Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

April 18, 2014
Jerry Brown grants 63 pardons


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'


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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,, 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.


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


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

Thumbnail image for bown_sots14_delivered_resized.jpg
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 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


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 stronger fiscal footing," broadly praising the budget plan in the office's initial review.

"The governor's emphasis on debt repayment is a prudent one," the Legislative Analyst's Office said. "Overall, the governor's proposal would place California on an even stronger fiscal footing, continuing California's budgetary progress."

Still, the LAO expressed reservations about the proposal's lack of strings attached to higher education funding and the use of fees paid by carbon producers for high-speed rail.

Brown last week released a $154.9 billion budget that includes modest increases for social services and schools, but also billions of dollars to pay down long-term debt.

The LAO praised Brown for proposing a rainy-day fund, saying that "in general, setting aside money for a rainy day is exactly what the state should be doing when revenues are soaring, as they are now." However, the analyst suggested the fund proposed by Brown may be too unwieldy, and it recommended considering simpler reserve plans.

The LAO also recommended putting some money aside to address the struggling state teachers' retirement fund. Brown's budget plan does not commit money to the fund but pledges to "begin working" on way to stabilize the fund.

Brown's proposal to use $250 million in proceeds from the state's cap-and-trade program to help finance California's $68 billion high-speed rail project is one of the more controversial elements of his plan. The LAO said the proposal "likely would not maximize the reduction" of greenhouse gas emissions, as the project will not be finished by 2020. It called the proposal "legally risky."

On higher education, the analyst criticized Brown for including broad goals for higher education — including reducing costs and increasingly timely degree completion — but tying funding only to keeping tuition rates flat.

"This approach diminishes the Legislature's role in key policy decisions and allows the universities to pursue their own interests rather than the broader public interest," the analyst said.

Brown released his annual spending plan last week, setting the stage for months of budget talks at the Capitol. The LAO said there is "a significant possibility" that revenue estimates "will rise by a few billion dollars" by the time Brown releases his budget revision 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 California Capitol on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

January 12, 2014
Jerry Brown hits the road for post-budget swing inland

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgFollowing the release of his new spending plan last week, Gov. Jerry Brown will hit the road Monday for a two-day swing through Fresno, Bakersfield and Riverside.

The trip, including private meetings with local officials and media availabilities in each city, comes ahead of Brown's State of the State address later this month. The third-term Democrat, who travels relatively infrequently, said in October he was hoping to get out more to "get a real-world feel of what's under my responsibility."

Brown, who is preparing for a likely re-election bid this year, will meet with education, water, agriculture, law enforcement and other leaders, his office said in its announcement of the trip Sunday.

"It's an opportunity to get out of Sacramento ... engage with local leaders on some of the big challenges California's facing," spokesman Evan Westrup said.

He said Brown does not plan on the trip to participate in any political events or fundraising.

Brown made his annual budget presentation in Sacramento on Thursday, before visiting Los Angeles and San Diego that same day to promote the proposal.

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 10, 2014
California schools rank low - again - in Education Week report

Thumbnail image for HA_SCHOOL_BUS2565.JPG

California's public education system — not for the first time — has been given a low grade in Education Week's annual state-by-state evaluation of school finances, teacher preparedness, academic achievement and other benchmarks.

The magazine gives California a "D" with a cumulative score of 72.4 on a 100-point scale, 10th lowest among the states. Subpar financing — the lowest in the nation — and poor academic achievement weighed heavily on the state's evaluation.

But the data are not up-to-date, especially the financial data, and a $10 billion boost in state aid to schools proposed this week by Gov. Jerry Brown could improve its standing.

The Education Week finance information, published Friday, is three years old. It pegs per-pupil spending from state and local sources on California's six million students at $8,341 in 2011, a few hundred dollars less than what the state calculated because Education Week adjusts the number downward for California's relatively high cost of living.

That number is the lowest among the 50 states, about $3,500 under the national average of $11,864.

Brown's proposed 2014-15 budget would, he says, raise per-pupil spending to $9,194, but whether it would increase California's standing vis-à-vis other states depends on what they do this year as well.

Clearly, however, it would still leave California well below the national average, whatever it might be. Reaching the national average, California authorities have calculated, would cost at least $18 billion more a year.

California students' performance on achievement tests also drags down the state's standing vis-à-vis other states. It consistently ranks near the bottom in elementary and middle-school reading and mathematics tests and mediocre in high school graduation rates.

Brown, citing the particularly low achievement of poor and "English-learner" students, persuaded the Legislature last year to direct more state aid to districts with large numbers of those kids.

Massachusetts scored the highest in the Education Week evaluation with 91.4 while Nevada was lowest at 65.7.

PHOTO: Pleasant Grove High School students get off their bus on Friday, Feb. 20, 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 9, 2014
Fun with numbers - details of Jerry Brown's proposed budget

Brownbudget.pngIt's time for some fun with numbers -- state budget numbers -- as found in the summary of Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed 2014-15 budget:

-- Brown's proposed budget for 2014-15 is about 15 times as large as the first one he managed for the 1975-76 fiscal year.

-- The governor pegs the total 2014-15 budget of the general fund, special funds and bond funds at $154.9 billion, but the real number is well over $200 billion, when federal funds are included. That's the equivalent of more than 10 percent of California's entire economic output.

-- Most of the federal money underwrites health and welfare services and K-12 education. The "health and human services" budget, for instance, is $118 billion, but the state's general fund would contribute only $28.8 billion of that total, with most of the rest coming from the feds.

-- Spending on elementary and high schools would top $76 billion, with $45.3 billion from the general fund, another $16 billion from local property taxes and the final $15 billion mostly from the federal government. That translates into $12,833 for each of the state's six million K-12 students.

-- During the 2007-8 fiscal year, the state pumped $3.3 billion of general fund money into the University of California's $12 billion general purpose spending, but during 2014-15, the state's contribution would be $2.8 billion while revenue from tuition and student fees would have climbed from $6.6 billion in 2007-08 to $12.2 billion in 2014-15.

-- During that same period, the state's share of running the state university and college system would shrink less dramatically, from $3 billion to $2.5 billion while student fees would increase from $2.8 billion to $5.5 billion.

-- Although the state's prison population has dropped by about 30,000 inmates in recent years, thanks to pressure from federal judges about overcrowding, the state's spending on "corrections and rehabilitation" hasn't shrunk and, in fact, appears to have grown.

The 2014-15 budget pegs corrections at just under $12 billion, including sales taxes that the state gives counties to handle felons that have been diverted into local jails and supervision under "realignment." Spending on inmate health and dental care alone - another source of federal judicial pressure - has risen from an average of $7,580 per inmate in 2005-06 to a projected $18,415 in 2014-15.

-- During Brown's first stint as governor nearly four decades ago, the sales tax was the No. 1 generator of general fund revenues at 41 percent in 1975-76, with income taxes trailing at 34 percent. The 2014-15 budget projects income taxes to be almost 66 percent of the state's revenues and sales taxes just 23 percent.

--The proposed budget, if enacted, would spend the equivalent of 8.17 percent of Californians' personal incomes, by no means the highest level, but also not the lowest, since 1950, according to a chart in the budget.

The highest relative level of spending, 8.83 percent, occurred during the 1980-81 fiscal year, when Brown was serving his first stint as governor, and again in 2007-08 during Arnold Schwarzenegger's governorship. The lowest level, 4.62 percent, occurred in 1951-52, when Earl Warren was governor. Since 1975, the lowest has been 7.28 percent in 1983-84. the first budget for then-Gov. George Deukmejian.

Updated at 2:30 p.m. to include more historic data.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown presents his proposed budget at the state Capitol on Jan. 9, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Alexei Koseff

January 9, 2014
State school board seeks compromise on spending rules


The state Board of Education appears to be playing King Solomon — splitting the baby — as it contends with competing demands on how to implement the state's new program of giving extra money to school districts with large numbers of poor and/or English-learner students.

With billions of dollars at stake in the "Local Control Funding Formula" championed by Gov. Jerry Brown, civil rights groups and other advocates for poor children denounced the original version of regulations as being too loose, while school officials tended to praise them for the "flexibility" they sought.

The board, its staff and its consultants digested the criticism and have released a revised version of the rules, which will be discussed and perhaps approved at a Jan. 16 school board meeting.

The board's agenda for the meeting includes not only the revised rules themselves but
a chart that explains the revisions and how they responded to the criticism.

Overall, they appear to tighten up the rules for spending the extra money, but don't go as far as the critics - who included the Legislature's leadership - had wanted. The biggest change is providing more specificity and detail on how districts calculate the extra services they must provide to the targeted kids. But the new rules do not, as the critical groups sought, require that the extra money be spent exclusively on those students.

Brown, citing the principle of "subsidiarity," has called for giving districts as much flexibility as possible, but critics say that leaving the extra spending to the districts could result in its being diverted into other purposes.

Overall, about 60 percent of the state's six million K-2 students are classified as poor because of their qualification for free or reduced-price school meals and/or English-learners.

Meanwhile, EdSource, a website that intensively covers California education, has published a complete guide to the new program and how it would work.

PHOTO: California Board of Education president Michael Kirst in November 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

January 9, 2014
Jerry Brown rejects oil tax push

budget_conference.jpgGov. Jerry Brown on Thursday rejected calls for a tax on companies that extract oil in California, after billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer said last month that he would ramp up a campaign for such a tax in the state Legislature.

"I don't think this is the year for new taxes," the Democratic governor told reporters at the state Capitol.

Brown, who is preparing for a likely re-election bid this year, spent much of 2012 campaigning for his ballot initiative to raise taxes, Proposition 30, and its passage is a major reason he is enjoying a budget surplus this year.

"I went up and down the state campaigning for Proposition 30," Brown told reporters after unveiling his annual budget plan. "I said it was temporary. It is going to be temporary. And I just think we want to do everything we can to live within our means before going back again and trying to get more taxes."

Previous efforts to enact an oil severance tax have failed in the Legislature. Steyer, a former hedge fund manager and major Democratic donor, has said prospects may be improving in the heavily Democratic Senate and Assembly.

Steyer has declined to say whether he will seek an initiative to qualify for the ballot if efforts at the Capitol fail.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks about his budget proposal at a news conference at the Capitol on January 9, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Alexei Koseff

January 9, 2014
Jerry Brown says "governors can't make it rain."

Gov. Jerry Brown said he is closely monitoring the state's worsening drought, but suggested that a drought emergency declaration was not imminent.

"Governors can't make it rain," Brown told reporters as he presented his proposed 2014-15 budget. He pointed to a state water task force working on the issue, which is meeting today.

But Brown downplayed any expectations that his office can do much to alleviate the dry conditions, which already have caused some agencies to cut dam releases and seek reductions in home water use.

"We'll take whatever steps we can, in collaboration with the state's farmers...and also the urban people have to do their part," Brown said.

"But don't think paper from the governor's office is going to affect the rain. We are doing what we can do in terms of water exchanges and we'll do other things as we get down the road.

"That seems to be probably enough, from my point of view," Brown added.

PHOTO: John Timon and Kent Smith of Oroville cross paths as they walk opposite direction on the Oroville Dam in 2009. Oroville is the state's second-largest reservoir and the largest in the State Water Project. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

January 8, 2014
Jerry Brown's $154.9 billion budget will propose repaying school funds, bolstering reserves

brownjanbudget.jpgGov. Jerry Brown will propose reducing the state's long-term debt by more than $11 billion next budget year and fully eliminating it by 2017-18, according to a copy of the budget document obtained by The Sacramento Bee.

He also will propose repaying about $6 billion in deferred payments to schools and contributing $1.6 billion to a rainy day fund.

Brown wants to restore some of the money cut from social service programs in recent years, and will propose a 5 percent increase in welfare grants.

The Democratic governor, who was scheduled to propose the budget plan Friday, shifted course after the document's leak, announcing he will introduce the proposal on Thursday, instead.

In the budget document, Brown calls for "fiscal restraint," saying "economic expansions do not last forever."

The budget projects $217.8 billion in unfunded retirement mandate and total state unfunded liabilities of $354 billion.

The budget calls for spending $154.9 billion from all funds, including $106.8 billion from the General Fund.

The plan's summary projects that spending on K-12 schools will grow to almost $70 billion by 2017-18, an increase of $22 billion from 2011-12.

The summary makes no mention of transitional kindergarten, something championed by Democrats in both the Assembly and Senate in recent days.

Brown proposes $670 million in new general fund spending to pay for the expansion of Medi-Cal benefits, including mental health, substance use disorder, adult dental and specialized nutrition services.

Several health-related programs would receive funding boosts. In-home supportive services, which saw dramatic reductions over recent years, will get a 6.4 percent increase over the current budget, bringing its general fund allotment to about $2 billion. Part of the increase stems from U.S. Department of Labor regulations that take effect Jan. 1, 2015 and require overtime pay for domestic workers.

Brown's budget proposal assumes that the state's finances will be sound enough to include $173.1 million for state employee pay increases to kick in July 1, although it doesn't firmly commit to it. About half that money will come from the general fund.

"A final determination will be made at the May Revision based on the latest revenue projections and updated expenditure information available," according to the draft document.

State managers and supervisors will receive similar pay hikes to avoid salary compaction, which occurs when rank-and-file wages exceed management's.

Brown's budget summary doesn't commit 2014-15 money to the struggling state teachers' retirement fund. Instead, "the Administration will begin working with the Legislature, school districts, teachers and the pension system," aiming to enact a plan in 2015-16 that will fully fund the system within 30 years.

Current obligations to CalSTRS' current and future retirees total $80.4 billion more than it has assets to cover. Stabilizing the system would require more than $4.5 billion per year for many years.

Unlike like other public pension systems, the California Teachers' Retirement System doesn't have the authority to charge employers more money to make up for investment losses. The Legislature has the power to raise employer rates or kick in money from state coffers.

Brown's summary suggests whatever plan emerges should phase in contribution increases over time and cautions that "school districts and community colleges should
anticipate absorbing much of any new CalSTRS funding requirement."

Lawmakers have advanced the notion of safeguarding extra revenue in a rainy day fund, including placing a measure on the 2014 ballot to fortify the state's fund.

Saying that proposed measure does not go far enough, the budget proposes an alternate constitutional amendment that would regulate the flow of money into and out of the state's budget reserve.

Deposits into the fund would be tied to revenue from capital gains, triggering when such revenue accounts for more than 6.5 percent of the General Fund. Brown and others have warned about becoming overly reliant volatile sources of income like capital gains, and the proposal notes that California's heavy use on taxes on the wealthy means revenue can "swing both up and down quickly."

Payments to schools under Proposition 98, the voter-approved constitutional amendment setting a minimum baseline of education spending, would be managed through a reserve that would absorb funding bumps to be used in down years.

The fund's maximum size would also double, from five to ten percent of the General Fund. Safeguarding against depleting the fund too quickly during future downturns, the amendment would allow at most half of the fund's balance to be spent in the first year of a recession.

Under the proposed amendment, California could fulfill its obligation to deposit money into the fund by allocating money to pay down the so-called Wall of Debt.

For schools, the plan proposes $61.6 billion toward the constitutional school-funding guarantee in 2014-15, up from $6.3 billion above the current budget year.

The plan also includes a $6.4 billion payoff of school deferrals. Those involuntary loans from school districts to the state forced districts to borrow billions of dollars with interest from private lenders or else absorb the cost from reserves or cutting programs.

With school-construction bonds from 2002, 2004 and 2006 all but exhausted, Brown wants to revisit what role, if any, the state should play in helping districts build new schools or modernize existing classrooms.

Any future school-construction programs, the plan reads, should "avoid an unsustainable reliance on state debt issuance that characterizes the current school facilities program."

The budget, though, taps $188 million from the general fund for emergency school repairs.

To help carry out the first year of the Brown-championed Local Control Funding Formula, the budget increases general fund money for schools by $4.5 billion in 2014-15.

In addition, the plan would allocate $26.3 billion for higher education and repeats calls for major changes in how the system operates.

Instead of focusing on enrollment targets that increase costs, the University of California, California State University and community college systems need to do a better job ensuring that students complete their degrees in a timely manner, according to the budget summary.

The budget includes a funding increase of $142.2 million apiece for the UC and CSU systems. The increases reflect the second year of a four-year pact with the administration that trades more money for the systems' holding tuition at existing levels and making changes meant to "improve student success and to realize institutional efficiencies."

State funding for community colleges, meanwhile, would increase 11.4 percent in 2014-15.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 5:20 p.m., 5:37 p.m. and 5:46 p.m. to include additional information about the budget. It was changed at 11:40 on Jan. 9 to clarify that the proposed increase in K-12 spending to nearly $70 billion would occur by the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Jim Miller, Jeremy White, Christopher Cadelago and Jon Ortiz of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.

January 7, 2014
State income tax revenues stay up, beat projections in December

brownbudget.JPGCalifornia income tax collections came in $1.6 billion, or 20 percent, above projections in December, the Legislative Analyst's Office said Tuesday, just days before the Brown administration releases its annual spending plan.

December is a significant month for personal income tax payments by California's wealthiest taxpayers. Including that month, the nonpartisan analyst's office said revenue from personal income and corporation taxes were running $2.1 billion above projections so far this budget year.

Gov. Jerry Brown is scheduled to release his annual budget proposal at the Capitol on Friday, before traveling to San Diego and Los Angeles to promote it in big media markets later in the day.

The Democratic governor has approached improving budget indicators with caution, urging lawmakers to bolster reserves. In his budget plan, he is expected to support a proposal by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to put a rainy-day fund constitutional amendment on the November ballot.

The Legislative Analyst's Office projected last fall that the state could post a $5.6 billion surplus by June 2015, with annual surpluses reaching $8.3 billion by the 2016-17 budget year.

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 California Capitol on Tuesday, June 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

January 6, 2014
Jerry Brown's cap-and-trade proposal for high-speed rail said to be $250 million

High Speed Rail Station (1).JPGGov. Jerry Brown's proposal to use fees paid by carbon producers to help finance the state's high-speed rail project is expected to amount to $250 million next budget year, a sum that could provide a significant lift to the project but frustrate environmentalists already upset about the diversion of fees.

Brown is expected to include the proposal in the annual budget plan he will release Friday, sources told The Sacramento Bee. The amount is included in about $750 million in total cap-and-trade funds the governor is expected to propose allocating among transportation, green energy and other programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In addition, Brown is expected to propose paying back part of a $500 million loan from the cap-and-trade program to the state general fund included in this year's budget. The amount of the repayment is expected to be $100 million.

Many environmentalists criticized the loan last year and have bristled at the idea of using cap-and-trade money for high-speed rail, saying other projects could have a more immediate impact on greenhouse gas reduction.

Brown's office has declined to discuss the budget ahead of its release.

PHOTO: A view of the interior of a station in the proposed high speed rail network. Rendering by Newlands and Company Inc., 2008.

January 6, 2014
Tim Donnelly cuts video about great women: 'I've got two'

donnellypodium.jpgIn an apparent appeal to women voters - and also, perhaps, cigar smokers, trail runners and World War II enthusiasts - Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly posted an online video Monday celebrating the promotion of his spokeswoman, Jennifer Kerns, to campaign manager.

"They say beside every good leader is a great woman," Donnelly tells the camera after opening clips of Kerns running and Donnelly drinking coffee with his wife, Rowena. "I've got two."

Kerns, who is also shown target shooting and smoking a cigar, criticizes Gov. Jerry Brown's prison realignment, in which the state transferred responsibility for certain inmates to county control, and makes an unusual point about Pearl Harbor and women.

"The war on women?" she says. "Really? You want to go there? World War II started because of Pearl Harbor. The war on women was started by consultants."

The comparison was not entirely explained, but it would seem Donnelly is a fan.

He tells viewers "I believe in women," and of Kerns, in particular, he says, "That woman doesn't know how to lose."

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaks in Baldwin Park Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. Associated Press/Nick Ut

January 6, 2014
Labor helps Jerry Brown raise $1.7 million in final week of 2013

micsjerrybrown.jpgGov. Jerry Brown spent the final days of December posting one of his most profitable fundraising periods to date, collecting $1.7 million for his re-election campaign in the last week of the year, according to a campaign report filed over the weekend.

Donations from labor unions accounted for nearly half of the total, and the Democratic State Central Committee of California continued with its largess. The committee, which as a political party is not subject to contribution limits, donated $300,000 to Brown, increasing its total contribution for the year to $2.7 million.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but he is widely expected to run. The Democratic governor has now raised nearly $17 million for the campaign, while his Republican challengers have failed to raise even a fraction of that amount.

The California Correctional Peace Officers Association and California Association of Professional Scientists were among donors contributing $54,400, the maximum allowed. Other unions contributing to Brown include groups representing plumbers, sheet metal and electrical workers.

In addition to labor, Brown collected $54,400 each from Chevron and BNSF Railway, and $27,200 from CBS Corp.

DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg contributed $27,200, maxing out to Brown after another contribution of the same amount earlier in the year.

Also contributing the maximum allowed to the third-term governor were Peter Guber, the film producer, and Joe Lacob, co-managing member and chief executive officer of the Golden State Warriors basketball team.

Two Republican candidates, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, have struggled to raise several hundred thousand dollars between them, while a prospective candidate, former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, has not yet started raising money.

Brown is considered exceedingly difficult to beat in this heavily Democratic state. Reflecting how hard it has been to raise money against him was an appeal Donnelly sent to supporters late last year. He said his campaign had surpassed its goal of raising more than $20,000 in the final eight days of 2013 and was becoming more ambitious.

The campaign's adjusted goal for its year-end fundraising sprint was less than Brown has collected in a single check from many of his donors: $25,000.

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

January 5, 2014
Jerry Brown eyes cap-and-trade money for high-speed rail

Brown_signing_bills.JPGGov. Jerry Brown plans to propose spending millions of dollars in fees paid by carbon producers to aid the state's controversial high-speed rail project.

The proposal - and the prospect of additional funding from the state's cap-and-trade program in future years - could provide a significant lift to a $68 billion rail project beleaguered by uncertainty about long-term financing.

Brown plans to propose allocating several hundred million dollars this year, sources told The Sacramento Bee.

Though the state has acquired $3.4 billion in federal funding to start construction of the rail project in the Central Valley, legal challenges have left state bond funding in question.

Brown is expected to include the proposal in the annual budget plan he will release Friday. Brown has made high-speed rail a priority of his administration, and he suggested two years ago that cap-and-trade revenue, which is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, would be a future source of funding for the project.

But the use of cap-and-trade money for high-speed rail could be problematic. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office said in 2012 that while the rail project could eventually help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, benefits would not be seen until after 2020, the year by which California is seeking to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Moreover, the Democratic governor and lawmakers infuriated environmentalists last year by approving a $500 million loan from the cap-and-trade program to the state general fund.

Brown said at the time that the state was not "quite ready yet" to start allocating money. The administration said state agencies needed more time to develop greenhouse gas-reduction programs and that the loan would be repaid with interest when those programs needed the money.

Brown's budget plans also include using general fund money to pay back part, but not all, of the loan, a source said.

The rail project, which is proposed to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco through the Central Valley, has been beset by legal challenges and opposition from Congressional Republicans. A Sacramento Superior Court judge in November ordered the California High-Speed Rail Authority to rescind its original funding plan, saying officials failed to comply with provisions of Proposition 1A, the initiative in which voters approved initial funding for the project in 2008.

Rail officials have been acquiring property in the Central Valley for the project. Construction, which was once expected to start last summer, is now expected to begin this year.

Brown's office declined to discuss the budget proposal ahead of its release.

Brown is also expected in his budget plan to support a proposal by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez to put a rainy-day fund constitutional amendment on the November ballot. The measure would restrict spending in good years and offset cuts in bad years, with a goal of building billions of dollars in reserve.

In advance of his budget release, Brown has urged the Legislature to bolster reserves, cautioning that the budget's reliance on capital gains leaves it vulnerable to large revenue peaks and valleys.

"The question is, 'When do we get the next valley?'" he said at the Milken Institute California Summit in November. "And the only way to avoid that is to put it in a rainy day fund, to say no when necessary, along with saying yes when that's appropriate."

Brown may face resistance to the creation of a rainy-day fund by labor unions and other allies of the governor and Democratic-controlled Legislature. Liberal groups already are calling for increased spending after years of budget cuts in the recession.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office projected last fall that the state could post a $5.6 billion surplus by June 2015, with annual surpluses reaching $8.3 billion by the 2016-17 budget year.

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

January 3, 2014
Laguna Hills mayor may join field of Republicans challenging Jerry Brown

blount.pngLaguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount may join the field of Republican candidates bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown this year.

Blount, a software developer known in Orange County for his massive Christmas light displays, said Friday he will make a final decision on the campaign by early February.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but he is widely expected to run. The third-term Democrat has raised more than $14 million, far outpacing his Republican challengers both in fundraising and early polls.

Blount, who has developed real estate and stock-trading software, said he is working on a political application for mobile devices that will allow him to "run an election effectively for a really low cost."

He said the application, Skado, will scour volunteers' contacts for social media, demographic and other information, allowing the campaign to dispatch highly targeted campaign messages to voters, for example about state parks to someone interested in hiking.

Blount, 40, won election to the Laguna Hills City Council in 2012 and became mayor, a position voted on by council members, last month. He also puts on an annual Christmas light display and a holiday tour at his home. ABC featured the display on its program, "The Great Christmas Light Fight" last month.

If he runs, Blount said he will focus on jobs and education. He describes himself as a libertarian on social issues, supporting gay marriage rights, abortion rights and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Blount's positions are similar in some ways to those of Neel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official who is also from Orange County and considering running for governor. Blount said he met with Kashkari at Blount's house last year.

Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, two Republicans who have declared their candidacies, have struggled to raise money, while Kashkari has said his assets total less than $5 million — not enough to self-fund a campaign.

Asked about his net worth, Blount said, "Less than Neel's."

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

January 2, 2014
Jerry Meral will keep pushing water project, but from outside

delta_aerial.JPGJerry Meral, the chief steward of Gov. Jerry Brown's $25 billion water project while deputy secretary of the state's Natural Resources Agency, is going to work for an environmental group supporting the controversial plan.

The San Francisco-based Natural Heritage Institute said Meral, who retired from the state at the end of December, will direct its California water program, including work on Brown's plan to build two tunnels to divert water around the Delta to the south.

Meral said Thursday he will volunteer his time for work specifically on the project, but it is possible the institute will pay him for work in other areas.

"That's developing," he said.

The distinction is significant because of the state's "revolving door" rules for government officials. The institute said in a prepared statement that "in order to comply with state law regarding 'revolving door' issues, he will not be compensated for his time working on BDCP."

The nonprofit said Meral, a former NHI board member, will also represent the Natural Heritage Institute on habitat, groundwater and other water issues.

Meral said non-government entities, including NHI, are likely to have a significant role in the project as it develops and that his position at the group "seemed like a good way to stay involved."

PHOTO: Aerial view of the region to be affected by the Delta water tunnels and intakes in the Courtland area on April 10, 2013. Highway 160 and Randall Island Road are seen near the top of the frame. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

December 30, 2013
Cal grad Jerry Brown headed to Rose Bowl to root for Stanford

stanfordfootball.jpgGov. Jerry Brown doesn't watch a lot of football, and he's a University of California, Berkeley graduate, to boot.

But the governor will be rooting from the stands for Stanford when the Cardinal play Michigan State in the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day.

Brown will be joined by his wife, Anne Gust Brown, who graduated from Stanford and went to law school at University of Michigan, a Michigan State rival.

The governor's office said Brown and Gust Brown bought their own tickets to the game. They will not participate in the Rose Parade.

Any wager Brown might make with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appeared to be unsettled, but the tough talk is already on.

"We'll let you know if there's a wager," Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said in an email, "but based on recent history, our friends from the Big 10 have a big hill to climb if they hope to beat the Cardinal."

No. 5 Stanford is ranked just behind No. 4 Michigan State, but Westrup had recent Rose Bowl history in mind. Big Ten teams have lost eight of nine Rose Bowl games in the last decade.

Editor's note: This post was updated at 3:45 p.m. to include information about team rankings and the Big Ten's struggles in recent Rose Bowl games.

PHOTO: Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan celebrates after a college football game on Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013, in Stanford, Calif. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

December 22, 2013
Casino pays out for Jerry Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown has raised more than $500,000 more for his re-election campaign, including $37,500 from a casino he visited earlier this month.

The donation, from Hawaiian Gardens Casino, was received last week and reported Saturday. Brown traveled to Los Angeles County to speak at a groundbreaking ceremony at the casino on Dec. 2. The casino previously donated $12,500 to Brown's re-election campaign and $25,000 to his ballot initiative last year to raise taxes, Proposition 30.

The administration has said the casino expansion will create hundreds of local jobs, and Brown said at the event, "I come here today because I want to recognize a family and a business that is contributing to the local community."

The Democratic governor has not yet said if he will seek re-election next year, but he has now raised more than $15 million and is widely expected to run.

Other donations listed in Brown's most recent filing include $27,200 each from Anthem Blue Cross, a California Hospital Association political action committee and Jay Gellert, president and chief executive officer of Health Net Inc.

Donors contributing the maximum allowed, $54,400, include Chester Pipkin, president and chief executive officer of Belkin International Inc., a plumbers and steamfitters local and a political action committee of The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurer.

Two Republican candidates, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, have reported raising less than $500,000 combined, while a prospective candidate, former U.S. Treasury Department official Neel Kashkari, has not yet started raising money.

Brown leads all three men by wide margins in early polls.

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

December 18, 2013
Report faults CA governor's office policy for chilling discrimination claims

brownchinaagreement.jpgA policy requiring the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing to obtain approval from the governor's office before pursuing discrimination claims against public agencies has compromised the department's independence and chilled investigations, state overseers said in a new report.

The policy, contained in an administration directive describing how a variety of matters should be elevated to the governor's attention, applies broadly to state departments proposing to bring lawsuits or enforcement actions against state or local agencies.

Its effect on the Department of Fair Employment and Housing, which investigates complaints of discrimination in housing and employment matters, has been significant, according to a report released Wednesday by the California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes.

Since the policy was instituted during the Schwarzenegger administration in 2008, formal accusations of discrimination against public employers dropped from 15 percent of all DFEH accusations to just 1 percent, the report said.

The report said the time required to submit a case to Gov. Jerry Brown's office for approval has resulted in shortened investigations and automatic sidetracking to mediation of complaints against public agencies.

The report quoted Tim Muscat, a former chief counsel at DFEH, saying that in perhaps 10 instances "we could not go forward with a claim because there wasn't time" to get the governor's approval.

December 17, 2013
Jerry Brown ponders 'those guys on horses'

christmastree.jpgWhen Gov. Jerry Brown arrived in Mountain View for a speaking engagement Monday, he had on his mind two statues on the west pediment of the state Capitol building, architectural elements he said he "noticed for the first time" at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony last week.

"Have you ever stood on the west side, where the tree was and looked up at the facade of the building, where they have those guys on horses with an arrow?" he said.

Brown wondered who the figures were and said, "I'm going to find that out."

According to a Smithsonian American Art Museum catalog, the sculptures are "Indian Being Attacked by a Bear" and "Indian Woman Being Attacked by a Buffalo." Both are replicas of pieces originally installed in 1873 but removed — and lost or destroyed — during restoration of the Capitol in 1948.

The replicas were installed in 1982, when Brown was governor before.

According to the Smithsonian, the bear sculpture "represents the erosion of primitive life in California" while the other "represents a vanishing way of life for the Indian in the nation."

Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, specializes in facts about the building's restoration. He said in an email that the statues "represent America in its natural state or natural history."

Brown might find something there to talk about in his State of the State address next month.

"They'll never do that in a new building, right? They have all these more functional buildings," he said. "I think it's just kind of interesting, so maybe in my State of the State I'll explain why that's significant ... You know, the architecture expresses a certain view of the world. That's a different view than the world today. So, it's part of our collective learning here."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown hangs an ornament with Angel Valencia-Ceja, with Anne Gust-Brown and Rosa Valencia of Vallejo, California at the 82nd Annual Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting on December 12, 2013 on the West Steps of the State Capitol in Sacramento. The Sacramento Bee/Jose Luis Villegas

December 16, 2013
Jerry Brown 'haunted' by high school test question about a leaf

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgMOUNTAIN VIEW - Gov. Jerry Brown has made his displeasure with standardized school tests plain any number of times since taking office in 2011. On Monday, by way of explanation, he offered his story about a leaf.

Interviewed on stage during a conference in Mountain View, Brown recalled a "shocking" exam he took as a senior in high school. It included only one question, Brown said: "Write your impression of a green leaf."

Brown, now 75, said he "didn't know how to deal with it" and that even now, walking by a tree, he wonders, "How's my impression going? Can I feel anything?"

"Actually, this is a very powerful question that has haunted me for 50 years, but you can't put that on a standardized test," Brown said.

The Democratic governor, who tangled with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan this year over California's request for a one-year reprieve from using STAR tests, said "there are important educational encounters that can't be captured in tests that are managed from headquarters, either by Arne Duncan or by somebody in Sacramento."

Brown was being interviewed on stage at the Computer History Museum by James Bennet, editor in chief of The Atlantic magazine. After Brown objected to national testing standards as a form of "national control," Bennet asked about preparing students to compete in a global economy.

"Do you think students are in the global economy?" Brown said. "No, they're in the classroom."

When Bennet suggested students eventually would be in the global economy, Brown objected again.

"No, they're not," he said. "They're going to be in a job somewhere. We're not in the global economy. I hate to disillusion you. We're just here, in this hallway, with a bunch of people looking at us."

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

December 16, 2013
Jerry Brown calls for federal unemployment funding extension

brownoaklandport.jpgWith Congress apparently close to a budget agreement that does not include an extension of federal unemployment insurance benefits, Gov. Jerry Brown urged House and Senate leaders to reconsider.

"When these benefits were first authorized, the national unemployment rate was only 5.6 percent," Brown said in a letter Thursday. "The national rate is still 7 percent and 36 states, including California, have even higher unemployment rates than when the extension benefits were originally authorized."

Brown's letter comes as the Senate prepares to act this week on a bill that would avert a government shutdown next year. The bill does not include an extension of unemployment benefits scheduled to expire at the end of the month, frustrating many Democrats.

Brown said more than 214,000 Californians are currently collecting federal unemployment extension benefits and that they "will suffer irreparable harm if these federal benefits are allowed to expire."

Brown also complained more broadly about what he called "the severe federal underfunding" of California's unemployment insurance program, where mistakes in a computer upgrade delayed benefits for thousands of unemployed Californians this fall.

"In 2013, California's federal UI administrative grant was $128 million less than what was needed to pay benefits timely and accurately," Brown wrote. "The continuous funding shortfalls result in benefit delays and prevent the state from providing timely and accurate UI services to unemployed workers suffering a financial hardship."

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

December 14, 2013
Jerry Brown's top water official Jerry Meral to retire

delta_aerial.JPGJerry Meral, Gov. Jerry Brown's top water official and a major figure in the controversial, $25 billion water project proposed by the governor, will retire at the end of the month, the Brown administration confirmed Saturday.

Meral, deputy secretary of the state's Natural Resources Agency, told Brown of his retirement in a letter Monday - the same day the Brown administration released its latest environmental analysis of a plan to build two tunnels to divert water around the Delta to the south.

"While additional permits will be required," Meral said in the letter, "it is virtually certain that the plan will be implemented."

Meral, who is widely regarded as one of California's most accomplished preservationists, worked for Brown as a water adviser when Brown was governor before, from 1975 to 1983. He was one of several high-profile advisers brought back by the Democratic governor when Brown took office in 2011.

Meral became a source of controversy when, earlier this year, five members of Congress called for his resignation after Tom Stokely, a water policy analyst with the California Water Impact Network and Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, campaign director of Restore the Delta, said Meral told Stokely the Bay Delta Conservation Plan "is not about, and has never been about saving the Delta. The Delta cannot be saved."

The Brown administration defended Meral at the time and said his remarks were taken out of context.

Meral did not give a reason for his retirement in his letter.

Richard Stapler, a Natural Resources Agency spokesman, said in an email Saturday that "while we've reluctantly accepted Dr. Meral's decision to retire for a second time, his contribution to achieving the state's dual goals of water supply reliability and ecosystem restoration is incalculable."

PHOTO: Aerial view of the region to be affected by the Delta water tunnels and intakes in the Courtland area on April 10, 2013. Highway 160 and Randall Island Road are seen near the top of the frame. The Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton

December 12, 2013
Urban Land Institute wants to recreate California redevelopment

redevelop.JPGHaving repealed the redevelopment authority of local governments two years ago, the state needs to implement an alternative method for improving communities and financing infrastructure and lower cost housing, the Urban Land Institute's California chapters say in a white paper.

And it can be done, the 22-page document says, without threatening the operational finances of local and state governments.

When Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature abolished the six-decade-old redevelopment program, under which local governments could put together projects and collect the incremental tax revenues from their construction, they cited its effects on the state treasury.

Local government redevelopment agencies were taking about $5 billion a year, roughly 10 percent, off the top of the statewide property tax pool and the state was being forced, under a ballot measure enacted in 1988, to make up about $2 billion a year of that diversion to local schools.

Since then, the local redevelopment agencies' finances have been unwound, although a number remain to be phased out, and uncommitted assets have been dispersed to other taxing agencies. However, there have been a number of lawsuits filed over how the shutdowns have occurred.

December 11, 2013
Jerry Brown still mum on campaign, mulls State of the State in new office

brownoaklandoffice2.jpgOAKLAND — Gov. Jerry Brown has not yet said if he will run for re-election next year, but he told supporters in a recent note to update their records to reflect a change of address: In addition to raising more than $14 million, "Brown for Governor" has a new office.

When Brown, first lady Anne Gust Brown and their dog, Sutter, arrived at The Packard Lofts building here Wednesday, the governor — who is widely expected to run — described his fourth floor space as a personal office, less "stuffy" than what he has at the Capitol or a state building in Oakland.

The office projects a mix of political and state work: On a circular wood table Brown used during his first campaign for governor, in 1974, sits a list of messages left for Brown and a copy of his administration's proposal to Boeing this week to try to persuade the aerospace giant to locate a production facility in California.

Brown declined to detail the proposal. Of the table, he said that in 1974, "Right around this table, I plotted."

The fourth-floor office, which Gust Brown estimated at about 1,000 square feet, is full of memorabilia from Brown's political campaigns and from his first two terms in office, from 1975 to 1983. On the refrigerator are stickers from his 2010 campaign for governor, and a bin of buttons from the campaign is in a bookcase by the door.

Asked if the 2010 paraphernalia isn't dated, he said, "We're not running yet."

Brown has more immediate concerns, including his annual budget proposal and State of the State address in January.

In preparation for the latter Brown said he is reading Josiah Royce, a philosopher who was born in Grass Valley in the 1800s and who Brown said "had something called the philosophy of loyalty."

Brown said he hasn't decided if Royce or his ideas about loyalty will make it into the address, but he said, "I'm thinking about whether that can apply to California ... You've got to have a sense that it's more important than your own particular interest."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown at his new office in Oakland, while first lady Anne Gust Brown works in the background on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

December 11, 2013
Assembly Democrats seeking to spend most of California surplus

ha_perez_III.JPGAssembly Speaker John A. Pérez unveiled a "blueprint for a responsible budget" Wednesday that appears to spend most, if not all, of the state's projected surplus in the 2014-15 fiscal year and may conflict with Gov. Jerry Brown's priorities.

Pérez didn't place a price tag on the new spending, which he termed "investment," but said he and his fellow Assembly Democrats want to boost state aid to colleges and expand safety net services to the poor, including a boost in welfare grants.

Speaking to reporters at the Capitol, Pérez and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, said they want to end the 2014-15 fiscal year with a $2 billion reserve and build that to as much as $10 billion over the next several years.

Mac Taylor, the Legislature's budget analyst, forecasts that without new spending, the state would end the year with a $5.6 billion surplus, thus indicating that the price tag for the Assembly's expansion plans would be at least several billion dollars.

Pérez and Skinner said they want to restore money to some programs that were slashed during recession-induced budget deficits, especially those in education and safety net services.

The new spending would include a expansion of the earned income tax credit, expanded eligibility for welfare payments to low-income workers, expanding the "CalFresh" program of food benefits, raising Medi-Cal reimbursement rates, expanding child care, and making transitional kindergarten universally available to all four-year-old children.

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

December 9, 2013
Brown administration to bid for Boeing facility in California

boeingc17.JPGCalifornia will be among states submitting bids to Boeing this week in an effort to land a production facility for the company's newest commercial jetliner.

An official for Gov. Jerry Brown's Office of Business and Economic Development, or GO-Biz, confirmed Monday that California will submit a proposal to Boeing ahead of the company's Tuesday deadline for states to submit proposals to host production of the 777X.

GO-Biz declined to say what incentives, if any, are included in the proposal, though Brown has significant latitude to negotiate.

In a controversial restructuring of California's enterprise zone program of hiring tax credits this year, the Legislature afforded Brown about $30 million this budget year for tax credits negotiated on a case-by-case basis with the state.

The tax credits, administered under a newly-formed California Competes Tax Committee, can increase to $150 million next budget year and $200 million annually in subsequent years.

The legislation, Assembly Bill 93, also provided a sales tax exemption for manufacturing and biotech research companies. The value of the exemption is potentially significant, applicable to up to $200 million in purchases annually.

December 9, 2013
Gray Davis, Robert Downey Jr. write checks to Jerry Brown

brownoaklandport.jpgFormer Gov. Gray Davis and actor Robert Downey Jr. are among the latest donors to Gov. Jerry Brown's re-election campaign, which reported raising another $556,600 in a filing over the weekend.

Nevada-based Station Casinos, which is backing a controversial casino project in Madera County, contributed $54,400, the maximum allowed. Opposition to a gambling compact Brown approved with the North Fork Rancheria Band of Mono Indians this year has sparked a referendum campaign, with a vote on the project set for November 2014.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election but is widely expected to run. The third-term Democrat has raised more than $14 million for the effort and leads a field of Republican opponents by a huge margin both in fundraising and early polls.

Other donors contributing the maximum to Brown in his most recent filing include Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. and Southern California developers Majestic Realty Co. and Jeffrey Worthe.

Davis, Brown's chief of staff when he was governor before, donated $5,000, as did Downey Jr.

Brown received $10,000 from Illinois billionaire J. Christopher Reyes and $10,000 each from two other members of Reyes Holdings LLC, a major beer and food distribution company. NBC Universal contributed $27,200, while Anschutz Entertainment Group Inc. and The Anschutz Corp. contributed $25,000 each.

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

December 4, 2013
Neel Kashkari puts personal wealth at less than $5 million

Financial Stability Neel Kashkari.JPGNeel Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official who is laying the groundwork for a campaign for governor next year, said Wednesday that his personal assets total less than $5 million and that he cannot self-fund a campaign.

Kashkari, who is expected to join former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado and Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, in the field of Republicans bidding to unseat Gov. Jerry Brown, said he has met with nearly 700 potential donors throughout the country. He said Brown is "going to have more resources than all the Republican candidates combined" but suggested some donors may be willing to contribute to improve the party's standing in a Democratic state.

"A lot of donors think that Jerry Brown is, if not impossible to beat, very hard to beat, but a lot of donors say we need to make the Republican Party the party of economic opportunity," Kashkari said in an interview.

Kashkari played a central role in implementing the $700 billion bank bailout known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program during President George W. Bush's administration. He said that if he runs he will do so to "shine a spotlight on the millions of people who are being left behind," focusing on poverty and education.

"I want the Republican Party to be the party that's really fighting for the poor, the party that's really fighting to give minority groups a fair chance," he said. "But again, the solution is not more welfare, the solution is not social programs, the solution is real economic opportunity, empowering people."

November 26, 2013
Magic Johnson, Larry Flynt among latest donors to Jerry Brown

jerrybrownprisons.jpgIf Eli Broad disappointed Gov. Jerry Brown at all when his name appeared to be included in a sloppily redacted list of donors working at cross-purposes with the governor in California's initiative wars last year, he may have begun to make it up to him last week.

The developer and philanthropist donated $54,400, the maximum allowed, to Brown's re-election campaign. The donation was among more than $1 million in contributions Brown reported receiving Thursday, when he attended a fundraiser hosted by movie industry executives in Los Angeles.

Other donors who gave the maximum to Brown included Earvin "Magic" Johnson, the former basketball standout, Flynt Management Group LLC, Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt's company, and Norman Pattiz, who founded the radio network Westwood One.

Actors Kirk Douglas and Thomas Jacob "Jack" Black each donated $5,000, according to campaign finance filings.

Brown also reported receiving $54,400 from businessman Milan Panic. Brown once sat on the board of directors of drug manufacturer ICN Biomedicals - now MP Biomedicals - which Panic founded.

Brown has not yet said if he will seek re-election next year, but he is widely expected to run. The third-term Democrat has raised about $14 million for the effort.

Broad, who has donated previously to Brown's campaigns, appeared to be among a list of donors involved in an effort last year to support Proposition 32 - a ballot initiative designed to weaken the political clout of labor unions - and oppose Proposition 30, Brown's successful initiative to raise taxes.

A list of donors showed $500,000 coming from a man named Eli, whose last name was redacted but whose address was listed as being on the 12th floor of a building on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles, a location matching the location of Broad's foundation office.

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

November 21, 2013
GOP's gubernatorial hopefuls off to Arizona, Central America

maldonadopresser.jpgWhile Gov. Jerry Brown enjoys a projected state budget surplus and raises money for his re-election effort in Los Angeles on Thursday, his Republican challengers are looking for stimulation farther afield.

Former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado will fly on Friday to Honduras, where he will participate as an international observer in that country's presidential election. He will then travel to Guatemala for meetings with elected officials before returning to California on Wednesday, adviser Ron Nehring said.

The candidate is interested in "human trafficking, the drug trade and associated violence, confronting corruption and promoting economic growth and trade," his campaign said in a release.

Meanwhile, Tim Donnelly announced Thursday he is in Scottsdale, Ariz., for a meeting of the Republican Governors Association. The Twin Peaks assemblyman said he is meeting with governors, but he declined to say which ones.

Donnelly said "every state that has a Republican governor seems to be doing really well."

Among other factors, Donnelly cited unemployment rates, job creation efforts and tax policies in Republican-led states.

Such comparisons are fraught with difficulties. Of the 10 states with the lowest unemployment rates, for example, six are governed by Republicans. But they also govern all but three of the 10 states where the unemployment rate is highest.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, whose state is in the latter group, was elected chairman of the Republican Governors Association on Thursday. Donnelly, a tea party favorite, said despite disagreeing with the more moderate Christie on any number of policy issues, "I think he does have some insights that I can learn from."

Asked what those might be, Donnelly said, "How he won in a state that's completely dominated by the other party."

PHOTO: Abel Maldonado speaks to reporters in Sacramento on May 8, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua

November 21, 2013
Jerry Brown urges caution on California budget outlook

brownnga.jpgOne day after the Legislature's fiscal analyst projected years of multibillion-dollar budget surpluses, Gov. Jerry Brown urged caution Thursday, calling on the Legislature to bolster reserves.

"It turns out, according to the legislative analyst, we have billions of dollars in surplus," Brown said at an event in Santa Monica. "So there will be a great effort to spend it as quickly as possible."

The Democratic governor, speaking at the Milken Institute California Summit, said the budget's reliance on capital gains - a traditionally volatile source of revenue - makes financial peaks and valleys more pronounced.

"The question is, 'When do we get the next valley?'" he said. "And the only way to avoid that is to put it in a rainy day fund, to say no when necessary, along with saying yes when that's appropriate."

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office projected Wednesday that the state will enjoy a $5.6 billion surplus by June 2015, with annual surpluses reaching $8.3 billion by the 2016-17 budget year. The office urged lawmakers to hold much of any excess in reserve, warning that even a moderate economic downturn could knock the state back into deficit.

Brown and the Democratic-controlled Legislature are under pressure from social service advocates to restore or expand programs cut during the recession, and calls for increased spending are likely to intensify in budget talks next year.

Brown said he has a "lot of optimism about this state. I mean, I would have never thought we could go from financial instability to stability and surplus, and we can do that."
But he said significant financial concerns remain.

"We have deferred maintenance on our roads, that is serious, we have unfunded and growing liabilities in our pension and retiree health - state, university and local level," Brown said. "That's real."

Brown was scheduled to remain in Los Angeles on Thursday evening to attend a fundraiser hosted by movie industry executives. The third-term governor has not yet said if he will seek re-election, but he is widely expected to run.

"It will be a successful event," Brown said when asked about the fundraiser earlier this week. "As you know, raising funds for any potential campaign takes a good deal of time and I don't jump into these things lightly."

The Bee's Christopher Cadelago contributed to this report.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown at a meeting of the National Governors Association in Washington on Feb. 24, 2013. AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

November 20, 2013
California fiscal analyst projects large surpluses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fiscal Outlook 112013

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

November 14, 2013
Campaign posts video of Tim Donnelly performing Heimlich on choking woman

donnellypodium.jpgTim Donnelly dislodged a piece of bread from a choking woman's throat last week.

It was fortunate for her that he did — "He saved my life," the woman said — and for Donnelly, perhaps, that his campaign videographer was standing by.

The Republican candidate for governor posted video of the incident on YouTube on Thursday. The headline: "Assemblyman Donnelly to the rescue!"

Donnelly, of Twin Peaks, is shown in the video performing the Heimlich maneuver on Adrienna Schabert, a supporter, at a meeting of Republican women in Ontario.

Schabert, 50, of West Sacramento, said Thursday that Donnelly was posing for photographs at a nearby table when she choked on a piece of her dinner roll.

"I couldn't get it out," she said. "I couldn't do anything, so I stood up ... He turned around and just went and did it."

In the video, Schabert sits down and thanks Donnelly, and he says, "Thank God."

Donnelly, who is wearing a cowboy hat, says, "I'm sorry if I did it too hard," and he goes on to empathize with the woman.

"My wife is always telling me to cut it into really tiny pieces," he says, "and I never listen."

Dan Newman, a political spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown, posted a link to the video on Twitter, giving Donnelly "sincere props ... for knowing and using Heimlich maneuver to help choking woman."

Donnelly is not the first politician to gain attention for using the maneuver. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee performed the Heimlich on a man at a Republican Party gathering in 2008.

And then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made headlines in 2004 for helping a distressed swimmer while vacationing in Maui.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaks in Baldwin Park Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. AP Photo/Nick Ut

November 14, 2013
Jerry Brown offers 'Jesuitical harshness' to Univ. of California

jerrybrownprisons.jpgIt will be another two months before Gov. Jerry Brown makes his budget proposal for the 2014-15 fiscal year, but the Democratic governor already is moving to temper expectations.

At a meeting Thursday in San Francisco of the University of California's governing board, Brown called unrealistic a UC budget budget proposal seeking about $121 million more in general fund support than he is expected to propose.

Brown signed a budget this year increasing the university system's base funding by about $142 million. He has proposed another 5 percent increase next year as long as UC keeps tuition flat.

Brown told regents the Legislature is unlikely to offer UC any more than that. There are competing interests at the Capitol, he said, and "that's kind of the reality sandwich we have to chew on."

Sherry Lansing, a regent, said university officials may be able to "move the needle" by lobbying in Sacramento, but Brown said the prospects aren't high.

Even small budget victories aren't easy, Brown said.

The former seminarian told regents they may think his "Jesuitical harshness is not nice" but that he is only delivering "hard truths" and that "you have an ally, and a skilled ally, in the trenches of Sacramento."

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

November 13, 2013
University of California president proposes tuition freeze

USNEWSNAPOLITANO.jpgSAN FRANCISCO - University of California President Janet Napolitano on Wednesday proposed freezing undergraduate tuition for the 2014-15 academic year, a move she said will give officials time to consider overhauling the UC's tuition system.

Napolitano, speaking at her first meeting of the UC regents since becoming president, said administrators will look for a "better way" to set tuition to avoid dramatic price increases in future years.

"We need to figure out, in the real world in which we live, how to bring clarity to, and reduce volatility in, the tuition-setting process," she said. "It's time for this university to collaboratively come up with a better way."

One option she said officials will consider is a so-called "cohort tuition," in which students are assured the tuition they pay when entering college will not dramatically change during their four years in school.

Napolitano's proposal to keep undergraduate tuition steady for a third consecutive year is in line with Gov. Jerry Brown's funding proposals. The Democratic governor has called for moderate annual increases in the UC budget as long as the UC does not raise tuition at least through 2016-17 academic year.

PHOTO: Janet Napolitano, then director of the Department of Homeland Security, shown on April 17, 2013. Abaca Press/ MCT/ Olivier Douliery.

November 11, 2013
California's 'realignment' of some felons gets mixed reaction

CaliforniaPrisonsRealignment.jpgCalifornia's "realignment" of responsibilities for handling felons deemed to present little threat to the public is getting a decidedly mixed reaction from local law enforcement and judicial officials who are most intimately involved, according to a series of interviews conducted by the Stanford University Criminal Justice Center.

The report is the second in a projected series on realignment, the two-year-old program under which local agencies, rather than the state prison system, are incarcerating, supervising and supposedly treating low-level felons.

Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature enacted the program in response to federal court pressure to reduce overcrowding in the state prison system and it has dropped the prison population almost to the level decreed by the courts by diverting some new felons into local jails and stepping up parole of others into local care.

November 11, 2013
Poll shows support for Jerry Brown's re-election below one-third

brownoaklandport.jpgDespite giving Gov. Jerry Brown a public approval rating of 55 percent, less than one-third of California voters say they are inclined to re-elect the Democratic governor next year, according to a new USC/Los Angeles Times poll.

Thirty-two percent of registered voters say they probably or definitely will vote for Brown, while 37 percent of voters say they probably or definitely vote for someone else, according to the poll.

The poll, released Monday, did not compare Brown to any potential Republican candidate in this heavily Democratic state. If it had, poll director Dan Schnur said in a release, "We probably would have seen significantly different results."

The poll comes a year before next year's gubernatorial general election. Brown has not yet said if he will run for a fourth term next year, but he is widely expected to.

The poll's findings differ from a measure conducted by the Field Poll in July. In that poll Brown showed a lower public approval rating, 51 percent, while a plurality of the electorate - 43 percent to 38 percent - was inclined to re-elect him.

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

November 11, 2013
California's unemployment insurance deficit shrinking slowly

unemployed_blog.jpgAlthough California's once-dismal employment picture is slowly improving, the state's Unemployment Insurance Fund is not only plagued by digital glitches, but is still paying out more in benefits than employers are paying into the UIF in taxes, according to a new report from the state Department of Employment Development.

Some other revenue, including earnings on fund balances, are offsetting the shortfall, so the immense deficit in the UIF, $10.2 billion at the end of 2012, will decline fractionally to $9.7 billion by the end of this year, the EDD report predicts, then continue to decline as employment improves and insurance benefit payouts drop.

The UIF deficit has been covered by loans from the federal government, on which the state is now paying interest, and the feds have also boosted their share of employers' payroll taxes to begin repaying the debt.

The department predicts that the UIF deficit will shrink to $7 billion by the end of 2015 as unemployment drops from 1.9 million workers in 2012 to 1.3 million in 2015 and payouts decline from $6.6 billion in 2012 to $5.7 billion in 2015.

Employers paid $5.4 billion into the UIF in 2012 and that is expected to increase to $6.2 billion in 2015. Additionally, the boost in federal taxes to repay the debt is expected to surpass $600 million this year and $1 billion by 2015.

The UIF pays basic benefits to unemployed workers and benefit extensions have been financed by the federal government. But due to the state's improving job picture, the 100 percent federally financed extension, which paid out $7.2 billion to jobless Californians in 2012, and $4.6 billion this year, will end on Dec. 31.

Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed changes in the unemployment insurance program to improve its ability to cope with economic downturns, but the Legislature has so far refused to act.

PHOTO: Former and current high school students attend a junior college exploration workshop sponsored by the Greater Sacramento Urban League. One of every three new high school graduates not going to college in the Sacramento region couldn't find work last year, census figures showed. The high school classes of 2009 and 2010 were about 40 percent less likely to find jobs out of school than their counterparts from three years prior. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

November 8, 2013
California again scores low in nationwide academic tests


California again scored very low in the latest round of nationwide biennial testing of elementary students' reading and mathematics skills.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress tests were administered earlier this year to fourth and eighth graders and fewer than a third of California's students were rated as proficient in the two skills. Overall, the state ranked in the bottom 10 among the 50 states and the District of Columbia; its worst score was 47th in four grade reading, and its best was 42nd in eighth grade reading.

The brightest spot in the NAEP report on California is that it was one of only 13 states that saw gains in eighth grade reading scores.

While State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson said the scores showed "that we are moving in the right direction," the continued low - and largely flat - performance of California students was another black eye for the state's largest-in-the-nation education system.

As with past state and federal tests, the newest NAEP results for California also showed a wide gap between the achievements of white and Asian youngsters and black and Latino students - a gap that Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature are addressing with a new way of distributing state aid.

Under the new system, school districts with high numbers of poor and/or English-learner students will receive extra money. The state is also at work implementing the Common Core curriculum, a multistate effort to raise academic achievement.

PHOTO: A second-grader reads her assignment in her English language learning class at Cordova Villa Elementary School on Monday, June 10, 2013 in Rancho Cordova, Calif. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench.

November 7, 2013
Assembly preparing 'cease and desist' letter for Tim Donnelly campaign video

Donnelly1.pngTim Donnelly garnered some attention this week for a campaign video in which he objected to being called white - he is a "fleshy, pinkish tone" - and advocated making California "the sexiest place to do business."

But it was another Donnelly video caught the attention of certain critics and, eventually, Assembly administrator Jon Waldie.

"Patriot, Not Politician," posted by Donnelly's gubernatorial campaign on YouTube in April, features extensive clips of the Twin Peaks assemblyman speaking on the floor of the lower house.

State law prohibits the use of any "television signal generated by the Assembly ... for any political or commercial purpose," and Waldie said he plans to issue the Donnelly campaign a cease and desist letter Friday.

"The floor shots are definitely ours," he said.

Donnelly spokeswoman Jennifer Kerns said the campaign is reviewing the law but that its interpretation is that footage of Assembly proceedings are in the public record and may be used by the campaign.

"It's our understanding that once that video is aired publicly that it's part of the public domain," she said, adding that she was looking at the state Capitol at the moment and that "the taxpayers pay for that building."

Donnelly formally announced his candidacy for governor this week, joining former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado as the two Republicans so far in the race to unseat Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown. At a campaign stop in Sacramento on Thursday, Donnelly called Brown a "Marxist-progressive" and said the race will be an "epic showdown between socialism and freedom right here in California," as he explains here:

PHOTO: Screen grab from Cal Channel March 29, 2012 telecast of Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaking on the Assembly floor.

November 7, 2013
California's new school finance plan sparks big debate

RB_Clean_School_3_classroom.JPGUpwards of 200 people -- each limited to just a minute -- told members of the State Board of Education on Thursday how an overhaul of California school finance should be implemented to upgrade academic achievement, and all said they represented the interests of the state's 6 million public school students.

However, the 188 speakers -- many of them parents speaking through interpreters -- disagreed sharply on how the extra money should be handled, and some disagreement was evident within the board itself.

November 7, 2013
Jerry Brown says poverty, joblessness due to California being 'a magnet'

brownchamberbreakfast.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, whose pronouncements of California's economic recovery have been criticized by Republicans who point out the state's high poverty rate, said in a radio interview Wednesday that poverty and the large number of people looking for work are "really the flip side of California's incredible attractiveness and prosperity."

The Democratic governor's remarks aired the same day the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 23.8 percent of Californians live in poverty under an alternative calculation that includes the cost of living.

Asked on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" about two negative indicators — the state's nation-high poverty rate and the large number of Californians who are unemployed or marginally employed and looking for work — Brown said, "Well, that's true, because California is a magnet.

"People come here from all over in the world, close by from Mexico and Central America and farther out from Asia and the Middle East. So, California beckons, and people come. And then, of course, a lot of people who arrive are not that skilled, and they take lower paying jobs. And that reflects itself in the economic distribution."

Brown, who has frequently lamented disparity between the world's upper and lower classes, added, "So, yeah, it's there, but it's really the flip side of California's incredible attractiveness and prosperity."

After signing a balanced budget earlier this year, Brown has held California out as a model of functionality. But as he prepares for a likely re-election bid next year, Republicans are preparing to challenge him on the economy.

Among others who have recently used California's poverty rate to question the resilience of the state's economic turnaround are Texas Gov. Rick Perry and California Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, the Republican from Twin Peaks who announced this week he will run for governor next year.

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

November 6, 2013
California lawmakers grill officials over jobless check delays

pereaedd.jpgCalifornia lawmakers blasted state officials for their oversight of a computer problem that delayed jobless benefits for nearly 150,000 Californians, while front-line employees testified Wednesday that problems persist.

"This whole situation put a big black eye on how our constituents see the state of California," Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, told Employment Development Department officials at an Assembly Insurance Committee oversight hearing, the first on the troubled project.

A miscalculation converting old unemployment claims into a new processing system over the Labor Day weekend resulted in a massive backlog of unemployment claims. The problem became so severe it skewed reporting of initial jobless claims by the U.S. Department of Labor, and it provided another example of the state's information-technology shortcomings.

"I think the fundamental issue for the state is we are the home of Silicon Valley, we are seen as the most technologically adept state in the nation," said Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova. "To have this sort of thing happening is a colossal problem."

While EDD administrators said backlog claims have largely been resolved, Irene Livingston, an employment program representative for EDD in San Jose, testified that it remains "nearly impossible" for unemployed California to reach front-line employees. She said the system is overwhelmed with telephone calls and an email system that remains backlogged.

"There's literally hundreds of thousands of messages that have yet to receive a response," she said.

EDD administrators lamented staffing shortages at the department, but EDD Chief Deputy Director Sharon Hilliard told the committee that staffing levels were not responsible for the computer problem. The department greatly underestimated how many claimants would be affected by a glitch in data conversion done over the Labor Day weekend, as well as how long it would take employees to address the problem.

"For this, we are very sorry," Hilliard said.

Hilliard and a representative of Deloitte Consulting, the contractor on the project, both said the department should have done a more thorough test on the amount of time required to address "stop pay" flags associated with a portion of claims being converted.

Nicholas Lee, 33, of Sacramento, told lawmakers he lost his job as a merchandiser in September and has yet to receive help with unemployment benefits despite repeated calls and visits to a local office.

"I have two autistic kids, I have a wife, I have a house, and I am barely making it right now," he said, his voice quivering. "And this system is not working. ... I don't understand what they're doing, what's wrong, but maybe they should go back to the old system, because the old system was working."

EDD has been working for months to upgrade its 30-year-old unemployment insurance processing system, part of a multiyear, nearly $188 million system upgrade.
"The system is working, and a majority of our customers are receiving benefits without interruption," Hilliard told lawmakers.

But after Hilliard said the new system was paying a "majority of the continued claims on the same day as they are received" and that the department has resolved its major issues, Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, suggested she was minimizing the problem. Hagman, vice chairman of the insurance committee, asked her to "please refrain from using" words like "most," "majority," and "few."

"I don't think we, you know, minimize that," Hagman said. "We have to say that is really impacting these people when they need the money the most."

Representatives of the National Employment Law Project and California Rural Legal Assistance both urged the creation of an independent panel to oversee the state's unemployment benefits program, while members of Service Employees International Union Local 1000 said management dismissed employees' concerns about the project.

"This has been an enormous tragedy, and it could have been prevented," the union's Margarita Maldonado said.

Gonzalez challenged the claim by EDD administrators that they only discovered the severity of the problem the second week after Labor Day. Employees in elevators were talking about problems earlier than that, she said.

"I think the frustration that we got from our constituents were just the lack of answers," Gonzalez said. "It wasn't until we got an onslaught of calls that we started getting explanations."

Photo: Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, chairman of the Assembly Insurance Committee, speaks with reporters after a committee hearing at the Capitol on Nov. 6, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

November 6, 2013
Labor secretary Marty Morgenstern retires; Brown names David Lanier to post

morgensternreporters.jpgMarty Morgenstern, a longtime adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown, has retired as secretary of the state Labor and Workforce Development Agency, Brown's office announced Wednesday.

The Democratic governor appointed David Lanier, Brown's chief deputy legislative affairs secretary, to fill the post.

Morgenstern had been an adviser to Brown since he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983, serving as chief labor negotiator in Brown's first administration. He returned to the Capitol as labor secretary when Brown began his third term in 2011, and Brown on Wednesday named him an unpaid senior adviser.

"Marty is a man steeped in the ways of politics and the practices of labor management relations," Brown said in a prepared statement. "He has provided invaluable advice for decades and will continue to do so."

Brown called Lanier "more than ready" to become labor secretary. The 46-year-old Democrat has been an adviser to Brown since 2011. He was previously a special adviser to the California State Assembly Speaker's Office of Member Services.

Lanier is to be paid $180,250 a year. The position requires Senate confirmation.

Morgenstern, 78, said in a prepared statement that working for Brown "has been a great honor."

"Keeping up with the governor has been sometimes difficult, but never dull," he said.

The appointment was announced as lawmakers opened a hearing into a computer problem at the Employment Development Department that delayed jobless benefits for nearly 150,000 Californians earlier this year.

Editor's note: This post was changed at 1:55 p.m. Wednesday to include the correct salary for Lanier. The number originally provided by the governor's office was incorrect.

PHOTO: Marty Morgenstern speaks with reporters in Oakland on Sept. 25, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

November 5, 2013
VIDEO: Anti-fracking protesters dog Jerry Brown

govmansion.jpgGov. Jerry Brown endures the occasional protest at the California Capitol, but he has largely avoided the inconvenience of any heckling-from-the-sidewalk, traveling demonstrations for nearly three years.

In recent weeks, however, the Democratic governor has been met at his events by a smattering of environmentalists protesting his support for hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking.

About 30 demonstrators were on hand for a function at the historic governor's mansion in Sacramento on Monday night, and they were loud enough that staff members moved Brown's podium to a side of the house farther from the street.

"We're going to have to yell really loud," one of the organizers, Zack Malitz, told fellow demonstrators.

Brown signed legislation this year establishing a permitting system in California for fracking. The measure has further strained his relationship with environmentalists, who already are upset with Brown for his efforts to overhaul the California Environmental Quality Act. The discord comes as the Democratic governor holds his administration out as a national leader on environmental policies.

Brown acknowledged the protesters at the mansion Monday, saying it was "wonderful that this has now become a public square."

"Even though it's slightly loud," he said, "it's powerful, it's dynamic, and this house is still alive."

PHOTO: The California State Historic Governor's Mansion is bathed in the glow of a new LED lighting system after ceremonies to celebrate improvements of the 136-year-old mansion in Sacramento on Monday, Nov. 4, 2013. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli

November 5, 2013
Republican Tim Donnelly announces bid for California governor

PK_Tim_Donnelly_2012.JPGRepublican Tim Donnelly formally announced his candidacy for California governor Tuesday, criticizing incumbent Jerry Brown for his prison policies and a state business climate Donnelly said is unduly burdensome.

The Twin Peaks assemblyman said at an event in Baldwin Park that government should "stop telling us what to do."

Donnelly, a former member of the anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project, joins former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a moderate Republican, in the race.

Brown, a Democrat, is widely expected to seek re-election. He has raised more than $11 million for the effort, and even Republicans believe he will be difficult to defeat.

Donnelly, who is also backing an effort to recall a handful of lawmakers who supported gun control legislation this year, has been promoting himself as a candidate for governor for weeks.

November 1, 2013
Jerry Brown cites multiple 'screw-ups' in EDD computer problem

brownjanbudget.jpgOAKLAND - Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday it's a "good question" whether the contractor managing a major computer system upgrade that delayed jobless benefits for thousands of Californians should be given more state work.

"That's a good question," Brown said of Deloitte Consulting after an event in Oakland. "We're looking into that."

Brown told reporters "it seems like there's been multiple screw-ups" and that his administration is seeking to fix them and install "sustainable leadership" within the Employment Development Department.

He did not elaborate.

A problem converting old unemployment claims into the state's new processing system over the Labor Day weekend delayed jobless benefits for nearly 150,000 Californians.

Deloitte Federal Political Action Committee gave $17,000 to Brown's re-election committee on Sept. 3, just after the Labor Day weekend. The Democratic governor said the donation was "news to me."

"I first learned about this program when I read about it in the paper," Brown said. "I don't think you'll find a more independent person in the governor's office when it comes to bills, when it comes to decisions. So trying to tie contributions and actions, I think it's worth, you know, a little bit of your time, but not much."

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.

November 1, 2013
Jerry Brown keeps mostly mum on Calderon investigation

brownlee.jpgOAKLAND - Gov. Jerry Brown kept mostly mum on the bribery scandal engulfing the Capitol on Friday, declining to opine on an FBI investigation or to say if he believes embattled state Sen. Ron Calderon should step down.

"I don't jump into investigations," the Democratic governor said after an event in Oakland.

Brown's remarks were his first since the cable news network Al Jazeera America on Tuesday published a 124-page affidavit alleging that Calderon, D-Montebello, accepted about $88,000 in bribes from a Southern California hospital executive. and an undercover FBI agent posing as a film studio owner.

No charges have been filed against Calderon.

According to the affidavit, Calderon was seeking to change California's tax credit program for filmmakers so that smaller productions could qualify for the program, and he said Brown had asked him to hold off on the legislation until after voters decided Proposition 30, Brown's ballot initiative last year to raise taxes. After the legislation passed, according to the affidavit, Calderon told the undercover agent "the only agreement they had with Governor Brown was not to hold any hearings until after the election, so now they could do whatever they wanted."

Asked about the veracity of the claim, Brown said, "First I ever heard of it."

"I have hundreds of conversations, but of course usually with things that cost money I'm slowing them down whenever I can, but I can't respond to that particular one. But I'll be glad to look back and see what it is, but I don't have that many conversations with legislators, and I certainly didn't have too many with that particular legislator."

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee talk at an event in Oakland on Nov. 1, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post has been changed to remove a reference to behested payments by Brown to the Legislative Latino Caucus Foundation. State records that reported the bested payments were wrong, the state Fair Political Practices Commission said.

October 24, 2013
Jerry Brown: Cutting inmates nothing to 'beat your chest about'

brownjanbudget.jpgGov. Jerry Brown was wrapping up a speech in Washington on Thursday about the merits of California governance when, during a question and answer period, the subject of state prisons arose.

The Brown administration, which is under a court order to reduce California's prison population, has dramatically cut the number of inmates by measures including shifting responsibility in 2011 for certain low-level offenders from the state prison system to counties.

"There's about 42,000 fewer people in the state prison system than there were just five years ago, so that's a big change," Brown said at a policy conference hosted by the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank. "There's more to be done, and I know there's more to be done because the federal courts have a gun at my head, and if I don't, they're going to throw me in the can."

The Democratic governor is widely expected to run for re-election next year and is by far the favorite to win, but Republicans have hammered him on prisons.

The political difficulty of the issue - if not a shortcoming in Brown's stagecraft - came just as he was about to leave the stage.

"And I want to tell you, reducing the number of felons in prison is not one of those things that you get up and beat your chest about," Brown said. "There are very few people who've run for office saying, 'And if I'm elected, you'll have thousands of felons in your neighborhood.' "

The crowd laughed, and Brown said, "But, it's happening in California."

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.

October 21, 2013
Californians driving more, but using less fuel

California Clean Car Standards.JPGOver the last three decades -- roughly the period since Jerry Brown ended his first governorship -- California's population has increased by more than 50 percent and the amount of automotive travel has doubled.

California's 22 million drivers and 27.5 million cars and light trucks rack up more than 300 billion vehicle-miles of travel each year, which works out to an average of about 13,000 miles for each motorist.

Despite the sharp growth in both population and vehicular travel, however, gasoline consumption has increased only fractionally during that period, rising from about 12 billion gallons a year to 15 billion gallons or only about 25 percent more. And a new report from the state Board of Equalization points out that in recent years, consumption has actually been declining.

There was a sharp, 4.1 percent decline in 2008 as recession hit the state since then smaller declines have been recorded, including a drop of of 1.3 percent from 2011 to 2012.

Given the high level of vehicular travel, the years-long leveling off of fuel consumption and more recent declines have been attributed to much-improved mileage in newer cars. In 1983, cars commonly got only 15 miles to the gallon but today, 30 mpg is not uncommon and gasoline-electric hybrids can approach 100 mpg.

PHOTO: In this May 26, 2011, file photo, a motorcyclist rides between lanes as traffic backs up on U.S. Highway 101 before the start of the Memorial Day weekend in Mill Valley, Calif. Associated Press/Eric Risberg

October 21, 2013
Jerry Brown to give speech at Washington think tank

brownsandiego.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, who visits Washington infrequently and typically keeps a low profile when he does, will deliver a rare speech in the nation's capital Thursday.

The Democratic governor, who will speak at a conference hosted by the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, has said in recent months that he wants to advocate for immigration and environmental policy changes on a national stage, but his remarks Thursday are expected to be focused more on budgeting.

"He's been asked to speak about how California is tackling its fiscal challenges and getting things done, at a time when gridlock and partisanship dominate national politics," Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said in an email Monday.

Also on the program Thursday are Secretary of State John Kerry, former Vice President Al Gore and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

Brown made frequent appearances in Washington when he was governor before, from 1975 to 1983, and running unsuccessfully for president, but he has sharply limited his out-of-state travel since returning to office in 2011.

October 17, 2013
Tim Donnelly cites gun incident as evidence of political skill

donnellyconvention.jpgIt would be difficult for Assemblyman Tim Donnelly to point to his fundraising, which is anemic, or to his experience, which is limited, to inspire confidence in his campaign for governor.

But the Twin Peaks Republican and former member of the anti-illegal immigration Minuteman Project, has a new spokeswoman, Jennifer Kerns, and as of Thursday a memorandum detailing his "path to victory" in 2014.

This path involves any number of external factors, including the reaction of Republicans to the party's more moderate candidate, former Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, and to the effect, if any, of recent gun control legislation on the public approval rating of Gov. Jerry Brown.

It also includes a rather favorable reading of an incident involving Donnelly, his carry-on and a gun.

"While many people refer to Jerry Brown as 'Teflon Jerry' because political attacks historically haven't stuck to him, Donnelly is giving the political master a run for his money," Kerns wrote.

She called her candidate "Deft Donnelly" and offered as evidence of his skill his handling of his detention at a Southern California airport last year for having a loaded handgun in his carry-on bag.

Donnelly said at the time that he forgot the gun was in his bag and later pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors.

"Despite a flurry of press reports and some mild Twitter teasing," she wrote, "Donnelly has come out of that misstep fairly unscathed."

PHOTO: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, speaks to reporters at the California Republican Party's fall convention in Anaheim on Oct. 5, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders