits, and he trumpeted the value of competition between states for jobs. Trying to recruit Tesla, he said, is "one of our goals, obviously."

But when asked what incentives Texas was offering the company, he said, "I don't know all of the different details about the incentive packages and what have you."

In fact, Perry is not meeting with Tesla officials on this trip to California.

Who he was visiting with were Republican lawmakers, candidates and at least one very deep-pocketed GOP donor, Charles Munger Jr. Perry, a former presidential candidate who may run in 2016, talked briefly with Munger in the hotel lobby, before former state Sen. Jim Brulte, chairman of the California Republican Party, put his arm around Perry and walked with him to a meeting with lawmakers upstairs.

PHOTO: Texas Gov. Rick Perry addresses reporters in Sacramento on June 10, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 9, 2014
Neel Kashkari presses Jerry Brown to debate, recalling Brown's words

kashkarikfbk.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari is challenging Gov. Jerry Brown to debate him 10 times in the race for governor, echoing a call Brown made four years ago for 10 debates with Republican Meg Whitman.

Brown, a third-term Democrat, has been noncommittal about debating, while Kashkari, who is far behind in fundraising and public opinion polls, could benefit from the exposure debates afford.

Four years ago, when Brown was outspent by Whitman, he said the campaign should not be "decided on the airwaves in a scripted, prepackaged advertisement," but "mano a mano, one candidate against the other."

Kashkari used Brown's remarks in recent radio interviews and in a letter to Brown on Monday to press the issue. He challenged Brown to at least one town hall-style contest and one formal debate in five regions: Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego and the Central Valley.

Dan Newman, a political spokesman for Brown, said in an email that Brown would consider the request.

"We'll certainly consider debating," he wrote, "providing we can work out the scheduling and details to offer something substantive and worthwhile to voters."

Brown and Whitman ended up squaring off in three televised debates in 2010.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari prepares for an interview at KFBK radio in Sacramento on Feb. 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 6, 2014
'High-needs' student counts fall short in three big districts

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California's new formula for financing schools provides more money to districts with large numbers of poor and/or English-learner students, giving local officials an incentive to count as many of those "high needs" students as possible.

The Local Control Funding Formula, enacted last year by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature, is aimed at closing what's called the "achievement gap."

However, the actual count of those students is falling short of estimates in three of the state's five largest districts, according to a survey by EdSource, a website that reports on education trends in California.

Los Angeles Unified, the state's largest school district with about 10 percent of the state's six million K-12 students, had expected that 86 percent of its students would qualify for the extra money, but has found that just 81 percent meet the criteria.

Similar shortfalls were discovered in San Diego Unified and Elk Grove Unified. However, the hard counts in Fresno Unified and Long Beach Unified were slightly above estimates. The state has yet to release the official counts of high-needs students.

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

June 5, 2014
Jerry Brown, lawmakers mull incentives to land Tesla factory

Brown_signing_bills.JPGGov. Jerry Brown and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg are floating the possibility of regulatory changes or financial incentives to persuade Tesla Motors Inc. to build a massive battery factory in California, one of several states competing to host the facility.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, will introduce so-called "intent" language Thursday regarding locating a large battery factory in the state, according to a Brown administration official and Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, who is working with Steinberg on the legislation.

The bill is only a marker, but it signals to Tesla the significance of the $5 billion factory to the Brown administration and lawmakers. Bill language is expected to suggest the possibility of financial incentives or regulatory changes, but it will not say what those might be.

Tesla, which makes luxury electric cars, is considering several states for the location of its "Gigafactory," which is expected to employ about 6,500 workers at full build-out. The Palo Alto-based company has said the factory likely will be built out of state.

The effort by Brown and lawmakers is not specific to a bid in Sacramento County to locate the battery factory at Mather Airport's business park.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

The bill comes after Toyota recently announced plans to close its Torrance headquarters. Brown, who is seeking re-election, has been criticized by Republicans for what they say is California's overly burdensome regulatory climate.

Gaines said the Tesla conversations are bipartisan.

"We ought to be doing everything we can to retain that factory within the borders of California," he said.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills in Sacramento on March 24, 2011 as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco look on. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

June 3, 2014
Democratic Party pours $550,000 more into Jerry Brown's war chest

brownvotearrival.jpgThe Democratic State Central Committee of California poured another $550,000 into Gov. Jerry Brown's war chest on the eve of the Tuesday primary election, raising the state party's total support for the governor's re-election bid to about $3.6 million.

Brown, who is seeking an unprecedented fourth term, has amassed about $21 million for the general election campaign, after largely sitting out the primary. His Republican opponents, Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari, are competing for second place in the election and a spot in the runoff against Brown.

While support continues to flow to Brown from state Democrats, it is unclear how helpful he will be to down-ticket members of the party in the November elections. The governor has traditionally focused his political energies on his own races and initiatives.

Asked on Tuesday morning if plans to help other Democrats running for statewide office, Brown was noncommittal.

"I don't have any plans this morning," he told reporters after voting in Oakland. "But I'm sure that, as people meet with me, I'll be glad to talk with them. We will have a unified campaign. We have a very good Democratic Party under John Burton, and I think ... there'll be opportunities for what we call constructive engagement at the international level."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, walk with their dog to the polling place where the governor voted on June 3, 2014 in Oakland. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 3, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown at ease for now, cautious about November

brownvotes.jpgOAKLAND - Gov. Jerry Brown strolled from his home in the Oakland hills on Tuesday to the fire station where he regularly votes, the heavy favorite not only to finish first in the primary election, but also to win a historic fourth term in November.

This is despite running no visible campaign, an effort so nonchalant that one of Brown's advisers, unable to find a microphone stand, fashioned one from a chest of drawers taken from a "free" pile by a dumpster near the polling place.

Taking his place behind the piece of furniture, Brown said projected low turnout in the primary election may indicate "people are relatively confident and are not troubled by any great challenge or issue." He said it makes no difference which Republican, Tim Donnelly or Neel Kashkari, advances to face him in the runoff election, and he declined to say if he would debate either one of them.

He may not have to. Forty years after he first won election to the governor's office, in 1974, Brown enjoys high public approval ratings and has amassed about $21 million for the general election campaign. He is far ahead in public opinion polls.

Asked about his prospects in November, Brown was circumspect.

"Confidence is a tricky business in politics, because if we've learned anything it's that the future is uncertain, that fortune is fickle, and one kind of goes forward with a certain amount of trepidation. And, yes, everything looks good, but no one knows what tomorrow will bring. There's always issues, there's catastrophes, there's scandals, there's mistakes. So, I'm a bit wary as I do this for the fourth time."

But the general election is five months away. As for the primary, Brown was planning to go hiking on family land outside of Williams, as he has on previous election days, before watching returns in Sacramento.

Brown told reporters, "The fact that you have so few questions, I think indicates the impending result."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, arrive at the fire station in Oakland where Brown votes on June 3, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

June 1, 2014
Poll: Kashkari, Donnelly in dead heat in race for governor

kashkaridam.jpgRepublicans Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari are locked in a statistical dead heat in the Republican race for governor, according to a new USC/Los Angeles Times poll.

Eighteen percent of likely voters support Kashkari and 13 percent support Donnelly, with 10 percent undecided, according to the poll.

Both Republicans remain far behind Gov. Jerry Brown. The Democratic incumbent registered 50 percent support among likely voters. The race between Kashkari and Donnelly is to determine who will advance to a runoff against Brown in the fall.

The difference between Kashkari and Donnelly is within the poll's margin of error. But it represents a major improvement for Kashkari, who consistently trailed Donnelly in public opinion polls all year. The poll released Sunday follows an advertising push by Kashkari in the final weeks of the campaign.

PHOTO: PHOTO: Republican Neel Kashkari speaks with reporters at Oroville Dam on March 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 29, 2014
Demand for California Competes hiring credits outpaces supply

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Demand for the state's first round of business tax credits under the new California Competes program far exceeds supply, with applications totaling $559 million for only $30 million in credits available this year.

Gov. Jerry Brown's Office of Business Development this week notified 396 applicants who had applied between March 19 and an April 14 deadline.

"The demand for these tax credits demonstrates that there are a significant number of companies looking at expansion opportunities in California," Will Koch, the deputy director for California Competes, said in a statement Thursday. "We encourage any company looking to expand their existing business in the state, or interested in relocating to California, to apply when we open the application period again next fiscal year."

The income and franchise tax credits are available for businesses interested in relocating to California, as well as existing California businesses seeking "retention" credits meant to keep jobs in California. The credits are part of the package created by the Legislature and the Brown administration after lawmakers eliminated enterprise zones last summer.

There are 149 applicants that qualified for the second round of the California Competes selection process, representing about $155 million in requested credits.

Go Biz said 10 percent of the applications seek retention credits. That is much less than the figure – 60 percent – reported by the EZ Policy Blog, which follows the program.

The California Competes Tax Credit Committee will consider companies' requests for tax credits on June 19. Officials will consider the types of jobs created, potential future growth and other criteria.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5 p.m. May 29 to include Go Biz's percentage of applications seeking retention tax credits.

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown visits Takeda, a biotech firm, in San Diego, where he signed signed legislation phasing out enterprise zones and replacing the program with California Competes and other incentives. U-T San Diego/Carolyne Corelis

May 27, 2014
Tim Donnelly calls financial difficulties proof he can relate

donnellyscrum.jpgRepublican Tim Donnelly said Tuesday that his past financial difficulties are evidence he can relate to regular Californians, firing back at Neel Kashkari, his better-funded rival in the governor's race one week before the primary election.

"I'm not a millionaire, I didn't make a killing off the taxpayers by running TARP and bailing out Wall Street," Donnelly said in an interview on KMJ News Talk Radio in Fresno.

Kashkari, who managed the federal government's $700 billion bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, made about $145,000 a year while working at the U.S. Treasury Department, his campaign said.

Donnelly's remarks come after Kashkari portrayed Donnelly in a mailer as financially irresponsible. Kashkari criticized Donnelly for a foreclosure on an investment property in South Carolina in 2012, and for a $2,829 tax lien the state filed against Donnelly's former business, Donnelly Plastic Equipment Inc. San Bernardino County listed the lien as being released in March.

"Hey, I lost a piece of property in the downturn," Donnelly said. "I did everything I could to save it. I put a lot of money into it ... And a balloon payment came due and there was nothing I could do."

Kashkari, appearing immediately after Donnelly on KMJ, said Donnelly's personal finances are part of a less-than-conservative fiscal record.

"It's fiscal conservatism for everyone but him," Kashkari said, "and I think people appreciate knowing the truth."

Gov. Jerry Brown is widely expected to finish first in the primary election, with Donnelly and Kashkari competing for a spot in a runoff election against Brown in the fall. Kashkari has donated $2 million to his own campaign in recent weeks, while Donnelly has reported debts exceeding cash on hand.

Kashkari defended his role managing TARP, as he has previously, saying the program helped avert an economic collapse.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 9:40 p.m. Tuesday to include information from Kashkari's campaign about his pay while working at the U.S. Treasury Department.

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 23, 2014
Three competing plans emerge for spending cap-and-trade fees

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And now there are three competing plans for spending about $1 billion in cap-and-trade fees on businesses that emit greenhouse gases, with three weeks to resolve the differences before the June 15 deadline for enacting a state budget.

The fees are, by law, supposed to be used to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to meet state goals.

Gov. Jerry Brown's 2014-15 budget would spend $870 million in fees, with the largest single piece being $250 million to bolster financial underpinnings of the state's bullet train project. Plus, Brown wants the Legislature to permanently commit a third of future cap-and-trade revenues to the project.

The Assembly's leadership, in a plan unveiled on Thursday, wants to raise cap-and-trade spending to just over $1 billion with two pots of $400 million each, one of which could go to the bullet train if the state's Strategic Growth Council – an agency of the governor's top appointees – agrees.

Moreover, the Assembly's plan would give Brown the authority to seek a $20 billion federal loan and issue a $20 billion revenue bond for the high-speed rail project, both of which would rely on future cap-and-trade fees to repay.

On Friday, the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee adopted another version that would allocate $450 million for mass transit and intercity rail, including the bullet train, plus appropriations for smaller programs.

There are some other differences as well, including how much money, if any, should be spent on subsidies for buyers of low-emission vehicles and various programs to reduce solid waste, restoring wetlands and support "sustainable communities," however they may be defined.

The differences will be resolved – if they can be – during negotiations among Brown and Democratic legislative leaders.

PHOTO: A tanker truck passes the Chevron oil refinery in Richmond on March 9, 2010. Associated Press/Paul Sakuma

May 23, 2014
Legislature scales back Brown's teacher pension rescue plan

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State legislators heard a heavy litany of complaints from school officials this week about Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to make the State Teachers Retirement System solvent and in response temporarily toned down the bite on their budgets.

The Brown plan aims to close a $70-plus billion unfunded liability by eventually raising contributions to $5-plus billion a year, with the lion's share coming from the budgets of local school districts.

But school officials told a joint legislative hearing that the sharp increases would wipe out much of the gains in state aid they are scheduled to receive during the remainder of the decade.

In response, the chairs of the two legislative committees involved asked for a modification and on Friday, the Legislative Analyst's Office released a revised chart that would reach the same level of financing sought by Brown by 2020, but lower the increase in the early years and raise it later.

Brown wanted districts to raise contributions from 8.25 percent of payroll in 2014-15 to 9.5 percent, for instance, but the legislative plan scales it back to 8.88 percent. Districts' payments would ramp up gradually thereafter and surpass Brown's plan in 2018-19 at 17.75 percent, markedly higher than the 15.9 percent in Brown's plan for that year.

Both plans would top out at 19.1 percent in 2020-21, with school districts paying $3.8 billion that year into the pension system, over 70 percent of the $5.3 billion annual increase in revenue for STRS.

The state's contributions and those of teachers would remain virtually the same as Brown's plan, although the increase for teachers hired after Jan. 1, 2013, would be slightly lower for one year.

PHOTO: Joined by school officials, California Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at an April 2013 news conference in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Renee. C. Byer

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 21, 2014
Jerry Brown calls California 'job creation engine'

hostbrown.JPGGov. Jerry Brown said Wednesday that California is a "job creation engine," defending his administration's handling of the economy and state budget in a forceful election year speech.

"California is definitely back," Brown told about 1,300 people at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual Host Breakfast in Sacramento. "Just a few years ago ... a few pundits, a few national publications were talking about California as a failed state. Well, just 3 ½ years later, that deficit and that credit rating have been utterly transformed. We've eliminated -- we, I mean the Legislature and my office working together -- have eliminated a $27 billion deficit. That's never been done before, but we did it."

Brown, a popular Democrat, is widely expected to win re-election in this Democrat-leaning state. Facing criticism from Republicans over the state's high poverty and unemployment rates, Brown lauded the state's job growth, venture capital and agricultural production.

"This is a job creation engine," Brown said. "It's a place of imagination."

Brown, who is negotiating a budget with Democratic lawmakers and social service advocates eager for increased spending, warned billions of dollars in unfunded, long-term retirement liabilities could grow even higher.

"God help us if medical technology has some breakthroughs," he said, "and these people who are retiring don't live to 80, but they live to 100."

Brown has enjoyed a favorable relationship with state business interests, and he was applauded Wednesday. He leads a small field of Republican challengers by wide margins in fundraising and public opinion polls. Brown reported Tuesday that he had raised just more than $1 million from mid-March through mid-May, leaving him with nearly $21 million on hand for his re-election campaign.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at Wednesday's Host Breakfast. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 20, 2014
Fiscal analyst says Jerry Brown overstating Medi-Cal costs

Brown_signing_bills.JPGWhen Gov. Jerry Brown was asked last week about the reliability of his revenue estimates, which came in higher than he initially projected, Brown responded that while revenue may be out-performing his expectations, costs have come in higher than expected, too.

"Expenditures meet the revenues almost precisely," he said.

But according to the Legislature's nonpartisan fiscal analyst, Brown not only continues to underestimate revenue, but may be overestimating costs, as well. The estimate is significant because it potentially puts hundreds of millions of dollars on the table as Brown negotiates a final budget with legislative Democrats and advocacy groups lobbying for increased spending.

After estimating Friday that state general fund revenue through next June will be $2.5 billion higher than Brown predicted in his revised budget plan last week, the Legislative Analyst's Office over the weekend said costs in one of the budget's major spending areas, Medi-Cal, appear to be too high.

At issue is the estimated per-enrollee cost for people signing up for Medi-Cal, the state's version of Medicaid. Brown has cautioned that the state faces about $1.2 billion in unanticipated costs from expanding Medi-Cal in the push to implement the federal health care overhaul.

But the LAO said the administration's projected per-enrollee costs appear to be too cautious. It said the administration may be over-estimating the cost by about $300 million through June 2015.

On Monday, administration officials told an Assembly budget subcommittee that Brown's Medi-Cal estimates are based on enrollment data that was not available when the initial budget proposal was released in January. The LAO said it would review additional information from the administration to provide a more precise estimate.

The committee held the matter open.

Gary Passmore, with the Congress of California Seniors, told the committee, "The budget estimates for Medi-Cal right now are not rock solid numbers. There are still some things in play, and we would urge you to give the state and advocates as much time as possible."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills in Sacramento on March 24, 2011 as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco look on. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 19, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown presses for action on climate change

JERRYBROWN.jpgGov. Jerry Brown called Monday for urgent action on climate change, while lamenting that the issue "has yet to fully capture the public imagination."

"This is a path that must be pursued today, the next decade, the next 100 years, and it's something that has yet to fully capture the public imagination," the Democratic governor said at a conference on climate change at the California museum. "There's still great denial."

Brown has made climate change a priority of his administration, and his speech Monday covered familiar ground.

"If something is discrete and it happens, like a forest fire or an accident or a tornado, it's easy to grasp and we can react to it," Brown said. "But when we have the buildup of these heat-trapping gasses globally and then you say, 'What do we do?' And this is the kind of challenge where it's not just California. We're 1 percent of the problem. We have to get other states and other nations on a similar path forward, and that is enormously difficult, because it requires different jurisdictions, different political values to unite around this one challenge of making a sustainable future."

Brown was protested outside the museum by about 30 activists opposed to the Brown administration's permissiveness of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial form of oil extraction. The activists, who have dogged Brown at public appearances since last year, marched on the sidewalk and chanted, "Climate leaders don't frack!"

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown looks at protesters opposing fracking after his speech at the California Democratic Party's convention on March 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. Associated Press/ Jae C. Hong

May 19, 2014
Moody's praises California for rainy-day fund proposal

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Lawmakers' passage of "rainy-day fund" legislation championed by Gov. Jerry Brown won plaudits Monday from Moody's Investors Service, a major credit rating house.

"This credit positive development reflects the new emphasis that California...places on building reserve to cushion its finances from economic downturns," Moody's says in its periodic bulletin on credit trends.

The bulletin, echoing Brown's words, notes that California has had many more deficit budgets in recent years than positively balanced ones, citing the state's historic tendency to spend windfall revenues rather than save them.

The reserve fund would absorb some state revenues and make them available during an economic downturn. Last week's measure, ACA 1 in the second extraordinary session, was approved overwhelmingly by the Legislature, but still must be ratified by voters in November. Moody's current credit rating for California is A1 stable.

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown and then-Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez appear before the Assembly Budget Committee on April 28 to talk about ACA 1 in the second extraordinary session.

May 16, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown builds case for fourth term as governor

Gov. Jerry Brown stopped by The Sacramento Bee's Editorial Board on Thursday. He touched on subjects ranging from education and water to why voters should give him another four years.

May 15, 2014
Jerry Brown withholds judgment of GOP rivals, ignores debate stunt

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Gov. Jerry Brown, campaigning for a historic fourth term, said he has no preference which Republican challenger emerges from the primary to face him in November.

"My eleventh rule is don't interfere with the other party's selection," Brown said in a wide-ranging interview with The Sacramento Bee's Editorial Board on Thursday.

The Democratic governor spoke as his two main GOP rivals -- Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari -- were preparing for a debate hosted by KFI AM-640's "John and Ken Show."

Instead of the customary empty chair to mark Brown's absence, hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou dressed a skeleton in shirt and tie and affixed bushy eyebrows and a name tag that reads "Jerry." Brown briefly glanced at a reporter's photograph of the stand-in but declined to comment on the stunt.

"I've talked to Jon and Ken and what I found is I could be in the middle of making a very impressive point and they turn down my volume and continue to talk," he said. "As long as those are the rules, I don't think I am going to play that game."

Brown did acknowledge how different this campaign is from his last, noting that Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman had spent upward of $80 million by this time in the election four years ago.

"It's amazing how you can waste money in these campaigns," Brown said. "Cause they hire consultants, and then you don't know what the hell you're doing so you hire another consultant to advise you on the consultant you hired. And then you hire a few more. Pretty soon there you are."

Brown holds a commanding fundraising advantage and is far outpacing Donnelly and third-place candidate Kashkari. He added that there are other distinctions between the election cycles.

Said Brown: "Look, it's very different to be 76 then to be 71."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown meets with The Bee's Editorial Board for an endorsement interview Thursday. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

May 14, 2014
Jerry Brown seeks savings in community college transfers to UC

Brown_regents.JPGWith an eye on the state budget and student diversity, Gov. Jerry Brown suggested Wednesday that the University of California consider decreasing freshmen enrollment in favor of more community college transfers.

Speaking at the UC Board of Regents meeting in Sacramento, Brown said that raising the proportion of transfer students would be "a way to maintain a high degree of quality, increase diversity and lower our cost structure. That would be my value proposition."

His comments followed the presentation of a report recommending how UC could strengthen its transfer pathways, including aligning its majors with the Associate Degree for Transfer program being implemented between the community college system and the California State University system.

Brown theorized that having more students complete part of their educations in the lower-cost community colleges would save money for the state. He asked the regents to seriously "rethink through here what is the role of the freshman and sophomore year. Where should that take place?"

Brown added that expanding transfer enrollment should come in conjunction with outreach to a broader swath of community college students across the state. Currently, more than half of the approximately 15,000 students who transfer to UC every year come from fewer than a quarter of California's community colleges.

"To increase diversity is crucial," Brown said. "To make sure that lower-income families have their shot at UC and to really maximize that potential, the number of transfers must be increased."

Outside of the event, several dozen student protesters from Fossil Free UC called upon the regents to divest the university's endowment funds from coal, oil and natural gas companies.

"As an environmental movement, we have to call out institutional drivers of climate change," said UC Berkeley freshman Jake Soiffer, who helped organize the rally. "We can't just act individually."

"This is really the issue of our generation," he added.

During the public comment period that opened the board meeting, students asked the regents to look into divestment over the summer and hold in September. They urged UC to follow the example of universities like Stanford, which announced plans to divest from coal last week.

When the public comment period ended before all the speakers were able to address the board, the demonstrators began chanting until they were granted more time, drawing the ire of some of the regents.

Later in the meeting, Regent Norman Pattiz acknowledged the student's concerns, calling their request "valid."

"Although I think they have a little bit of work to do on their method of presentation," he said, "I don't think there is a bigger problem facing humanity than climate change."

"I would encourage us to find ways within the university community," he added, "to deal with these kind of problems, which are monumental in scope."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks with UC President Mark Yudof during a UC regents' meeting on May 15, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 13, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown downplays additional revenue in budget revision

capital_gains.JPGReporter David Siders explains the changes in Gov. Jerry Brown's May Revision and how they'll affect final budget discussions.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown holds up poster boards with graphic information regarding revisions to his budget during a press conference at the state Capitol on May 13, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 13, 2014
Jerry Brown releases $156.2 billion budget plan, ups Medi-Cal spending

budgetjerrybrown.JPGGov. Jerry Brown released a revised, $156.2 billion budget plan Tuesday, proposing to spend the bulk of a state windfall to cover vastly expanded rolls in the state's Medi-Cal program.

The May revision reflects the state's best projection of revenues for the coming fiscal year and touches off a rush of budget negotiations at the Capitol ahead of the adoption of an annual spending plan in June.

The budget replaces a $154.9 billion spending plan Brown proposed in January. It included modest increases for social service programs, but also billions of dollars to address long-term debt.

Brown's new plan says 1.4 million more people than projected in January signed up for Medi-Cal under the Obamacare roll out this year, which will cost the state about $1.2 billion more than the governor's predicted five months ago.

Brown's budget also confirmed that state revenue had grown enough to trigger a 2 percent pay increase for most state employees beginning July 1. Brown and 14 of the 21 bargaining units agreed to contracts that included the triggered pay hike. The budget projects that the raise will cost $183.7 for the fiscal year, $90.3 million of it from the general fund.

Brown's budget plan also includes $142 million to cover expenses from the ongoing drought.

The spending plan also lays out a 30-year road map to pay off the unfunded $73.7 billion liability in the State Teachers Retirement System by asking the state, school districts and teachers all to increase annual contributions.

After releasing the budget plan at a Capitol news conference Tuesday morning, Brown, who is running for re-election, was scheduled to hit the road to promote the plan in Los Angeles and San Diego.

The revised budget's release follows the announcement last week that Brown and legislative leaders had reached agreement on a major component of the annual spending plan, a rainy-day fund measure that, if approved by voters, would set aside 1.5 percent of general fund revenue every year, plus revenue from capital-gains taxes in especially lucrative tax years.

The measure would replace a reserve measure already on the Nov. 4 ballot but criticized by public employee unions and, in recent weeks, Republicans who acknowledged problems with its wording.

Brown has remained cautious about spending despite improving revenue estimates. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office reported Sunday that revenue for the current budget year from the largest general fund sources - personal income, corporation and sales taxes - was coming in about $1.8 billion above projections through the end of April.

May 12, 2014
Effects of California's workers compensation overhaul not yet certain

JD_COMP_STRETCHER.JPGTwo years ago, the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown gave their blessing to an overhaul of California's multi-billion-dollar system of compensating workers who sustain job-related illnesses and injuries.

The overhaul, billed as a reform, had been worked out privately by employers and labor unions and was opposed, in the main, by two other major workers compensation interest groups — attorneys who specialize in disability cases and medical care providers.

The legislation, Senate Bill 863, raised cash benefits to disabled workers and promised to offset their costs by clamping down on medical costs.

It's too early to tell whether the changes will have their intended effect, the Massachusetts-based Workers Compensation Research Institute says in a new study of California's system and those of 15 other states. The statistical compilation is aimed at setting benchmarks for the systems so that the impact of changes in benefits and costs can be more fully weighed.

In the absence of hard data, the study — which compares SB 863's changes to experiences in other states — suggests that the measure will, in fact, reduce medical and legal costs associated with claims for benefits in California. Prior to the overhaul, those costs were among the nation's highest, even though the prices paid for medical office visits in California were among the lowest.

The study attributes that anomaly to more frequent use of services, and fragmented billing practices in prior years, echoing complaints of employers.

SB 863 mandates the use of Medicare's medical fee schedule, drops fees for surgical procedures sharply, and puts new review processes in place. Those changes, the study said, will probably raise the incomes of primary care doctors who handle workers compensation cases but reduce incomes of surgeons and other specialists.

The study is available only by purchase here.

PHOTO: Beth Slavin of Modesto, who injured her knee on the job, lies on a stretcher at a news conference at the Capitol in Sacramento on April 19, 2005, protesting workers compensation legislation that then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the year before. The Sacramento Bee/ John Decker

May 8, 2014
Lawmakers to vote next week on rainy day fund deal

Brown_signing_bills.JPGThe Legislature is expected to vote next week on a rainy-day fund agreement between Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders, the governor's office announced Thursday, hours after details of the agreement first emerged from the Capitol.

The deal resolves a major part of Brown's budget proposal far earlier than usual in the annual budget-making process. It includes a higher minimum set-aside of general fund revenue each year than the Democratic governor had initially proposed, a measure necessary to satisfy Republicans.

At least two Republican votes are needed in the Senate for a constitutional amendment because Democrats lost their supermajority in the upper house when three senators facing criminal charges were suspended.

"There's nothing complicated about the idea of saving money and exercising fiscal restraint, but it's not always easy to do," Brown said in a release issued jointly by the governor and legislative leaders. "Democrats and Republicans have come together to create a Rainy Day Fund that ensures we're not only saving for the next downturn, but also paying off our debt."

The agreement follows private negotiations held after Brown called last month for a special session of the Legislature to take up the proposal. The agreement Brown and lawmakers announced would fund a rainy-day account with capital gains revenue that exceeds 8 percent of total general fund revenue in any year, a higher threshold than the 6.5 percent Brown had originally proposed. But it would also require contributions of 1.5 percent of all general fund revenue.

Half of the money set aside would be used for the reserve account and half would be used to pay off long-term debts, including public pension liabilities, according to the agreement. That provision was included to satisfy Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. He said dedicating some of the revenue for long-term debt will allow more flexibility to spend remaining general fund revenue on programs.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, who is running for state controller and first proposed a restructured rainy-day fund almost exactly a year ago, called the agreement "a strong example of what is possible when we all work together."

The rainy day fund proposal would replace a budget reserve measure already on the November ballot. That measure had been criticized by public employee unions, allies of Brown and Democratic lawmakers.

The original measure, ACA 4, was part of a 2010 budget deal among Democrats, Republicans and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and originally scheduled to go before voters in 2012, but lawmakers postponed it to 2014. The state's current rainy-day fund was established in 2004, but governors can waive its provisions and it has rarely been used.

Senate Republican leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said in a prepared statement that Republicans "have long fought for this type of protection for Californians" and that Brown "set up a good framework" for the agreement.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills in Sacramento on March 24, 2011 as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco look on. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 8, 2014
California state tax revenues running $2.2 billion above estimates

jchiang.jpgTax revenues are running $2.2 billion above assumptions in the 2013-14 state budget, setting the stage for final negotiations on a 2014-15 budget in the next month.

The higher revenues, contained in a
report from the State Controller's Office, are expected to be reflected in Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget which will be released in a few days.

Brown has said he wants extra money to be placed in a "rainy-day fund" and/or be used to retire state debts, but many of his fellow Democrats in the Legislature are seeking higher spending on health, welfare and education services, including universal pre-kindergarten.

Controller John Chiang said that through April - the first 10 months of the fiscal year - revenues were 102.8 percent of assumptions in the current budget. April is the state's most important revenue months because personal income taxes, by far the largest source of revenues, were due on April 15.

However, corporate income taxes, 11.3 percent above estimates, showed the largest increase over budget assumptions.

"California saw about $300 million more in its bank account at the end of April than expected after tax collections were tabulated for the pivotal month," Chiang's report said. "Total revenues (for April) reached $13.9 billion, beating estimates made in conjunction with the governor's budget released in January by 2.2 percent."

Meanwhile, Chiang said, state spending has tracked the budget's assumptions very closely, so virtually all of the extra money remains in the treasury.

PHOTO: State Controller John Chiang, in 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.

May 8, 2014
Jerry Brown, lawmakers near deal on reserve fund

brownbudget.JPGGov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders are poised to announce a deal on his rainy day fund proposal, including additional general fund contributions to satisfy Republicans, sources said.

The agreement follows private negotiations held after Brown called last month for a special session of the Legislature to take up the proposal. The negotiation is significant because, with three Democratic lawmakers suspended in separate criminal cases, Democrats have dropped below their supermajority status in the Senate, forcing Brown to negotiate with Republicans.

The agreement Brown and lawmakers are negotiating would fund a rainy-day account in years that capital gains revenue exceeds 8 percent of total general fund revenue, a higher threshold than Brown had proposed. But it would also require contributions of 1.5 percent of all general fund revenue, a concession to Republicans, sources said.

The proposal would replace a budget reserve measure already on the November ballot. That measure had been criticized by public employee unions, allies of Brown and Democratic lawmakers.

The original measure, ACA 4, was part of a 2010 budget deal among Democrats, Republicans and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and originally scheduled to go before voters in 2012, but lawmakers postponed it to 2014.

The agreement was coming together ahead of the release of Brown's revised budget proposal this month.

Senate Republican leader Bob Huff said Thursday morning, "We're close."

Laurel Rosenhall of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, left, Gov. Jerry Brown, center, and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, right, celebrate a budget deal with a formal announcement at the Capitol on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 7, 2014
Realignment puts heavy pressure on jails, PPIC report says

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The "realignment" that Gov. Jerry Brown championed to reduce overcrowding in state prisons has, in turn, created overcrowding in county jails that were already in some distress, according to a new study by the Public Policy Institute of California.

"We show that a number of facilities are old and likely in need of costly updates or replacement and that growth in the state's population is likely to exert significant pressure on the county jail system," PPIC's report, released Wednesday, says.

The state has been under heavy pressure from federal courts to reduce prison crowding and with a judicial takeover of the system looming, Brown negotiated a deal with county officials under which felons deemed to be non-dangerous would be diverted into local jails, rather than sent to state prisons.

In addition, the state would release some inmates from prison into locally managed parole and pay for all of the diversions by giving counties a bigger share of sales taxes.

The prison population has dropped dramatically to near the level fixed by the courts but there have been complaints from some local law enforcement officials that filling county jail cells with felons has forced them to incarcerate fewer misdemeanor offenders and thus put more of them back in the community. There also have been complaints that the money from the state isn't enough to cover costs.

While the state has provided some money to build new jails, not only do they face crowding but many are aged and deteriorating, so more money is needed to expand capacity and bring facilities up to date, the PPIC report says. To do what's needed, it says, as many as 14,600 new jail beds will be needed by 2040 at a cost of $4 billion.

However, those capital costs can be mitigated by more aggressive use of non-incarceration programs to prevent offenders from repeating their crimes.

"Our analysis suggests that the jail capacity challenge is unlikely to be met exclusively through either increased jail construction or decreased reliance on incarceration," PPIC says. "Meeting this challenge will probably require a thoughtful combination of efforts carried out jointly by the state and the counties."

PHOTO: Inmates inside the jail cells in the old Stanislaus County downtown main jail in Modesto on Wednesday June 19, 2013.The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo.

May 7, 2014
Report says California owes $340.7 billion, some being ignored

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The state of California is $340.7 billion in debt and while it is on track to repay much of the sum, it's not doing anything about unfunded liabilities for teacher pensions and state retiree health care, the Legislature's budget analyst said Wednesday.

Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor issued a comprehensive report on all state debts, including the "Wall of Debt" that Gov. Jerry Brown has cited.

The Wall of Debt, which was more than $30 billion when Brown resumed the governorship in 2011, is borrowing that predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature approved to cover operating deficits. It is, however, only about 10 percent of what the state owes.

Brown has pledged to repay the deficit debt — most of it money owed to school districts — but has not yet addressed other unfunded liabilities, such as those in the State Teachers Retirement System and retiree health care obligations.

The $340.7 billion figure cited in the report also could be larger because there is sharp disagreement on how the state's retirement funds have calculated their liabilities. Critics say that the funds use estimates of future earnings that are too high and were they to be adjusted downward, the debts would increase.

Taylor's report divides the $340.7 billion in debt into two categories — $200-plus billion "that merit further legislative attention" and $140.6 billion "that the state is addressing."

The biggest chunk of the first category is $73.7 billion in unfunded liabilities for teacher pensions. STRS has said it needs $4.5 billion a year in additional financing to keep the fund solvent. It also includes an estimated $64.6 billion in projected retiree health care.

PHOTO: Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

May 5, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown warns against spending, throwing cigarettes out car windows

browncalfire.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, moving to tamp down expectations for increased spending ahead of his revised budget plan this month, said Monday he is "very wary" of funding new programs and discounted entirely the idea of extending tax increases approved by voters in 2012.

Asked at a news conference about Proposition 30, the sales tax increase he championed, the Democratic governor said, "That's a temporary tax and, to the extent that I have anything to do with it, will remain temporary."

Brown's remarks came after the San Francisco Chronicle reported over the weekend that state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, had suggested the possibility of an extension.

Brown in January proposed a $154.9 billion spending plan that includes modest increases for social service programs, but also billions of dollars to address long-term debt. As he prepares to revise his budget proposal this month, social service advocates and some Democrats are pressing him to expand spending in some areas, including for pre-kindergarten education.

"I'm going to err on the side of prudence and a sense of the past, which has, you know, taken two governors down to a very low level of popularity because they spent too much money too soon," Brown said at a news conference to mark Wildfire Awareness Week. "We're going to be careful, that's the goal, and I urge my colleagues in the Legislature to look out not just for June or July, but for the next several years. California's fiscal integrity is crucial to investment, to well-being and to the public confidence in their government."

As he has previously, Brown used the state's ongoing drought and expectation of a dismal fire season to frame his budget remarks.

"While there's always new desires and needs that seek validation through new spending, there are old responsibilities, like fighting fires, like fixing up the roads that are deficient," Brown said. "So, we have a lot of challenges just to do what the current set of laws tell us to do, so I'm going to be very wary of any expensive new ideas that people may want to put forward, however worthy they are in themselves."

According to state fire officials, 1,108 wildfires have burned more than 2,500 acres in California from Jan. 1 through late last month, far more than the 697 fires and 1,793 acres burned in the same period last year.

"We are heading into a fire season that may be unprecedented," Natural Resource Secretary John Laird said.

Intense fires in recent years have strained the state's budget for wildfire fighting, but Laird said, "We're ready. Regardless of what's in the budget, there will be money to fight the fires."

Brown said the state "is going to have to spend more money" to fight fires. When asked how much might be required this year, he said he is reviewing the budget now. Brown also urged residents to avoid starting fires in the first place.

"The message is pretty simple," he said. "Be careful, watch it, don't throw cigarette butts out the car window, assuming anybody smokes anymore. And don't do anything else stupid."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at a Wildfire Awareness Week event in McClellan on May 5, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

May 2, 2014
Jerry Brown defends state's business climate as Toyota packs up

brownoaklandport.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, addressing Toyota's plan to close its Torrance headquarters, said Friday it does not appear the state could have done anything to keep the car company in California.

The Democratic governor, speaking to reporters outside a Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce event in Los Angeles, cited a Los Angeles Times story in which Toyota attributed the planned move to Texas not to dissatisfaction with California's regulatory climate, but with a plan for corporate consolidation.

Asked if the state could have done anything to keep the company in Torrance, Brown said, "Based on what they say, it doesn't appear to be. But, in response to your question, I would just incorporate by reference what the Los Angeles Times has said in their very detailed editorial and in their front page story. I think it was reasonably accurate," according to a transcript provided by the governor's office.

Brown, who is seeking an unprecedented fourth term as governor, has been criticized by his Republican opponents, Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari, for what they say are burdensome regulations for companies in California.

Brown defended California's business environment, citing venture capital and foreign investment in the state.

"There's a fellow named Schumpeter who talked about the creative destruction of capitalism," he said, referencing the economist Joseph Schumpeter. "And, I put the emphasis on creative, and, change is inevitable. We're getting 60 percent of the venture capital, we're the number one place for direct foreign investment in the United States. Do we have everything in all respects? No. But we have an abundance that constitutes a two trillion dollar economy."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at an event in Oakland on Nov. 1, 2013. Associated Press/Marcio Jose Sanchez

April 30, 2014
Jerry Brown won't answer multiple choice voter guide questions

jerrybrownprisons.jpgGov. Jerry Brown's high public approval rating and relatively safe re-election prospects have allowed the Democratic governor to run the barest of races, with no pressure to pay for advertising, to put on public events, or to otherwise take on the grind of a traditional campaign.

But the dearth of competition is also affording Brown another luxury -- not pinning himself down on issues typically aired in an election year.

The third-term governor has refused to complete a survey of gubernatorial candidates filled out by every other candidate in the race except one. Brown's campaign told The Bee -- which created the survey for its voter guide -- that he would explain his position on various issues, but not fill out multiple choice questions.

So Brown will not mark a box saying whether high-speed rail, which he supports, is very important or only somewhat important to him. Nor will he say if the state needs to spend more money on reservoirs, dams and other water storage facilities, or if California's current level of taxation is more or less than it should be.

"Some subjects require more explanation (than) checking boxes," a spokesman, Dan Newman, said, calling the exercise "simplistic and reductive."

Thirteen other candidates for governor, including Brown's main Republican opponents, submitted the form. Besides Brown, only Akinyemi O. Agbede, a little-known Democrat, have failed to do so.

Republican Tim Donnelly, whose campaign filled in all but one question about social services, criticized Brown in a prepared statement for refusing to "answer questions on the issues for the people who elected him," while Republican Neel Kashkari's campaign said Kashkari has "demonstrated his commitment to transparency."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at a news conference at the Capitol on Sept. 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

April 29, 2014
Conservative radio hosts say Kashkari, Donnelly will debate

donnellyscrum.jpgIt appeared unlikely as little as a month ago that Republican rivals Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari would debate before the June primary election.

But conservative talk radio hosts John Kobylt and Ken Chiampou said Tuesday that they will.

Kobylt and Chiampou, of KFI-AM's "John and Ken" show in Los Angeles, said they will host Kashkari and Donnelly at a gubernatorial debate in Anaheim on May 15. Kashkari confirmed he will attend, while Donnelly's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The debate comes after Donnelly, a tea party favorite, challenged Kashkari to an "old-fashioned debate" at a California Republican Party convention in March, but the invitation was dismissed by Kashkari and party leaders.

When Kashkari was asked on the air Tuesday if he was coming to KFI-AM's debate, he said he was "looking forward to it" and that "it'll be a lot of fun." The former U.S. Treasury Department official lags behind Donnelly, a tea party favorite, in public opinion polls.

The primary election is a top-two race, and the radio hosts said Gov. Jerry Brown, the Democratic incumbent, has been invited to attend. The incumbent Democrat is widely expected to finish far ahead of all Republicans in the race.

"Jerry Brown is invited," one of the hosts said. "He can come, and we'll bring ointments to rub on his head."

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

April 29, 2014
Jerry Brown signs tax break for private space companies

SPACEX2OS.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation offering a 10-year property tax break to private space companies, his office announced Tuesday.

The bill, which passed the Legislature with bipartisan support, was promoted by its author, Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, as a measure to help California become a hub for the private space industry, including firms such as Hawthorne-based SpaceX.

According to a legislative analysis, Assembly Bill 777 is estimated to result in a reduction of local property tax revenue of about $1 million annually.

Brown signed the bill without comment, but his interest in space goes back decades to when, as governor before from 1975 to 1983, he proposed a $5.8 million communications satellite system. He was mocked for the idea, while proponents said he was ahead of his time.

"I actually wanted to have a state satellite, " Brown said in 2012. "Couldn't pull it off."

PHOTO: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from launch Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Friday, April 18, 2014. Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel/MCT.

April 29, 2014
California still owes big bucks for unemployment insurance

jobless1.JPGAs severe recession struck the nation a half-decade ago, California and most other states borrowed heavily from the federal government to prop up their unemployment insurance programs.

At one time, the states owed Washington more than $47 billion, but the debt has since been cut by more than half to $21 billion, and many of the debtor states have completely erased their negative balances, according to a nationwide survey by Stateline, a website on state government affairs maintained by the Pew Charitable Trusts.

But not California. The state began borrowing in 2009 and accounted for more than $10 billion of the debt at its peak, but it has declined only slightly - thanks to a political stalemate in the Capitol - and California now accounts for nearly half of the national debt total.

While other states have raised unemployment insurance taxes on employers and/or reduced benefits to put their programs in the black, the Legislature has spurned Gov. Jerry Brown's calls for changes in California, not only to whittle down the debt but to build reserves in the Unemployment Insurance Fund to cushion future downturns.

Republicans oppose any increase in taxes, while Democrats oppose any reduction in benefits or eligibility, and in the absence of state action, the federal government has hiked payroll taxes itself to gradually reduce California's debt, which stands at just under $10 billion.

The federal tax increase on employers will amount to more than $900 million this year and the state is also paying more than $200 million in interest on the loan this year.

PHOTO: Former and current high school students attend a junior college exploration workshop sponsored by the Greater Sacramento Urban League on Sept. 20, 2011. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

April 24, 2014
Jerry Brown makes Time's 100 list, with blurb by Gray Davis

brownanddavis.jpgGov. Jerry Brown made Time magazine's list of the 100 most influential people.

The author of his blurb?

Gray Davis, the former governor and Brown's former chief of staff.

"Things are looking up in California," Davis writes in the magazine. "Governor Jerry Brown has eliminated a $26 billion deficit, getting legislators to make painful cuts and persuading voters to increase their taxes."

He credits Brown for preaching restraint and attributes his frugality, in part, to the time he spent as a Jesuit seminarian.

"I recall his refusal, in 1975, to replace the old carpet he inherited from Governor Reagan," Davis writes. "When it became threadbare, with a sizable hole, he still refused to repair it -- believing if he lived modestly others might too and would save the state money."

Brown's inclusion in the list is the latest addition to a heap of praise afforded him by national media. His public approval rating in California is soaring, and Republican complaints about the state's still-high poverty and unemployment rates appear not to resonate.

Brown is joined on Time's list by Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist who is considered a potential future candidate for statewide office. Former Vice President Al Gore writes for the magazine that Steyer is fighting climate change "with passionate intensity, commitment and political skill." The only other governor on the list is the Republican chief executive of Wisconsin, Scott Walker.

Here is an Associated Press video explaining how Time comes up with the list every year:

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown, right, and Gray Davis appear at an event together in 1980. The Sacramento Bee/Dick Schmidt

April 23, 2014
Californians like Common Core education, finance overhaul

schoolkids.JPGTwo major changes in California's public education system - adoption of "Common Core" academic standards and giving extra money to school districts with large numbers of poor and/or English learner students - seem to have gained favor with the state's residents.

A new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California tested the two changes now underway, along with a number of other education-related issues.

The poll found that 69 percent of adults support the Common Score approach to teaching, a system that's being adopted by a majority of the states as a way of ensuring that students leave public schools with skills in a variety of areas.

The change has been controversial, especially in other states, with those on the political right complaining that it will lead to federal control of school curricula. The concept was promoted by a bipartisan coalition of governors to replace the state-by-state determinations of what should be taught, how instruction should be given and how academic progress should be assessed.

The PPIC survey found that support was over 50 percent among all political subgroups but Democratic support was highest at 72 percent, while that among Republicans was 60 percent and among independents, 61 percent.

April 23, 2014
Jerry Brown appoints Jodi Remke new FPPC chair

brownmics.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has appointed Jodi Remke, presiding judge of the State Bar Court of California, chairwoman of the state's Fair Political Practices Commission, his office announced Wednesday.

Remke replaces Ann Ravel, who left the commission for the Federal Election Commission in October.

Remke, 48, takes over a commission that has risen in prominence in recent years, including prosecutions of money laundering and conflict-of-interest cases. Ravel gained national attention for her agency's probe last year of out-of-state groups that funneled money into California's initiative wars in 2012. A $1 million fine against two Arizona-based groups announced in October was the largest ever levied by the FPPC for a campaign violation.

Remke, of Oakland has been presiding judge of the State Bar Court, which rules on attorney discipline cases, since 2006. She was first appointed to the court as a hearing judge in 2000.

Like Brown, she is a Democrat.

According to the governor's office, Remke was a lawyer with the state Senate Judiciary Committee from 1997 to 2000 and worked at the Montana Legal Services Association from 1994 to 1996.

She is a graduate of University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law.

Remke's appointment comes nearly six months after Ravel left the FPPC for Washington, despite a rule in California's Political Reform Act requiring vacancies to be filled within 30 days.

Remke will be paid $136,144 a year.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press after speaking at a rally for crime victims in Sacramento on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

April 18, 2014
Jerry Brown grants 63 pardons

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Gov. Jerry Brown announced 63 pardons Friday, with the vast majority of the recipients convicted of long-ago drug crimes.

The people pardoned, Brown wrote in the pardon messages, have "lived an honest and upright life, exhibited good moral character" and conducted themselves as law-abiding citizens.

Of the 63 pardons, more than two-thirds were for people convicted of crimes for selling, transporting or manufacturing controlled substances, including marijuana. Other pardoned convictions included burglary, stolen property, vehicle theft, and evading a police officer.

Only one of the crimes, a 1982 purse theft in Los Angeles County, involved the threatened use of a gun, according to the pardon messages. Constance Clark, was convicted of robbery and served eight months in prison, three years probation, and has stayed out of trouble since.

"Indeed, Ms. Clark is active in her church, and volunteers her time there," the governor wrote.

Friday's order does not mention Easter or religion. But since returning to the statehouse in 2011, the seminary-trained governor has announced blanket pardons near major days on the Christian calendar.

On Christmas Eve last year, Brown announced pardons for 127 people. On the day before Easter last year, Brown pardoned 65 people. And he announced 79 pardons on Christmas Eve in 2012.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown, shown here in a Jan.10, 2013 file photo. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

April 16, 2014
Jerry Brown calls special legislative session on rainy day fund

jerrybrownprisons.jpgGov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday called a special session of the Legislature for next week to address his effort to put a rainy-day fund constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

The proposed amendment would eliminate some provisions of a rainy day reserve measure already on the ballot. The original measure, ACA 4, was opposed by some of the Democratic governor's liberal allies, who complained it would collect too much money and make it too difficult to increase spending.

Brown has said the measure fails to address the volatility of capital gains revenue and didn't allow lawmakers to pay down debt, among other shortcomings.

"We simply must prevent the massive deficits of the last decade and we can only do that by paying down our debts and creating a solid Rainy Day Fund," Brown said in a prepared statement Wednesday.

The original measure, ACA 4, was part of a 2010 budget deal between Democrats, Republicans and then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and originally scheduled to go before voters in 2012, but lawmakers postponed it to 2014.

Republicans reacted skeptically to Brown's proposal when he first announced it, in January, saying they were happy with ACA 4. Brown's ability to push it through a special session will test Democrats' diminished standing in the Legislature. Democrats have lost their two-thirds majority in the Senate, with three senators suspended.

In calling a special session, Brown raises the profile of the issue but still must get supermajority support.

Brown's proposal, contained in his January budget plan, includes a $1.6 billion allocation to a new rainy-day fund. He proposes to increase deposits during years when capital gains revenue is high, to raise the maximum size of the fund to 10 percent of general fund revenue and to create a special reserve for school funding.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at a news conference at the Capitol on Sept. 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

April 15, 2014
State tax revenue continues to outpace estimates

brownbudget.JPGState tax revenue continued to outpace budget estimates last month, with year-to-date revenue now $1.4 billion more than the Brown administration projected, the state Department of Finance reported Tuesday.

The report is the last benchmark ahead of April, a heavy month for income tax revenue. Last month, personal income tax revenues to the general fund came in $274 million above estimates, while corporate tax revenues exceeded estimates by $110 million, according to the Department of Finance.

Sales and use tax receipts were $12 million below the forecast for the month of $1.6 billion.

If revenue remains higher than projected in coming months, Gov. Jerry Brown is likely to face increased pressure from Democratic lawmakers and social service advocates to free up spending. Brown has proposed a $154.9 billion spending plan for next fiscal year that includes modest increases for social services and schools, but also billions of dollars to address long-term debt. A surplus also makes it likely the administration would implement contract provisions to increase pay for state employees.

The governor will release a revised budget proposal in May.

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, left, Gov. Jerry Brown, center, and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, right, celebrate a budget deal with a formal announcement at the Capitol on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

April 9, 2014
California Chamber targets 26 bills as 'job killers'

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An annual spring ritual continued Wednesday when the California Chamber of Commerce declared 26 legislative measures as "job killers" that should be rejected.

The list is about a third shorter than those of the past, but inclusion of a measure is more than a symbolic gesture. The chamber, often in concert with other business groups, has been remarkably successful in past years in getting nearly all bills with that label either killed in the Legislature, significantly watered down or vetoed.

"The economic recovery is still the number one issue for Californians," chamber president Allan Zaremberg said in a statement. "These bills pose a serious threat to our economy and, if enacted, would dampen job growth in the state."

As usual, the bills on the 2014 list are those most ardently supported by liberal groups, particularly labor unions, environmentalists, consumer advocates or personal injury attorneys.

One of the 26 is already dead for this year, having been sent to "interim study" on Tuesday by the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. Assembly Bill 2140 by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, would have phased out orca shows at MarineWorld and other marine parks.

Eight others — six constitutional amendments that would lower vote requirements for local tax increases and two business tax increases — appear to be moribund. They would require two-thirds legislative votes, but the Democrats' supermajority in the Senate has been erased by the suspension of three senators facing criminal charges and Republicans are uniformly opposed to new taxes.

That leaves 17 bills still potentially viable this year.

Two are high-profile measures that embody the "income disparity" credo of Democrats and labor unions in this election year, but that the chamber says would impose heavy costs on employers.

Assembly Bill 1522 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, would require employers to provide workers with paid sick leave. Senate Bill 935 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would boost the state's minimum wage, scheduled to rise from $8 an hour to $10 under a bill passed last year, to $13 and tie future increases automatically to the cost of living. Last year's minimum wage hike was the only one of 38 2013 "job killer" bills to make it into law.

This year's list also includes bills that would place a moratorium on "fracking" to exploit oil deposits (SB 1132), give local governments the authority to bar fracking (AB 2420), require labeling of genetically modified foods (SB 1381) and bar employment discrimination against workers who must care for family members (SB 404).

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill allowing fracking of California's potentially huge shale oil deposits with state regulation, dismaying anti-fracking environmental groups. He would be unlikely, therefore, to sign either of the two measures aimed at closing off the practice. Brown has also indicated his opposition to automatic cost of living increases in the minimum wage, so would be unlikely to sign Leno's wage measure were it to reach him.

PHOTO: California Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Allan Zaremberg in 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Paul Kitagaki Jr.

April 3, 2014
Jerry Brown signs bill expanding reach of FPPC

Brown_signing_bills.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation expanding the power of the Fair Political Practices Commission to investigate or seek injunctions in campaign finance cases, his office announced Thursday.

The bill is one of several proposals pushed forward by lawmakers after outside groups poured millions of dollars into California's initiative wars in 2012.

Assembly Bill 800, by Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park, allows the FPPC to begin audits and investigations or to seek injunctions before — rather than after — an election occurs.

Gordon has said the bill would allow the FPPC to act more aggressively, "clearing up concerns about campaigns in real time," and the FPPC cheered the bill's enactment Thursday.

"Today California took a big step towards ensuring that campaign laws are followed before the election, when it matters," Erin Peth, the FPPC's executive director, said in a prepared statement.

The FPPC was at the center of a campaign finance controversy two years ago, probing a network of out-of-state groups that moved money to California to support Proposition 32 — a ballot initiative designed to weaken the political influence of labor unions — and oppose Proposition 30, Brown's initiative to raise taxes.

The California Political Attorneys Association opposed the measure, saying it failed to provide due process protections and is unfair to campaign committees and nonprofit groups under the FPPC scrutiny.

The bill also tightens restrictions around how "subagents," such as purchasers of campaign TV and radio airtime, report their spending.

While Brown signed one campaign finance bill, the author of another, Sen. Lou Correa, is seeking to revive his.

Correa, D-Santa Ana, moved Thursday to amend a bill that would have required nonprofit groups to identify their donors if contributions hit certain benchmarks. The bill was blocked last month by Senate Republicans who objected to an urgency clause allowing the bill to take effect before the upcoming election.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills in Sacramento on March 24, 2011 as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco look on. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

April 2, 2014
Website allows tracking of Prop. 30 money to schools

PROP30.JPGProposition 30, enacted by voters in 2012 to temporarily raise sales taxes and income taxes on the wealthy, was touted by Gov. Jerry Brown and other proponents as an alternative to making billions of dollars in cuts to state school spending due to state budget deficits.

Since its enactment, state Controller John Chiang reported Wednesday, Proposition 30 has pumped about $13 billion into local school district coffers. Chiang unveiled a new website, entitled Track Prop. 30, that allows users to plug in their local school districts and see their total budgets and the portions being financed through Prop. 30.

As large as the $13 billion may be, it's still a relatively small portion of K-12 and community college finances, which approach $70 billion a year from all sources. The website reveals, for instance, that during the 2012-13 fiscal year, the latest for which complete data are available, Los Angeles Unified, the state's largest district, had $5.7 billion in revenues from all sources, but Proposition 30 provided just $659.4 million or 12 percent.

Proposition 30, which raised sales taxes fractionally and imposed surtaxes on high-income taxpayers, generates about $6 billion a year and by long-standing constitutional law, a large chunk of the revenue stream must go to schools.

The tax hikes will begin expiring in 2017-18, however, and whether - and how - their revenues to schools will be replaced is still uncertain. Tom Torlakson, the state superintendent of public instruction, has called for making the tax increases permanent, but that would take another ballot measure or two-thirds votes in both houses of the Legislature, plus Brown's signature.

PHOTO: Students, dignitaries and supporters cheer on Gov. Jerry Brown who holds up a campaign sign and encourages students to vote yes for Proposition 30 at Sacramento City College. Thursday, October 18, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

March 31, 2014
Jerry Brown calls himself 'missionary' to oil executives in climate change fight

JERRYBROWN.jpgSAUSALITO - Gov. Jerry Brown, whose permissiveness of hydraulic fracturing has alienated many environmentalists, said Monday he is a "missionary" to oil executives in the fight against climate change.

The Democratic governor, who has made climate change a focus of his administration, told a meeting of The Environmental Council of the States, an association of state agency leaders, that reducing the use of fossil fuels requires broad support, including from within the oil industry.

"I'm kind of a missionary here," Brown said.

Brown, who has taken contributions from oil companies for his re-election campaign and other political causes, said he has spent hours meeting with oil executives he did not identify, adding that he keeps "going back." He reiterated dire warnings he has made for years about the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on the environment.

"We're setting in motion the presence of greenhouse gases that will be around for hundreds of years," he said. "And worse than that, it's not a slow walk to destruction."

Brown has come under criticism from environmentalists opposed to hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, including a vocal demonstration during his speech to the California Democratic Party's annual convention this month.

Brown signed legislation last year establishing a permitting system for fracking and requiring an environmental review of the practice in which water and chemicals are injected underground to break up rock formations.

Brown told reporters Monday that the environmental impacts "are being very carefully examined."

Brown championed environmental causes when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983, and he has set California out as a leader on climate change in his third term.

"We've got to reduce, systematically, increasingly, the use of fossil fuel," Brown said Monday. "That's oil, that's coal and, ultimately, that's natural gas."

Brown appeared resistant to a gas tax proposed last month by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, in what Steinberg called a more stable alternative to gas price increases likely to result from a requirement that oil companies buy carbon credits for fuel they sell starting next year.

Brown told reporters he has not seen the proposal, which many environmentalists oppose. However, Brown said, "I don't think there are going to be any new taxes this year."

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown looks at protesters opposing fracking after his speech at the California Democratic Party's convention on March 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. Associated Press/ Jae C. Hong

March 31, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown calls Leland Yee case 'tragedy' for democratic process

brownmics.jpgSAUSALITO — Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday called the Leland Yee corruption case a "tragedy" for the state Senate and "our democratic process," and he reiterated his call for Yee and two other senators accused of crimes to resign.

The Democratic governor, speaking to reporters at an environmental conference here, said "there's nothing that seems normal or understandable" about the case.
Yee was charged in federal court last week with corruption and conspiring to illegally import weapons.

"I just think that this is a tragedy for the Senate, for politics in general, for our democratic process, and the quicker we can move forward and have these cases resolved, the better it will be for everybody."

Brown said he had not read the extensive FBI affidavit outlining the charges against Yee, D-San Francisco.

Brown's remarks came after California lawmakers on Friday suspended three state senators accused in separate cases of crimes including corruption, perjury and conspiracy to traffic weapons. Brown issued a prepared statement Friday calling for the resignation of the Yee and two others senators, Ron Calderon of Montebello and Rod Wright of Baldwin Hills.

Calderon was indicted last month on 24 counts of corruption for allegedly taking bribes, while Wright was found guilty of eight felonies in January for lying about living in the district he ran for in 2008.

Calderon has pleaded not guilty. Yee has not yet entered a plea.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press after speaking at a rally for crime victims in Sacramento on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

March 26, 2014
California minimum wage hike clears first Senate hurdle

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Legislation that would sharply increase California's minimum wage and index it to inflation cleared its first legislative hurdle Wednesday.

It's doubtful, however, whether Gov. Jerry Brown would sign another minimum wage boost a year after he and the Legislature enacted an increase.

The 2013 legislation raises the minimum wage, now $8 per hour, to $9 on July 1, then to $10 in 2016. Brown signed the increase after insisting that the Legislature remove an automatic inflation adjustment.

The new legislation,Senate Bill 935, is being carried by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and is backed by labor unions and advocates for the poor.

Leno told the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee that another boost is needed to stimulate the economy and combat poverty and the decline of California's middle class. Citing Wal-Mart and other employers, Leno said, "We, the taxpayers, are subsidizing the wealthiest people in this country."

Employer groups, particularly those representing restaurants and farmers, lined up against the Leno measure, saying it would raise their costs, make hiring new employees more difficult and doom some small businesses.

SB 935 would raise the minimum wage to $11 per hour on Jan. 1, 2015, and then $12 in 2016 and $13 in 2017. Beginning in 2018, the wage would be automatically indexed to inflation each year.

It cleared the Senate committee on a party-line 3-1 vote with one Democratic member, Leland Yee, absent. He was in San Francisco to face federal charges stemming from a wide-ranging FBI investigation.

March 25, 2014
Jerry Brown appoints former reporter Greg Lucas as state librarian

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Gov. Jerry Brown announced Tuesday that he has appointed Greg Lucas, a former San Francisco Chronicle political reporter who has, most recently, been a political blogger and host of a television interview show, as the state librarian.

Lucas, son of former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Malcolm Lucas, is also the husband of Donna Lucas, who runs a political public relations firm in Sacramento and is a former adviser to Republican governors.

The new librarian, who will earn $142,968 a year, is a Democrat. He left the Chronicle in 2007 after 19 years with the newspaper and has been an editor for the Capitol Weekly newspaper in recent years. He also hosted an informal political discussion program for the California Channel.

In his new job, Lucas will manage the California State Library, which is located near the Capitol. It houses historical books and documents, provides research to the governor and Legislature and acts as a liaison with local libraries.

PHOTO: The renovated Stanley Mosk Library & Courts Building. (The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

March 24, 2014
California highways a bit better, but may get worse

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Pavement conditions on California's highways are among the worst in the nation, but the state transportation department says they've gotten a bit better in the last four years, thanks to spending $3.9 billion in state and federal funds.

About 16 percent of the state's 50,000 lane-miles of highway are considered to be in poor condition, but that's lower than in some recent years. The Federal Highway Administration has consistently placed California near the bottom in pavement conditions among the states, both for its highways and its local streets and roads.

However, the state Department of Transportation warns in a new report that the money is running out and the backlog of unmet maintenance needs is likely to grow.

"The 2013 Ten-Year Plan anticipates pavement needs to be $2.8 billion per year over the next decade, although only $685 million per year is available, i.e., only twenty-three cents of every dollar," the report warns. "Consequently, distressed lane miles could increase from 16 percent today to 34 percent in the next 10 years."

The report points out that California's highway system was largely built during a few decades after World War II, and therefore is aging rapidly as it's pounded by 35 million vehicles which pile up about 300 billion miles a year.

The surge in maintenance, reconstruction and replacement work in recent years was financed by a transportation bond issue and federal stimulus funds, both of which are running out.

Gov. Jerry Brown has said he doesn't believe that general obligation bonds should be used for roadwork and has diverted transportation revenues from gasoline taxes and other sources into repaying the bonds that were issued during predecessor Arnold Schwarzenegger's governorship.

A coalition of transportation groups, pointing to the projection of unmet needs cited in the Caltrans report, has been searching for ways to increase revenues. Its initial proposal was for an increase in vehicle license fees, but that was abandoned. Other ideas have included raising gasoline taxes — although they are already the highest in the nation — or going to a mileage-based tax that would capture money from electric and hybrid vehicles.

PHOTO: Drivers navigate their vehicles through blowing sand east of Owen's lake on Highway 136 near Lone Pine, Calif. on Nov. 21, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

March 22, 2014
Jerry Brown grows campaign war chest to nearly $20 million

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has added to his dominant war chest in this year's gubernatorial race, reporting Friday that he has raised nearly $3 million since Jan. 1 and now has $19.7 million on hand.

The Democratic governor's donors include labor unions and a variety of business interests, including energy, tobacco and health care companies.

Seven different members of the Fisher family, which owns Gap Inc., donated $54,400 each to Brown, the maximum allowed. The donations come after members of the family appeared to be included on a sloppily redacted list of donors working against Brown in California's initiative wars in 2012.

Brown reported receiving $8,200 from a campaign account held open by former Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, and $5,000 from eBay Inc., the former company of Brown's Republican opponent in 2010, Meg Whitman.

Brown is the heavy favorite to win re-election in this Democratic-leaning state, and he has been slow to spend money in the run-up to the campaign. In his latest disclosure, he reported that the Democratic State Central Committee of California had provided polling for his effort, and he paid political consultants about $65,000 since Jan. 1.

Brown's filing comes ahead of a Monday deadline for reports covering campaign donations and spending from Jan. 1 to March 17. Brown's main Republican opponents, Neel Kashkari and Tim Donnelly, have not yet filed those statements.

In previous filings, Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, has reported raising nearly $1.3 million. Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, has reported raising about $500,000.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual host breakfast in Sacramento on May 22, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

March 19, 2014
Dianne Feinstein reluctant to legalize marijuana in California

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U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein still has doubts about legalizing marijuana in California, adding her voice Wednesday to mounting debate about the wisdom of legitimizing the drug following tax-generating efforts in Colorado and Washington.

"The risk of people using marijuana and driving is very substantial," Feinstein, D-California, told the Associated Press in an interview.

It has been 18 years since California became the first state to decriminalize marijuana for medical purposes. Four years ago, voters here rejected Proposition 19, which would have lifted the ban on adults 21 and older from smoking, growing and transporting pot for recreational purposes.

At the time, Feinstein signed the ballot argument against the initiative. She called the proposal "a jumbled legal nightmare that will make our highways, our workplaces and our communities less safe."

In the interview Wednesday, Feinstein said it was unclear how the culture would improve through legalizing marijuana. She said serving during the 1960s on the California Women's Board of Terms and Parole gave her first-hand experience of how marijuana negatively impacted the lives of women inmates.

Said Feinstein: "I saw a lot of where people began with marijuana and went on to hard drugs."

Feinstein's remarks closely follow a nationally televised interview with Gov. Jerry Brown in which the Democrat questioned whether pot legalization would stymie the state's competitive advantages.

March 19, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown talks drought at agriculture event

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Gov. Jerry Brown touched on California's worsening water shortage Wednesday in brief remarks to representatives from the state's agriculture community.

"We're doing everything we can to respond to the drought," Brown said outside the state Capitol as the California Department of Food and Agriculture hosted its annual Ag Day. "We've got to emphasize water conservation, and water recycling and managing the water."

But the governor avoided a reporter's question about new proposals to boost water storage.

On Wednesday, Reps. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, and Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, trumpeted legislation to construct a massive reservoir in Northern California. In Fresno, the House Natural Resources Committee held a field hearing about the drought.

Several storage-related proposals are being weighed by state and federal lawmakers.

Brown on Wednesday did not address the prospects for a water bond on the ballot this November. Instead, he again framed the issue as part of a broader effort to reduce greenhouse gasses and combat global climate change.

"Whether it's in agriculture, or our homes, or businesses, or in how we travel, we've got a lot of big challenges," he said.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the annual Ag Day at the state capitol, March 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Christopher Cadelago

March 18, 2014
New York Times regurgitates Brown's old Medfly blowup

Spraying609_resized.jpgThe New York Times this week is regurgitating something that occurred more than three decades ago in California — something that Gov. Jerry Brown would like to forget.

The newspaper, as part of a series called "Retro Report" that's aimed at bringing readers up to date on old issues, delved into an infestation of Mediterranean fruit flies that threatened California's tree fruit industry in 1981 and 1982.

The Retro Report on the Medlfy includes both a written account and a video that uses much old footage, including clips of a much-younger Brown who was then winding up his first gubernatorial stint and running for the U.S. Senate.

It delves into how Brown at first refused to order pesticide spraying for environmental and health reasons, then caved in to pressure from the federal government — headed by President Ronald Reagan, a former California governor — and consented to aerial spraying.

The retrospective updates the Medfly story by noting that California has seen infestations in the decades since, and probably will in the future. It also notes that Brown lost his bid for the Senate in which his erratic handling of the Medfly crisis was a negative factor.

But the Times article omits another facet of the crisis — a virtual rebellion by the Legislature against Brown on the issue. And, unfortunately, it does not include the most memorable words to emerge from the Medfly crisis.

"I'm getting a bit bugged by this bug," Brown said as the controversy over his initial refusal to spray erupted. "It's got a lot of politicians panicked or foaming at the mouth."

The Medfly issue so consumed the Capitol at the time that a worker on the building's restoration, then underway, fashioned a tiny plaster fly that was attached to the ceiling of one of the building's museum rooms.

PHOTO: In this 1987 file photo, Rod Clark of the state Department of Food and Agriculture sprays the pesticide Malathion on a fruit tree in Maywood, Calif., The Associated Press/Mark Terrill

March 18, 2014
Jerry Brown's new push for high-speed rail: Get old people off the road

JERRYBROWN.jpgGov. Jerry Brown has a new argument for high-speed rail: Get senior citizens off the road.

"There's a lot of old people who shouldn't be driving," the Democratic governor joked at a dinner hosted by labor leaders in Sacramento on Monday night. "They should be sitting in a nice train car working on their iPad, having a martini."

Brown, who will turn 76 next month, has other means of transportation, as he is chauffeured by a California Highway Patrol officer. He has made high-speed rail a priority of his administration, despite legal setbacks, funding uncertainty and a fall-off in public support.

Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari, the two main Republicans bidding to unseat Brown this year, have hammered him on the project.

But Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman and Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, are little known to the electorate, and the prospects of either beating Brown in this Democratic-leaning state are slim.

Brown suggested as much Monday.

"I won't talk about my opponents," he said, "because most of you don't know their names."

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown looks at protesters opposing fracking after his speech at the California Democratic Party's convention on March 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/ Jae C. Hong

March 12, 2014
Neel Kashkari says Jerry Brown 'born into a life of privilege'

kashkarikfbk.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari, rebuffing opponents' depiction of him as a wealthy financier, said Tuesday that Gov. Jerry Brown is the gubernatorial candidate of privilege and wealth, again challenging the Democratic governor to release tax returns.

"Jerry Brown owns a million dollars of Jack in the Box stock," Kashkari told the conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt on his show Tuesday. "I eat at Jack in the Box. That's the difference between me and Jerry Brown."

Kashkari's remarks came less than a week after he filed a required financial disclosure with the state. He reported receiving salary of more than $100,000 from Newport Beach-based Pacific Management Investment Co. last year in the form of a lump sum payment of stock. Kashkari left the job in January 2013.

In addition to interests in real estate and retail concerns, Brown and his wife, Anne Gust Brown, have reported owning more than $1 million in stock in Jack in the Box.

Kashkari said of Brown, the son of a former governor, "Nobody was born into a life of privilege like Jerry Brown."

Kashkari, a former Goldman Sachs executive and U.S. Treasury Department official, said he will release his tax returns for any year Brown will release them.

Dan Newman, a political spokesman for Brown, said in an email that "a wealthy banker who's spent his entire life on Wall Street is not credible lecturing about poverty to the governor who slept on a futon and assisted Mother Teresa."

But Brown's campaign dismissed - at least for now - Kashkari's invitation to release tax returns that would provide more detailed financial information about the candidates. Newman said "we'll spend more time responding to the incessant tweets, videos, and challenges of whomever emerges from the Republican primary."

Neither Brown nor Republican opponent Meg Whitman agreed to release tax returns in the 2010 election.

Whitman, a billionaire, also took criticism for her self-financing of her campaign, but she was also damaged by revelations that her former maid was an undocumented immigrant. The woman, Nicky Diaz Santillan, was represented by Gloria Allred, the famous Los Angeles lawyer.

On the air on Tuesday, Hewitt asked Kashkari, "Is there a Gloria Allred press conference in your future, on anything?"

Kashkari said he had undergone a background check before being confirmed to his Treasury post and that there is nothing scandalous in his past.

"No housekeepers, nothing?" Hewitt asked.

"I've got a guy who cleans my house," Kashkari said. "He gave me a copy of his U.S. passport before I hired him."

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari prepares for an interview at KFBK radio in Sacramento on Feb. 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 8, 2014
Darrell Steinberg pushes Jerry Brown on pre-kindergarten expansion

steinbergconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES - Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said Saturday that Senate Democrats will make pre-kindergarten a priority in budget negotiations with Gov. Jerry Brown this spring, calling last year's school funding overhaul inadequate to address shortcomings in public education.

"No funding formula will prevent a 16-year-old from dropping out of high school because she fell behind years earlier," Steinberg told delegates at the California Democratic Party's annual convention. "And no funding formula addresses the reality that the achievement gap is formed well before, well before children arrive in kindergarten."

Steinberg's remarks constituted a glancing response to Gov. Jerry Brown's continued focus on a school funding overhaul that shifts more money to low-income and English language learners. Brown has said he will consider any proposals by legislative Democrats to expand the state's pre-kindergarten program, but he did not propose funding for any such measure in his January budget plan.

Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and other legislative Democrats have proposed allowing every 4-year-old in the state to attend pre-kindergarten classes, at a potential cost of about $1 billion to the state general fund.

The pre-kindergarten proposal is one of several points of contention Brown is likely to have with members of his own party in the Legislature this year, with social service advocates and their liberal allies pushing him to approve increased spending.

Steinberg, who is terming out, said "there is plenty of unfinished business to take care of" at the Capitol this year.

He said, "This is our time."

PHOTO: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, addresses the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles on March 8, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 8, 2014
Tom Steyer calls for public votes on California fracking

steyerconvention.jpgLOS ANGELES - Hours after Gov. Jerry Brown drew protests from environmental activists over his permissiveness on hydraulic fracturing, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer called Saturday for legislation requiring a two-thirds vote of the electorate in any county before the controversial form of oil extraction can go forward in that area.

The remarks reflect the expansion of Steyer's effort to lobby the state Legislature on oil. He previously announced an effort to push for a tax on oil extraction in California, although such efforts failed to gain support in past years.

"In California, it takes a two-thirds vote by the Legislature to impose taxes, and in local communities it requires a two-thirds vote to impose taxes," Steyer told delegates at the California Democratic Party's annual convention. "The business community has argued for years that this two-thirds vote is important to make sure they are not taken advantage of. Well, that exact same logic should apply when it comes to fracking."

Steyer has refrained from criticizing Brown on his environmental policies, despite their differences. Asked after his speech if his remarks were a challenge to the Democratic governor, Steyer said, "No, we didn't write this speech in the two hours in between then and now."

PHOTO: Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer speaks to reporters at the California Democratic Party convention in Los Angeles on March 8, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

March 8, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown protested by environmentalists, calls for 'crusade' on climate

JERRYBROWN.jpgLOS ANGELES - Gov. Jerry Brown called on California Democrats on Saturday to join him on a "crusade" against climate change, even as a rift between Brown and environmental activists over hydraulic fracturing gained heightened attention.

Environmentalists frustrated with Brown's permissiveness of the controversial form of oil extraction held signs and chanted just feet from the podium where Brown addressed delegates, prompting him to engage them directly.

"All you guys who like to make noise, just listen a moment," Brown said.

He said "Californians, and most of you included, are driving over 330 billion miles a year," urging environmentalists to focus on a range of issues, not only hydraulic fracturing. He said the "challenge here is gigantic" and that California is "leading the way."

Brown has been heckled at public events by environmental activists since he signed legislation last year establishing a permitting system for fracking, but never before have the activists managed to engage him during such a a major speech.

"You can be sure that everything that needs to be done to fight climate change that we can accomplish, we'll do it," Brown said. "And I ask all of you, every one of you in this room, to join in a crusade to protect our climate, to find other ways of mobility, and to make sure this California dream is alive and well both now and for generations to come."
At the end of his address, he said, "Thanks a lot, and keep protesting, but add a bunch of more stuff."

Brown's speech comes after months of fundraising and his long-anticipated announcement a week ago that he will seek re-election.

The frustration of environmental activists over hydraulic fracturing can be awkward for Brown, who was celebrated by environmentalists when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983. It is unlikely to hurt him in the election, however. Brown has raised more than $18 million and faces two lesser-known and underfunded Republicans, Twin Peaks Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari.

Still, the protest appeared to annoy California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton. He told delegates when Brown finished speaking, "Just in the future, don't come up with signs."

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown looks at protesters opposing fracking after his speech at the California Democrats State Convention on Saturday, March 8, 2014, in Los Angeles. AP Photo/ Jae C. Hong

March 7, 2014
Neel Kashkari got stock payment, World Series ticket

kashkaripressclubscrum.jpgNeel Kashkari reported receiving salary of more than $100,000 from Newport Beach-based Pacific Investment Management Co. last year, while holding no reportable investments, according to a financial disclosure filed Friday.

The Republican gubernatorial candidate's salary payment, the exact amount of which is not required to be disclosed, came in the form of a lump sum payment of stock Kashkari earned while at the firm, his campaign said. Kashkari left the job in January 2013.

Kashkari reported that in October, friends Lew and Kelly Jacobs gave him a baseball ticket worth $1,500 and a football ticket worth $100, and they paid $3,146 for a flight and hotel to attend the games. Kashkari's campaign said the baseball ticket was for a World Series game, and the football ticket to see the Cleveland Browns.

Kashkari's disclosure noted the gifts and travel payments were received before Kashkari became a candidate for governor "and are therefore reportable, but not subject to limits."

In June 2013, Accel-KKR, a Menlo Park-based private equity firm, paid $2,775 in flight, hotel and meals for Kashkari, who traveled to Denver to give a speech.

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official and Goldman Sachs executive, has put his net worth at less than $5 million, not enough to self-finance his campaign.

March 6, 2014
Kashkari: Brown's legacy is 'destruction of the middle class'

kashkaripressclub.jpgLeveling his most partisan attack yet in California's gubernatorial campaign, Republican Neel Kashkari on Thursday accused Democrats around the nation of "actively fighting against poor, black and brown kids" while, in California, he said Gov. Jerry Brown has destroyed the middle class.

In a speech to the Sacramento Press Club, the former U.S. Treasury Department official faulted Brown for unemployment, public education problems and the state's nation-high poverty rate.

"Jerry Brown's legacy is the destruction of the middle class of California," Kashkari said.

Kashkari and Tim Donnelly, an assemblyman from Twin Peaks, are the main Republicans competing in an uphill effort to unseat Brown, a third-term Democrat.

Kashkari, who has made education a focus of his campaign, said there are examples in which the "Democratic establishment" is "actively fighting against poor, black and brown kids," criticizing the U.S. Justice Department's involvement in a voucher program in Louisiana and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's policies on charters schools in his city.

Kashkari has not provided detailed policy proposals of his own, but he said he will release education and jobs plans "soon." He said he has not released them yet because "most voters aren't paying attention to the election yet, and we want to roll these out when people are paying attention."

March 4, 2014
Laguna Hills mayor joins race for governor, hits raceway

blount.pngLaguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount, who has joined the field of Republican candidates running for governor, posted an introductory video from a Kern County raceway Tuesday, heralding the location - and his campaign - as an example of ingenuity.

Blount, a software developer who won election to the Laguna Hills City Council in 2012, laments California's regulatory climate in the video, in which he wears an untucked shirt and appears at a Kern County raceway beneath the headline "Andrew Blount On-Track."

"This used to be a field, and somebody decided that they wanted to be able to race cars, and so they built it, and they created it, and they made an audience, and they used their own two hands to do it," Blount says. "As you look around you, there's fields that have been created, there's trucks that have been created, there's trailers that have been created. People have ingenuity right here in California."

Without offering any specifics, Blount says "what's happening in our state today is that we're saying, 'No, what you create with your own two hands isn't good enough, it has to meet this regulation and that regulation.'"

He tells the camera "we have to create an environment where it's OK to build things here in California, it's OK to do things in California."

Blount joins two Republicans, Twin Peaks Assemblyman Tim Donnelly and former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown.

Blount has developed a political application for mobile devices that he has said will help him reach voters at a low cost.

PHOTO: From Andrew Blount's website for his 2012 campaign for city council in Laguna Hills. Photo by Michelle Blount

March 4, 2014
Jerry Brown's pot remarks prompt animated sarcasm

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California Gov. Jerry Brown's reservations about following Washington and Colorado into marijuana legalization are being playfully ridiculed in a ripped-from-the-headlines video by Taiwanese animators.

The tongue-in-cheek clip recounts an interview last weekend on NBC's "Meet the Press" in which the Democratic governor argued that a dangerous and competitive global landscape requires a more alert citizenry "than some of the potheads might be able to put together."

A pair of bong-toting couch potatoes point to images of Brown on television and recoil in laughter. "I know, right, what a fuddy duddy," the female narrator says in an English translation of the Chinese-language cartoon.

The report, which depicts the 75-year-old governor shuffling onto the television set with the help of a walker, pokes him for being out of touch with his state's seemingly lax regulations on medicinal marijuana.

"Come on, Moonbeam, does the governor totally not realize that Californians who want to smoke are already doing so?" the narrator continues. "Maybe we should just legalize, commercialize and export. That might level the playing field."

Brown's appearance on the venerable Sunday interview program came after he filed paperwork to seek an unprecedented fourth term. He stands as a clear favorite against a pair of Republicans: former U.S. treasurer official Neel Kashkari and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks.

Brown's campaign appeared to take the animated report in stride.

"More entertaining than Neel spouting empty platitudes in the big chair, but still not nearly as fun as Donnelly's videos," campaign spokesman Dan Newman said.

Brown is not the first California politician to get the snarky animation treatment. Former San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and former GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger all have been lampooned in recent years.

PHOTO: Screen grab from Brown report via us.tomonews.net.

March 3, 2014
Jerry Brown reports receiving $11,721 in gifts and travel

christmastree.jpgGov. Jerry Brown received $11,721 in gifts and travel payments last year, mostly to pay for his trip to China, according to his latest financial disclosure statement.

Brown received 21 non-travel gifts valued at $2,301 and four gifts of travel valued at $9,420, according to his filing Monday.

The vast majority of the amount - $8,455 - was from the Bay Area Council for Brown's trade mission to China last year. The business group helped organize and fund the trip.

Brown also reported $394 from the Placer County Sheriff's Department for a flight to Lake Tahoe to attend a meeting of the California State Sheriff's Association, and he ate more than a dozen free meals.

Brown reported a $295 gift of dinner from the San Francisco Symphony. The reported value of attending a holiday party at his own office - an event put on by the nonprofit California State Protocol Foundation - was considerably less: $34.37.

In a separate filing, Brown's office reported gifts involving the governor's travel on four other occasions, totaling $6,583.

The majority of that amount - $5,000 - was a one-way flight from Palm Springs to Bakersfield, paid for by the California Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, whose meeting Brown attended in November.

TriCal Inc., a distributor of soil fumigation products, provided a round-trip flight from Oakland to Fresno in October for Brown to attend and speak at the funeral of George Zenovich, a former lawmaker. The trip was valued at $1,092.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 3:13 p.m. Monday to include information about Brown's travel from an additional filing.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown attends the 82nd Annual Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting on December 12, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

March 2, 2014
Jerry Brown worries about marijuana legalization and 'potheads'

brownmics.jpgGov. Jerry Brown said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that "fiscal discipline is the fundamental predicate of a free society," but it may help if everyone isn't getting stoned.

Expressing reservations about legalizing marijuana for recreational use, Brown said a great nation requires a more alert citizenry "than some of the potheads might be able to put together." Washington and Colorado have legalized the drug, and a Field Poll in December found majority support for legalization in California.

Not from Brown.

"Well, we have medical marijuana, which gets very close to what they have in Colorado and Washington," the Democratic governor said in a taped interview. "I'd really like those two states to show us how it's going to work. The problem with anything, a certain amount is OK. But there is a tendency to go to extremes. And all of a sudden, if there's advertising and legitimacy, how many people can get stoned and still have a great state or a great nation? The world's pretty dangerous, very competitive. I think we need to stay alert, if not 24 hours a day, more than some of the potheads might be able to put together."

Brown, who was on "Meet the Press" to discuss California's drought and his own politics, has made similar remarks on marijuana legalization before, but he got a chuckle out of moderator David Gregory.

"As a TV guy," Gregory said, "I know a good sound bite when I've heard one."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to members of the press after speaking at a rally for crime victims in Sacramento on Tuesday, April 23, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

March 1, 2014
Jerry Brown signs drought relief package

IMG_RB_Drought_1.JPG_2_1_S51JJJUC_L37370981.JPGWith drought conditions still challenging California, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a $687 million relief package Saturday, including money for infrastructure improvements, emergency water shortages and aid to farmworkers.

Brown signed the emergency legislation two days after both houses of the Legislature approved the measure, with nearly unanimous support.

"Legislators across the aisle have now voted to help hard-pressed communities that face water shortages," Brown said in a prepared statement. "This legislation marks a crucial step - but Californians must continue to take every action possible to conserve water."

The legislation includes efforts to improve groundwater management and rainwater capture. It also allocates millions of dollars for communities at risk of running out of drinking water, and includes food and housing assistance for farmworkers whose fields have been laid fallow.

The measure also includes $1 million for a water conservation public awareness campaign.

There was never doubt Brown would sign the bill, which he and legislative leaders proposed just more than a week ago.

The vast majority of the funding, $549 million, comes from water and flood-prevention bonds voters approved in 2006, with smaller amounts from the state's greenhouse gas reduction program and general fund.

Brown declared a drought emergency in January, with the state suffering through a third dry year.

PHOTO: Aerial view of Folsom Lake looking northeast from near Beals Point on Thursday, December 26, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

February 28, 2014
Jerry Brown to sign economic pact with Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu

brownwaits.jpgGov. Jerry Brown and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will sign an economic development, research and trade agreement at a meeting of the two leaders next week in Mountain View, Brown's office said Friday.

The governor's office characterized the pact as "a historic agreement that expands California's partnership with Israel on economic development, research and trade," but it offered few details ahead of the Wednesday meeting.

Brown's office said the agreement will emphasize "water conservation, alternative energy, cybersecurity, health and biotechnology, education and agriculture technology." It said the pact will also allow Israeli companies to access California's Innovation Hub program, a network of research parks, universities, federal laboratories and other groups.

Brown has taken a heightened interest in international relations since visiting China last year. But his interest in Israel is longstanding, going back to when he was governor in the 1970s and 1980s. In remarks welcoming Israeli President Shimon Peres to San Francisco in 2012, Brown suggested California and Israel could create a joint research program similar to a joint solar energy initiative Brown promoted when he was governor before.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown waits to address reporters after filing re-election papers in Oakland on Feb. 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 28, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown files for re-election: 'I like this kind of work'

brownfiling.jpgOAKLAND - Forty years after he first ran for governor, Jerry Brown, now 75 and with a lifetime of politics behind him, strode into a dimly lit elections office Friday and filed paperwork one more time.

"I just completed the papers to run for re-election," the third-term Democrat told reporters down the hall. "I do so with humility and a realization that there's a great responsibility in the work that lies ahead."

The filing follows months of fundraising and his widely expected announcement the previous day that he would seek re-election to an unprecedented fourth term. Brown is the clear frontrunner in a race against two Republicans in this Democratic-leaning state.
Brown did not mention either of his challengers by name, and he suggested he may not ever - at least not until after the primary election in June.

"No, not yet," Brown said when asked if he had an opinion about the Republicans, Neel Kashkari and Tim Donnelly. "I don't want to comment until, certainly until filing is closed, certainly not until after the primary, and even then we can talk about it."

Brown said wants to keep working on the state budget and on the implementation of education funding and prison policy changes he has overseen during his third term.
"Frankly, I like the work," he said. "I understand what it is."

Brown was joined in Oakland by first lady Anne Gust Brown and his political consultants Ace Smith and Dan Newman, whose company, SCN Strategies, ran Brown's ballot initiative campaign to raise taxes in 2012.

Brown and Earl Warren are the only California governors ever elected to three terms, and Brown, governor before from 1975 to 1983, would be the only one elected to four. Term limits preclude him from running for a fifth term, and he has said he does not plan to run again for president.

But Brown could not say that this would be his final run for office.

"I'm not going to say it's the last race, because there's always some races around," Brown said.

The former secretary of state, attorney general and mayor of Oakland said he gathered signatures for his re-election paperwork at Oakland's city hall, for example, and that it seemed an "exciting place to be."

Unless he loses and runs again, however, this will be Brown's last campaign for governor, a fact he appeared to take with some regret.

"I had the experience of ... walking through the governor's office and realizing the years go by so fast, and pretty soon it's time to leave," Brown said. "I like this kind of work, and I hate to leave."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown files paperwork for re-election in Oakland on Feb. 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 28, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown expanding plan for high-speed rail

Brownelectionsoffice.jpgOAKLAND - Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday defended his plan to use carbon-reduction funds for years ahead to prop up California's high-speed rail project, saying uncertainty about the project's long-term financing is "one of the greatest questions of the critics" and that fees paid by carbon producers are an appropriate source of funds.

"I think that cap-and-trade is very appropriate because high-speed rail reduces greenhouse gases," the Democratic governor told reporters in an elections office in Oakland, where he came to file for re-election.

Brown in January proposed using $250 million in cap-and-trade revenue - the money polluters pay to offset carbon emissions -- to help finance the $68 billion rail project, and in a budget trailer bill he proposed dedicating one-third of all greenhouse gas reduction fund revenue to the project in future years. In addition, he proposed that $400 million loaned from the cap-and-trade program to the general fund last year be used for high-speed rail when that money eventually is repaid.

The cap-and-trade proposal is one of the most controversial elements of Brown's budget plan this year. Environmentalists have said money should be used for other projects, while the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office has raised legal questions about the funding shift.

Cap-and-trade revenue is intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In a review of Brown's proposal, the LAO said the first phase of the rail project will not be operational until after 2020, and "the construction of the project would actually generate GHG emissions of 30,000 metric tons over the next several years."

Though acknowledging the California High-Speed Rail Authority's plan to offset emissions by planting thousands of trees in the Central Valley, the LAO said the administration's "emission estimates for construction do not include emissions associated with the production of construction materials, which suggests that the amount of emissions requiring mitigation could be much higher than currently planned."

The rail project, a priority of Brown's administration, has been beset by a fall-off in public approval and uncertainty about long-term financing. In addition, legal challenges have left state bond funding in doubt.

Brown said Friday that his "main focus" is on litigation and that he is "hopeful we'll get that resolved quickly."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters after filing for re-election in Oakland on Feb. 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 27, 2014
California Gov. Jerry Brown to run for reelection

BROWN.jpg

Gov. Jerry Brown announced Thursday that he has taken out the papers to run for re-election.

In his typically understated fashion, the 75-year-old governor posted the announcement and a photo to his Twitter account.

"If you had asked me 40 years ago--when I first ran for governor--what I would be doing in 2014, I could never have guessed. Nor could anyone else," Brown said in a statement posted on his campaign website. "Yet, by the grace of God and habits of perseverance instilled in me by my family, the Dominican nuns and the Jesuits, I am here and ready to go."

Brown, whose candidacy has long been suspected, is being challenged by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, and Republican Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. treasury official.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown takes out papers to run for re-election. Courtesy of Dan Newman.

February 26, 2014
Jerry Brown names Eleni Kounalakis to trade post

ha_jbrown00189.JPGGov. Jerry Brown announced Wednesday he has formed an advisory council on international trade, appointing as its chairwoman Eleni Kounalakis, the businesswoman and daughter of Sacramento developer Angelo Tsakopoulos.

Kounalakis is involved in Democratic politics and is a former U.S. ambassador to Hungary.

Brown, a Democrat, said in a prepared statement that the California International Trade and Investment Advisory Council will advise Brown's Office of Business and Economic Development, or GO-Biz, on international trade and investment for California businesses.

"As the economy recovers, California is well-positioned to expand its reach into foreign markets," Brown said in a prepared statement. "Under the leadership of Ambassador Eleni Kounalakis, this council will help the state do just that."

Brown has taken a heightened interest in international trade during the second half of his third term, traveling to China last year and announcing he plans next to visit Mexico. Brown held talks in San Francisco on Wednesday with the ambassador of Peru, Harold Forsyth, and president of Portugal, Aníbal Cavaco Silva.

PHOTO: Governor-elect Jerry Brown, speaks at a press conference a day after he defeated Republican Meg Whitman at his Oakland campaign headquarters on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 21, 2014
Jerry Brown's parole interventions include crossbow killing case

brownoaklandport.jpgGov. Jerry Brown let about 82 percent of convicted killers' parole releases stand last year, continuing to use his power to block decisions of the state parole board relatively sparingly.

Brown reversed 100 of 577 parole grants he reviewed in 2013 and returned two cases to the state Board of Parole Hearings for reconsideration, according to a report to the Legislature released Friday.

Brown's reversal rate last year was nearly identical to the first two years of his term. The Democratic governor also reviewed 127 non-murder cases, sending 27 back for reconsideration by the full board, the governor's office said.

Among decisions Brown reversed was a parole grant for James Mackey, one of two former University of the Pacific football teammates sent to prison for their roles in the widely covered murder of a Stockton real estate agent in 1989. Mackey testified he and another man lured Laurence Carnegie to a vacant house outside the city, shot him with a crossbow and strangled him.

Michael Blatt, then a Stockton developer and former professional sports agent, stood trial twice in the case, each time resulting in a mistrial. He had been accused of plotting Carnegie's murder and conspiring to murder John Farley, a former professional football player, before charges against him were dismissed. Farley never was harmed.

Brown said in his reversal that Mackey had made efforts to improve himself while incarcerated, including earning a master's degree in 2008. But he said Mackey has not explained "how he could meticulously plan and execute a cold-blooded murder."

"Until he can give a better explanation for his actions," Brown wrote, "I do not think he is ready to be released."

Brown also reported Friday that he pardoned 193 people last year. Most of the pardons involved drug or property crimes committed more than a decade ago. A majority of them, in keeping with Brown's tradition, were announced previously on Christmas Eve.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at an event in Oakland on Nov. 1, 2013. Associated Press/Marcio Jose Sanchez

February 20, 2014
California chamber appeals ruling on cap-and-trade fees

California_Greenhouse_Gases.jpgThe California Chamber of Commerce is appealing a local judge's ruling that California's "cap-and-trade" fees on business to curb greenhouse gas emissions are legal.

The business organization maintains that when the Air Resources Board adopted the fee program, which is expected to raise billions of dollars, it violated a constitutional provision, passed in 1978 as part of Proposition 13, that requires two-thirds legislative vote on new taxes.

It maintains that fee revenue in excess of that needed to administer the state's greenhouse gas reduction program are illegal taxes and is taking that contention to the 3rd District Court of Appeal in response to Sacramento County Judge Timothy Frawley's ruling in November. He declared that Assembly Bill 32, California's anti-greenhouse gas law, was sufficient authority for the fees.

"We stand by our belief that the Legislature in passing AB 32 did not authorize the ARB to raise revenue for the state beyond those costs necessary to administer the program," said Allan Zaremberg, the chamber's president, said in a statement. "We also believe the ARB's auction violates Proposition 13, because it imposes a new tax that did not receive two-thirds approval by the Legislature."

Gov. Jerry Brown is counting on the fees for variety of spending, including drought relief and a proposed bullet train system linking the northern and southern halves of the state.

"We believe that the judge inappropriately created a new category of regulatory fees," said Zaremberg, "in order to avoid ruling that the revenues came from an illegal tax -- not approved by two-thirds of the Legislature. The judge himself called this a close question.'"

February 19, 2014
Neel Kashkari scolded by producer: 'We don't cuss on the air'

kashkarikfbk.jpgNeel Kashkari finished the first segment of an interview on KFBK radio in Sacramento on Wednesday when a producer bounded into the studio, having just hit the "dump" button to keep a comment Kashkari made off the air.

"We don't cuss on the air," the producer, Julie Kingsley, told the Republican candidate for governor.

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, was asked about his time running the federal bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program when he described himself as "the guy you send in when, pardon me, the s--- is hitting the fan."

The host, former Sacramento County Sheriff John McGinness, asked Kinglsey, "Did you catch that?"

She did, and Kashkari apologized repeatedly.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he told Kingsley. "I'm sorry about that."

Kinglsey said she hesitated briefly before dumping the comment. She said "I wouldn't expect it from a gubernatorial candidate," and she told Kashkari, "You should know better than that."

The incumbent governor, Jerry Brown, has used the same language on rare occasions, and there was chuckling in the studio at the break.

The interview continued. Afterward, Kashkari held his arms apart and assessed his performance.

"Second segment," he said. "No swearing."

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari prepares for an interview at KFBK radio in Sacramento on Feb. 19, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 18, 2014
Jerry Brown to skip meeting of governors in Washington

Brown_signing_bills.JPGGov. Jerry Brown will skip the annual meeting of the nation's governors in Washington this weekend, with an ongoing drought in California and his own re-election campaign on the horizon.

Brown last missed the winter meeting of the National Governors Association in 2011, the first year of his third term. In each of the past two years the Democratic governor used the occasion to lobby the Obama administration on policy matters while courting the East Coast media.

"The governor's focused on the work that needs to be done here in California," spokesman Evan Westrup said Tuesday.

The nation's governors are scheduled to meet with Obama and Cabinet secretaries and to discuss education, transportation and disaster response, among other subjects.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election this year, but he has raised millions of dollars for the effort and is widely expected to run.

He has had face time with the president recently, the two having appeared together in the Central Valley last week to address the drought.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills in Sacramento on March 24, 2011 as Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco look on. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 14, 2014
Neel Kashkari at ease among financial tickers on morning TV

Financial Stability Neel Kashkari.JPGNeel Kashkari got to know the financial media during his time at the U.S. Treasury Department, so when he went on CNBC's Squawk Box on Friday, it was just like old times.

"Great to see you, Becky," the Republican candidate for governor told co-anchor Becky Quick. "It's been a long time."

Kashkari and Quick talked for a few minutes about his political ambitions, and then the caption on screen switched from "Kashkari's Run for Governor," to "Kashkari's Economic Outlook."

"Let's talk about the country on a broader scale," Quick said. "Where do you think we stand right now? Because we have seen some pretty lousy economic numbers."

Kashkari, wearing a white shirt and red tie and with financial updates running beneath him, said he hasn't been "paying a lot of attention closely to the day-to-day stock market." But the former Goldman Sachs executive suggested he still could keep up with Quick.

"It does feel to be much more of a stock pickers market," he said, "than any kind of broad-scale rally over the next six to 12 months."

From CNBC, Kashkari jumped to Fox News, for a segment on Fox & Friends. While at Treasury, Kashkari managed the bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program, and Tucker Carlson asked if he had any regrets.

The program became a political liability for many Republicans who supported it, but Kashkari said it was a necessary intervention in an economic crisis.

"So you don't regret what you did at all?" Carlson asked.

"No," Kashkari said. "Absolutely."

February 13, 2014
Lady Gaga gets letter of thanks from Jerry Brown

ladygaga.jpgFirst California posted drought alerts on freeway signs.

Now it's turning to Lady Gaga.

The pop superstar, who wanted the iconic but leaky pool at Hearst Castle filled for a "creative project" she is shooting, got approval for the shoot after she and her parents and associates agreed to make a $250,000 donation to help maintain and repair the castle, including repairs at Neptune Pool, according to the Hearst Castle Preservation Foundation.

Gaga also agreed to promote the castle and water conservation on social media, and to shoot a water conservation PSA.

The Hearst San Simeon State Park is part of the California state park system, and the arrangement caught the attention of Gov. Jerry Brown.

"I want to personally thank you for the aid and assistance you are providing to Hearst Castle, the communities surrounding San Simeon and the state as a whole," the governor said in a letter to Lady Gaga on Wednesday. "I've called on all Californians to conserve water in every way possible and the assistance you are providing will aide in that effort."

The castle foundation said the pool was filled with water from storage facilities on the Castle property and that the water will be returned when filming is done.

PHOTO: Lady Gaga performs at the 53rd annual Grammy Awards on Feb. 13, 2011. The Associated Press/Matt Sayles

February 12, 2014
Neel Kashkari blames Jerry Brown for drought

kashkarisits.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari blamed Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday for California's ongoing drought, saying a "lack of leadership in Sacramento" has left the state unprepared for dry years.

Kashkari, speaking on KMJ 580 radio from the World Ag Expo in Tulare, called for greater investment in dams.

"We need to build more storage," the gubernatorial candidate said on "The Ray Appleton Show."

Tim Donnelly, the other main Republican bidding to unseat Brown, has also called for more dam construction, though neither candidate has offered specific plans.

Kashkari's interview came just hours after Brown visited the agricultural expo. The visit was heavily colored by the drought, with members of Congress skirmishing over California water legislation and President Barack Obama preparing to visit Fresno on Friday.

The Democratic governor has yet to state a position on an $11.1 billion water bond scheduled for the November ballot, and offered no indication Wednesday about next steps on the drought.

"You've got to have rain," he told reporters, according to a recording provided by Valley Public Radio. "Aside from the rain, you've got to use the water efficiently, you've got to have storage and we have to balance all the interests, because we have no other choice."

Brown said he is trying "to find the middle path that will get the most done that is feasible under the Constitution and under the politics we have."

"Look, if anybody can get it done, I can get it done," he said, "and I'm working night and day to achieve it."

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari speaks at an interview with The Associated Press in Sacramento on Dec. 4, 2013. AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli

February 11, 2014
VIDEO: Tim Donnelly in 'heaven' at Stockton gun store

donnellygunstore.jpgSTOCKTON - Tim Donnelly found his paradise at a gun store Tuesday.

"I feel like I've died and gone to heaven," the Republican candidate for governor said as he walked in.

At the counter, among the firearms and mounted animal heads at Outdoor Sportsman in Stockton, the Twin Peaks assemblyman handled a 12-gauge shotgun and admired an antique rifle.

"Oh, my God," he said.

Donnelly lingered at the counter, and he shook his head when he saw a customer filling out paperwork required to buy a gun in California.

"That's what you ought to be filming," the Legislature's most outspoken gun rights advocate told his videographer. "Look at all the paperwork you've got to do to exercise your Second Amendment rights."

It wasn't until Donnelly introduced himself to the store owner, Eric Johnston, that the candidate's own history with guns came up. Donnelly pleaded no contest in 2012 to two misdemeanor gun charges related to the discovery of a loaded firearm in his carry-on bag at Ontario International Airport.

Donnelly, who has said he forgot the gun was in his bag, told Johnston that all the press surrounding that incident may be beneficial.

"If you're a single-issue voter on the gun issue," Donnelly said, "you have now had my message communicated to you very effectively."

PHOTO: Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly visits the Outdoor Sportsman store in Stockton on Feb. 11, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 11, 2014
Tim Donnelly criticizes party politics, proposes high-speed rail money for water

donnellylockeford.jpgLODI - Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly said Wednesday that the state should ask voters to use money earmarked for California's troubled high-speed rail project to instead build dams and other water infrastructure.

"That is something that I think would be wise, and I think there's broad support for that," he told reporters after an appearance in Lodi.

Donnelly said the state should also explore water desalinization.

Donnelly and Neel Kashkari, the other main Republican bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown, have both criticized high-speed rail. Donnelly also went after Brown's $25 billion water project, calling it "flat-out insane."

Donnelly said the water project, in which Brown proposes building two tunnels to divert water around the Delta to the south, would result in a "massive disturbance of the ecosystem."

Before arriving in Lodi, Donnelly spoke to about 20 supporters in the parking lot of Young's Payless Supermarket on a foggy stretch of highway east of the city, in Lockeford.

The tea party favorite criticized the Democratic and Republican parties, saying "the parties haven't served us well."

He said his grandparents were Democrats. Though the party has been "hijacked by Marxist progressives," he said, partisanship only prevents Republicans from getting Democratic votes he said are "up for grabs."

Donnelly, nearing the end of a 10-day push through parts of central and northern California, did not mention Kashkari, but a supporter brought up Brown.

"What do you think your chances are against him?" she asked.

Said Donnelly: "No, you should be asking, 'What are his chances against me?'"

PHOTO: Republican Tim Donnelly speaks with supporters at a rally in Lockeford on Feb. 11, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

February 9, 2014
Jerry Brown website glitch touts Republicans as supporters

jerrybrownkashkari.jpgGov. Jerry Brown's public-approval ratings may be the highest of his third term, but unless his supporters include any number of prominent Republicans — including those bidding to unseat him — he appears to have found room to overstate his appeal.

On the home page of the Democratic governor's campaign website, www.jerrybrown.org, is a gallery of Twitter profile pictures with the caption, "This site works thanks to folks like these that want to Keep California Working.

"Join Us!"

Until Sunday morning, clicking on a picture took visitors to a page on Brown's site featuring the person's Twitter profile. Listed supporters included the two main Republicans running against Brown: Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, and Tim Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman.

California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte and Republican Senate leader Bob Huff had pages created for them on Brown's website, too.

Dan Newman, a political spokesman for the governor, said in an email early Sunday that it was "clearly a glitch," in which Twitter followers were automatically listed as supporters.

The pages were taken down by late morning.

At a meeting of the California Federation of Republican Women in Rancho Cordova on Sunday, Donnelly said the error "shows too much arrogance," while Kashkari brushed it off.

"Glitches happen," he said.

PHOTO: A screen shot of Gov. Jerry Brown's campaign website mistakenly suggesting Republican Neel Kashkari is a supporter.

February 7, 2014
Jerry Brown, Gavin Newsom to get warning letters in FPPC case

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgGov. Jerry Brown and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom are among state officials who will receive warning letters in the California Fair Political Practices Commission's investigation of a firm headed by a Sacramento lobbyist who held lavish fundraisers for politicians at his home, a source said.

Thomas Willis, whose law firm represents Brown, Newsom, state lawmakers and various political committees, said in an email that his firm has not seen any warning letters.

"What we can say is that our clients properly paid and disclosed all known expenses," he wrote. "Of course, they did not disclose expenses that they were not made aware of."

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez also expect to get letters.

Stephen Kaufman, Perez' lawyer, said in a statement that the speaker held one fundraising event at lobbyist Kevin Sloat's home in June 2011.

"The Speaker's committee paid the full amount of the catering invoice that was submitted," the statement said. "The Speaker has no knowledge of any other costs associated with the event. It is our understanding that because legislators were unaware of such expenses and properly reported all known expenses, the FPPC intends to resolve the issue with a warning letter and no further action."

In addition to Brown and Newsom, as many as 40 elected officials are expected to receive warning letters from the commission in the case, in which Sloat Higgins Jensen and Associates, a lobbying firm headed by Sloat, has reached a tentative agreement with FPPC staff to pay fines involving violations of state political disclosure rules.

The action was prompted by a lawsuit filed in Sacramento Superior Court against Sloat and his firm in December by a disgruntled former employee under investigation for embezzlement. The former employee claimed Sloat's elaborate events amount to non-monetary campaign contributions that lobbyists are not permitted to give.

A list provided to The Bee of senators who can expect to get letters included Kevin de Leon, Jerry Hill, Marty Block, Norma Torres, Lou Correa, Alex Padilla, Cathleen Galgiani and Rod Wright.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual host breakfast in Sacramento on May 22, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

February 5, 2014
Neel Kashkari raises more than $900,000 in two weeks for California governor's race

kashkarisits.jpgNeel Kashkari raised more than $900,000 in the first two weeks of his gubernatorial campaign, the first significant fundraising burst from any Republican bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown.

The sum is only a fraction of the roughly $17 million Brown had on hand as of Dec. 31. But it is more than twice what Tim Donnelly, the other Republican in the race, raised all of last year.

Kashkari's campaign announced Wednesday that the former U.S. Treasury Department official had raised $976,000 since announcing his candidacy last month. Kashkari has filed campaign statements showing contributions of just under $915,000. The campaign said the balance consists of checks less than $5,000 that are not yet required to be reported.

Former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and his wife, Wendy, each contributed $27,200, as did billionaire Robert Day, chairman of Trust Company of the West, and each of Kashkari's parents, Chaman and Sheila. Slightly more than two-thirds of the total amount raised came from California donors. Many of the contributors are members of the financial industry, including employees of Goldman Sachs, where Kashkari previously worked.

Kashkari raised fundraising expectations by saying before he announced his candidacy that he had met with hundreds of potential donors, and his campaign promoted his earnings in a news release just before filing contribution reports with the state.

In an online video, Kashkari said the contributions reflect an "outpouring of support."

Donnelly, a Twin Peaks assemblyman, raised less than $375,000 in 2013 and ended the year with only $54,299 in cash on hand. Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado dropped out of the race last month after raising just $517,772 last year.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but he is widely expected to run.

The Bee's Jim Miller contributed to this report.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari speaks at an interview with The Associated Press in Sacramento on Dec. 4, 2013. AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli

February 5, 2014
Jerry Brown says longer living state workers will drive pension costs up $1.2 billion a year

jerrybrownprisons.jpgGov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday urged CalPERS, the massive public employee pension fund, to move more quickly to address the increasing life expectancy of state employees, saying longer-lived retirees will drive pension costs up $1.2 billion a year.

In a letter to Rob Feckner, president of CalPERS' board, Brown called "unacceptable" a CalPERS staff recommendation he said would have the board "wait two full years before taking action." Fund staff previously raised concerns about the cost of raising contribution rates, recommending increases not take effect until 2016.

"Since CalPERS last faced this issue in 2010, there have been dramatic changes in life expectancy: by 2028, men retiring at age 55 are projected to live an average of 2.1 years longer and women 1.6 years longer," Brown said in his letter. "For the state, these changes mean that pension costs will be much greater than previously thought and state costs will increase $1.2 billion annually - about 32 percent greater than today."

The Democratic governor called on the board to "fully phase in the increased costs within three years."

"No one likes to pay more for pensions," he said, "but ignoring their true costs for two more years will only burden the system and cost more in the long run."

CalPERS said in a prepared statement Wednesday that board members "must balance a number of factors in their decision making including the state of our financial markets, our economy and the ability of our members and employer partners to pay increased pension costs."

It said CalPERS staff will make its final recommendation about actuarial assumptions available next week.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters at a news conference at the Capitol on Sept. 9, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 3, 2014
California's school money fight heads to new venue

kirst_blog.jpgThe Office of Administrative Law is an obscure branch of the governor's office that was created more than three decades ago, during Jerry Brown's first governorship, to ensure that rules issued by state agencies comply with the law.

That function makes it the next venue for opponents of the state Board of Education's newly adopted rules governing the expenditure of billions of extra dollars meant to enhance the educations of poor and "English learner" students.

It's Brown's pet education reform and he supported the state board's embrace of "flexibility," giving local school districts leeway in determining how best to spend the extra money on the targeted kids, who are nearly 60 percent of the state's six million K-12 students.

However, critics - civil rights advocates and business-backed reform groups - say that the flexibility could mean that the additional spending is diverted into other uses, such as raises for teachers. And one of the opposition groups, EdVoice, is asking the Office of Administrative Law to declare that the new rules - which are technically emergency regulations - violate the authorizing legislation enacted last year.

EdVoice has submitted a letter to the OAL, detailing how it believes that the state school board acted beyond its statutory authority.

"The unlawful elements must be cured and ambiguities must be resolved within the formal rulemaking process," Ed Voice president Bill Lucia told the OAL.

PHOTO: Michael Kirst, president of the California State Board of Education. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

February 3, 2014
Jerry Brown blasts bill as 'divisive intrusion' in drought

brownfresnopresser.jpgGov. Jerry Brown lashed out Monday against a water bill moving quickly through the Republican-controlled House, calling it "an unwelcome and divisive intrusion" into California's effort to manage the state's drought.

In a letter to the ranking members of the House Natural Resources Committee, the Democratic governor amplified opposition already registered by his administration to the bill, which has pitted irrigation interests in the Valley against environmental concerns.

"H.R. 3964 is an unwelcome and divisive intrusion into California's efforts to manage this severe crisis," Brown wrote. "It would override state laws and protections, and mandate that certain water interests come out ahead of others. It falsely suggests the promise of water relief when that is simply not possible given the scarcity of water supplies."

Brown said the bill would also "re-open old water wounds undermining years of progress toward reaching a collaborative long-term solution to our water needs."

Republicans have said the bill, which would undo a San Joaquin River restoration program, would improve water access for Valley farms.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the media at Fresno City Hall on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. The Fresno Bee/Eric Paul Zamora

January 31, 2014
Tim Donnelly holds about $54,000 to take on Jerry Brown

donnellypodium.jpgTim Donnelly raised less than $300,000 for his gubernatorial campaign in the second half of last year, leaving him with only $54,299 in cash on hand by the end of December, he reported Friday.

The Twin Peaks assemblyman is one of two Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown this year. The Democratic governor reported earlier Friday that he had increased his war chest to about $17 million by the end of December.

Donnelly raised $291,063 and spent $286,069 from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2013. His contributions for the full year totaled $374,213. The Legislature's most outspoken gun rights and anti-illegal immigration advocate struggled to raise major contributions, relying on scores of individual donations of several hundred dollars or less.

Brown, a Democrat, has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but he is widely expected to run. The other Republican running, former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, did not start fundraising until earlier this month, when he announced his candidacy. His first financial filing is not expected until later in February.

Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, who dropped out of the race in January, raised $203,550 in the second half of the year and spent $181,274. He had an ending cash balance of $22,727 on Dec. 31.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaks in Baldwin Park Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. Associated Press/Nick Ut

January 31, 2014
Neel Kashkari forgoes tax-cutting theme, embraces another

kashkarisits.jpgWhen Neel Kashkari told conservative talk radio listeners in Los Angeles this week that he would not immediately move to lower taxes on the wealthiest Californians, he suggested his campaign for governor will diverge from a tax-cutting theme Republicans have pressed hard in recent years.

The position is strategic, not ideological. Voters in this Democratic state overwhelmingly approved a tax increase in 2012, and Kashkari — outflanked by a more conservative candidate, Tim Donnelly, on the right — will likely need support from independent voters to advance from the June primary election to a runoff against Gov. Jerry Brown in the fall.

On the "John and Ken" show Thursday, Kashkari assured his hosts that he believes "our taxes are too high" and wants to "get everyone to the table" to discuss them. But he said, "I don't think, politically, that's where we start."

Instead, Kashkari is embracing another, equally reliable conservative stand-by. One week into his campaign, Kashkari — like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Meg Whitman before him — is going after budgetary waste.

"To me, I think it's critical that we start getting our money's worth for the taxes that we're collecting," Kashkari said. "We spend more than $40 billion a year on K-12, and only about half of that money is actually getting into the classroom. Half of it is being spent on administration and overhead and other things."

That should sound familiar. In the Republican gubernatorial primary four years ago, Steve Poizner promised to fix a public education system "that wastes a lot of money," while Whitman planned to devote more funds to classroom teaching and less to "bureaucracy." Whitman proposed eliminating "waste, fraud and abuse" statewide, as did Schwarzenegger, the last Republican to occupy the governor's office. Experts said the amount of fat in the budget was overstated, and seven years after he took office, Schwarzenegger left Sacramento with a deficit.

Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, has not put a number on the overall budget savings he believes he could find. But education is a focus of his campaign, and on that subject Kashkari went to his radio interview prepared. The basis for Kashkari's claim that classrooms are being shortchanged is a 2011 study that found direct spending in California classrooms declined from 59 percent to less than 58 percent of total expenditures from 2003 to 2009, even as total education spending increased.

The report, by Pepperdine University, is questionable for what it counted as "direct classroom expenditures." It included teacher salaries and estimated benefits, textbooks and materials and supplies, but not the cost of library or cafeteria workers, busing and building maintenance.

The report, produced with funding from the conservative Small Business Action Committee, stirred controversy when it was released several years ago. Now the study - or some version of it - is likely to feature prominently in Kashkari's campaign. If he can persuade voters that education money could be redirected from the bureaucracy to classrooms, he could propose any number of programs without needing to identify additional funding.

Kashkari has not released any detailed policy proposals, but on Thursday he expressed interest in vocational training and a longer school year, and he praised ideas advocated by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Since leaving office, the former governor has been promoting his "Florida formula" for public education that includes assigning letter grades to schools while emphasizing vouchers, online instruction and reading tests that third graders must pass before being promoted.

Experts have debated the influence of these polices on student achievement in Florida, but Kashkari is inspired.

"They brought more choice to parents, they brought more power into parents, they provided more accountability," Kashkari said. "This is not rocket science."

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari speaks at an interview with The Associated Press in Sacramento on Dec. 4, 2013. AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli

January 31, 2014
Jerry Brown reports $17 million on hand for re-election

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgGov. Jerry Brown raised $7.1 million for his re-election campaign in the second half of last year, he reported Friday, increasing his total war chest to about $17 million by the end of December.

The Democratic governor has not yet said if he will seek re-election but is widely expected to run. He received major funding from labor unions and business interests, including oil and telecommunications companies.

Brown leads a small field of Republicans by a wide margin in early fundraising and polls.

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Brown reported spending only about $208,000 in campaign operations last year, with most of that amount coming in the last six months of the year. In addition to various office and fundraising expenses, Brown reported "bonus" payments of $25,000 each to Angie Tate, a Democratic fundraiser, and Edward Ruthrauff, who worked on Brown's 2010 campaign before coming into the administration to be Brown's director of constituent affairs.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, has until the end of the day to file his year-end financial statement. Neel Kahskari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, did not start fundraising until earlier this month, when he announced his candidacy.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at the California Chamber of Commerce's annual host breakfast in Sacramento on May 22, 2013. The Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

January 30, 2014
Jerry Brown missed voting in a couple elections, too

brownoaklandport.jpgGov. Jerry Brown's political spokesmen took to Twitter to trash Neel Kashkari when the Republican's inconsistent voting record gained broader attention in recent days, and they jumped again when the shortcomings of another candidate, Tim Donnelly, came to light.

"The governor's been a regular voter his entire life," spokesman Dan Newman said, "and the Republicans haven't."

Both Kashkari and Donnelly failed to vote in many elections after turning 18, according to voter records, though they have voted in most presidential and gubernatorial contests in California.

Brown's voting record over the past two decades is far superior. But not perfect.

The Democratic governor has voted in 28 of 30 elections since the mid 1990s, according to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

One election Brown missed, in 1997, involved a tax for emergency medical services.

The other was more historic. Brown was mayor of Oakland when Audie Bock upset Elihu Harris, a former mayor, to win an Assembly seat in 1999. Bock became the first Green Party candidate in the nation to hold a state office. According to Alameda County officials, Brown didn't cast a vote.

Newman said Brown's recollection is that he did vote in that election.

Regardless, Newman said, in comparing the candidates' records "you've confirmed the stark contrast."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks at an event in Oakland on Nov. 1, 2013. Associated Press/Marcio Jose Sanchez

January 29, 2014
Poll finds Californians not thrilled with Obama, health care law

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As the federal health care overhaul continues to divide Californians, President Barack Obama's approval here plunged to a record low, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California.

The president's job approval dropped to 46 percent among likely voters while state residents gave a collective shrug to the Affordable Care Act, his signature legislative achievement. Some 46 percent view the law unfavorably, 44 percent favorably.

Still, a large majority of residents say they plan to comply with the law, which requires nearly everyone to obtain insurance coverage or pay a penalty. Among the uninsured, 72 percent say they plan to acquire health insurance this year, 18 percent indicate they will not, and 9 percent remain unsure. Among those covered, 6 percent obtained it on their own, with the remainder receiving it from another source, such as their employer.

Despite California's comparatively smooth roll-out, fewer than half of the state's adult residents believe their online marketplace is working well, with the uninsured more likely to say it's not working (50 percent) than those with health care coverage (36 percent).

Covered California has struggled to attract certain demographics, namely young people and Latinos. Among racial and ethnic groups, African Americans (62 percent) were more likely than Latinos (52 percent), Asians (45 percent) and whites (39 percent) to say the program is working well.

The health care act is expected to play prominently in the midterm elections, where Republicans are harnessing disapproval for the law to retain their House majority and possibly regain control of the U.S. Senate.

While slightly more than half of the state's adults approve of their own congressional representative, likely voters are more divided: 48 percent approve and 42 percent disapprove. Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer draw the approval of 49 percent and 48 percent of likely voters, respectively.

Californians' faith in a year of action described by Obama in his State of the Union Address Tuesday appears low. Roughly 60 percent believe Obama and Congress will not be unable to work together to accomplish a lot. At the time of Obama's inauguration, more than 80 percent believed there would be successful collaboration between the executive and legislative branches.

The survey, conducted with funding from The James Irvine Foundation, is based on interviews with 1,706 adult residents from Jan. 14 to Jan. 21. The margin of error is 3.8 percent to 4.6 percent in either direction.

January 29, 2014
Barack Obama calls Jerry Brown for drought update

OBAMA.jpgPresident Barack Obama called Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday to discuss California's drought, as the governor prepares to meet Thursday with water officials in Los Angeles.

The White House said in a release that Obama called Brown "to receive an update on the situation in California and express his concern for the citizens impacted by the historic drought conditions facing the state - conditions that are likely to have significant impacts on the state's communities, economy and environment in the coming months."

Brown's office said the governor will meet privately "with more than a dozen water leaders from across Southern California" on Thursday. The Democratic governor announced a state of emergency earlier this month and urged Californians to reduce water use by 20 percent.

California is suffering through dry conditions for a third straight year, depleting reservoirs and leaving streams and rivers running low.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated parts of California as primary natural disaster areas due to the drought. The designation makes certain farmers eligible for low-interest emergency loans to cover losses.

Among other measures, the White House said Wednesday that the Department of Agriculture is working with farmers and ranchers to "increase their irrigation water efficiency, protect vulnerable soils from erosion, and improve the health of pasture and range lands."

PHOTO: President Barack Obama speaks about the new health care law during a White House Youth Summit, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington. Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster

January 29, 2014
Jerry Brown names Michael Picker to California Public Utilities Commission

Picker.JPGGov. Jerry Brown has appointed Michael Picker, a senior adviser to the governor on renewable energy, to the powerful California Public Utilities Commission, Brown's office announced Wednesday.

Picker, of Sacramento, will resign his position with the administration before joining the regulatory board, Brown's office said. He will also resign from his seat on the Sacramento Municipal Utility District board, which he won in 2012, the administration said.

Picker, 62, was chief of staff to former Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna Jr. in the 1990s and worked as an adviser to both Brown and former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Like Brown, Picker is a Democrat. He will fill the vacancy left when former Commissioner Mark Ferron announced his resignation due to health reasons earlier this month.

The position requires Senate confirmation. It pays $131,952 a year.

PHOTO: Michael Picker, 2012. Courtesy Michael Picker.

January 29, 2014
California Supreme Court moves high-speed rail request to lower court

HSRail.jpgThe California Supreme Court, which had been asked by Gov. Jerry Brown's administration to intervene in litigation challenging California's high-speed rail project, referred the case to a lower court Wednesday and ordered its expedited review.

The court transferred the case to the 3rd District Court of Appeal and ordered both sides to submit filings by Feb. 10.

The action comes after a Sacramento Superior Court judge in November ordered the California High-Speed Rail Authority to rescind its original funding plan for the $68 billion project. The court found the plan failed to comply with provisions of Proposition 1A, the initiative in which voters approved the project in 2008.

The Brown administration said in an appeal to the Supreme Court on Friday that lower court rulings "imperil" the project, threatening state and federal funding.

The troubled project is proposed to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco. The project has been delayed, with state officials now hoping to begin construction in the Central Valley this year.

PHOTO: A view of a high speed train moving through a wind farm in the proposed high speed rail network. Rendering by Newlands and Company Inc.

January 28, 2014
Neel Kashkari hits California Gov. Jerry Brown on 'crazy train'

kashkarisits.jpgRepublican Neel Kashkari, criticizing Gov. Jerry Brown for his support of California's high-speed rail project, released a web ad Tuesday panning it as "a symbol of Sacramento having the wrong priorities."

The online-only ad, the first issue ad of Kashkari's campaign, comes a week after the former U.S. Treasury Department official announced his candidacy for governor.
In the video, Kashkari, wearing blue jeans and seated in a leather chair, calls the project the "crazy train."

"To me, it is not only a waste of money, it is a great example, it is a symbol of Sacramento having the wrong priorities," Kashkari says in the video. "If I were elected governor, we're going to cancel the bullet train and we're going to focus on the state's real priorities, which are jobs and education."

Yet the project's proposed financing includes a mix of sources including state bond funds, federal aid and private investment. Kashkari has yet to issue detailed policy proposals for education or jobs creation, his stated priorities, and he has not said how he would craft a state spending plan.

The $68 billion rail project is an issue Republicans believe they can exploit in attacking Brown. The Democratic governor is heavily favored in his likely re-election bid this year, but public support for the troubled project, a priority of Brown's administration, has fallen off since voters approved it in 2008.

The project, which is planned to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco, is beset by legal challenges. The Brown administration on Friday asked the California Supreme Court to intervene in two lower court rulings that jeopardize its funding.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari speaks at an interview with The Associated Press in Sacramento on Dec. 4, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

January 23, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown pledges 'more active role' in local government

BrownSalinas.jpgSALINAS — One day after delivering his State of the State address, Gov. Jerry Brown was back on the road Thursday, promoting education and prison policies in what he said will be an effort to "take a more active role" in working with local agencies.

"I'm going to devote myself, to the extent I have the time, to meet with local school districts and local law enforcement authorities to make sure that the state and the localities - and the local school districts - are operating in a very creative and intelligent partnership," Brown told reporters here.

He said he will focus on the ongoing implementation of prison realignment, in which the state shifted responsibility for certain offenders to counties, and on an education funding overhaul enacted last year.

The Democratic governor met with law enforcement officials in Monterey County, as he did in a two-day swing through the San Joaquin Valley last week. Brown, who has traveled relatively infrequently during the first three years of his term, is preparing for a likely re-election bid this year.

"I want to now take a more active role in working with localities," he said, "dealing with crime and dealing with educational success."

Brown's visit followed a State of the State speech that focused on fiscal prudence and was bereft of anything approaching a new policy pronouncement, and with only the barest mention of water and high-speed rail.

"You can only say too many things, and when you write your stories I didn't want you to say, 'Today Brown said, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.' No, I only wanted you to say one thing: 'Brown said live within your means.'"

Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller, who has been critical of realignment, said the program was "painful" and exacerbated jail crowding in his county, but he said it could be successful in the future.

Of the governor, Miller said, "He has an easygoing way about him, and I know he listens."

PHOTO: Jerry Brown speaks to reporters in Salinas on Jan. 23, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

January 22, 2014
Republicans criticize Jerry Brown for leaving poverty rate out of State of the State

kashkarisits.jpgTwo Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown this year criticized the Democratic governor Wednesday for failing to mention California's nation-high poverty rate in his State of the State address.

"Governor Brown may claim a California comeback, but the truth is that he has forgotten the millions of California families who are struggling," Neel Kashkari, who announced his candidacy Tuesday, said in a prepared statement.

The former U.S. Treasury Department official said it is "outrageous" that Brown did not address poverty.

The only other Republican actively campaigning against Brown, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, was similarly critical.

He said in a prepared statement that the Democratic governor "has repeatedly failed to address how he intends to get the state back to work and return prosperity to California."

Brown, who has raised millions of dollars for a likely re-election bid this year, made passing reference to "struggling families" near the end of his annual address, but he largely avoided the issue.

Republicans have criticized Brown on the economy since the U.S. Census Bureau reported last fall that 23.8 percent of Californians live in poverty under a calculation that includes the cost of liming.

Brown told National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" last year that the poverty rate is "the flip side of California's incredible attractiveness and prosperity," as many immigrants to the state are unskilled.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari speaks at an interview with The Associated Press in Sacramento on Dec. 4, 2013. AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli

January 22, 2014
Read Jerry Brown's State of the State speech, as delivered

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Gov. Jerry Brown spoke for about 17 minutes during Wednesday's State of the State speech — an address that would have been even shorter but for several diversions Brown made from his prepared text.

Here is Brown's address, as delivered, as well as a word cloud showing which words the Democratic governor used the most.

"Thank you. It seems like people are kind of excited. And so am I. I did come here to speak to all of you in 1975, a long time ago. Some of you may have forgotten or probably weren't born then. I came here in 1959 for the first time in my (inaudible) garb as a Jesuit seminarian, my Roman collar, my little black suit, I sat right down there and looked up at my father give his first state of the state back in 1959. Lieutenant governor, I appreciate change but I also value continuity. I used to say take the ins and throw them out and take the outs and throw them in. I don't say that anymore. My message is, there is no substitute for experience.

"Anyway, here I am. I am here today to report on the state of our state, choosing to ignore those who say that Article 5 of our Constitution, which requires the governor to report to the Legislature, is outdated; that you can't report on the condition of our state from Sacramento because California is too spread out and too diverse. It occurred to me that these critics - who have long recited our state's decline - perhaps have nothing to say in the face of California's comeback - except, "please, don't report it." Well, I'm going to report it, and what a comeback it is: A million new jobs since 2010, a budgetary surplus in the billions...in the billions -- but don't spend it, that's the point -- and a minimum wage rising to $10 an hour.

January 22, 2014
Rapid Response: Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State address

Here are some reactions to Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State address.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari

Governor Brown may claim a California comeback, but the truth is that he has forgotten the millions of California families who are struggling. 24 percent of our fellow Californians live in poverty. Yet how many times did the Governor mention poverty in his 17-minute address? Not once. That is outrageous.

The state of the state is devastating for millions of Californians. Our schools are ranked 46th in the nation. Nearly 18 percent of Californians are out of work or stuck in part-time jobs. People don't want welfare. They want good jobs. Yet instead of doing the hard work of fixing these problems, Governor Brown is focused on touting record-high spending and building a crazy train that the state doesn't want and can't afford.

Let there be no doubt: The status quo is unacceptable and we can't let Governor Brown get away with it.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego

The Governor did a great job of reporting what we've done to improve the state's fiscal situation and telling us about the work that lies ahead. But I'm hoping that now we will create a greater vision for California in terms of and dealing with issues of poverty, educational achievement and creating opportunity for everyone.

We all agree that we've got to create more jobs, but we also have to create the capacity in individuals to be ready for those jobs. We can talk about the greatness of California - and it is a great state, no question, with Silicon Valley, our high tech industry and research institutions. But are average Californians ready to work in these industries? Probably not. We will need to focus on preparing our kids for these jobs now

I agree that it's important to give school districts flexibility, but we also have to focus on accountability. What happens when a school doesn't succeed? What happens when a school board doesn't properly use the funding? We need to make sure that funds specifically set aside for improving the academic performance of disadvantaged students are actually spent on closing the Achievement Gap.

January 22, 2014
Jerry Brown lauds California's 'comeback,' urges caution in State of the State speech

Brownframe1.jpgGov. Jerry Brown said today that California is continuing its "comeback," with a budget surplus and an improving economy, but he urged the Legislature to restrain spending.

"This year, Californians have a lot to be proud of," Brown told a joint session of the Legislature in his State of the State address. "For a decade, budget instability was the order of the day. ... But three years later, here we are, with state spending and revenues solidly balanced, and more to come."

However, Brown said the state budget is based on fluctuating revenue, and long-term liabilities are high. As he did in his State of the State speech a year ago, Brown offered the cautionary, biblical account of Joseph and the Pharaoh's dream of seven cows.

"Boom and bust is our lot and we must follow the ancient advice, recounted in the Book of Genesis, that Joseph gave to the Pharaoh," Brown said. "Put away your surplus during the years of great plenty so you will be ready for the lean years which are sure to follow."

The 17-minute speech was the final State of the State address of Brown's third term. The 75-year-old Democrat is widely expected to seek re-election, and the speech served to preview his campaign.

Brown has made construction of a $68 billion high-speed rail system a priority of his administration, despite fierce opposition from Republicans. Brown is also seeking to push forward his $25 billion plan to build two tunnels to divert water around the Delta to the south.

A drought emergency Brown announced last week has only heightened controversy around that plan.

Brown said that "among all our uncertainties, weather is one of the most basic. We can't control it. We can only live with it, and now we have to live with a very serious drought of uncertain duration."

He said, "We need everyone in every part of the state to conserve water," and he called for "further progress" on his tunnels plan.

January 22, 2014
Chat live: Dan Walters hosts State of the State Q&A

Join Bee columnist Dan Walters for Q&A and a discussion of the governor's State of the State speech.

 

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January 21, 2014
Neel Kashkari announces he will run for California governor

kashkarisits.jpgNeel Kashkari, the former U.S. Treasury Department official who has been preparing to run for governor for a year, formally entered the contest Tuesday, pledging to improve public education and the jobs climate in California.

"That's my platform: Jobs and education," Kashkari said at a business luncheon at Sacramento State. "Jobs and education. That's it."

In declaring his candidacy, Kashkari, 40, joins Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, as the only Republicans actively campaigning to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown. Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado abandoned his campaign last week.

"Millions of Californians are struggling," Kashkari said. "The status quo is unacceptable."

Kashkari's entrance into the race was widely expected. He left his job at Newport Beach-based Pacific Investment Management Co. a year ago, hired political advisers and spent recent months meeting with potential donors and giving newspaper interviews.

His viability as a candidate remains an open question, as he will only now begin to raise money and test his moderate social views with GOP donors and the party's base. Kashkari has never run for elected office and has said he cannot self-finance the effort.

Unseating Brown in this heavily Democratic state would be a tough task for a Republican, analysts believe, and raising money against him has proven to be exceedingly difficult. Donnelly has reported raising just more than $200,000, while Brown has raised more than $17 million.

Kashkari, a former Goldman Sachs executive, ran the $700 billion bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program during former President George W. Bush's administration. He has said he will make poverty and education the focus of his campaign.

Announcing his candidacy at a luncheon at Sacramento State, Kashkari said the state's public education system is failing its students and leaving millions of residents in poverty.

"We have to grow the economy and create jobs," he said, "and give kids a good education at the same time."

Kashkari joins a long list of Republicans complaining about California's high poverty rate. Last fall, the U.S. Census Bureau reported a poverty rate in California of 23.8 percent, using an alternative calculation that includes cost of living, and the large number of Californians who are unemployed or marginally employed and looking for work.

Kashkari also criticized California's $68 billion high-speed rail project, garnering applause when he called the controversial project a "crazy train."

Democrats have painted Kashkari as a wealthy product of the private sector who had little interest in California politics before deciding to run for governor.

Kashkari, of Orange County, spent much of last year traveling the state, promoting his appearances at food banks and community centers on Twitter.

Kashkari's appearance Tuesday was his first speech since leaving his job at Pacific Investment Management Co. He had fueled speculation he would make his announcement there when, in an interview last week, he billed the appearance as a "major speech."

Kashkari supports same-sex marriage and abortion rights and voted for Barack Obama in 2008. He has opposed tax increases and supported efforts to limit the political influence of labor unions.

Brown, a third-term Democrat, has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but in addition to his fundraising he has hinted he will, and he is widely expected to run.

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari speaks at an interview with The Associated Press in Sacramento on Dec. 4, 2013. AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli

January 21, 2014
Former California Sierra Club lobbyist John Zierold dies at 88

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John Zierold, who ran legislative strategy in Sacramento for the Sierra Club during the 1970s and 1980s, as environmentalism became a powerful social and political movement, has died.

Former colleagues in Sacramento learned over the weekend that Zierold, who had retired to Kentucky, had died on Dec. 26 in Louisville at age 88. He had been preceded in death by his wife, Mary.

Zierold, who had worked in Europe as a U.S. intelligence operative during the immediate post-World War II era, began representing the Sierra Club at the Capitol in 1969, during the infancy of the environmental movement.

Zierold played pivotal roles in legislative battles for almost two decades over such issues as coastal protection, the California Environmental Quality Act, creation of the state Energy Commission, regulation of logging, and legislation designating "wild and scenic rivers" on which dams would be prohibited.

He also clashed with Jerry Brown during his first stint as governor over Brown's advocacy of a liquefied natural has terminal near Santa Barbara and a "peripheral canal" to carry Sacramento River water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta — battles that Brown lost.

"He saved the Coastal Commission from defeat," Norbert Dall, a Sacramento environmental consultant who worked for Zierold during the period, said Tuesday, recounting Zierold's skills at working the legislative system. Dall also said that Zierold played a major role in rounding up key votes to elect Leo McCarthy as speaker of the state Assembly in 1974.

Zierold's survivors include a stepson, Marc Allaman, in Folsom.

PHOTO: Protesters hold signs during a July 19, 2012 rally sponsored by the Sierra Club to make their point regarding limits on levels of deadly soot pollution. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

January 17, 2014
VIDEO: Political tussle over implications of California drought

jerrybrowndrought.jpgSAN FRANCISCO — The plainest reason for a governor to call a drought emergency is to focus public attention on conservation, and Gov. Jerry Brown spent most of a Friday morning news conference focused exactly on that.

But the Democratic governor is aware that an ongoing drought could have significant implications for water policies central to his administration, including his $25 billion plan to build two tunnels to divert water around the Delta to the south.

Brown sought to use the drought to his advantage, arguing that the project will improve long-term water management.

"I think it makes the case that more water can be saved if you have a Delta facility," he said.

Brown also suggested the state will press the federal government to accelerate environmental reviews of the project.

Restore the Delta, a group opposed of Brown's plan to build the tunnels, issued a statement immediately after the news conference.

With the state now in its third straight dry year, the coalition said "there is no surplus water to export."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown declares a drought emergency in San Francisco on Friday, Jan. 17, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

January 17, 2014
Jerry Brown declares drought emergency, urges residents to reduce water use by 20 percent

brownfresnopresser.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency Friday and urged residents to reduce water consumption by 20 percent statewide.

"Today I'm declaring a drought emergency in the state of California," Brown told reporters here, "because we're facing perhaps the worst drought that California has ever seen since records began being kept about 100 years ago."

The declaration come as the state suffers through dry conditions for a third straight year. It follows weeks of consideration by the Democratic governor amid pressure from lawmakers and water officials to act.

Brown had suggested for days that he was close to declaring the emergency, a formal act considered useful for raising public awareness and focusing the attention of federal officials who can accelerate some relief efforts.

In declaring an emergency, Brown directed state agencies to hire more seasonal firefighters, use less water and prepare a water conservation public awareness campaign.

Brown's appeal for conservation is voluntary, but he suggested the state could impose mandatory reduction measures if the drought lasts.

"As we go down the road - you know, January, February, March - we will keep our eye on the ball and intensify, even to the point of mandatory conservation," he said. "But we're not going to do that quite yet."

California is entering one of the driest winters on record after two dry years have already parched the state, depleted reservoirs and left streams and rivers running low. American River flows are at their lowest level in two decades, while Folsom Lake has receded so dramatically a Gold Rush-era mining town, long submerged, has been exposed.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Wednesday designated parts of 11 states, including California, as primary natural disaster areas due to drought. The designation, which includes Sacramento, Fresno and San Luis Obispo counties, makes certain farmers eligible for low-interest emergency loans to cover losses.

Meanwhile, water districts and local governments throughout the state have enacted conservation measures, including a water rationing order by city officials this week in Sacramento.

The last drought emergency in California was declared by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009 and lifted by Brown in 2011.

Last year, with the state becoming drier once again, Brown issued an executive order directing the State Water Resources Control Board and Department of Water Resources to expedite their processing of voluntary water transfers.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 10:44 a.m. to include additional remarks by Brown.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the media at Fresno City Hall on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. The Fresno Bee/Eric Paul Zamora

January 16, 2014
Jerry Brown to declare drought on Friday in San Francisco

browntwo.JPGGov. Jerry Brown will declare a drought emergency Friday, sources said, after weeks of intensifying pressure on him to take action.

The declaration, which Brown is scheduled to announce at 10 a.m. in San Francisco, comes during one of the driest winters on record in California, following two dry years that already have left many reservoirs depleted.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno and several state lawmakers began urging Brown last month to declare a drought emergency. Brown appointed a committee to review conditions on the ground.

A formal declaration is considered significant as a public relations tool, increasing awareness of residents and, perhaps, federal officials who could accelerate some relief efforts.

Brown's office said Thursday that Brown would "make a major announcement" in an appearance Friday in San Francisco. The administration declined to disclose the nature of the announcement.

But a declaration has been expected, with Brown indicating repeatedly in recent days that he was close to declaring the emergency. Facing calls for a drought declaration while on a two-day swing through inland California this week, Brown said "nobody should discount the seriousness of what we're facing."

Still, Brown has suggested the significance of a formal declaration may be overstated.

"I'm trying to understand what physically we can do in the face of this drought, and then legally what steps can I take," the Democratic governor told reporters in Bakersfield on Tuesday.

Brown said a drought declaration could be helpful, "but at the end of the day, if it doesn't rain, California's in for real trouble. And the governor, through a declaration, can't make it rain."

Brown managed a drought in the late 1970s, when he was governor before. At the time he called for a 25 percent reduction in personal water use statewide and lobbied Washington for federal aid.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the media at Fresno City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 14. The Fresno Bee/Eric Paul Zamora

January 16, 2014
Abel Maldonado confirms he is dropping out of governor's race

maldonadowalking.jpgRepublican Abel Maldonado confirmed Thursday he is dropping out of the race for governor, abandoning a campaign that struggled from the start.

"Today I'm withdrawing my candidacy for governor of California," Maldonado said at a news conference in Santa Maria, his home town. "Now is my time to step away."

Though no Republican is likely to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown in this heavily Democratic state, Maldonado was once thought the likeliest Republican to advance to the runoff against him in November. Many Republicans believed fielding Maldonado, a moderate Latino, could improve the diminished party's standing with Latino voters.

But Maldonado's support for temporary tax increases while in the Legislature alienated many conservatives, and his efforts to raise money fell flat.

Maldonado's campaign announced late Wednesday that he would make a "major announcement" at the news conference, but his advisers declined to comment ahead of the event. The Bee this morning reported he was quitting the race.

In exiting, Maldonado will record his third straight campaign failure. He lost his campaign for a seat in Congress in 2012 and, two years before that, his bid to keep his appointed post as lieutenant governor.

Maldonado's exit leaves Twin Peaks Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a more conservative candidate, as the only Republican actively campaigning against Brown.

Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, is expected to declare his candidacy soon.

As part of his campaign, Maldonado announced last year that he would file a ballot initiative to repeal California's historic prison realignment, the 2011 law in which the state shifted responsibility for certain low-level offenders to counties.

No initiative has been filed, and Maldonado sidestepped a question about the initiative's future at his news conference Thursday.

"It just needs support, and I hope we can get that in the future," he said.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 11:48 a.m. to include Maldonado's remarks and reporting by Matt Fountain of The Tribune of San Luis Obispo.

Matt Fountain of The Tribune of San Luis Obispo contributed to this report.

PHOTO: Republican Abel Maldonado walks to a news conference in Sacramento on Wednesday, May 8, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 16, 2014
Abel Maldonado said to be dropping out of CA governor's race

maldonadopresser.jpgAbel Maldonado, whose campaign for governor sputtered for months and failed to gain the support of Republican donors, has told other Republicans he will drop out of the race today, sources said.

The former lieutenant governor is expected to make the announcement at an 11 a.m. news conference in Santa Maria, his home town.

The announcement will end weeks of speculation about Maldonado's political future. After heavily promoting the re-launch of his campaign last fall, Maldonado has largely faded from public view. It has been nearly two months since he last reported receiving a major contribution.

Maldonado's exit leaves Twin Peaks Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a more conservative candidate, as the only Republican actively campaigning against Gov. Jerry Brown.

Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, is expected to declare his candidacy soon.

No Republican is expected to unseat Brown in this heavily Democratic state, but Maldonado, a moderate, was once considered the likeliest Republican to advance to the November runoff against him.

But Maldonado's campaign was damaged by missteps from the start. Maldonado came under criticism in May when he announced a ballot initiative to repeal California's prison realignment program but highlighted a menacing photograph of an offender who was not released under the program.

Then, after finishing the first half of last year in debt, Maldonado and his original team of advisers split. Maldonado assembled a new group of advisers, including Ron Nehring, the former California Republican Party chairman, and he presented the team at the state party's convention last fall.

Neither Maldonado nor his advisers responded to repeated requests for comment. The candidate said on Twitter late Wednesday, "Jerry Brown is a good Governor; I'd be a better one."

PHOTO: Abel Maldonado speaks to reporters in Sacramento on May 8, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 14, 2014
Neel Kashkari meets with legislative Republicans, looks ahead to 'major speech'

Financial Stability Neel Kashkari.JPGNeel Kashkari, apparently close to announcing his campaign for governor, met Tuesday with the Republican caucuses of both houses of the state Legislature.

"It was important for me, before I make a final decision, that they had heard directly from me about the issues that I'm focused on, and that I could hear from them," the former U.S. Treasury Department official said. "The feedback was great."

Kashkari, who ran the Troubled Asset Relief Program during President George W. Bush's administration, is expected to join former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, in a small field of Republicans challenging Gov. Jerry Brown.

Kashkari is scheduled next Tuesday to give his first speech since leaving his job at Newport Beach-based Pacific Investment Management Co. a year ago. He is listed as the keynote speaker at a business luncheon at Sacramento State.

Kashkari said it will be a "major speech," adding, "You should come to that."

PHOTO: Neel Kashkari, then interim assistant Treasury secretary for financial stability, speaks during an event for the Institute of International Bankers on Oct. 13, 2008, in Washington. AP file photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari

January 14, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown tours inland California, hints at re-election

browntwo.JPGGov. Jerry Brown began the second day of a two-day swing through inland California on Tuesday. It is a conservative region that has proved deeply skeptical of the Democratic governor, despite his high approval ratings statewide.

Brown has visited the Valley only a handful of times since taking office in 2011, but he said at a news conference in Bakersfield "you'll see me more often in the months ahead."

Brown is preparing for a likely re-election bid this year.

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the media at Fresno City Hall on Jan. 13, 2014 in Fresno. The Fresno Bee/Eric Paul Zamora

January 14, 2014
Jerry Brown's canine diplomacy at work in Fresno

brownfresnopresser.jpgFRESNO - Tucked into Gov. Jerry Brown's schedule of meetings here Monday was a tour of a pedestrian mall that, despite a variety of redevelopment efforts over the years, remains a dilapidated fixture of this city's downtown.

Brown was underwhelmed.

"I think I'll keep my thoughts to myself," he said at a news conference when asked for his opinion of the mall.

If the Democratic governor was committing a faux pas, he quickly righted himself, volunteering that parts of Oakland looked like Fresno's Fulton Mall when he was mayor.

"I know from Oakland that downtown can be transformed," he said.

Brown mentioned he saw a restaurant on his tour, and he called the eatery's establishment a "bold move."

The restaurant's owner, Craig Scharton, left his job as Fresno's business development director last year to open Peeve's Public House & Local Market.

Scharton heard Sunday that the governor was coming. Knowing he and Brown share an affinity for dogs, he was prepared.

Accompanied by Peeve, the boxer-shepherd mix for which his restaurant is named, Scharton presented Brown with a card for the governor's Pembroke Welsh corgi, Sutter.
Included were a couple of dog bones, Scharton said, and the message, "To Sutter: If you're ever in Fresno come by for a pint like any good Welshman would."

Sutter is not along for Brown's two-day swing through Fresno, Bakersfield and Riverside, which concludes Tuesday.

Nevertheless, Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who showed Brown the pedestrian mall, described the occasion as "some nice, sort of diplomatic exchanges among the canine family."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown addresses the media at Fresno City Hall on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. The Fresno Bee/Eric Paul Zamora

January 13, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown defends cap-and-trade for high-speed rail

jerrybrownfresno.jpgFRESNO - Gov. Jerry Brown, touching off a two-day swing through inland California on Monday, defended his proposal to use fees paid by carbon producers to help finance high-speed rail and suggested he is close to declaring a drought emergency.

Brown is proposing to use $250 million in proceeds from the state's cap-and-trade program to help fund California's $68 billion high-speed rail project. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said earlier Monday the proposal "likely would not maximize the reduction" of greenhouse gas emissions and is "legally risky."

"I've looked at the law surrounding AB 32 and the cap-and-trade," the Democratic governor told reporters in Fresno. "I believe it's legal, my lawyers believe it's lawful. It's a very appropriate source of funding."

Some environmentalists have criticized the use of cap-and-trade money for rail, saying other projects could reduce greenhouse gas emissions more immediately.

"Yes, it's long-term," Brown said. "But we aren't all, you know, Twitter-holics that have to have instant gratification after 140 characters. We can take a few years and build for the future, and that's my sense here, that I'm coming back to be governor after all these years. ... It's been on my list for a long time, and I think we've got to get it done. And we do need that funding, and it's legal, and I hope the Legislature will support it."

Brown spent the day in Fresno meeting with law enforcement, agriculture, education and other interests and touring a downtown pedestrian mall. He was pressed at a meeting with water officials to declare a drought emergency, which could accelerate some federal relief measures.

Asked if he would declare a drought, Brown said, "Not today, but we're certainly getting ready."

Brown, who is preparing for a likely re-election bid this year, was scheduled to hold meetings in Bakersfield and Riverside on Tuesday, before returning to the Capitol.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks with reporters in Fresno on Jan. 13, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

January 13, 2014
Fiscal analyst issues early praise for Jerry Brown's budget

brownbudget.JPGThe Legislature's nonpartisan fiscal analyst said Monday that Gov. Jerry Brown's new spending plan "would place California on an even s