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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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« April 2005 | | June 2005 »
May 31, 2005

Apples and apples

In their budget presentations today, the Assembly Democrats claimed that their spending plan would leave the state $1.7 billion better off than the governor's plan at the end of the next fiscal year. But $1.5 billion of that difference came from optimistic revenue projections involving state taxes, local property taxes, and federal funds. And if those hopes come true, they would be as true for Schwarzenegger's budget as for the Democrats. So to be fair, any comparison between the two ought to credit those gains to the governor's side of the ledger as well. That pretty much wipes out the difference in the bottom line between the two. And another $1.4 billion of the difference comes from the Democrats' belief that they can raise the sales tax to pay for transportation with a simple majority vote in the Legislature, a move surel to be challenged in court if it ever happened. Take that maneuver away and the Dems are about $1.2 billion worse off than the governor -- after raising taxes.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:06 PM

Taxing the rich

I don't have any ideological objection to the Democrats' proposal to tax top earners and give the extra money to the schools. While I tend to think California's level of taxes is just about right, I don't see anything sacred in today's tax rates that means they can never be changed. But I do see some practical and political problems with the Democrats' plan, beyond the obvious one of wondering where Republican support is going to come from.

First, it seems like a huge mistake to raise taxes for the first time in 15 years and not get any closer to balancing the budget. As the persistent deficits make painfully clear, California doesn't have enough money now to pay for the services government is providing. If we raise taxes, shouldn't it be to cover current services, rather than to expand services while leaving the structural deficit essentially unchanged?

Second, I think it would be crazy to raise the upper income rates without also adopting some kind of smoothing mechanism of the sort Schwarzenegger is proposing in his budget reform measure. Taxes on upper income folks are notoriously volatile because their incomes vary tremendously with the stock market, real estate prices and the like. Raising those rates is only going to make California government even more dependent on that revenue stream than it is already. Without some mechanism to ensure that we don't spend all of the next spike, you're just asking for future deficits the next time the business cycle turns over.

Third, and especially on the tiny chance that there might be a Republican or two with an open mind on this subject, the state shouldn't be raising taxes for the schools without linking that increase to some very fundamental reforms. Atop my list would be massive categorical reform, cutting the strings on much of the money the state now sends to school districts with instructions on how it must be spent. Even better would be Assemblywoman Lynn Daucher's "Home Rule" proposal, which would allow local voters to opt out of state micromanagement as long as their district's students were making progress toward meeting statewide academic standards.

If I were a Republican in the Legislature and I could get a comprehensive solution to the budget mess, a spending limit that at least smoothed revenues, and a fundamental reform that freed districts to spend their money as they wished, I would consider it in exchange for putting the tax increase on the ballot. Especially since Rob Reiner is likely to win voter approval next June to increase the same tax and use the money to finance unionized preschool for all, including middle class and wealthy parents who already provide it for their children without a state subsidy.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:02 PM

Assembly Dems: tax the rich

Assembly Democrats propose $3.1 billion more for schools and a tax increase on top earners to pay for it. But even after raising taxes they would still be left with a multi-billion-dollar gap next year.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:38 PM

Phil joins the 'sphere

Treasurer Phil Angelides is blogging -- at Arianna Huffington's celebrity-filled Huffington Post. Nothing you haven't heard before, but in a new form, and for a new audience.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:26 AM

Those were the days...

Wonder why the Assembly Democrats are going to Sutter Middle School in Sacramento today to unveil their alternative to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget proposal? That's where the gov held his own press conference on Jan. 8, 2004, standing with school leaders to announce the "deal" that has since come back to haunt him. I don't know for sure, but I am guessing that some of those same leaders will be with Speaker Fabian Núñez today when he is expected to propose that the state give more money to public education than Schwarzenegger has included in his budget. The Sacramento Bee photo below was taken at the governor's Sutter event. Ouch.


And here is one that shows Schwarzenegger in the Sutter school library with his former friends:


Posted by dweintraub at 7:38 AM

May 27, 2005

Dig this


Too clever? Based on this SF Chronicle story, the Democrats are saying that the gov used taxpayer dollars to dig a hole in a San Jose street Thursday so he could be filmed repairing it. The gov's office says the project was ready to go and they didn't do anything to change the way the crew did its work.

UPDATE: This San Jose Mercury News item quotes a spokesman for the city's Democratic mayor saying that they didn't dig a pothole for the governor to fill and didn't do anything out of the ordinary to create an image for him.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:30 PM

May 26, 2005

PPIC: voters testy

Here is the link to the latest poll from the Public Policy Institute of California, which shows Schwarzenegger's approval ratings falling since January on a broad array of issues. Despite the erosion, the poll still shows two of the governor's proposed ballot measures -- redistricting and budget reform -- leading by narrow pluaralities. And it shows the public slightly more favorable (less unfavorable?) toward his budget proposals today than in January.

The gov's political shop, meanwhile, has distributed its own private polling that purports to show the governor doing very well. Private polling is of course always suspect, and in this poll the "push questions" are pretty evident in some cases. But I thought you might still be interested to see what it is that they are spreading around. You can download a power point presentation on the poll here.

UPDATE: The Democrats respond. Here is a PDF of their memo whacking the gov's team for its push polling.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:15 AM

Census bureau: 64 percent voted

The Census Bureau is out with what looks to be the final word on voting in 2004, and the bureau reports that 64 percent of adult citizens went to the polls, up from 60 percent. Lots of demographic and state-by-state data in there, too.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:05 AM

Unions march on Capitol


An estimated 10,000 protesters -- mostly government union workers -- gathered on the Capitol's south steps Wednesday to demonstrate against the governor's budget and policy agenda.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:14 AM

May 25, 2005

San Diego schools

Bad news and good news from San Diego. The bad news: A huge achievement gap remains between African-American and white kids in the public schools. The good news: black parents and community leaders are demanding that the gap be closed.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:30 AM

May 24, 2005

Legislative pay raise

BoiFromTroy has an interesting take on a little-noticed side effect of the legislative pay raise: it will require every candidate to file disclosure statements with the FPPC and thus discourage amateur candidates from taking a run at politics.

UPDATE: A legislative committee consultant adds some clarification:

Boi From Troy left out a small but important detail in stating that raising $1109 for a filing fee will trip the requirement to file campaign disclosures. Section 84101(d) of the Government Code (a portion of the Political Reform Act) states that in calculating whether $1,000 in contributions has been received, payments for a filing fee shall not be included if these payments have been made from the candidate's personal funds. So, if these citizen candidates will just kick in $110 of their own money toward their filing fee they're off the hook. But potential low-budget candidates shouldn't take legal advice from me or Boi From Troy -- they should call the FPPC or visit their excellent website.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:53 AM

This merits a look

Xiaochin Claire Yan says the UC should pressure K12 schools to do better by minorities rather than abandoning merit as part of the university's fabric.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:28 AM

Hiring and firing inThe City

Gavin Newsom takes a tentative first step toward trying to modernize San Francisco's civil service system.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:18 AM

May 23, 2005

'He's in' -- or at least his money is

The AP says Steve Westly has written that threatened $10 million check to his fledgling gubernatorial campaign.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:18 PM

Lesson learned?

There has been a run of stories like this one in today's Chronicle playing off he United Airlines pension story to cast doubt on President's Bush's plan for individual Social Security retirement accounts. But I think they are drawing the wrong conclusion. The assumption is that the failure of big companies like United or Bethlehem Steel to live up to their pension obligations means we should want to depend even more on the federal government to provide our retirement security. I draw the opposite lesson. I think the failure of those companies to live up to their obligations is one more reason we should want to provide for our own security. After all, there is no guarantee that the feds won't also cut benefits eventually, when the bills come due and the economy, or the political environment, won't support a tax increase. The government will be no more bound to its promise in the face of political opposition than these companies were in the face of bankruptcy. So like for those UAL employees, a possible future scenario for Social Security recipients is that they will be lulled into counting on their benefits only to see them denied when they need them most.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:30 AM

May 20, 2005

20,000 new jobs; unemployment unchanged

California added a net of about 20,000 new jobs in April, while unemployment remained unchanged at 5.4 percent, according to the Employment Development Department. The release is here in pdf form.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:35 PM

May 19, 2005

Papering over

I'm deeply skeptical of this CalPERS policy change to reduce pension obligations in the short term by lengthening the time it takes to account for recent investment losses. Seems like a shell game to me. The losses are still there, but we're not going to acknowledge them. I guess if the market bounces back and the investment recovers, the fund is ok. But what happens if, after papering over these losses, they get hit with new ones?

Posted by dweintraub at 10:51 AM

May 18, 2005

Indian gaming

Gov. Schwarzenegger, reacting to a surge in talk of Indian tribes thinking of acquiring urban land and building casinos, has issued an unusual official proclamation stating his policy on such proposals. Aides say the proclamation does not represent any change in policy but should be considered a "preemptive view" warning folks not to get their hopes up. Boiled down, the gov says he will approve such requests only if they meet all four of the following conditions:

a) The land that is sought for class III gaming is not within any urbanized area.

b) The local jurisdiction in which the tribe's proposed gaming project is located supports the project.

c) The tribe and the local jurisdiction demonstrate that the affected local community supports the project, such as by a local advisory vote.

d) The project substantially serves a clear, independent public policy, separate and apart from any increased economic benefit or financial contribution to the state, community, or the Indian tribe that may arise from gaming.

The full proclamation should be here shortly.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:47 PM

Promises, promises

After weeks of tacitly acknowledging that he broke his word to the education lobby but didn’t have any choice, Gov. Schwarzenegger is now insisting that he kept his promises. Huh?

If he was going to make this argument, he should have made it back in January when he released his original budget proposal. He could have said then that he promised the schools $46.9 billion this year, that’s what the law requires, and that’s exactly what he delivered. All of that is true.

But the law also set a “target” for school funding at “Proposition 98 minus $2 billion,” and the education lobby says this was what Schwarzenegger promised behind closed doors that he would deliver. It turns out that after the deal was made, the number generated by that formula grew, so that it now would require about $3 billion more than the governor is proposing for this year and next.

So both sides are right. Schwarzenegger is delivering exactly what he promised 16 months ago he would give the schools. But the deal he made with them then wasn’t set in stone. It allowed for a moving target. The target has moved, but Schwarzenegger has not.

I thought he was making some progress by ignoring the debate over the deal and repeatedly reminding people that he is giving the schools $3 billion more, he is giving them more than they have ever had before, and that he is now proposing to give them $500 million more than the law requires.

Diving back into the morass over his broken promise is only going to remind voters that there was a promise, and he broke it.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:19 AM

May 17, 2005

Feinstein: Tis not better to give than to receive

US Sen. Dianne Feinstein reports that under the new transportation bill passed by the Senate, California would get $17.5 billion to spend on roads, bridges and transit. But that's not enough, she says.

"While this five-year authorization represents an improvement over previous years, I remain disappointed that Californians are still being asked to give more than they receive in federal transportation dollars," Feinstein said in a statement released by her office.

My question: If it's wrong for California to give more than it receives in federal transportation dollars, then isn't it wrong for any other state to do so? And if that's the case, why have a federal gas tax at all? Why not repeal it, replace it with higher state gas taxes, and let each state decide how to spend the money it raises? Wouldn't that be better than asking lawmakers in Mississippi and Iowa to decide how we should spend our own gas tax on our own projects?

Does Feinstein support repealing the federal gas tax? If not, she should stop complaining about her state "giving" more than it receives.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:40 PM

May 16, 2005

The world according to Murphy

Mike Murphy, the governor’s top political adviser, dropped into Sacramento today for a couple of roundtables with Capitol reporters. The one I sat in on was a mad spin session filled with mixed metaphors and bold predictions, with the general theme being “We’ve got 'em right where we want 'em.” Sinking poll numbers? No problem. Special election? Can’t wait. Maria’s meddling? We work great together. You get the idea.

He also took some shots at the Legislature, saying chimps could get elected in the rigged seats they have drawn for themselves.

Anyway, here are some lengthy excerpts of the bravado, false or otherwise, emanating from the Schwarzenegger camp these days:

On the governor’s sinking poll numbers:

“I think we’ve been in a little bit of a silly season on polling…I am not worried about the decline in the favorable numbers for the governor. Most of the numbers went from people who didn’t vote for him who liked him, who (then) didn’t like him as much, and are quite capable of liking him again. I look at our base of 50 percent. That’s what I’m interested in. And they are rock solid for Arnold.”

On the prospects for a special election:

“I think they (Democrats) could wind up running off a cliff in November. Because we will beat them on the special election issues. I think it would be good for Arnold to have a special election because it would be good to beat them. Now he may put me back in my cage and cut a deal, but, we’re ready, willing and able to do the election.”

On the lack of a full debate so far:

“This is a dialogue that’s only begun…This is like a trial where we have only heard the opening arguments from the other side. Of course some people on the jury are thinking, ‘aha!’ We haven’t refuted, we haven’t retorted, we haven’t really done all the things we are going to do to prosecute this public opinion back.”

On fighting back:

“What hurts more, having one piano dropped on your head or three pianos dropped on your head? They (the uninons) are going to have three pianos if they keep taking all their members’ money. We’re going to have one piano. But if we can get the one piano and saturate, which we haven’t yet, we’ve only dropped the equivalent of a shoe box. But if we can get to the piano business I think we’re going to be OK.”

On the message for a special election if there is one:

“It will be ‘reform to rebuild.’ We have to make these reforms to rebuild California and stop the big decline that’s been the history of our state the last five to ten years. Without reform we can’t rebuild. We can’t build roads. We can’t have schools where the money is connected to quality, not just an endless blank check. Nobody is for more education funding than Gov. Schwarzenegger. He just has the audacious idea to have some sort of control on the quality of that money.”

On cutting a deal with legislators:

“He’d rather have a good deal. He’d rather have bipartisan solutions. He’s a lover, not a fighter ultimately. But in a corner, if they force it and the only deal they offer him is to cave on everything he was elected to do, we’re going to have a special, and we’re going to win.”

On the legitimacy of the Democrats’ control of the Legislature:

“(They are) in districts that are drawn so that either party could elect a chimp with the right party designation. You could bring the UN in here and they’d put us on the yellow alert for democracy. We don’t really have very competitive elections here.”

On working with Maria Shriver:

“I talk to Maria all the time. I don’t get ‘called in.’ …The typical Maria call is ‘Hey, hi.’ We gossip a little bit about life or something, then ‘how we doing? This that, and I’m not hearing enough about this thing which is a good thing and we’re not getting any credit for it.’ It’s very, the construct that there is some Maria 'whip-cracking' is unfair to Arnold. And it’s unfair to Maria. It’s just not accurate.”

On illegal immigration:

“Talk to real voters. They are interested in the immigration issue. It’s the wine and cheese crowd that doesn’t like it… 'Illegal' is the word that’s forgotten in the debate by everyone who went to college. Everyone else is kind of clued in on that.”

On raising taxes

“That would get him the editorial award, Man of the Year. Leader of all time. Break everything you stood for in the recall and raise taxes. Then he is, no offense, one of you guys, around here, and that’s the end.”

Posted by dweintraub at 4:12 PM

LAO: May revise "makes sense"

The LAO has done its usual top-notch job dissecting the governor's revised budget. Notable: they've found what they say is a $600 million accounting error that inflates the projected personal income tax revenue in the current year.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:05 AM

The schools we are paying for

For years, Tom McClintock has been writing and updating his version of the ideal school, a model that starts by multiplying our per-student costs by the number of students in a classroom and then asking where the rest of the money goes. I've always found his pieces entertaining and enlightening. His latest is the best ever, starting with his proposal to pay 30,000 bureaucrats $100,000 each with the proviso that they "stay out of the classroom and pay their own hotel bills at conferences." Then he moves on to renting luxury office space, a gym membership for every student, new textbooks for every kid and teacher salaries on par with university professors. As always, he asks, this is the school we are paying for, why aren't we getting it?

Read the whole thing here.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:36 AM

Transportation funding

It's become conventional wisdom around Sacramento that the recent diversions of gas sales tax money from transportation projects have crippled our ability to build roads. Thus Schwarzenegger is expected to get big mileage out of his decision last week to restore $1.3 billion to road and transit construction that he had planned to shift to the general fund to pay for schools, health care and social services.

A little perspective:

Even with the diversions, the Deparmtent of Transportation budget over the past three years has totalled $19 billion, and the road-builders were scheduled to get another $6 billion in the coming year under the governor's January budget.

So if the transportation program is nearly bankrupt, as one prominent pol was quoted saying this morning, it's hard to see how the sales tax diversions had a whole lot to do with that.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:10 AM

May 15, 2005

The Fall of Arnold

At the Huffington Post, Arianna's celebrity group blog, director and producer Robert Greenwald explains his role in what he's calling the Fall of Arnold.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:08 AM

May 13, 2005

Boxer v Bolton

Barbara Boxer puts the Bolton nomination on hold.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:28 PM

More or less?

If you thought the Battle of Prop. 98 was hard to follow before, get ready for it to get really messy. With new money flowing into the treasury, much of it from a tax amnesty program, the formulas everyone is fighting about have gone into overdrive.

Remember the $2.3 billion that the teachers unions have been saying the schools were shorted by Schwarzenegger’s January budget? Using the same methodology, the governor’s aides acknowledge, that number would now be $3.2 billion.

That’s what they say would be required by a strict reading of “the deal” that Schwarzenegger and the education coalition agreed to a year ago. The number is derived by calculating what the Prop. 98 guarantee would have been if there had been no deal, and then subtracting $2 billion.

But of course, the governor doesn’t buy their methodology. He prefers to focus on what the law requires, not what he might have promised to the lobbyists. And up until today at least, his reading of the law has been in sync with key staff members in the Legislature, including budget aides to the Assembly Democrats.

Using that approach, the governor now says, he is actually proposing to give the schools more than Prop. 98 requires for this year and next. About $500 million more. That number, incidentally, is padded because of the bizarre accounting surrounding the receipt of nearly $4 billion in disputed tax payments, much of which will probably have to be refunded.

$500 million more than required?

Look for that number to appear soon in an ad near you.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:52 PM

May Revise

Gov. Schwarzenegger is scheduled to release his revised budget at 1:30 p.m. Look here to find it on the Web after that time.

New estimates are expected to show about $3 billion in new revenue, including about $800 million in tax amnesty money. Another $3 billion-plus in disputed tax payments will also be reflected, but the administration will likely try to sequester most of that money because it is expected that much of it will soon have to be returned to taxpayers.

We already know he will recommend restoring $1.3 billion he had earlier proposed shifting from transportation programs.

The LA Times reported this morning that he will propose targeting $174 million in education funds to reducing class size in low-performing schools.

And the Mercury reports that Schwarzenegger will restore rent and property tax relief for seniors that he proposed to cut in January.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:59 AM

Travis, Beale spared

Travis and Beale Air Force Bases will remain open, the Bee reports. The story says California will be only nicked by the next round of base closures.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:49 AM

Base closures

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is scheduled to release his list of recommended base closures at 7:30 a.m., California time. The list is supposed to be on this site at the conclusion of his briefing.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:30 AM

May 12, 2005

Immigration bill

Ted Kennedy and John McCain head up a bipartisan coalition behind a new immigration bill that would let people who are in the country illegally apply for work permits and, eventually, citizenship. Maldef, the Latino civil rights group, has also endorsed the bill.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:59 PM

May 11, 2005

Why Prop. 42

The move to fully fund Prop. 42 is a double winner for the governor.

First, he gets to spend more money without making the structural deficit any worse. This obligation is on the books already for future years, and in fact it would have been bigger if he had borrowed from the transportation fund, since there would have been a need to repay that loan.

Second, he wins more friends and allies in the transportation lobby, the companies and union workers who build new highways. And at this point the governor can use friends anywhere he can find them.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:56 PM

Gov. to fully fund Prop. 42

Gov. Schwarzenegger is announcing today that he will propose full funding of the Prop. 42 transportation program, which involves shifting the share of the sales tax generated by gasoline purchases from the general fund to the transportation fund. In his original budget proposal, Schwarzenegger had proposed borrowing back that $1.3 billion and using it for health, education and other programs. Now he says his revised budget due out on Friday will rely on increased revenues for the general fund rather than the Prop. 42 money. The effect will be an immediate infusion of new money into highway construction. This also resolves a major point of contention with Democrats in the Legislature, who have been arguing for full funding of Prop. 42 since January.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:28 PM

Chaos, or empowerment?

This story from the Daily News quotes LA Unified officials expressing horror at Schwarzenegger's quietly promoted plan to offer parents of students in low-performing schools the chance to unite with teachers to take over their local campuses. School district officials say the proposal would drain millions of dollars from the district's coffers.

"This can produce chaos in this district," Superintendent Roy Romer said. "I'm trying to warn people about it."

Actually, no money would be "drained" from the district. Control over that money would, however, shift from district headquarters to the parents, teachers and administrators at the school site. The same schools where students have been under-achieving for years under the district's management.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:42 AM

May 10, 2005

Cheap drugs and power

The ABC did indeed announce that it has sufficient signatures for the energy measure. And that it plans to submit its signatures for a measure to use the state's buying power to win drug discounts for Californians.

It will be interesting to see what Schwarzenegger does with these measures. Both are similar to bills he vetoed last year. But he may not want to spend his dwindling political capital fighting them. I half expect him to just try to ignore them and focus on his own agenda.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:13 PM

Juice bill

The labor-backed Alliance for a Better California is holding an 11 a.m. press conference at which they are expected to announce that they have gathered sufficient signatures to qualify an initiative to ban the direct buying and selling of electricity in the state. Instead, all future transactions would have to be done under the regualtion of the Public Utilities Commission. The measure, drafted by The Utility Reform Network, would also write into state law many of the guidelines the PUC is using to try to get the state's electricity supply back to the point where it comfortably meets demand.

Posted by dweintraub at 7:39 AM

May 9, 2005

Improving high schools

The legislative analyst has just released an interesting report on high schools and a road map for improving student achievement.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:31 AM

May 7, 2005

Ballot watch

The latest on the ballot wars, from the Sacramento Bee's Capitol bureau.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:52 AM

May 6, 2005

Garbage in...

Oops. The gov's great redistricting event seems to have unraveled a bit. Turns out Schwarznenegger's people got bad data. From the Assembly of all places. The Assembly website listing the Elk Grove neighbors in different districts was wrong. Both houses are in the 15th District. The actual boundary was a few blocks away.

"The information is not that precise," Steve Maviglio, deputy chief of staff for the speaker, tells me. "We are going to put a disclaimer on it."

But still, Maviglio adds, the governor's people should have double-checked before making a big to-do. "This is like us doing an event and getting our information from the governor's office," Maviglio said, chuckling.

According to the governor's aides, they relied on not only the Assembly web page but also on maps provided by a private mapping company, Political Data. And that firm got its information from another firm that does the same kind of work. But they all had it wrong. It's still not clear why. At any rate, only the county registrar -- who ultimately decides where people vote, after all -- had it right.

For Schwarzenegger these days, when something can go wrong, it will.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:29 PM

May 5, 2005

Reunited we Stand

Gov. Schwarzenegger's allies started handing in signatures today for his proposal to take the job of drawing district boundaries away from the Legislature and give it to a panel of retired judges. To highlight the issue, the gov's prop shop laid a strip of wide red tape down the middle of a street in the Sacramento suburb of Elk Grove. The tape went down the street, across the sidewalk, up onto the lawn and over a fence separating two homes. One of the houses was in the 15th Assembly District, which stretches from Elk Grove all the way to Walnut Creek in search of Republicans. The other was in the 10th District. The politicians, Schwarzenegger said, had divided the people, divided the neighborhood, divided the city and community. And he was here to change that. Then he tore the tape up off the street, symbolically reuniting a neighborhood that the politicians had ripped asunder. Rumor has it that my colleagues on the Bee's editorial board think this event qualifies for one of their "Cheese Index" awards as a cheesy political stunt. Watch Sunday's Forum Section to see how many wedges the governor is awarded.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:36 PM

Turning the tables

Funny that the left -- while ripping Schwarzenegger for using ballot initiatives as leverage over the Legislature -- has just done the same thing, wielding a proposed Car Buyers Bill of Rights initiative to win agreement from car dealers and their legislative allies for compromise consumer protection legislation. One question left unanswered as news of the deal broke last night was how, or if, it will affect the campaign to make it harder for public employee unions to deduct political money from their members' paychecks. Those issues might sound unrelated, but they were linked in earlier negotiations between the labor coalition opposing Schwarzenegger's agenda and the car dealers.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:31 AM

May 4, 2005

And the latest on tenure

Meanwhile, the gov is planning to turn in the first signatures for his tenure reform initiative today in Sacramento. The measure would increase from two years to five years the experience needed before a teacher is granted permanent status and allow the dismissal of teachers with permanent status after two unsatisfactory annual evaluations.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:10 AM

More on merit pay measure

The governor's folks respond on the alleged goof in the merit pay proposal:

The facts are clear: The initiative gives school districts MORE authority to dismiss an employee under ALL OF THOSE REASONS SPECIFIED IN CURRENT LAW, plus address performance issues. Currently, a school district can dismiss an employee based on a variety of grounds, including immoral or unprofessional conduct, dishonesty, unsatisfactory performance, conviction of a felony, etc. The initiative does not weaken this authority. It simply gives school districts the ability to evaluate and reward outstanding performance.

I still think it's more than open to debate. And it's curious that the response only refers to dismissing employees. What about hiring them? The initiative says that "any employment decision" must be based "solely" on the factors listed, and the applicant's criminal record is not among them.

Posted by dweintraub at 8:09 AM

May 3, 2005

Another goof?

The governor seems to be soft-pedaling his merit pay initiative lately, despite consistently robust polling numbers. Is this why?

The labor coalition opposing his measures and the California Teachers Assn. are circulating a legal analysis that says Schwarzenegger’s measure would inadvertently gut current provisions that prohibit school districts from hiring convicted felons, sex offenders, drug users or teachers who have yet to pass a minimum competency exam.

The merit pay proposal is a constitutional amendment. The proposed amendment says that “any employment decision shall be based solely on employee performance, as assessed annually, and on the needs of the school district and its pupils, as determined by the governing board of the school district…” It further defines “employment decision” to mean hiring, compensating, promoting, demoting, or terminating” an employee. This was meant to take seniority out of the equation.

But CTA lawyer Beverly Tucker says she believes that provision, because it would be in the constitution, would also supercede current statute that lays out minimum standards every district must follow in hiring and firing teachers. Those standards include not hiring certain convicted felons.

“It’s certainly possible that every district in the state could adopt policies that follow those minimum standards,” she told me. “But on the day after the election, they will have to make decisions based on the needs of the school district and its pupils. They are deregulating school district employment decisions.”

I’m no lawyer, but I think they have a point. When your proposal says “any employment decision” shall be based “solely” on certain factors, I’ve got to assume you mean what you say. Especially when you want to put that standard into the constitution. At a minimum, if this measure ever does make it to the ballot, the opponents would have a killer argument to use against it.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:38 PM

Pro Latino, against illegal immigration

This study from Pew Charitable Trust shows why Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is right to focus on illegal immigration. But it also shows why he's putting his emphasis in the wrong place. Illegal immigration does the most harm to those at the bottom of the economic ladder, especially other recent immigrants. The Pew study shows that Hispanics, despite robust employment growth, were the only ethnic group to see a real decline in wages each of the past two years. Pew attributes that decline to competition for entry-level jobs among new immigrants, who bid down the wages. If not for illegal immigration, in other words, Latinos working as bus boys, waiters, maids, landscapers and construction laborers would be earning higher wages. It's possible, in fact consistent, to be pro-Latino and against illegal immigration. But you don't send that message by throwing in with the Minutemen.

Here is my column on the governor's recent rant.

And here is an LA Times story about the emerging immigration deal in Congress.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:25 AM

May 2, 2005

Reform, then rebuild

By the way, the tagline on Schwarzenegger's new ad seems pretty close to perfect to me. Whether you like his proposals or hate them, I think he has found an excellent hook that will resonate:

"Help me reform California so that together we can rebuild it."

It's the potential opener for the story line his campaign has been lacking so far.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:09 PM

New ad from the governor

The Schwarzenegger team today rolled out a new television ad they're describing as the beginning of his campaign to restore his standing with the voters and urge approval of the reforms he's proposed for 2005. I'm not a fan of the "lunchroom" style ads that show the governor talking while workers nod approval. I find all those other faces on camera distracting. But this one does have a pretty strong script -- from Schwarzenegger's point of view, anyway. You can view the ad and see the script here, at the gov's private Web site.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:16 PM

April returns up 30 percent

April went out like a lion for state tax collectors. The Franchise Tax Board reports that personal income tax returns opened Friday brought in another $700 million, for a monthly total of more than $8 billion (not counting withholding from wages). After refunds, the April numbers are up $1.5 billion over April, 2004, a year-over-year increase of 30 percent.

Part of that comes from the new tax surcharge on the wealthy to pay for mental health programs, but even with that figured in, the April take was still about $1 billion more than the governor’s budget projected in January, and more even than the Legislative Analyst’s more optimistic projection expected. Finally, just to put a little icing on that cake, it looks as if a bit more of April’s money might have drifted into May, as today’s returns brought in more than $300 million, compared to about $62 million for the first business day of May last year.

Now let the battle begin over how, or whether, to spend it. The governor's revised budget is due out on Friday the 13th.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:03 PM

New pick for the PUC

Schwarzenegger has appointed former Moody's Investment Services CEO John Bohn to the Public Utilities Commission, to take the job once slotted for Steve Poizner, the high-tech entrepreneur who bailed out after criticism of his extensive telecommunications business ties.

Bohn's bio, according to the governor's office:

Bohn has served as chairman of GlobalNet Venture Partners, a global financial advising and consulting firm, since 2001. He was previously the co-founder and executive chairman of Chematch (now Chemconnect), an internet-based petrochemical trading exchange, from 1997 to 2000, and a managing director of the public relations firm Burson-Marsteller from 1997 to 1998. Bohn also served for over seven years as president and chief executive officer of Moody's Investors Service, beginning his tenure in 1989. Prior to joining Moody's, he was appointed special assistant to United States Treasury Secretary Don Regan in 1981 and was subsequently made U.S. Ambassador and executive director of the Asian Development Bank. In 1984, Bohn was appointed vice chairman of the Export Import Bank of the United States and in 1985 was made chairman, president and CEO. He was an international banker for Wells Fargo from 1967 to 1981 and practiced law in California, Guam and the Trust Territory of the Pacific from 1964 to 1967. Bohn is chairman of the board of directors of The Center for International Private Enterprise, a non-profit affiliate of the National Endowment of Democracy and the United States Chamber of Commerce that funds and assists the development of market-based democratic institutions throughout the developing world. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations of New York, a director of the World Affairs Council in San Francisco and a director and member of the executive committee of the United States Chamber of Commerce.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:03 PM

36.8 million and counting

The Department of Finance is out with a new report that pegs the state's population at 36.8 million and lists growth numbers in the past year for each of the cities and counties. The summary report with links to the detail is here.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:38 AM



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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