One of the governor's chief tormentors, the California Nurses Association, has started a web site and blog dedicated to blocking his agenda. The blog is off to a fiesty start with news links and commentary as blunt as the nurse-protestors who dog Schwarzenegger nearly everywhere he goes.
You can find it here.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:31 PM
Former Gov. Gray Davis
Former Gov. Gray Davis, taking a spin on conservative talk radio, gave conflicting comments on his support or opposition of Prop. 77, the disputed initiative proposal that would take the job of drawing district lines away from the Legislature.
Davis, speaking Thursday on KTKZ in Sacramento, first said flatly that he supported the initiative. Then he said he supported the concept of judges drawing the district lines. Then he backed away further and said he wouldn't support drawing new lines mid-decade, as Prop. 77 proposes. But he never squared those concerns with his stated support for the measure and his desire to see it voted on in November.
The one thing he did make clear is that he believes it is a conflict of interest for the Legislature to draw its own political boundaries.
Here is a full quote from a transcript prepared by the station:
"And my concern is that every elected official should have some sense of jeopardy in a November election. They should have some obligation to the general interest and not just having to win their primaries. And so I think its better off having people who are not combatants in this process, retired judges, draw those lines. Actually, I think of the last 4 reapportionments, Eric, 2 were drawn by judges because the courts threw out the redistrict plans and they turned out fine. So, uh, I’m for that initiative. I’m not for it starting in 2006, but I’m for the concept of having judges draw the lines.
"I’d like to see it on the ballot in November, but worst case it should be on the ballot in June. People should have the opportunity to decide whether or not they want the legislature and the governor to continue to craft reapportionment plans or take it out of their hands and put in the hands of what I believe would be less partial decision makers, retired judges.”
Davis, by the way, opposed the governor's teacher tenure and budget reform initiatives and the "paycheck protection" measure that would limit the ability of public employee unions to raise political money through unions dues.
You can hear or read the whole thing here.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:07 AM
Interesting decision out of the California Supreme Court today, ruling that the state government may not award civil service jobs on the basis of seniority. The ruling struck down portions of collective bargaining agreements negotiated between former Gov. Gray Davis and the state worker unions. The agreements said that for certain jobs, the state would compile a list of qualified applicants and then fill the job based soley on seniority among the people in that pool. The court ruled that the constitutional provisions establishing the civil service demand that jobs be awarded based on merit and prohibit a process that relies on seniority instead. An AP story on the decision is here.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:24 PM
This amazing document, posted on the Secretary of State's web site, has become the subject of a legal dissing match between Attorney General Bill Lockyer and supporters of Proposition 77.
Lockyer's lawyers and spokesman have claimed that the document, which is almost illegible through a series of edits and proofreading remarks scrawled all over it, is a copy of the initiative circulated by proponents of Prop. 77 to gather signatures for their measure. He's now citing the mess as another reason why he refuses to write a new title and summary for the version of the initiative that was circulated to voters.
Ted Costa, the chief sponsor of the measure, says the document is not what he circulated. He says he is not sure where the document came from but he insists his group circulated a clean, typewritten copy of its initiative, albeit a slightly different version than the one submitted to Lockyer for review.
Anyway, it's worth taking a peek at the document to see what they are fighting over.
UPDATE: An alert reader (aren't they all?) points out that all of the initiative meaures have at least a few chicken scratches on them. Indeed, these appear to be marks from the legislative counsel's office. Some are printing instructions, like spacing for paragraphs, while others are small changes in code sections and other legal matters. Beyond that, the Prop. 77 version also includes handwritten changes that reflect the now famous differences in the versions submitted to the AG and circulated to the voters. It's still a mystery though, as to who wrote those changes in. Costa says it wasn't him.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:49 PM
I've never been as bothered by the initiative process as many of its critics are, but Michael Hiltzik offers some good suggestions for improving it in this column. I especially like the idea of giving the authors of an initiative the opportunity to engage in formal negotiations with the Legislature to change the measure before it appears on the ballot or even to withdraw it if they are satisfied with a legisaltive response. Don't give lawmakers any ability to block an initiative. But little harm would be done, and potentially a lot of good, by encouraging engagement between the backers of a measure and the Legislature.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:23 AM
This piece by a British television reporter who went undercover as a substitute (supply) teacher to expose the utter lack of discpline in the state schools there is chilling. Things are not nearly so bad here, yet. But the teachers I talk to often point to the lack of discipline among the students, and the inability of teachers to do anything about it, as the major obstacle they face in practicing their profession. Let's hope we reverse that distressing trend before our schools are as out of control as those that this reporter found. Sadly, I think, the only real recourse is to remove those students who will not or cannot go along with rules designed to protect the peace and promote learning. Otherwise you sacrifice the entire school in a well intended but misguided and usually unsuccessful attempt to save a few.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:05 PM
The Supreme Court has reinstated Prop. 80 -- the electricity regulation measure -- to the ballot. The court, in a 6-0 ruling, said it would be more appropriate for opponents to challenge the measure if and when it is approved by voters. Going into the election, the opinion said, the initiative was not so unquestionably invalid that it warranted being struck down.
Posted by dweintraub at 5:30 PM
The attorney general's office has issued a new title and summary for the governor's budget reform that is better for the measure's supporters than the original summary the office prepared for the initiative as it was circulated for signatures.
There was much chortling on the left, and indignation from the governor's office, when the original summary appeared and emphasized the measure's effect on school funding. The new version changes that in a couple of ways.
First, the title now starts with the words "state spending" instead of "school funding."
Second, the summary itself leads with the overall spending limit, which is based on a three-year average of revenues. The old version started with its potential effect on school spending.
Finally, the new version omits a phrase in the original that said the measure would permit suspension of the minimum funding requirement. That's already current law. Instead, the new version says the measure would not require repayment when the minimum level is suspended. A different but important distinction.
All of these changes are also reflected in the shorter and snappier ballot label.
The changes came about after supporters of the measure -- Proposition 76 -- threatened to sue to get a better summary.
I still find it hard to believe that people base their votes on these things, but the players who run the initiative wars seem to think so, and focus groups apparently back that up. So to the extent that the original title and summary was a problem for the governor, the new one is less so.
The original summary is available here (scroll down).
The new summary is here.
The ballot label issued Tuesday is here in PDF form.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:58 PM
Campaign finance reports for the first six months of the year are due July 31, and the political operation for Treasurer Phil Angelides is teasing reporters today with a sneak peek at his numbers. They say the Democratic candidate for governor raised $4.7 million from January through June and will report $16.8 million in the bank as of June 30.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:41 AM
The title and summary that's been posted at the secretary of state's site for Prop. 77 is the one Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer prepared for the version of the initiative that was never circulated. He's said he doesn't intend to prepare a new one unless ordered by the court to do so. But the law requires the title and summary to be available for review by the public for a certain period.
Question: if the court eventually does restore Prop. 77 to the ballot and order a new summary written, will the measure then be vulenerable to further challenge because the summary wasn't available in time?
Posted by dweintraub at 5:02 PM
The secretary of state has posted all the information about the measures qualified for the Nov. 8 election, including Prop. 77, here. This includes the full text, summaries, analyses and arguments for and against.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:49 AM
The Legislative Analyst has completed its review of the budget passed earlier this month. Bottom line: the spending plan will probably reduce the structural deficit to about $6 billion going into the 2006-07 fiscal year. If the reserve finishes the current year as projected at $1.3 billion, that would leave about a $4.7 billion hole to fill in the January budget proposal.
Read the whole thing here.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:43 AM
The 3rd District Court of Appeal has issued a stay in the case Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed to remove Proposition 77 from the ballot. The court issued the stay to allow the elections calendar to go forward including the measure, which would shift the power to draw district lines from the Legislature to a panel of judges. A Superior Court judge had taken the measure off the ballot last week. The court made no ruling on the merits of the case and set a deadline for Friday for the sides to file briefs.
Posted by dweintraub at 6:48 PM
I attended a lunchtime forum today at which the Public Policy Institute of California was soliciting discussion about its recent report on the future of California. On the panel were Assemblymen Keith Richman and Joe Canciamilla, and Sunne McPeak, Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing for Gov. Schwarzenegger.
On my way out, a legislative aide who was attending stopped me to chat and asked, "Isn't this a one-sided panel? Two moderate legislators and an administration official."
I guess he meant that there were not enough partisans on the panel.
But only in Sacramento could a Republican, a Democrat and a Democrat working for a Republican be considered one-sided.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:56 PM
This LA Times story quotes observers likening the governor's budget reform measure to efforts in other states to limit spending, often by capping growth at a combination of inflation and population growth.
But such observers are relying on a fundamental misreading of how the California measure would work. It doesn't artificially cap spending but instead limits spending growth to the average of revenue growth over the previous three years, directing any short-term excess into debt repayment, infrastructure and reserves. Unlike other measures that seek to reduce the size of government as a proportion of the economy, the California proposal allows all the revenue that comes into the state's coffers to be spent. The backers of the measure Schwarzenegger endorsed specifically rejected an alternative that would have limited spending growth to a formula tied to population and economic growth.
Says The Times' article:
Budget analysts, however, note that the end game is the same: ratchet down spending.
No, it isn't. For the California proposal to "ratchet down spending," the average revenue growth over three years would have to be negative, something that has rarely if ever happened. Under the California proposal, spending would almost certainly grow every year, and all revenues taken in would eventually be spent, just a bit more slowly than under current law.
The Grover Norquists of the world might think they'd gain political momentum if the California measure passes, but it bears little resemblance to the type of spending limits they are pushing elsewhere.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:35 AM
Cal-PERS reports today that it ended the fiscal year June 30 with a record $189.8 billion in its investment fund. The 12.7 percent year-over-year gain in the fund finally drove the balance back up over the level at which it stood on June 30, 2000, before the dot-com crash. You can read more at the CalPERS website, here.
Posted by dweintraub at 10:08 AM
Several readers ahve asked that I link to the actual text of the two Proposition 77s, the one submitted to the Attorney General for title and summary and the one circulated to the voters.
Here is the copy submitted to the attorney general, on his web site.
And here is the copy circulated to voters, from the Fair Districts Now website.
Here is a list of the key differences, from the Bee:
Here are some of the differences in two versions of the redistricting initiative. :
VERSION SUBMITTED TO ATTORNEY GENERAL
"...until the next adjustment of boundary lines is required pursuant to this article."
"...the Judicial Council shall select by lot..."
"...shall be equally represented among the selected retired judges..."
"A retired judge appointed..."
"...shall each nominate, no later than six days before the deadline..."
"No later than four days before the deadline..."
"...If said list of remaining nominees does not include a retired judge from each of the two largest political parties, the drawing for the Special Master from the absent political party or parties shall be made from the original pool of twenty-four retired judges selected by the Judicial Council..."
VERSION USED TO GATHER SIGNATURES
"...until the next adjustment of boundary lines is required pursuant to subdivisions (a) or (i)."
"...the Judicial Council shall nominate by lot..."
"...shall be equally represented among the nominated retired judges..."
"A retired judge selected..."
"...shall each nominate, no later than five days before the deadline..."
"No later than three days before the deadline..."
"If the drawing is unable to produce at least one Special Master from each of the two largest political parties, the drawing for the Special Master from the political party not represented from the list of remaining nominees shall be made from the original pool of twenty-four retired judges nominated by the Judicial Council..."
Posted by dweintraub at 2:48 PM
Schwarzenegger isn't the only one with initiative problems. One of the two labor-backed measures on the ballot has also just been tossed.
Calling Proposition 80 "unquestionably invalid on its face," a panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal has ruled 3-0 to remove the initiative from the ballot. The measure would have prohibited Californians from buying and selling electricity outside the regulatory purview of the Public Utilities Commission. Because the Legislature has sole authority to decide what additional powers to confer upon the PUC, the initiative needed to be a constitutional amendment. It was not. Now it's nothing.
The full opinion is here in PDF form.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:04 PM
Posted by dweintraub at 8:38 PM
A Sacramento Superior Court judge has thrown the governor's redistricting plan off the ballot, according to this breaking AP report:
SACRAMENTO — A Superior Court judge on Thursday kicked Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s redistricting measure off the special election ballot, ruling that supporters violated California’s constitution by using two versions of the initiative in the qualifying process.
“The differences are not simply typographical errors,” Judge
Gail Ohanesian said. “They’re not merely about the format of the
measure. They are not simply technical. Instead they go to the
substantive terms of the measure.”
The proposal, Proposition 77, is one of three initiatives that
the Republican governor is supporting in the Nov. 8 special
election. It would take the power to draw legislative and
congressional districts away from the Legislature and give it to a
panel of three retired judges.
Attorney General Bill Lockyer asked the judge to order the
measure off the ballot because its supporters used two versions —
one to gather voter signatures and another that they gave to him to
prepare a title and summary of the proposal to use on petitions.
Daniel Kolkey, an attorney representing the measure’s author —
Ted Costa — argued that the differences between the two version
were minor and stylistic.
Kolkey said that holding initiative proponents to a requirement
that there be no differences between what is submitted to the
Attorney General for review and what is circulated to voters could
invalidate a measure for a simple printing error.
Posted by dweintraub at 5:00 PM
California's electricity grid operators have issued a Stage 2 elecricity emergency in Southern Calfironia because of high demand and the loss of about 2,000 megawatts of generation due to equipment failures. The state has not yet but is preparing to interrupt electricity to large industrial customers whose rate structure allows their power to be shut down in an emergency. The next level of emergency after that would be Stage 3 and rolling blackouts.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:12 PM
Anybody see a trend here? Another PPIC poll asks some questions about a specific issue -- in this case, the environment -- and finds that Californians are pretty much in sync with the policies Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is advocating. Then the survey asks, what do you think of Schwarzenegger's peformance on environmental policies? And he bombs. This time, 32 percent approval rating, the same as George W. Bush. Overall, Schwarzenegger's rating drops to 34 percent from 40 percent in the last PPIC poll. Bush is at 38 percent. You can find the poll here.
Posted by dweintraub at 12:18 PM
Posted by dweintraub at 12:18 PM
The Bee's online division has set up a forum and invited a discussion of the America-in-the-toilet artwork hanging in Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer's office. You can join in here.
Posted by dweintraub at 12:17 PM
The Department of Finance has released its monthly cash report and it was pretty uneventful. June's revenues were up slightly, at $97 million above the projection for the month made in May.
I think the most interesting number in the report was that the second quarterly estimated payments of personal income tax came in $220 million above the projected level of $1.8 billion and 26 percent above the amount paid from this source in June, 2004. That would suggest the economy is still doing pretty well. Stronger than expected sales tax receipts, if they are more than just an accounting blip, might be another indication.
You can read the full report here.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:08 PM
Steve Westly has announced that Garry South, who rose to fame as the man who got Gray Davis elected governor and then re-elected, will join the Westly for Governor campaign as a senior adviser. South is smart and focused, and understands the sweet spot in California politics better than anyone I know. Westly's still the underdog in the primary against Treasurer Phil Angelides, but his stock just went up.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:55 AM
I was bumped from my regular gig this morning on KTKZ in Sacramento because host Eric Hogue was fuming about this painting by Steven Pearcy that is hanging in the lobby of Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer's Sacramento office. Pearcy is the man whose home was the site of pro-war and anti-war protests earlier this year when he and his wife hung effigy art protesting the occupation of Iraq. I suspect you'll be hearing a lot more about this one. The photo above is from Hogue's web site, which you can find here.
Posted by dweintraub at 8:51 AM
Folks. Here is another installment of my project to describe a potential bipartisan budget reform. Thanks for the several dozen suggestions I have received so far. Keep them coming. Below I have laid out a proposal that I think Republicans and Democrats should be able to support, even if nobody would like all of it.
I don’t even like it all. I would give more power to the governor to trim spending mid-year than this proposal allows, and I would repeal Proposition 98 completely. But for the sake of compromise, I have given up those positions here.
Compromise budget reform.
Limit general fund spending growth each year to the average revenue growth of the past five years. Limit special fund spending the same way, by fund, but don’t apply the general fund limit to all the special funds uniformly. Place half of any general fund revenue in excess of the limit in a reserve until it reaches 10 percent of the general fund budget, and spend or save the other half for infrastructure. When the reserve reaches 10 percent of the general fund budget, dedicate all of any excess revenues to infrastructure. Draw down the general fund reserve only when revenue growth falls below the three-year running average.
Allow the Legislature to approve the budget with a majority vote. Retain the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases.
Require two-year budget plans, with the first year being a traditional line-by-line budget and the second year consisting of projections for each department.
Mid-year cut authority.
Establish forecasting commission made up of designees of the director of finance, legislative analyst and state auditor. Require quarterly fiscal check-ups. If, after the budget is adopted, a gap of more than 2 percent is forecast for the year, allow the governor to propose spending cuts to rebalance the budget. Cuts take effect in 30 days unless rejected by a majority vote of the Legislature.
Allow the state to give schools more than the minimum requirement in any year without the additional money being built into the funding base for future years.
Stretch out repayment of $4 billion now owed, over 15 years, but build the money back into the base as it is repaid.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:31 PM
The Bear Flag League of bloggers, which I will feature in my column on Tuesday, has kicked off a meta-blog focused on the Nov. 8 special election. You can find it here.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:47 PM
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger just announced that he is severing his ties with American Media Operations, publisher of Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines.
Here is his statement:
"For more than 35 years I have had an extraordinarily close personal and business relationship with Weider Publications.
"Given that bodybuilding and fitness have been central to my life I saw no reason to discontinue that relationship when the franchise was sold in 2003.
"When I became Governor I pledged to put the people of California front and center. I don't want there to be any question or doubt that the people have my full devotion.
"Therefore, effective today I will relinquish my title as executive editor and forego any compensation from the magazines. I will continue to promote weight resistance training, health and fitness for all through any avenue that is available to me as I have done my entire life."
The statement doesn't mention the money Schwarzenegger already has taken from the magazines. But an aide told me that the governor intends to keep it..
Posted by dweintraub at 4:21 PM
Folks. Here are the first results from my effort to generate a discussion of a possible budget reform compromise (first described here).
While I have compared this effort to the collaborative Wikipedia, and some have suggested I go further and use Wiki software to compile the suggestions, I am not sure that is exactly what we are doing here, or if it would even work. I see this more as what has been called "open-source reporting." For the time being I am going to keep having the suggestions come directly to me and moderate the discussion, then pull together the ideas at some point into a coherent (I hope) product.
Below I have simply described the various elements of the governor’s proposal and then listed very condensed descriptions of the alternatives I have received.
Please email me at email@example.com with comments on these ideas and further suggestions not listed here yet. And remember, the goal is to offer suggestions that not only advance your ideas but do so in a way that you think might be acceptable to others who don't share your views.
Governor’s proposal: Limit each year’s spending growth to the average growth in revenues over the prior three years. Place revenues exceeding limit in a reserve or use it to pay for infrastructure, retire debt or make one-time allocations to the schools for construction and modernization.
Our alternatives so far:
Limit each year’s spending to the amount received the prior year.
Limit spending growth to a certain percentage of projected revenue growth (a provision similar to this was part of Prop. 58, passed by voters in 2004).
Issue: budget stalemates
Governor’s proposal: If a new budget is not adopted 30 days into the fiscal year, the old budget is reenacted and stands until a new budget is adopted.
Our alternatives so far:
Require only a majority vote to pass a budget, instead of the current two-thirds.
Require only a 55 percent or 60 percent majority.
Dock the pay of legislators whenever a budget is late.
Let the May Revision of the governor’s budget become law when the Legislature fails to act.
Let the Legislature enact a budget by majority vote if no budget by July 1, provided it spends no more than the previous year’s revenue.
If no budget by July 1, let the Legislature enact various pieces of the governor’s revised budget proposal as long as the spending doesn’t exceed the Finance Department’s revenue estimate.
Allow no spending or very limited spending when a budget is late.
Go to a two-year budget cycle
Issue: Mid-year corrections
Governor’s proposal: When revenues fall more than 1.5 percent below projections, or the budget reserve falls by more than half from the beginning of the fiscal year, allow the governor to call a special session of the Legislature to address the problem. If the Legislature fails to act within 45 days, the governor has the power to reduce spending in any program to erase the projected deficit.
Our alternatives so far:
Let the governor make across-the-board cuts equal to an increase in the income tax
Let the governor propose cuts but let the Legislature veto them by majority vote.
Let the Legislature offer cuts by majority vote.
Issue: Prop. 98 (education funding)
Allow the state to give more than the minimum amount without building the extra money into the base from which the minimum guarantee will grow in future years.
No longer allow the minimum guarantee to decline in bad revenue years with the difference to be repaid later. Instead, allow the guarantee to be suspended by a two-thirds vote with the money shorted never to be repaid.
Repeal requirement that up to $4 billion now “owed” to the schools be rebuilt into the funding base in future years. Instead, require the money to be paid over time but not put into the base.
Our alternatives so far:
Repeal Prop. 98. Allow legislators and the governor to decide each year how much to give to schools.
Posted by dweintraub at 12:13 PM
Schwarzenegger's spokesmen say his multimillion-dollar contract with two bodybuilding magazines is no different than legislators who work as lawyers or car dealers. But there's a big difference, and Steve Maviglio, deputy chief of staff to the Assembly speaker, captures it in this quote from today's Sacramento Bee:
"Unlike the governor, legislators can recuse themselves from voting on legislation when there is a conflict or an appearance of a conflict," he told reporters in a statement. "The governor does not have that option. If he were to recuse himself from signing a bill, it would become law. And clearly, as the state's chief executive, he cannot recuse himself from executive actions, as he is the only one allowed to make those decisions under the California Constitution."
The full story is here.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:03 AM
I want to try a little experiment here that I hope you will help me with. As negotiations between the governor and legislative leaders continue over his reform agenda, it seems clear that the toughest nut to crack will be his insistence on some kind of spending limit or budget reform. So I thought maybe we here in this space might join the search for common ground.
The task is to solicit specific ideas from left and right, members of both parties, people inside the Capitol and out, ideas that might eventually form the basis for a solution. I’m under no illusions that the governor or legislative leaders will take us up on our product. I just thought it might be fun to engage in a sort of public simulation of what should be going on under the dome at this moment.
Let’s begin with the governor’s stated goals, since the challenge is to come as close as possible to satisfying those in a way that Democrats could support. If you do that, he renounces his Live Within Our Means proposal, and he and the Dem leaders sing Kumbaya all the way to the ballot.
--Some kind of smoothing mechanism that limits spending in boom years to avoid committing one-time money to ongoing programs.
--A provision to allow a governor to offer or impose mid-year corrections if a deficit is looming (or worsening).
--A device to prevent summer budget stalemates.
--An amendment to Proposition 98 to prevent or reduce its tendency to ratchet up school spending in good years without regard to the state’s ability to keep up with that level of spending if revenues drop.
Don’t feel as if you have to address all of these issues. Pick off just one or a couple if you like. And there’s this: as you make suggestions, try to stretch to make them acceptable to people who don’t see the world the same way you do. Think: what are the limits to how far I can go toward meeting the other side’s needs and still live with what I come up with?
Email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll publish suggestions in this space as I get them and then you can comment on what we get. No names or identifications will be included. Please alert others to this exercise if you think they might join in. The more the merrier.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:11 PM
Here is the California Budget Project's five-page summary of the budget deal.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:09 PM
What is the governor thinking?
Today's papers (the Bee's story is here) disclose that Schwarzenegger is being paid $1 million a year or 1 percent of advertising revenues by two bodybuilding magazines whose advertisers have business in the Capitol.
This comes a day after the Bee revealed that Schwarzenegger had promised to do what he could to help the dietary supplements industry, which is a heavy advertiser in the magazines and is under fire in Sacramento and Washington. Last year, he vetoed a bill that would have limited the supplements' use.
It's time for Schwarzenegger to sever his ties to these folks and return the money he has been paid so far.
He's having enough trouble doing his job as governor. Does he really need another one?
Posted by dweintraub at 8:02 AM
In an editorial board meeting with the Bee on Tuesday, Finance Director Tom Campbell said negotiations with the Legislature over an alternative to the governor’s Live Within Our Means proposal were alive and well. Of course, Campbell himself wrote an alternative, the governor’s original proposal in January, which allowed for across the board cuts in all state programs whenever revenues fell short of expenditures. It sounded as if the director hadn’t quite given up on that proposal, now known as Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4.
In other news, Campbell also said he believes a compromise on pension reform is near. But most of what he mentioned as possible pieces of a package sounded like window dressing:
--Putting into law the 15-year “smoothing” policy recently adopted by CalPERS to reduce volatility in the state’s contributions to the pension fund;
--Making the employer contribution mandatory, even in good years;
--Changing the amortization schedule for paying off an unfunded liabiltity;
--Encouraging CalPERS to hedge its bets in the stock market by buying options that would reduce the fund’s exposure to downturns (and reduce its earnings in good times).
--Reforms aimed at limiting disability retirements by high-level officials (chief’s disease) and pension spiking.
What about rolling back benefits to 1999 levels for new hires? That would be nice, Campbell said, but difficult because it would create a two-track set of benefits for employees in the same workplace. “It’s not unachievable,” he said, “but difficult.” Strange, the governor’s original proposal in January would have created an even bigger difference between benefits for current and future employees, and that didn’t seem to bother Campbell at the time.
Sounds to me like the governor’s office is looking for any kind of package that it can call “reform” with a straight face and is prepared to settle for accounting, actuarial and rules changes short of addressing the long-term problem with bigger benefits granted during the stock boom, especially in local government, that will be difficult to sustain.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:26 PM
Sen. Tom McClintock plans to introduce his proposed California constitutional amendment tomorrow permitting the use of eminent domain only in cases where the public controls the property after it is purchased or public access to the property is assured. As I understand it, this would pretty much end redevelopment as we know it in California since it wouldn't allow government to forcibly buy property from one private owner and then give or sell it to another, even if the property is blighted.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:00 PM
These are lean times for some programs in state government, and the past few years, overall, have been tight. But this newsletter from the Cal State University System suggests that they, at least, are quite pleased with the budget they have just been handed.
Among the highlights:
Enough money for 10,000 new students.
Pay raises for CSU employees and more money for benefits.
More financial aid.
Money for long-term needs in libraries, technology and deferred maintenance.
Posted by dweintraub at 2:38 PM
Don't miss this story about a consultant for the lottery posing as a freelance television reporter in order to get tape of opponents of the Mega Millions multi-state lottery game at a press conference.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:27 PM
The Log Cabin Club, home to gay Republicans, now has a blog. It's called Blog Cabin California.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:25 PM
Treasurer – and Democratic candidate for governor – Phil Angelides – attacked the new budget today almost before the ink was dry on Schwarzenegger’s signature. Specifically, Angelides said the budget fell short by underfunding education to the tune of $3 billion, raising college fees and other charges by $1.6 billion, while still spending $5 billion more than the state is taking in. He said if he were governor, he would propose and pass a balanced budget that “fully funded” education and didn’t raise college fees. To do so, he would have to find cuts or tax increases totaling at least $8 billion, and perhaps closer to $10 billion depending on how many fees he wants to repeal.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:54 PM
Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoed $190 million from the budget, including $115 million from the general fund, before signing the document. His most interesting veto was of $6.1 million to preserve 114 positions in the office of State Publishing, a move made by Democrats to reduce the state’s use of private contract printers.
The full list of vetoes is here, in PDF form.
A Bee story on the state printer controversy is here.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:09 PM
The governor is scheduled to sign the budget at 11 am Monday.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:46 PM
As expected, Atty. Gen. Billl Lockyer today filed suit seeking to remove the redistricting reform initiative from the ballot because the proponents circulated a different version of the measure from the one submitted to the state for title and summary.
Here is an AP story.
Posted by dweintraub at 7:28 PM
Everything might be looking warm and fuzzy in the Capitol this week. But the union-backed Alliance for a Better California is kicking off its attack on the governor's budget reform initiative with a new ad highlighting a comment from a private conference call among Schwarzenegger advisers and campaign donors on which an LA Times reporter was eavesdropping.
The ad features a teacher saying Schwarzenegger had already taken $2 billion from the schools and is now proposing an initiative that would take $4 billion more. Then an announcer intones: 'Papers report the governor has a secret plan to create a 'phenomenon of anger' against teachers and other public workers, blaming them for what's wrong with California.'
The comment is from an LA Times article quoting Schwarzenegger media adviser Don Sipple in a conference call with supporters.
You can view the ad here.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:59 AM
Did you notice this little story in the Bee this morning? The correctional officers union voted to assess a dues surcharge to build a war chest to take on the governor. But the most interesting fact in the story is that 43 percent of those voting in the election opposed the fee.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:07 PM
Not that there is a huge amount of mystery about what's in the final budget agreement voted on today by the Assembly and Senate, but there's been an alarming lack of information put out about the details of the agreement reached with the governor Tuesday afternoon. And about its implications for the future.
The Department of Finance put out a few big numbers about the total revenues and spending. The Senate has some talking points ticking off the key items, from their leadership's point of view. But the Assembly staff says they have nothing that describes the deal in any comprehensive way or analyzes its long-term effects on the state's fiscal picture.
Most disturbing of all is that even the Legislative Analyst's Office has joined in the information black-out, apparently through no fault of its own. I'm told the office wasn't asked to produce its traditional floor analysis comparing the budget bill to the governor's May revise, nor has it been given the details of what was in the deal. Last year the office produced a 12-page report on the budget the day it was taken up for a vote.
The Assembly Budget committee had a 37-page analysis of the budget proposal that was on the floor June 15, even though everyone knew that version was dead on arrival. Yet for this one, nothing, at least nothing that the staff is willing to share with the public.
Expectations -- and standards -- are really dropping in the Capitol.
UPDATE: Just received what the Senate used as an analysis, another list of 18 items but no charts showing year-to-year spending by agency or total revenues and spending. No analysis of the long-term impacts of the plan.
Posted by dweintraub at 1:48 PM
Micheal Herald of the Western Center for Law and Poverty tallies up the cost to recipients and the savings for taxpayers from the final agreements on welfare grants (CalWorks) and aid to the aged, blind and disabled (SSI):
"The legislature did agree to a two year suspension of the CalWORKs and SSP COLA’s. Then to close the budget the federal COLA was not passed through for the first three months for both 2006 and 2007. Our estimate is that it cuts about $650 million over two years. The typical SSI recipient loses $751 over two years and a CalWORKs family of three loses $1,074 over two years."
Posted by dweintraub at 10:07 AM
The Survey and Research Policy Institute at San Jose State has an interesting new poll comparing Schwarzenegger's approval rating with that of unions. It's generally not good news for the governor. Read it here, in pdf form.
Posted by dweintraub at 9:54 AM
With contract negotiations ongoing between state employees and the Schwarzengger Administration, SEIU Local 1000 reminds its members in a newsletter today that the "budget is not a contract."
"It does not provide for any wage increases or other improvements for state employees," the union says. "These will require a separate appropriation after a contract is negotiated."
The union is asking for 5 percent, plus the state paying a greater share of health benefits.
Posted by dweintraub at 4:53 PM
Given the political parameters -- Democrats opposed to budget cuts, Republicans opposed to tax increases -- the budget deal inked Tuesday is about as good as it gets around here.
It continues the state's tortuously slow progress back toward a balanced budget by slowing the projected growth in spending a bit while allowing tax revenues, which are growing with a healthy economy, to catch up. It increases spending on schools by $3 billion, fully funds the voters' commitment to transportation (via Prop. 42) and repays a $1.2 billion debt owed to local government a year early.
In January 2006, when Schwarzenegger lays out his next budget, he will be able to "balance" it with the money remaining from the deficit bond approved by voters in 2004 and a few more cuts and trims of projected spending. Then he will sit back and hope that the economy continues to grow.
If the economy booms, he or whoever is governor in January 2007 might actually be able to propose a budget balanced with no borrowing whatsoever.
If the economy flattens or tanks, then Schwarzenegger or his successor will almost certainly have to propose a tax increase at that point to bring things back into balance.
Posted by dweintraub at 9:00 AM
The governor and the legislative leaders have reached a deal on the new state budget for the fiscal year that began Friday.
Posted by dweintraub at 9:45 PM
Senate leader Don Perata after Saturday's leadership meeting with the governor:
"The budget is being held up over solving potential problems in next year's budget, which doesn't even come out until January or take effect until next July."
This is good news. The state got into its current mess by lurching from one budget year to the next, without regard to the future impact of decisions made. The governor's version of the budget already leaves a $5 billion-plus hole to fill next year. Even under the best of circumstances, that might decline by a billion or two if today's revenue forecasts are too conservative. The governor's analysis suggests that the Democratic plan would make that out-year deficit even bigger.
So there is nothing wrong with trying to get a handle on spending trends today before they explode tomorrow.
Posted by dweintraub at 12:40 PM
Interesting story in the Bee on the Democrats' attempt to curtail a policy that forced the state printer to compete with private contractors.
Posted by dweintraub at 12:34 PM
No break in the budget impasse today. Here is an AP report.
Posted by dweintraub at 3:51 PM
The California School Boards Association is telling its members that a compromise on the the education budget has emerged involving the governor's proposal to shift $469 million in pension obligation costs from the general fund to the schools. The CSBA says the deal, which it doesn't particularly like, would maintain the pension obligation as a state burden but use school funds to pay half of it this year. The money used would be money reserved in the conference committee budget for mandate relief. The pension issue has been one of the major stumbling blocks to getting a bipartisan budget deal.
UPDATE: I'm told this deal is already reflected in the latest version of the budget that was debated Thursday, though it was not included in the background papers distributed by the Democrats.
Posted by dweintraub at 11:50 AM