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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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« December 2004 | | February 2005 »
January 31, 2005

Below average

The Government Performance Project, an initiative of the University of Richmond funded by the Pew Charitable Trust, gives California a C-. The report card hits state government for its management of money, people, infrastructure and information.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:24 AM



Nurse!

The California Nurses Association has prepared a 60-second television ad ripping Schwarzenegger for referring to their union as a "special interest" and for his decision to suspend the state government's move toward setting hospital policy on the number of nurses required in each ward. You can view the ad here.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:38 AM



January 28, 2005

Electricity as contraband

The Utility Reform Network has filed a ballot measure for circulation that would prohibit Californians from buying and selling electricity except from monopoly utilities and prohibit the state from billing residential customers using real-time meters and rates. Both steps would result in the need for more power plants to be built in California, as users couldn't buy directly from out-of-state providers and real-time prices couldn't be used to smooth out the demand peaks that now drive the construction of new plants. The proposed initiative is in a pdf file here.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:37 AM



January 27, 2005

Another hound on the trail

A federal commission votes to audit Kevin Shelley's administration of federal election funds.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:25 PM



PPIC poll: mixed bag

Interesting poll out today from the Public Policy Institute of California. On the surface, it is bad news for Schwarzenegger. People don’t like what they have heard about his budget, nearly half disagree with his no-new-taxes approach, about half disapprove of the way he is handling education policy, and more people say they’re inclined to side with legislative Democrats than the Republican governor on budget issues.

But if you look a little deeper into the survey, there is plenty for the governor to build on.

For one thing, his approval rating remains high, at 60-33, despite an increasingly partisan tilt that shows Democrats starting to peel away from his side.

And on some of his specific policy points, the voters are with him.

Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) say they think the state could spend less and still provide the same level of services. And 42 percent said they thought the state could cut 10 percent to 20 percent without people feeling it (26 percent thought the state could cut even more). If Schwarzenegger makes it clearer that his budget raises rather than cuts spending, a lot of the dissatisfaction he is getting from independents and the left might start to fade.

Polled on individual elements of the governor’s performance, voters were most satisfied (58-30) with his effort to reform government. Thus, to the extent that Schwarzenegger is able to wrap his proposals in the mantle of reform, he will probably be more successful.

And on the items in his reform agenda, voters seem to be in sync with the governor:

--61 percent favored and only 25 percent opposed his proposal to change the state’s pension system to more resemble private-sector 401 (k) plans.

--By 59 percent to 32 percent, those surveyed said they favored a plan to limit the amount of money that the state could spend each year to the amount of revenue it receives, even if that meant across the board cuts when spending grows past revenues.

--On redistricting, the governor’s plan to shift the job to a panel of retired judges is favored by a margin of 44-41. (I wonder if that result was affected by the question, which referred to “redistricting” but didn’t explain that the arcane process involves the drawing of political boundary lines.)

Separately, by a margin of 50-43, respondents opposed lowering from two thirds to 55 percent the threshold for local voters to approve new taxes, a sign that voters, despite saying they are open to the idea of taxes, aren’t wildly enthusiastic about them.

Finally, in what might be the governor’s ace in the hole, the survey asked if Californians thought the budget process should be reformed by the governor and the Legislature or by the voters at the ballot box. In a landslide, the voters chose themselves, by a margin of 68-27. Schwarzenegger presumably agrees.


Posted by dweintraub at 1:46 PM



No pensions for legislators

I don't know if it's an organized letter-writing campaign or just political amnesia, but I've received a dozen or more emails suggesting I advocate repeal of legislators' pensions before we touch the retirement benefits of state workers. Most of you know this, but for those who don't: California legislators lost their pensions in 1990, when voters approved term limits. Prop. 140, in addition to capping service in the Assembly at three terms and in the Senate at two terms, cut the Legislature's budget and banned lawmakers from receiving pensions.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:35 AM



January 26, 2005

Arnold at the Press Club

In a speech and Q and A with the Sacramento Press Club today, the governor turned up the heat a bit on the Legislature, saying he had seen no sign in the three weeks since he called them into special session that they are doing any serious work.

“There is very little action going on over there,” Schwarzenegger said.

The governor told reporters that he is “moving ahead” with plans to circulate ballot measures to implement his agenda, and he hinted strongly that he will not back off once he gathers the required number of signatures. He also insisted that a special election must be held this year, and contended that it would be worth the $50 million-plus cost if it ends the state’s years of budget deficits.

Schwarzenegger ducked questions on Secretary of State Kevin Shelley’s troubles and on whether U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s emergence as Bush’s biggest critic would undermine his efforts to get more money from the feds.

And he tried once again (actually several times) to drive home his message that his proposed budget increases funding for the schools by $2.9 billion. Schwarzenegger has clearly been stung by the education lobby’s criticism on this issue, and with a soon-to-be-released poll reportedly showing that voters are displeased with what they have heard about his education budget proposals, I wouldn’t be surprised if he takes to the airwaves with television ads defending his position.

Here is a link from the governor's office to audio of the Q and A.

Here is Assembly leadership's response, from spokesman Steve Maviglio:

--The budget hearings being held by the legislature today (both Senate and Assembly) are the earliest in the legislature’s history (as far as we can determine from legislative records).

--Until 2 p.m. today, the Governor’s office had not communicated to the Speaker, the Majority Leader, or any other member in leadership that the legislation that has been submitted (the latest one, ACA 4/Across-the-board spending cuts, just six days ago) was the Governor’s legislative package for the special session.

--No sponsor of the legislation has contacted the clerks of the Assembly or Senate to inform us of their desire to have an early hearing on their proposal.

--None of the Governor’s “reform” proposals will have any impact on this year’s budget.

--The legislature will proceed with its plan to hold public hearings on legislation so Californians can speak for themselves about what their priorities are.


Posted by dweintraub at 2:35 PM



January 25, 2005

When it rains...

The state Personnel Board report on Kevin Shelley's office is out, and it's more bad news for the beleaguered Secretary of State. The Bee's early story is here, and the full report is here, in pdf form

Posted by dweintraub at 2:54 PM



Nice offer

Among several emails this morning from public employees asking me to stop writing about their pensions, as I did in this column, was this one that cut against the grain. The author described herself as a public employee in the San Diego area:

I agree whole-heartedly with your article in today's Sacramento Bee. However, I didn't notice you bringing attention to the fact that PERS doesn't cap benefits at 100%.

As a person who has been working in a PERS-qualifying job since I was 21,
and imagining that I will retire at age 60 (coupled with the fact that I
work for a local government that has granted 3% at 60 to miscellaneous
employees), my 39 years of service, times 3% will give me approximate 117%
of my highest salary. I cannot be the only person in California who will be
in this, or a similar, situation.

I'd be more than happy to simply accept 100%.


Posted by dweintraub at 2:07 PM



Long summer, and fall?

I moderated a panel discussion on the budget this morning with four legislators. In response to a question, two of them -- Sen. John Campbell and Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla -- predicted that the Legislature would not pass a budget until after a special election later this year. Canciamilla thought the election might be sooner than later, perhaps by July. Campbell predicted October or November. Assemblyman Keith Richman also thought the budget would be late, but before an election. The fourth panelist, Sen. Chuck Poochigian, didn't want to offer a prediction.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:02 PM



'We're taking the drugs away'

Here are extended excerpts from Gov. Schwarzenegger's visit to the Orange County Register editorial board on Monday.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:57 AM



January 24, 2005

Could Jones succeed Shelley?

If Kevin Shelley resigns, could Bill Jones replace him? Picking up on this Bee story saying Shelley might quit, Boifromtroy and his commenters are debating whether the fact that less than half a term doesn't count as one means that Jones, though technically termed out, is eligible.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:30 PM



Romero proposes CYA reforms

Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero is proposing a three-year overhaul of the troubled California Youth Authority. In a statement released by her office, Romero says her reform is modeled after Missouri's youth prison system, which she says is highly regarded. Her proposals:

--Immediately close the N.A. Chaderjian Youth Correctional Facility in Stockton.

--Make rehabilitation and the successful return to family and society the primary purpose at youth facilities.

--Remove all female wards from the state’s CYA facility in Ventura and place them at successful county-run programs. The state would ensure proper funding.

--Redesign, rebuild or remodel smaller living facilities that fit a maximum of 40 wards per unit. The smaller facilities are more conducive to rehabilitation efforts.

--Eliminate prison-like uniforms.

--End 23-hour lockdowns.

--End use of cages at all facilities.

--Ensure transfer rights to CDC for CYA staff.

--Retrain and reclassify all youth authority staff who wish to remain in CYA.

--Provide transitional services for wards once released from the Youth Authority.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:37 PM



Seismic retrofits

The Legislative Analyst's report on the state's options for completing seismic retrofits on toll bridges, including the Bay Bridges, is out this morning. You can find it here.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:20 AM



January 21, 2005

An FDA for cars?

Russell Roberts continues the ongoing, extremely provocative discussion at Cafe Hayek about whether we really need the FDA to decide which drugs we can or cannot take.

UPDATE: bad link now fixed.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:24 AM



January 20, 2005

Single payer

Sen. Sheila Kuehl is back with her plan for a government-run, single-payer health care plan. I oppose this idea on principle, because I do not want the people who run the DMV and ruined California's electricity industry to be managing my health care. I want to decide what health care I want and need, I'll take the risk that I can find a way to pay for it, and I'm willing to help those who can't afford it get what they need.

But setting aside my ideological position, what about the practicalities of single-payer? One of the premises is that government-run health care would be cheaper than private insurance because administrative costs would be reduced, marketing eliminated, etc. But I see at least one big problem with this theory.

Kuehl is proposing health care for all, "free" at the point of service, no deductibles, no co-payments. Does anyone honestly believe that given that framework, the demand for health care would not increase, and increase dramatically? It's a myth that the "demand" for health care is driven only by the onset of specific illnesses and injury, and is unaffected by the price of health care. One need only look at the workers compensation system for injured workers, who get their care for free, to see what effect that has on usage. And if doctors are paid by the visit, would they not have an incentive to overtreat and overtest? If we are to guard against such abuse, would we then not need to erect an entire new bureaucracy to fight it? The possibilities are endless.

Another huge problem Kuehl has never acknowledged: early retirement. Right now, I would bet that millions of Americans aged 55 and up who could otherwise afford to retire are still working mainly because they get their health care through their employer and couldn't afford to buy it on their own. Kuehl wants to give those people "free" health care, paid for by payroll taxes. But the 55-plus set who retire early (and use a lot of health care) won't be paying any payroll taxes. So her plan is basically an invitation to every well-off older Californian, and every well-off older American, to retire early here and get their health care for free, at the expense of younger middle-income and even poor workers who would be paying higher taxes to give them that privilege. That's just what we need: another transfer of wealth from the young to the old. At the very least, for Kuehl's plan to avoid total collapse, she would have to tap into the wealth of those retirees, not just the wages of the working class.

I don't want to give the good senator any more ideas on how to pretty up this pig, so I'll stop there.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:44 PM



California Rising

brown.jpg

I've just started California Rising, Ethan Rarick's biography of Pat Brown. I'll give a full report later, but knowing what I know about Rarick's considerable skills as a journalist and a writer, I am betting that it will be a great read.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:08 PM



State revenues

revenue.jpg

The Legislative Analyst has published a great report on revenue volatility in California, with options for reducing it, from shifting the source of taxes, to the relative burden on various income groups and types of income, to larger reserves. You can find the report here.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:23 PM



January 19, 2005

Cal-PERS campaign to save public pensions

Assemblyman Keith Richman is accusing Cal-PERS of misusing public funds by using this site to try to rally government workers and the public against a plan to shift new state and local workers into 401-k style pension plans. Richman has asked the pension fund to take down the site or modify it to make it a strictly factual information source.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:48 PM



Public financing

I had lunch today with an old friend who shall for the moment remain nameless. We were talking about the potential for public financing of campaigns as a way to let "the people" take back their Legislature from the governor's hated special interests. But given the usual opposition to traditional public financing, my friend suggested that instead, the state could give a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for, say, the first $20 (or $50?) contributed to a political campaign. Further, the state might set up a web site that would allow citizens to easily give in small amounts to the candidate of their choice, perhaps through some sort of Pay-Pal type system. Seems like an idea worth considering.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:53 PM



Love the teachers, hate the union

It's a new year, and that, it seems, means it's time for another misleading radio commercial from the California Teachers Assn. The latest one, featuring union President Barbara Kerr and three anonymous teachers, alleges falsely that the governor is proposing to cut school funding in the coming year, and that education spending has been cut by $9.8 billion over some unspecified period.

The text:

Barbara Kerr: I'm Barbara Kerr, president of the California Teachers Association and a classroom teacher. It's ironic. Just days after a respected report chastised California for severely underfunding our public schools, the Governor proposes a budget that will cut school funding by billions more. And this is on top of the $9.8 billion in cuts that classrooms have already suffered. Here's what teachers say: Teacher # 1: The class sizes are so large it's hard to focus attention on every student.

Teacher #2:
When kids are sharing text books and other classroom materials, it's harder for them to learn.

Teacher #3
Because of state budget cuts, schools have had to lay off librarians and even counselors and they are so important to what we do in the classroom.

Barbara Kerr:
We must let the Governor and the Legislature know that they've got to stop balancing the budget on the backs of our children. It's time for lawmakers to keep their word and provide our schools the resources our kids need to succeed.

Announcer:
This message was brought to you by the California Teachers Association.

In fact, according to the Department of Finance and the non-partisan Legislative Analyst's office, the governor is proposing to increase state and local education spending by $2.9 billion in the coming year. Even if you deduct for some added pension expenses Schwarzenegger wants to shift to the schools, it's still effectively an increase of $2.5 billion -- not a cut. What the teachers call billions in cuts is the governor's decision to give the schools less than they expected to get in 2005-06.

The other figure used in the ad -- cuts of $9.8 billion -- must represent a sum of expected funding not delivered, because the number bears absolutely no resemblance to any fact about actual education spending. Here are the numbers for state general fund and local property tax revenue for education since 1998-99, compiled from annual reports by the Legislative Analyst:

1998-99: $35.6 billion
1999-00: $39.5 billion
2000-01: $42.9 billion
2001-02: $43.2 billion
2002-03: $43.9 billion
2003-04: $46.2 billion
2004-05: $47.1 billion (estimated)
2005-06: $50 billion (proposed)

Update: A reader asks, what's been the change on a per student basis? Good question. Answer:

1998-99: $5,751 per student
2004-05: $7,012
2005-06: $7,374 (proposed)


Posted by dweintraub at 10:13 AM



Taming the monster

Here's the Bee's story re Schwarzenegger's appearance at the editorial board, and here is the Bee's editorial, whacking the governor for calling the public sector a "monster."

Posted by dweintraub at 10:12 AM



January 18, 2005

Facts and figures

arnold.jpg

Chart in hand, the governor came to the Sacramento Bee's editorial board today in the latest stop on a statewide tour, the first time he's done ed boards since announcing he would run for governor in August, 2003. He didn't exactly break any news, but he made a pitch for his reform agenda, declared that he had a vision that 2005 would be a year of "drastic change," complained about the "three stooges" (Fabian, Phil and Bill?) misrepresenting his fiscal policies, quoted Nietzsche, and said "we could have done a better job last year" in getting the budget balanced. For a guy who once famously said that the public doesn't care about facts and figures, he sure is spouting a lot of numbers in defense of his budget plan. More later.

UPDATE: Apparently the governor's "stooges" are Phil Angelides, Bill Lockyer and Jack O'Connell, at least if his view is the same as the Republican Party's press release earlier in the day. Thanks to several readers for pointing out the connection.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:00 PM



Clemency denied

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has denied clemency to convicted murderer Donald J. Beardslee, who is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection tonight. In a statement released by his office, Schwarzenegger said:

"I have given serious consideration to Donald Beardslee's petition for clemency including all supporting evidence and testimony. The state and federal courts have affirmed his conviction and death sentence, and nothing in his petition or the record of his case convinces me that he did not understand the gravity of his actions or that these heinous murders were wrong. I do not believe the evidence presented warrants the exercise of clemency in this case."

You can download the full text of his official decision here.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:56 PM



January 14, 2005

Electricity refunds

Mirant has agreed to pay $750 million to settle claims that it manipulated California energy markets during the 2000-2001 crisis. The money will go primarily to three California utilities that bought the power.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:22 PM



State loses 25,000 jobs

California reports the loss of 25,000 payroll jobs in December, though the unemployment rate held steady at 5.8 percent. Here is the EDD's press release, in pdf form.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:29 PM



Governor's remap plan

Here is the governor's redistricting proposal, as introduced by Assembly Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. If approved at a special election this year, it would require new lines be drawn in time for the 2006 elections. Among the criteria is a requirement that the new lines be drawn to maximize competitiveness, so that whenever possible given other criteria, the registration of the two largest parties be within 7 percentage points of each other.

UPDATE: Several readers have pointed out that one section of the proposal prohibits the use of party registration data in drawing the lines. Another section mandates that the district, whenever possible, be competitive, measured by party registration. Oops.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:53 AM



Spending controls

Finance Director Tom Campbell takes issue with my criticism of the governor's spending control proposal, and with my alternative, described here.

Campbell makes two points about my plan, which calls for a rule basing next year's spending on this year's revenues, or, in a slightly different version, an average of several years' tax receipts.

First, he says, if my plan were applied immediately, it would limit spending in the coming year to this year's revenue, forcing lawmakers to cut $5 billion more than Schwarzenegger's plan. Point granted.

Second, Campbell points out that my plan carries no enforcement mechanism if lawmakers and some future governor refuse to live by the rule. To counter that, I suggested that, like the state's constitutional ban on borrowing without a vote of the people, I could add such a wrinkle to my plan, essentially saying that the spending limit could only be violated with the people's permission. That way, if lawmakers ignored it, voters would have standing to sue for enforcement.

Campbell granted that such a technique would work, but then asked what would happen in such a lawsuit? What would the remedy be? His answer: a judge, if he found for the voter-plaintiffs, would probably order across-the-board cuts to all programs. Prescisely the mechanism that sits at the heart of the governor's plan.

I will concede that my plan works better if you start with a balanced budget, essentially guaranteeing that you will never have this problem again. The Campbell-Schwarzenegger approach might be superior for forcing a balanced budget on recalcitrant lawmakers.

But I still think it's silly for Schwarzenegger to seek such a powerful tool without first proposing a balanced budget himself. Any way you look at it, he is asking the voters to do something that he has not been willing to propose to the Legislature.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:22 AM



January 13, 2005

Hewitt on redistricting

Hugh Hewitt says he thinks politics is best when it's a clash of partisan ideologies. Then he declares legislative control of redistricting to be part of that fight:

"I believe the country is best served by the sharp clash of partisans holding to clear agendas placed before the people for their review and assessment at the polls, and redistricting is part of that process. The courts should stay out of it, and when courts are obliged to act, legislatures should return to their duty as soon as possible."

He's wrong about redistricting, on at least two counts. First, it's not just part of the daily grind of politics. It is more like the playing field than the contest itself. Letting the players draw the field would be like letting football players change the shape of their field for each game, or each season, depending on the strength of their team. Second, letting the politicians control redistricting suppresses debate by taking the competition out of elections. If you want more clashing, you should want more districts in which either party has a chance to prevail.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:46 PM



Shelley to testify

Secretary of State Kevin Shelley, under the threat of a subpoena, has agreed to testify at a Feb. 3 legislative hearing looking into his administration of federal election funds.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:57 PM



Opportunity knocking?

Peter Beinart thinks the Democrats should embrace Schwarzenegger's redistricting reform.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:21 AM



More on initiative funding

Election law blogger Rick Hasen, with an assist from Lance Olson, updates his comments from yesterday regarding fundraising, initiative campaigns and the governor. One of the regs he cited earlier wouldn't apply in the case of a special election, because the governor would not be a candidate on the ballot.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:16 AM



January 12, 2005

Arduin, Laffer & Moore

Donna Arduin, late of Schwarzenegger's Finance Department, is set to launch a new consulting firm with two other high-powered conservative fiscal experts: Art Laffer and Stephen Moore. Laffer, of course, is one of the fathers of supply side economics and is best known for his "Laffer Curve" showing how lower tax rates can produce higher revenues. Moore, until recently president of the Club for Growth, now heads the Free Enterprise Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying group.

The firm will be known as Arduin, Laffer & Moore with offices in Florida, San Diego and Washington, D.C.

The company, according to a soon-to-be-released statement, will provide "strategic budget, tax, and economic consulting advice and analysis to state and local governments. The new firm will also provide economic analysis for companies and trade associations, provide economic and budget research and testimony, develop economic arguments for proposed legislation and offer solutions to various fiscal problems."

Posted by dweintraub at 6:16 PM



State of emergency

...declared by Schwarzenegger today for Ventura County, site of this week's killer mudslide.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:34 PM



Legislative analyst on the budget

Legislative Analyst Liz Hill is out with her quick assessment of the governor's budget. Her bottom line:

The 2005-06 budget plan has several positive attributes. It realistically portrays the size of the problem facing the state and contains reasonable estimates for its solutions. It also contains a significant amount of ongoing savings.

However, while the budget's proposals would address the 2005-06 shortfall, it falls well short of fully addressing the state's ongoing structural imbalances. Moreover, its budget reform proposals would dramatically reduce the ability of future policy makers to establish budget priorities when addressing future budget shortfalls.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:58 AM



Democrat response

Attended a briefing for reporters yesterday by Assembly Budget Chairman John Laird of Santa Cruz and two colleagues. While there were a few interesting nuggets, it's fair to say that these folks seem, somehow, to have been caught flat-footed by Schwarzenegger's aggressive agenda. Facing a $9 billion shortfall, they oppose Schwarzenegger's biggest cuts but shy away from the logical alternative: across-the-board tax increases. They wanted to focus instead on loophole closures and tax law enforcement. And they had no ideas of their own on how to control the state's runaway spending. They pleaded a lack of time -- the governor's budget had been out for only a day -- but surely they, like everyone else in the Capitol, knew pretty much what was coming. With Schwarzenegger gunning for the ballot, the legislative calendar this year seems likely to be accelerated. Everything will have to move in fast motion. If the Democrats want to keep up with the governor, they are going to have to get up to speed. An alternative, balanced budget of their own would be a nice place to start.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:48 AM



Arnold on term limits

"I will put the attention on that and I will keep hammering away," he said. "I am like an Alabama tick. I stick there and you can't get rid of me."

--Schwarzenegger, in an interview with the Union-Tribune editorial board. He also says he is open to changing term limits:

"The special interests are becoming more powerful and smarter and having more influence than the legislators because they're such experts," the governor said. "They're around forever. That's a big disadvantage now, and so now people are talking about maybe we should extend the term limits."

With the almost constant chatter about loosening legislative term limits, I've never heard anyone mention the two-term limit on statewide officeholders, including the governor. Wonder if anyone, as part of the deal, might be interested in extending that to, say, three terms?

Posted by dweintraub at 9:38 AM



Outer limits

Election law blogger Rick Hasen comments on the limits, literally, on Schwarzenegger's ability to finance his proposed reform campaign via ballot initiatives.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:24 AM



January 11, 2005

Health care

Here is an essay on the Swiss health care system, which has universal coverage (even for immigrants and visitors) with no connection to employers. Might be some lessons here for California.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:25 PM



New California blog

The Claremont Institute has an interesting new group blog, called Local Liberty.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:28 AM



January 10, 2005

Budget

Here's AP's first take on Schwarzenegger's budget, which increases spending by 4.2 percent but reduces it below what would be required to meet all of the state's obligations under current law.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:14 PM



Budget and e-budget

The governor releases his budget proposal in a 1 p.m. press conference. A link to the summary and full document is supposed to be available then at the Department of Finance web site.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:14 AM



Bob Matsui

Doris Matsui is planning to run to succeed her late husband as Sacramento's representative in Congress.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:24 AM



January 7, 2005

The schools

With word leaking out that Schwarzenegger plans to propose giving K-14 education less than they expected in the coming year, all hell is breaking loose in and around the Capitol. Here’s some perspective:

--The governor does seem to be violating at least the spirit of his agreement a year ago with the education lobby. They supported his budget proposal to suspend Proposition 98, the minimum guarantee for school funding, and take $2 billion that otherwise would have gone to their budgets. In return, he pledged to give them no less than the minimum required by Proposition 98 in future years.

--As it happened, revenues in the current year exceeded the forecast, automatically triggering an unexpected increase in the Proposition 98 minimum guarantee. The schools believe this means they are due at least an additional $1.1 billion in the current school year, plus another $1.1 billion next year beyond what everyone thought they were going to get.

--To give them the extra money would take a separate act by the Legislature. The way the law was written, if lawmakers do nothing, the schools get exactly what was budgeted last summer. The non-partisan legislative analyst recommends that the Legislature do nothing, save the $2.2 billion over two years (she says it's more like $2.8 billion) and use the money for other state programs. This would wipe out about one-third of the shortfall facing the state in the coming year, while still leaving the schools with sufficient money to keep pace with enrollment growth and inflation.

--The governor plans to propose giving schools about $2 billion less than they think they are owed. Overall, they still would get an increase of $2.4 billion year over year in state and local funds, more than enough to keep pace with enrollment demands and price increases.

--In a separate move, the governor is also proposing to shift pension obligations for school employees entirely to the schools, rather than having the state general fund shoulder part of this burden. This could cost the schools as much as $1.1 billion in the coming year, taking away from their ability to fund programs at their current level.

--So, depending on how the pension fight turns out, the schools will be getting significantly more money than last year, more even than they thought they would be getting when they signed onto the governor’s deal. But they will be getting less than what they can legitimately argue they are due. And if they also have to take on the pension obligations in the coming year, they will be severely pinched, if not cut.

For a press critic’s view of how this issue is portrayed in the media, see Patterico’s rant here on the way the LA Times two years in a row has portrayed a big increase in school budget as a “cut.”

Posted by dweintraub at 10:48 AM



January 6, 2005

Boxer rebellion

California Sen. Barbara Boxer lodged a formal protest today against President Bush's reelection, citing irregularites in the Ohio vote.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:28 PM



Schwarzenegger on the couch

Here's a round-up of journalists' analysis of Schwarzenegger's State of the State speech:

My take: I like all of his reforms except the budget stuff, and I say he has finally begun to live up to the spirit of the recall.

The Bee's Dan Walters: After a year of relative aversion to risk, Schwarzenegger rolls the dice, big time.

The Bee's Amy Chance: Despite the talk of collaboration, it's clear Schwarzenegger is looking past the Legislature toward a special election on his reforms later this year.

The LA Times' Robert Salladay (registration required): The governor "took aim at the lifeblood of Democrats and of politics itself — how money is spent, how constituents are rewarded and how elections are run."

The Times" George Skelton: Schwarzenegger should focus more on compromising with legislators and less on a special election.

Bill Ainsworth of the San Diego Union-Tribune: "In his first year in office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger alternately cooperated and competed with Democrats, who dominate the Legislature. This year, the Republican governor seems determined to use his soaring popularity to confront Democrats."

Lynda Gledhill and Carla Marinucci in the Chronicle: " Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Wednesday embraced the challenge that he has avoided up to now, pledging to use his populist appeal to recast California government while taking on some of the state's most entrenched traditional powers. By vowing to take power away from lawmakers, insisting on strict spending limits and pledging to overhaul the state's pension system, the governor is tackling politically risky issues that previous governors failed to make headway on or sidestepped entirely."

Dion Nissenbaum in the Mercury News: By unleashing a union-driven attack on his proposals, Schwarzenegger may be getting his opposition to play right into his hands.


Posted by dweintraub at 7:36 AM



January 5, 2005

Congressional trifecta

With the election today by House Republicans of Rep. Jerry Lewis to head the Appropriations Committee, California now has members in three of the most important slots in Congress. Rep. Bill Thomas already chairs Ways and Means, and David Dreier heads Rules. With those three in such important roles, and with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger having gone to bat for President Bush in the fall campaign, California ought to be in position to catch a break from Congress, fiscally speaking. A good place to start would be full reimbursement for the cost of illegal immigration, especially in the prisons, and a tweaking of the Medicaid formulas so that California, which has a high population of poor people, isn't penalized because the state also has many high-income earners. Schwarzenegger promised during his campaign to get more money from Washington. Now is the time for him to live up to that pledge.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:54 PM



Memories of Matsui

Peter Anderson, a former journalist and political aide who was press secretary for Bob Matsui's first campaign for Congress, recounts some wonderful personal memories of the man in an essay he sent me via e-mail.

An excerpt:

"Another time, poignantly, the two of us were attending a student political rally in the outside common area of Sacramento City College. It came to be Bob's turn to speak at the podium, and during his speech, a student asked him his views on citizenship. Abandoning his prepared notes, Bob cleared his throat and embarked on what remains for me one of the most moving, intensely personal monologues I have ever heard a politician utter. In a few flash moments, he recounted his family’s days held shamefully against their will in a World War II California prison camp. He talked lovingly of his family's struggles and heartbreaks, and proclaimed in a voice quaking with emotion how proud he was, despite all that, to be an American. Suddenly, tears got the best of him, and, apologizing profusely, he broke away from the podium. After a slight pause of intense silence, the student body broke into uproarious applause. In that first race for Congress, I still believe that was Bob Matsui's most shining and defining moment. "I feel like a fool," he said to me. I said: "Bob, look around you. These are jaded, cynical students treating you like a rock star. You have just become a serious candidate."

Download and read the whole thing here.>

Posted by dweintraub at 12:10 PM



Sex ed

Tony Andrade, an ally of recall sponsor Ted Costa, is circulating an initiative that would restrict sex education in the public schools. You can find the summary here, by scrolling down.

The full text in pdf form is here.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:07 AM



Media synergy

Press critic Jay Rosen reviews a Greensboro proposal to turn the local newspaper into what sounds like a blogpaper. Intriguing stuff.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:01 AM



Public pensions

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is taking the plunge, diving into the state and local pension mess he inherited when he became governor. According to this story frm the Bee, aides say he will embrace a proposal to move all new government hires to 401-k style pension plans rather than the defined benefit plans enjoyed by public employees today. The change would give taxpayers more predictability, prevent unfunded liabilities and allow employees to carry their retirement plan with them when they change jobs or pass it on to their heirs when they die. Despite the advantages for some employees, most public workers would prefer the generous defined benefit plans they have now, and they won't be giving them up, even for future hires, without a fight.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:20 AM



January 4, 2005

Matsui

C-Span will cover the Washington D.C. memorial service for Rep. Robert Matsui, at 9:30 a.m. Pacific time Wednesday.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:30 PM



Phil on deficits: they're bad

Treasurer Phil Angelides, who is expected to run for governor in 2006, is rolling out an ad attacking Schwarzenegger for running up the state's debt. The commercial says the growing cost of servicing the debt is leading to cuts in programs, when a more accurate description would be that the lack of cuts in programs (or a lack of tax increases) is what led to the debt. And Angelides, as usual, is more courageous in attacking the easy target of deficit spending than he is in offering either the spending cuts or tax increases that would be needed to balance the budget. See the ad here.


Posted by dweintraub at 1:26 PM



Dems target Hastings

Reed Hastings, the Democrat, Silicon Valley entrepreneur, supporter of charter schools and academic standards, is in danger of losing his seat on the state Board of Education because Democrats in the state Senate are miffed by his actions implementing Proposition 227, the bilingual education measure passed by voters. Hastings was originally appointed by Gray Davis and reappointed by Schwarzenegger and must face Senate confirmation again. The Rules Committee hearing is scheduled for Wednesday. A defeat would be a blow to school choice and standards and a bold demonstration by Democrats that their party has abandoned the bipartisan reform agenda that is slowly but surely improving California's schools.

UPDATE: It now appears that Senate Rules will postpone the Hastings hearing for at least one week, until Jan. 12.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:31 PM



Campaign finance

Election Law blogger Rick Hasen writes here about the loophole that allowed California public officials to raise unlimited amounts of cash for ballot measure campaigns. Hasen thinks an FPPC rule closing the loophole will be challenged in court and says the Legislature should plug it by statute.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:20 PM



January 3, 2005

December revenues

December income tax revenues, the last before the governor proposes his budget next week, were strong but not strong enough to alter the basic math facing Schwarzenegger.

Personal income tax receipts were about $4.4 billion, right on the forecast and up about 10 percent from December, 2003.

The corporate tax, meanwhile, continued its run as the strongest performer relative to projections, producing about $1.37 billion. That was 45 percent more than a year ago and nearly 20 percent higher than forecast. Most of the bump beyond the projection appears to be coming from lower than expected refunds.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:19 PM



Matsui

The most poignant moment at lobbyist Steve Thompson's Sacramento funeral last summer came when Thompson's long-time friend, Congressman Bob Matsui, described how Thompson had reached out to him in seventh grade and made him feel comfortable as a Japanese-American in a mostly white school. Matsui then told a hilarious tale about traveling with Thompson by bus to San Franscisco as high schoolers to see a movie, and getting sick on cigars they had pilfered from their fathers' stashes. The story, and Matsui's relish in telling it, seemed out of character for the reserved, modest congressman, but you could see in it the love for his friend coming through. Now Matsui, like his dear pal Thompson, has died rather suddenly, after a brief illness. I hope the two of them are together again, causing trouble and having fun, getting the last laugh on the rest of us.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:31 AM



January 2, 2005

Robert Matsui

Robert Matsui, a Democratic leader in Congress and Sacramento's representative since 1979, has died at the age of 63. The early story is here.

Bipartisan reaction here.

The political implications, from the Bee's Washington Bureau. Among the possible successors: Doris Matsui, his widow, Sen. Deborah Ortiz, former Assemblyman Darrell Steinberg.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:22 PM



 
 

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