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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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| May 2003 »
April 30, 2003

Recall update

Despite generally gloomy press, Davis recall proponents say they are still on track to collect the 900,000 valid signatures needed by Sept. 2 to put the recall on the ballot. Ted Costa, the chief organizer of the campaign, says his group will submit 100,000 signatures by the end of this week or the beginning of next. He also says the campaign will soon have raised $500,000 -- five times the amount it reported on hand at the end of March. Both developments, if they pan out, would raise eyebrows in political circles -- and concerns in the governor's office.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:29 AM

Peace stretching the truth

Finance Director Steve Peace's take on the Republican budget plan was generally accurate. The volatile former lawmaker gently took the GOP leadership to task for ignoring the automatic growth in state spending that would make their plan badly out of balance in its second year. But Peace, in his comments to reporters Tuesday, stretched the truth on two side issues.

He said repeatedly that the Republican proposal to borrow $10 billion and then repay that loan from existing revenues would somehow run up against the strictures of Proposition 98, the constitutional provision that guarantees schools a minimum share of state revenues. But that's only a problem if you want to raise taxes to repay the loan, because 98 would normally require the state to give a portion of any new revenues to public education. If, as the Republicans propose, you do it with existing revenues, that's not a problem. Exactly the opposite of what Peace was saying. He's right that any such transaction will be a legal nightmare to construct and a tough sell in the financial markets, but not because of Prop. 98.

Second, Peace, in confirming that the worsening economy will lead to a reduction in the governor's revenue estimates, tried to link that reality back to the discussion late last year of Davis' attempt to overstate the size of the shortfall. Peace is saying see, we were criticized for being too pessimistic and now it turns out we were too optimistic. But he is conveniently ignoring the fact that the difference between the Davis budget shortfall estimate (34 billion) and that of the legislative analyst (26 billion) was made up of two distinct parts. One was a difference over revenue estimates, which everyone acknowledged at the time could go either way. The more serious criticism was that Davis was inflating his projected spending numbers and then taking credit for reducing that phantom spending, in order to portray his plan as a more balanced mix of tax increases and spending cuts. That criticism had nothing to do with the economic forecasts and isn't related at all to the change in revenue numbers Davis will unveil next month.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:50 AM

GOP plan is progress but not complete

The Republican budget plan unveiled Tuesday is a huge step toward a bipartisan solution. But it is not, as party leaders claimed, a balanced budget. The plan simply shifts the tough decisions one year into the future, leaving the state with an $11 billion structural gap between spending and revenues. And that's before the governor revises his economic forecast downward and widens the gap by a few billion more. Still, Republicans swallowed hard and proposed some things they clearly don't like, including a $10 billion loan to repay the accumulated deficit, and cuts in local government, even law enforcement. Their outline will probably frame the budget discussion from this point foward and increases the likelihood of the state getting a spending plan in place by the July 1 start of the fiscal year. I'll have more on this in my column Thursday.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:36 AM

April 29, 2003

Spend now, pay later

I missed this story yesterday. An excellent piece by LAT reporter Jeff Rabin dissecting Phil Angelides' policy for refinancing California's general obligation bond debt and structuring new bond issues to defer payments as much as possible. There are debates about how much all of this is going to cost us, but it's clear that the treasurer's methods are one more way for the state to spend now and pay later. This is why I have come to support the concept of moving the state's budget deficit off book and financing it openly--along with a rock-solid plan to balance the operating budget once and for all. Otherwise the state just continues to drift from year to year, spending more than it's taking in, disguising or ignoring the long-term effects and hoping for the best.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:55 AM

The price we'd pay

Here's today's column, on a Blue Shield of California study putting the cost of universal health care at about $8 billion a year.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:49 AM

April 28, 2003

Is it bad, or really, really bad?

The green eyeshades among you may have noticed that the San Francisco Chronicle and I have reported dramatically different assessments of the income tax receipts rolling into the state treasury this month. I said in this space Friday that April collections looked as if they’d fall short of projections by maybe $500 million—not great but not the end of the world. The Chronicle reported in Sunday’s editions a far more alarming prospect, projecting that the state was running $3 billion short of expectations this month alone. This stuff can be tricky, but my sources at the legislative analyst’s office suggest I am correct and that the Chron might have miscalculated. One hint: The $7.5 billion the Chronicle said the state was expecting for the month includes money withheld from paychecks, but the $4.3 billion the paper reported the state collected through April 25 does not. And payments from withholding, unlike from tax returns, are running just about on target at $2 billion. As for the take from tax returns alone, my latest figures show that the state received $4.3 billion through Friday, with the possibility of another $300 million or $400 million in the pipeline. The projection for the month was $5.5 billion.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:06 PM

April 27, 2003

Roadmap to a balanced budget

Here's today's column, in which I lay out the elements of a potential compromise that could lead to a balanced budget.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:08 PM

April 25, 2003

Issa: Is he or isn't he?

Congressman Darrell Issa doesn't seem to know whether or not he is going to help finance the Davis recall effort and run to replace the governor if the recall qualifies. The Vista Republican and former U.S. Senate candidate told the Sacramento Bee in Thursday's editions that he was inclined to do both. On Friday, he was quoted in the Oakland Trib saying he would finance the effort indirectly and figured he was qualified to replace Davis. But he told his hometown paper, the San Diego Union-Tribune, that he didn't intend to "write a check" to help finance the recall and he hadn't decided yet whether he would run. Democrats aren't going to wait for Issa to make up his mind. Party operative Bob Mulholland has already begun circulating a dossier reminding reporters of legal problems and other blemishes in Issa's less than spotless past.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:26 PM

Tax returns coming in close to form

April income tax payments, which in past years have produced huge surpluses or revealed massive shortfalls, are coming in fairly close to projections this time around. The latest numbers from the Franchise Tax Board suggest actual receipts might be about $500 million short of the $5.5 billion expected to arrive with this month’s returns. Combined with earlier shortfalls, that could put the state another $1 billion in the hole. Not fun, but compared to disasters in prior years, not the end of the world.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:06 AM

Cutting to the bone--California style

Desperate to win approval for a plan to borrow $2.2 billion to pay next year’s state obligation to employee pension funds, legislative Democrats have offered up a new list of potential budget cuts to entice Republicans to go along. The proposed cuts include $500 million that would be taken from city and county governments, and the suspension of cost of living increases for the aged, blind and disabled. But it’s amazing how many of the cuts appear to be relatively pain-free, even at this late date in the budget crisis. The Dems, for example, propose saving $200,000 by eliminating a marketing program in the Trade and Commerce Agency, cut $22,000 by trimming the equipment budget in the Office of Criminal Justice Planning, gain $58,000 by cutting an executive assistant position in the Department of Corrections. The proposal goes on like this for 24 pages, only occasionally turning up something that appears even remotely close to the bone. The Democrats’ describe their $50 million reduction in Medi-Cal dental benefits as bringing the program “more in line with private dental insurance plans.” The Legislature, meanwhile, still refuses to adopt hundreds of millions in cuts proposed by the governor, many of which need to be approved now in order to take effect in time for the July 1 start of the fiscal year.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:03 AM

April 24, 2003

Issa to back Davis recall, run for seat

The Bee's Margaret Talev reports that Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista has jumped into the Davis recall fray, announcing he will help raise money for the drive to unseat the governor and offer himself as a candidate to replace him. What Issa doesn't say is whether he intends to spend any of his own substantial wealth on the effort. But that seems the logical next step. Issa's decision adds a whole new element to the recall, which was not off to a particularly impressive start. His personal wealth and name recognition (he ran for the Senate in 1998) add credibility to the fledgling recall drive and might give Republican activists a reason to work harder collecting signatures. Proponents have until Sept. 2 to gather about 900,000 valid signatures to place the recall on the ballot.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:09 AM

April 23, 2003

Price tag for universal coverage: $8 billion

Blue Shield bigwig Bruce Bodaken just unveiled new details about his company's proposal for universal health care in California. Speaking at the Sacramento Press Club, Bodaken said Blue Shield's employer-based plan would cost California about $8 billion a year, to cover the estimated 6 million who now are uninsured. About half of the pricetag would be paid by employers who don't provide health insurance now. Most of the rest would be borne by the state government. Bodaken, who is Blue Shield's chairman, president and CEO, proposes either a 1 cent sales tax increase or a 1 percent income tax hike, with the new revenues dedicated in the constitution to paying for the health care expansion. Low-profit employers and low-income individuals would have their rates subsidized by the state. More on this later.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:01 PM

April 22, 2003

In Capitol these days, you need to go along to get along

Here's today's column, on the brutal behind-the-scenes battle over attempts to repeal a law limiting the ability of school districts to contract with private firms to deliver public services. It proves once again that, as my predecessor John Jacobs used to say, politics ain't beanbag.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:09 AM

Supremes toss out binding arbitration law

The California Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, has struck down a law passed in 2000 requiring cities and counties to submit to binding arbitration to settle contract disputes with law enforcement unions. The long-contentious issue was a major boon to Gray Davis' first campaign for governor, as public safety unions flocked to his side in part because he was with them on labor issues, including binding arbitration. His Republican predecessors, Pete Wilson and George Deukmejian, though staunchly pro-law enforcement, had refused to sign legislation overriding the authority of city and county elected officials to negotiate contracts with their police and firefighters. Davis' Republican foe in 1998, then-Atty. Gen. Dan Lungren, also refused to go along, and suffered political damage because of it. Justice Ming Chin, writing the opinion for the court, said the law violated a state constituional provision that prohibts the Legislature from delegating municipal functions to a private party. The ruling won't affect agencies, such as the city of Sacramento, that adopted binding arbitration locally. Here is an LA Times story on the ruling by Maura Dolan.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:05 AM

April 21, 2003

Bush appointee ponders Senate bid

Chances are almost every California voter has Rosario Marin's name at their fingertips, but few could tell you who she is. The Bee's David Whitney profiles Marin, whose signature appears on every new dollar bill--and whose name is is making the rounds of the chattering classes as a potential Republican candidate for the US Senate in California. Marin, who holds the largely ceremonial job of U.S. Treasurer, is a pro-choice Mexican immigrant thinking of challenging Barbara Boxer in 2004.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:31 PM

April 20, 2003

Putting the toothpaste back in the tube

Here's today's column, on why a return to utility monopolies doesn't make sense for California's electricity industry.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:18 PM

April 18, 2003

On the Rice: possible future star

I should have linked to this Chronicle story on Condi Rice earlier this week. Nothing much new here, but it's a good overview of her profile and her role in the Bush White House. If the post-war rebuilding of Iraq goes as well as the war did, Rice will be in prime position to run for governor in '06 should she decide to do so. I don't know enough about Rice yet to pronounce her the ideal candidate for the job, but she would seem to be a good test case for that frequently heard complant: why don't good people run for high office? Here is someone who is smart, savvy, and experienced in one of the most high-pressure public service jobs in the country. She apparently has some political ambition. But will she run?

Posted by dweintraub at 9:30 AM

Old habits die hard

The Honolulu Advertiser reported in some detail this week on Chuck Quackenbush's unquenchible thirst for political action, and his attempt to whitewash the scandal that ended his California career. "I was completely exonerated of any allegation of wrongdoing," Quackenbush tells the paper. He and his wife, Chris, are trying to worm their way into Hawaii's Republican Party circles.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:15 AM

April 17, 2003

Worthy ideas on workers comp

Here's today's column, on several proposals to squeeze the middlemen out of workers compensation.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:38 AM

Private v. public unions

Today’s news that American Airlines flight attendants voted to accept 15 percent pay cuts is a vivid reminder about the difference between private sector and public sector unions. The flight attendants knew that without their concessions their employer was headed to bankruptcy. That could have meant even deeper pay cuts, or widespread layoffs, or even the end of the firm and the loss of all their jobs. In the public sector, however, the unions and their members have few such reservations. They can demand ever-higher wages and benefits and once they get them, refuse to accept any concessions in tough times. The consequences are generally not their concern. Witness the negotiations, if one can call them that, ongoing between the gov and the state employee unions. The unions have generally said they will give back nothing. And why should they? They have almost nothing to lose by standing firm.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:32 AM

April 16, 2003

Is Bush's California lead real, or a mirage like Dad's?

The Field Poll reports today that President Bush is leading the early presidential sweepstakes in California. And while Bush would no doubt rather be leading than trailing, even at this early date, it might be helpful to put those findings in some historical perspective. At this time in 1991, fresh from victory in Gulf War I, the president’s father was lapping the Democratic field in California. His closest potential competitor was then-New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, who trailed him 63-29. Bush the elder also led Bill Bradley, Al Gore, Richard Gephardt, Jesse Jackson, Paul Tsongas, Douglas Wilder, Robert Kerrey, Jay Rockefeller, Sam Nunn, George Mitchell, Lloyd Bentsen, Tom Harkin and, even a well known and much revered non-candidate, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf. Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton was almost an afterthought, trailing the president 67-16. Clinton, by the way, was busy that spring praising Bush’s handling of the war. A year and a half later, Clinton became the first Democrat to carry California since Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:40 PM

April 15, 2003

Move over, Pete Wilson

Gray Davis' job approval rating has hit an all-time low, not just for him but for any governor in the 55-year history of the Field Poll. Two-thirds of Californians hold a negative view of the governor's performance, while just 24 percent say he is doing a good job. Further cementing his image as a man without a party, more than half of his fellow Democrats give Davis a thumbs down. His personal image ratings are no better. These numbers give Davis the distinction of passing Pete Wilson (vintage 1993) as the least popular governor in modern California history.

Will these poll numbers fuel the recall? They might. While nearly 6 in 10 Californians say they think the attempt to remove Davis is a "bad thing," a small plurality (46-43) say they would vote against him if the issue reached the ballot. There are two reasons for this seemingly split personality. One is that many people probably see the recall as an extreme measure, a tactic with which they don't wish to be associated. It's just not something polite people do. The other reason for the split is that Californians are viewing the recall movement through a partisan lens, with Republicans tending to approve and Democrats overwhelmingly opposed. But once the recall question is put in front of them, many Democrats begin to warm to the idea. This tends to confirm the current conventional wisdom in the Capitol that the recall might not qualify, but if it does, Davis is toast. Interesting.

These numbers also could build on themselves. The governor already has shown virtually no ability to get lawmakers to follow his lead. What chance does he have of doing so now that he's been exposed as the object of such widespread derision? And if, because of his inability to lead, the state descends further into fiscal chaos, even more people will view Davis unfavorably. If that's possible.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:04 PM

To protect and serve, and retire in style

Here's today's column, on the latest drive by the law enforcement lobby to increase police pensions.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:44 PM

Recall Watch: Day 21 of 160

Organizers of the Gray Davis recall drive seem to be falling behind schedule in their quest for 900,000 signatures to force an election. The first viability benchmark to watch for is the submission of about 90,000 signatures. That would be 10 percent of what’s needed to get the question on the ballot and would trigger a process by which county registrars must begin to validate and count all the signatures turned into their offices. Unlike with a ballot measure, when all the signature checking and counting happens at once, with a recall it’s an ongoing process, with officials reporting monthly how many signatures have been verified. To be successful, the petition drive needs to collect about 7,500 signatures a day through the Sept. 2 deadline. That would give them 1.2 million, probably enough of a cushion to cover signatures that can’t be verified or are from people who weren’t registered voters. The petitions were certified March 25 and the campaign began in earnest the next day. If the organizers were on target, they should have collected more than 150,000 by now.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:11 AM

April 14, 2003

Spring break in the Capitol

Lawmakers have fled the capitol for their annual spring break. The Times makes decent hay of this in a piece by Michael Finnegan. The bigger story, of course, is not that they left but that they did so little before leaving. It's hard to tell how much of the failure to confront the budget mess is denial and how much is procrastination. Maybe it doesn't matter. The deficit grows bigger by the day with no sign of a resolution in sight. The governor's budget was dead on arrival, and no one has yet put forward a viable alternative. Davis tells Finnegan that he prefers quiet diplomacy to ranting and raving about the Legislature's intransigence. But the gov has little history of moving the Legislature using diplomacy, or any other means for that matter. This week's income tax deadline will help complete the revenue picture, which isn't getting any better. Then Davis revises his budget next month to set the parameters for any deal that might emerge. The 30 or 40 days between the May Revision of the budget and the day in late June when the state is scheduled to run out of cash might be some of the most chaotic in the history of the state. At this point it seems as if the administration and the Democratic powers that be in the Legislature are almost willing Wall Street to impose discipline on California.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:12 AM

April 13, 2003

Taxes for schools, not freedom?

I noted a change in the war protest message this weekend to one tinged with a newfound fiscal conservativism. The war, some protestors are saying, is a waste of tax dollars that should be spent at home, on health care or education. Am I the only one who finds this argument incredibly selfish, especially coming from a group that portrays itself as concerned, first and foremost, with the plight of humankind? No matter what you think of the motives behind the war, the fact is that today more than 20 millions souls who a week ago lived under the thumb of a dictator are now moving toward self-determination. And the economic sanctions that contained Saddam but were blamed for causing hundreds of thousands of deaths of Iraqi civilians, especially children, will soon be no more. If sustained by a serious effort to reconstruct a democratic Iraq, this seems to me to be an incredible victory for human rights on behalf of some of the most oppressed people in the world. If not for partisan politics, it would be a great liberal cause.

Beyond that, from a more hard-nosed geopolitical perspective, many of those millions freed last week share the same Shiite Muslim faith that is behind the revolution in Islamic Fundamentalism that has held this country out as the world's number one menace. If we can persuade those people that we support their right to worship as they please, and that in fact we will shed blood to create that right for them, isn't that a gesture that is likely to help us in the long run?

I think freeing 20 million people from Saddam is worth $100 billion by itself as a humanitarian measure. But if it also makes us millions of new friends in the Shiite community, it could be priceless.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:21 AM

Nickel and Diming

Bob Salladay of the San Francisco Chroncile does a great job tallying up many of the $28 billion in potential fees and charges proposed in 117 bills pending in the Legislature. A partial list of items to be assessed: lightbulbs, beer, diapers, bullets, airplanes, bottled water, guns, dry cleaning, cigarettes, medical licenses, earthquake insurance, oil, hunting and fishing licenses, marriage counselors, nursing homes, imported electricity, public colleges, mercury lamps, cell phones, satellite TVs, library books, landscaping, court documents, lumber and delinted cottonseed. As far as I know, so far no surcharge on museum tickets to support the Arts Council.

While the current orgy looks grotesque, I'm not sure the fee concept itself is as bad as some taxpayer groups and fiscal conservatives suggest. Watchdogs obviously fear abuse, as these bills can pass the Legislature on a simple majority vote, without Republican support. And that fear is well founded. But the law does require fee revenue to go only to services related to the charge being levied. So if well policed and enforced, the practice represents a more entrepreneurial style of government, where the citizens, in theory, get what they pay for. And this makes the people who pay the fees more sensitive to ensuring that the services government provides are worth the money they are paying. The danger is that some fee revenue will go for things only loosely connected to those who bear the burden. Keep your eye on this issue. We could see billions in new fees by the end of the summer.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:11 AM

The art of budget cutting

Here's today's column, on how the continuing survival of the California Arts Council symbolizes the state's refusal to set priorities in tough times.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:55 AM

April 11, 2003

The dogcatcher tax

It's probably worth debating whether California’s local governments need a bigger and more stable source of revenue. I’m inclined to think that compared to the state, the cities and counties have weathered the economic downturn pretty well so far. But whatever the answer to that question, the latest proposals to boost taxes and earmark the revenue for law enforcement are intellectually dishonest. The tactic’s backers suggest that public safety deserves its own revenue source because it’s the most important thing cities and counties do. But if that’s the case, then local officials should simply budget for cops and firefighters first, then spend what’s left on everything else. If all levels of government would do this -- set priorities and then work their way down the list until their money runs out -- we would get a much clearer picture of the true choices we face. It might turn out that it’s the dogcatcher, not the cop on the beat, whose salary won’t get paid without a tax hike. And that’s a different matter altogether.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:13 AM

April 10, 2003

Profits aren't the culprit. We are.

Here's today's column, on the false hope that regulating health plan profits will control medical costs.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:22 AM

To the victors...

Dan Morain at the LA Times reports this morning that the state's prison guards might be getting a raise nearly twice as large as anticipated on July 1. The correctional officers' contract, negotiated with Gov. Gray Davis a year ago, grants them raises in line with the average of law enforcement in five large California cities and counties. That was expected to net them somewhere between 3 percent and 4 percent this summer. Now it looks like the hike might be closer to 7 percent. Union officials say they have no intention of re-opening contract negotiations with Davis, who says he wants state employees to take pay cuts to help balance the budget.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:18 AM

April 9, 2003

Where Gray stood

With a solid 76 percent of Californians, according to this week's Field Poll, supporting the war in Iraq, history might want to record how the state's chief executive stood on the crucial question of whether the United States should have begun the conflict without the backing of the United Nations. Unfortunately, we may never know. I've been engaged in a running exchange of e-mails with Gray Davis spokesman Steve Maviglio, but the press secretary can't seem to give me a clear answer. He offered up several published quotes that showed that Davis, like President Bush and most other Americans, wanted UN backing for the war. And he says once Bush gave the go-ahead sign, Davis "deferred to the president." But as far as I can tell there is nothing on record showing whether Gray, before the war, thought it was right or wrong for the coalition to launch this pre-emptive strike without the approval of the UN.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:58 AM

April 8, 2003

Liberating the public schools

Almost no bromide gets more use in Sacramento than "local control." Everyone's for it -- except when it comes to stuff they want to tell the locals to do. Well on Wednesday morning the members of a Senate committee will have a chance to demonstrate if they're serious about giving local school districts the ability to manage the coming budget cuts in a way that preserves the quality of classroom instruction. Sen. Ross Johnson has offered up a bill that would suspend four measures passed late last year that increase administrative costs by, among other things, limiting the flexibility of local districts to use private contractors and short-term employees. Johnson’s bill (SB 789) would also suspend the state’s teacher recruitment program, which is spending $10 million a year to lure new teachers at a time when local districts have sent out thousands of layoff notices. The bill would allow the governor to reinstate the programs upon finding that the economy has “fully recovered” from recession. The measure will be heard in the Senate Education Committee, dominated by the same Democrats who passed all those bills last year. Don’t count on it going anywhere. But it makes a nice gesture.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:50 PM

News flash: charter schools don't follow the rules

The Education Establishment’s unceasing assault on charter schools continues today, as a respected policy research group releases a report ripping the independent public schools for not using enough credentialed teachers, among other things. But the report by Policy Analysis for California Education (PACE), while interesting, looks only at what goes into charter schools rather than the results their students produce. And since the whole point of charter schools is to free students, teachers and parents from the rules and regs in the education code, it makes little sense to judge them on how well they follow rules set up for the traditional school system. Or on whether they go after and receive federal funds, which often come with strings attached. Studies on charter school results have been all over the map, but one released today by the Charter Schools Development Center says charter schools in business for more than five years are doing better than their traditional public school counterparts. I haven't seen the PACE study online but will link to it when I find it.
UPDATE: Here is the link to the PACE study.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:26 AM

April 7, 2003

Can it get worse? Yes.

Already in critical fiscal condition, California will get a more detailed prognosis in the weeks ahead as the April 15 tax deadline comes and goes and the Franchise Tax Board tallies up the revenue coming in and the refunds going out. Early word is that we are seeing something of a mixed bag, with refunds, reflecting last year's slow economic activity, exceeding projections, but current withholding and estimated payments from corporations doing a little better than the Davis Administration expected. Yet even that take might be too optimistic. By the time Davis revises his budget next month, look for another billion or two in lost revenues since the gov last made a projection in January. Davis will also have to propose billions more in cuts or tax increases to make up for spending reductions he asked for but which the Legislature has not delivered. Overall, that means Davis might need to find another $5 billion or so. And that's still assuming we are not headed for a double-dip recession.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:33 PM

Davis might get one more chance to raise big bucks

Political watchdog Tony Miller notes that the new campaign finance limits that just went into effect for statewide races in California won't apply to Gray Davis if he faces a recall election, but they will apply to anyone who runs against him. That's the law as written by state legislators and approved by voters as Proposition 34 in 2000, according to the FPPC. But the situation is not as dire as it seems for the challengers. Any committee formed to support the recall but not affliliated with a particular candidate in the election would be free to raise and spend as much as it liked.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:26 PM

Dear Readers,

This week I launch a new and updated version of my online column, The California Insider. It will be in the form of a weblog, or “blog” as these things are known in online circles. For the uninitiated, a blog is a topical journal with frequent entries of varying length. The form began as a way to sift and critique the mainstream media by linking to interesting stories with a line or two of review. My blog will do that and more, commenting on the news of the day and, as often as possible, adding new facts to the discussion. It will also serve as my homepage, with links to items of interest and to my regular column, which will continue to appear in the Sacramento Bee on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday. There will be a way for readers to e-mail me with reactions or with ideas of their own.

Blogs by their nature are more spontaneous than traditional commentary. While I will strive as always to keep the facts accurate, the opinions I express might be more apt to evolve over time, as more information becomes available. Mickey Kaus, one of the pioneers in the field, wrote recently that bloggers have to almost train themselves to “go off half-cocked,” to trust their best instincts and then “change your mind later if you’re wrong.” As opposed to taking the David Broder method of mulling over initial impressions for weeks while slowly coming to a conclusion. It’s Kaus’ belief that on the Web, this clash of what he terms “insta-takes” from so many sources gets to the truth much more quickly than the more traditional method of pondering the world in relative isolation. I agree. But while Broder is a columnist and Kaus is pretty much a full-time blogger, I will be both. I am hoping that the combination produces the best of both worlds and not the worst.

Devotees of the genre might consider a blog by a widely published columnist an intrusion of their space, a subverting of the very idea of the blog. I don’t. As a columnist, I already sift through vast amounts of information and distill it, usually with my own analysis, for my readers. And while I am part of the dreaded mainstream media, my opinions are my own, frequently at odds with those expressed on the editorial pages of my employer. I have always been something of a contrarian. Now I will be doing all those things online, more frequently than before.

In any case, this is an experiment, part of my continuing fascination with the Web and its vast potential as a tool for communicating news and opinion about public affairs. I hope you enjoy it. If you don’t, you know where to find me.

Final note: The most successful blogs attract readers who return regularly for the latest updates. But for those who don’t have the time to check in that frequently, will continue to distribute a form of the electronic newsletter with highlights from the blog and a link to it.

Thanks for reading.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:33 PM



At Crossroads, a panel of experts and the public debate the future of health care in California. We'd like you to join the conversation.

Daniel Weintraub


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