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
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
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, SacBee.com 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