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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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« April 4, 2006 | | April 6, 2006 »
April 5, 2006

Google, Earthlink picked for SF Wi-Fi

The city will negotiate with the two firms on a joint bid to provide wi-fi for free with ads (Google) or a faster connection with no ads for $20 a month (Earthlink), either available throughout the city.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:50 PM

'Free riders' in Massachusetts

Here is an analysis of the new Massachusetts health care program from the Massachusetts Legislature. This is one provision that jumped out at me:

Free Rider Surcharge

The Free Rider surcharge will be imposed on employers who do not provide health insurance and whose employees use free care. Imposition of the surcharge will be triggered when an employee receives free care more than three times, or a company has five or more instances of employees receiving free care in a year. The surcharge will range from 10 percent to 100 percent of the state’s costs of services provided to the employees, with the first $50,000 per employer exempted. Revenue gained from the surcharge will be deposited in the Commonwealth Care Trust Fund.

Seems likely to give employers way too much interest in the health care habits of their workers, and also might well lead to employment discrimination against people with chronic conditions.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:49 PM

Doree O'Connell has brain tumor

Doree O'Connell, the wife of state schools Supt. Jack O'Connell, has been diagnosed with a brain tumor, according to O'Connell's office. Here is the statement:

SACRAMENTO - Doree O'Connell, wife of State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell, was diagnosed Tuesday with a brain tumor. She is at the UC San Francisco Department of Neurological Surgery, where she is being evaluated for surgery later this week. Superintendent O'Connell and daughter Jennifer are with Doree, who is awake and alert.

Superintendent O'Connell's public schedule will be cleared for the next several weeks.

Anyone wishing to send cards is asked to please send them to the California Department of Education, and they will be forwarded to the family. The hospital asks that people refrain from sending flowers. The O'Connell family appreciates all kind thoughts, prayers, and the respect for their privacy at this difficult time.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:28 PM

'Stairway to nowhere'

This guest commentary by a teacher on the Irascible Professor's site is about the best criticism I've read on standardized testing. Note that most of his issues have to do with grading essays and would not really apply to short answers and mutliple choice questions.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:39 PM

Drawing contrasts

Phil Angelides made news today by directly and strongly attacking his opponent in the Democratic primary, Steve Westly. His main point: Westly stood with Schwarzenegger when Angelides was standing up for “the people.” That’s what will probably lead the newspaper stories tomorrow. But I think he made even more substantive news in a quick question and answer session with reporters afterward. In response to a question, he laid out, for the first time, a plan to raise between $8 billion and $10 billion in taxes to balance the budget and pay for his priorities in expanding it.

Angelides didn’t use that number. But he did say that, by his calculations, corporations and the wealthy have received $17 billion in tax breaks and tax cuts from California and the federal government in the past several years. And he said he would go after as much of that money as he needed to balance the budget and cover the commitments he has made during his campaign.

Among the items he would need to cover with tax hikes, he specifically mentioned the ongoing structural gap in the budget, which he said is now at about $4.5 billion. According to the legislative analyst, it’s more like $5 billion, but that’s a rounding error in this discussion. I don’t think Angelides has said in the past that he would want to raise taxes to close that gap.

He has also proposed what he calls “fully funding” the schools, by which he means giving K-14 another $2 billion or so that the education community says the school are owed.

And he has proposed rolling back college tuition increases enacted under Schwarzenegger, expanding financial aid, and doubling the number of high school counselors. Those ideas have been estimated to cost about $1.5 billion.

Finally, Angelides already has endorsed Proposition 82, which would increase taxes on the wealthy by about $2.3 billion annually.

Together, that adds to about $8 billion on his own ledger and another $2-billion plus for Proposition 82.

Many observers, myself included, have been inferring all along that this is where Angelides was logically headed. But to my ear, he went farther today than he has ever has in the past in confirming that this is what he is proposing.

Other than returning tax rates on the wealthy to the level they were at under Pete Wilson and Ronald Reagan, which is what Prop. 82 would do, Angelides has not been specific about where he would get that money, and he didn’t offer much more detail today. But he did mention that corporate tax rates were cut in California in the 1990s, and he included that in the measures he would be willing to roll back to raise the kind of money he would need for his program. Before today, as far as I know, he had mentioned corporate “loopholes” but never rates.

So, back to his main point, drawing a contrast between himself and Westly. This is certainly one major area where they disagree. Westly has said he would raise taxes only as a last resort. Angelides appears prepared to make doing so a major plank of his campaign for governor.

UPDATE: The Angelides camp believes I am double-counting the education piece of the deficit he intends to cover with tax increases. I don't think so, because I don't think the money he is proposing to give to schools has been counted in anybody's official or unofficial projections of the shortfall. They could be correct that the money owed would be only a one-time, not an ongoing obligation. The implication in their minds is that he wouldn't have to raise taxes to pay it. But he'd have to come up with the money from somewhere, since the state is short now without paying off that obligation. That point also serves to underscore how small a difference there really is between the Angelides education budget and the Schwarzenegger budget. If he's not proposing any increase in ongoing funding, can the status quo really be as bleak as he paints it? Finally, the campaign notes that his proposals for new counselors and teacher retention measures would come from Prop. 98 funding and would not be in addition to it. That means those earmarks would come at the expense of other things the schools are doing now or from future increases in funding that would otherwise go to expand existing services. So, if he didn't need to raise any taxes to increase the Prop. 98 funding of schools, we can probably say his tax hike would be closer to $6 billion than $8 billion, plus $2.3 billion in Prop. 82, which he has endorsed.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:30 PM

Direct democracy

Rick Hasen has an update in the court case over foreign language requirements on ballot petitions.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:36 PM

Ignoring the exit exam

The West Contra Costa school district is considering a proposal to defy the state's high school exit exam law and grant diplomas to members of the class of 2006 who have not passed the test. But at least one board member seems to understand to implications of that idea:

"We have for a long time passed along students who are not prepared for work," she said. "West Contra Costa has not always been accountable. To continue to pretend that students who can't pass this relatively simple exam are high school graduates and should get a diploma is a disservice to the students and the community."

Posted by dweintraub at 10:33 AM

Unintended consequences

The Mercury-News takes a look at the most obvious impact of California's new campaign contribution limits: only millionaires need apply to run for governor. The net worth of the three major candidates tops $1 billion.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:26 AM

Gloves coming off

Phil Angelides promises that a noon speech today will outline the "clear choice" voters face between him and Steve Westly in the Democratic primary. Meanwhile, the two candidates will face off in a joint appearance taped this afternoon for the Univision Spanish-language network.

Bill Bradley thinks it's a "dramatic turn" in the campaign.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:21 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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