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Daniel Weintraub

California Insider

A Weblog by
Sacramento Bee Columnist Daniel Weintraub

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« November 2006 | | January 2007 »
December 26, 2006

The diversity machine

One of the great untold stories of the past decade is the rapid rise of the California State University system as an elevator for moving ethnic minorities into the middle class. While a lot of attention has been paid to the end of affirmative action at the University of California, the CSU has quietly become an engine for ethnic upward mobility.

Since 1996, the percentage of bachelor's degrees granted to minorities has increased from 45 percent to 56 percent, based on the ethnicity students report to the universities. In 2005, the CSU granted about 59,200 degree to students who reported an ethnicty. Of those, 32,900 went to non-whites, including Latinos.

The number of bachelor's degrees granted to Latinos has soared from 7,431 in 1996 to 13,153 in 2005.

csudegrees.gif


Posted by dweintraub at 3:34 PM



Higher ed enrollment

This is the latest graphic illustrating my California Quality of Life Index, which will appear in my New Years Eve column.

This one shows enrollment in the public four-year universities. Between 2004 and 2005, enrollment at the UC and CSU grew by about 13,400 full-time equivalent students, or 3.1 percent. Between 1995 and 2005 enrollment grew by about 109,000 students, or 29 percent. During the same period, the state's population grew by about 17 percent.

higheredenroll06.gif

Posted by dweintraub at 3:32 PM



The Pelosi parties

The Washington Post previews Nancy Pelosi's plans for four days of celebration marking her ascension to the speaker's office:

But the hoopla is more than just a party.

Pelosi is grabbing the moment to present herself as the new face of the Democratic Party and to restore the party's image as one hospitable to ethnic minorities, families, religion, the working class and women.

If you read it to the end you'll find a nasty swipe from Republican consultant Mike Murphy.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:23 PM



Illegal immigrant births

Here's a condensed AP version of an LA Times story over the weekend about births to illegal immigrants in California. More than 100,000 a year -- paid for by Medi-Cal. Well, at least we'll have enough folks around and working in 25 years to pay for my Social Security checks. Which is more than some European countries can say.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:13 PM



Schwarzenegger out of surgery

Here is the latest from the governor's office on Schwarzenegger's surgery:

This morning, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger underwent successful surgery to repair his right femur, which he fractured while skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho on December 23, 2006. The surgical team performed an open reduction internal fixation on the upper part of the thigh bone. The surgery lasted an hour and a half, the Governor was cleared to resume his duties as Governor at approximately 10:45 a.m. and he is expected to have a full and speedy recovery.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kevin Ehrhart today issued the following statement regarding the health of Governor Schwarzenegger:

"At 9:45 this morning our surgical team, consisting of myself, two assistant surgeons, an anesthesiologist and two nurses, completed a successful open reduction internal fixation on the upper part of Governor Schwarzenegger's thigh bone. The surgery involved using cables and screws to wire the two main fragments of the Governor's broken femur bone back together. It lasted approximately an hour an a half, was without complication, and the post-operation x-rays look great.

"Following the surgery, the Governor was awake, alert and talking in the recovery room. He is now fully coherent and I have cleared him to resume his duties as Governor. The Governor will remain in the hospital for three days, as is standard for this type of operation. Recovery will take approximately eight weeks and I expect the Governor to fully recover. The Governor is not in a cast and will use crutches to walk while his leg heals."


First Lady Maria Shriver issued the following statement today following Governor Schwarzenegger's surgery:

"When we checked Arnold into the hospital on Christmas night he was looking forward to his surgery. He has been in good spirits. He asked when he could get back to work and he's looking forward to his inauguration next week. Our children and I are grateful for everyone's support and prayers."

Statement by Legal Affairs Secretary Andrea Hoch regarding governing of the state:

"I have notified Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante that Governor Schwarzenegger has been cleared by Dr. Ehrhart to resume his duties as Governor."

Posted by dweintraub at 2:07 PM



December 25, 2006

Governor scheduled for surgery

Here is the latest on the guv's medical condition, from his press office:

Update on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Health

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has returned to the state. Tomorrow morning, Governor Schwarzenegger will undergo non-emergent surgery to repair his right femur, which he fractured while skiing in Sun Valley, Idaho on December 23, 2006.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Kevin Ehrhart today issued the following statement regarding the health of Governor Schwarzenegger:

"First thing tomorrow morning, our team will repair the Governor's fractured right femur by performing an open reduction internal fixation on the upper part of the thigh bone. This relatively common surgery involves using orthopedic cables and screws to help the bone heal.

"Governor Schwarzenegger will be put under general anesthesia for no longer than two hours and the surgery should last less than two hours. As is standard for this type of surgery, the Governor will be kept for observation for three days. The Governor will use crutches following the surgery and recovery will take approximately eight weeks.

"I have spoken to the Governor several times since the skiing accident occurred and he is very comfortable. The Governor has already been admitted to the hospital for standard pre-operation procedures and I am confident he will have a speedy recovery from this routine surgery."

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's legal affairs secretary, Andrea Lynn Hoch, today issued the following statement regarding governing of the state while Governor Schwarzenegger is in surgery:

"During the time Governor Schwarzenegger is under general anesthesia, Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante will serve as acting Governor. Once Governor Schwarzenegger has received medical clearance from his physicians, he will resume his duties as Governor."

Posted by dweintraub at 8:33 PM



December 23, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Posted by dweintraub at 10:48 PM



Schwarzenegger breaks leg skiing

In Sun Valley. He might have surgery in LA after returning from his Christmas holiday.

Posted by dweintraub at 9:06 PM



December 21, 2006

Politics in prison policy? The horror.

The governor is set to unveil his latest prison reform and construction plan at 2:30. He'll probably be asked about testimony at a court hearing yesterday suggesting that he backed off his reform plans earlier this year to improve his reelection chances. His communications director, Adam Mendelsohn, has denied this. Politics had nothing to do with it, he said. But what if it did? Politics affects everything else that happens in the Capitol, why not prison policy? I happen to disagree with much of what the governor did -- or didn't do -- on corrections. I also happen to think that the correctional officers union -- the prison guards -- has too much power. But I won't disagree with Schwarzenegger's prison policies more if someone proves to me that he took that path to keep the correctional officers off his case.

I hate to break it to Mr. Hagar, the court-appointed prison-minder, but I'd bet that politics also played a part in the governor's failure to propose a universal health care plan this year, and in his refusal to give us any detail about what he had in mind for balancing the budget. Oh, and his education reform commission reports in the Spring, with some potentially controversial ideas, conveniently after the election. And that big infrastructure plan? I'd guess that at least a tiny part of the motivation for that was to help him get reelected to a second term.

Yes, politics played a role in shaping the governor's prison policies. How that should be of any interest to a federal court is beyond me.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:00 PM



Court: Indian nations must follow campaign finance laws

Here is a decision that is long overdue. The state Supreme Court has ruled that Indian tribes must comply with the state's campaign finance disclosure rules. They had claimed that they were exempt because they were sovereign nations. But sovereign nations can't contribute to California campaigns. So their choice was to either claim sovereignty and stop contributing or contribute and lose their sovereign protection in this field. The decision was 4-3.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:47 PM



Núñez unveils health care plan

Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez unveiled an outline of a comprehensive health insurance program Thursday, centered on a mandate for employers to provide insurance to their workers or else pay into a state pool that would buy coverage for the employees.

On a conference call with opinion writers, Núñez said he didn’t know yet how much the employer assessment would be but estimated that it would run 5 percent to 7 percent of payroll. Very small businesses with two or fewer employees or less than $100,000 in revenue would be exempt.

Employees would also pay a premium based in part on their income.

Núñez said his program would cover all California children through an expansion of Medi-Cal and the Healthy Families program. He also proposed requiring all insurers to offer a standard package of benefits and follow new rules for deciding when they cover a person. Those changes and the payroll tax and employee premiums would take effect by 2008, he said.

Over the following five years, unemployed people would be phased into the program, he said.

The program sounds a little bit like the current workers compensation system for employees injured on the job. Every employer is required to carry it for their workers, the state sets most of the rules, and the state runs an insurance carrier for those who can’t find coverage on the private market or would rather buy it from the state. One big difference is that with workers compensation, the state program is an insurer, while with this proposal, the state would be buying coverage from private carriers.

The Núñez proposal is similar to one offered earlier this month by Senate Leader Don Perata, and may have elements in common with a proposal expected next month from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

We’ll post more details here as they become available.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:22 PM



Agriculture

This is the latest graphic illustrating the numbers behind my California Quality of Life Index, which will appear in my New Years Eve column. This one is on agriculture.

The value of the output from California farms declined in 2005 after several years of dramatic growth, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The state’s farm products sold for a gross value of $33.8 billion, down from $34.6 billion the year before. Net farm income also declined, from $11.2 billion to $9.1 billion.

The biggest part of the delcine in output came in the crops sector, which dropped from $23.6 billion to $22.9 billion. The value of farm animals produced dropped from $8.7 billion to $8.6 billion, and the value of services and forestry held steady at about $2.3 billion.

The top five agriculture commodities by dollar value in 2005 were dairy products, greenhouse and nursery, grapes, almonds and cattle.

ag2006.gif

Posted by dweintraub at 6:23 AM



Home ownership

Here is the latest graphic illustrating the numbers behind the California Quality of Life Index, which will appear in my New Years Eve column. This one is on home ownership.

The percentage of Californians who owned their homes in 2005 held steady at 59.7 percent, according to the Census Bureau. Only New York has a lower percentage of home ownership than California. The national average was 68.9 percent.

Despite a rapid rise in real estate prices, California home ownership has steadily increased over the past decade. In 1995, 55.4 percent of Californians owned their homes.

homes06.gif

Posted by dweintraub at 6:05 AM



Crime in California

This is the latest graphic to illustrate my California Quality of Life Index, which will appear in my New Years Eve column. This one is on crime.

The violent-crime rate continued to drop in 2005, the latest year for which complete numbers are available from the California Department of Justice. The rate dropped 5.1 percent, from 540 violent crimes per 100,000 people to 512 crimes. There was a slight increase in the homicide rate and the robbery rate while the rate of rapes and assaults declined.

The property crime rate was nearly flat in 2005, rising less than one-third of 1 percent from the year before. There were 1,952 property crimes per 100,000 people in 2005, compared to 1,946 the year before. The rate for burglary and motor vehicle theft climbed slightly, while the rate for larceny and theft declined.

The rate of violent crime in California has declined 54 percent from its peak in 1992. The property crime rate has declined 41 percent from its peak in 1989.

crime06.gif


Posted by dweintraub at 5:12 AM



Welfare caseloads

Here is the latest graphic to illustrate my annual California Quality of Life Index, which will appear in my New Years Eve column. This one is on welfare, known in California as CalWORKS.

The number of families on public assistance declined to 463,066 in September 2006, a drop of 3.7 percent from a year earlier, according to the state Department of Social Services. The decline followed two years of modest increases in 2004 and 2005.

Over the long term, the trend in welfare cases has been a dramatic drop. In 1995, California had more than 919,000 families on welfare, almost twice as many as today. Part of the delcine is attributed to the federal welfare reforms of 1996, which set time limits on aid and encouraged more welfare recipients to seek job training, education and work. Part of the decline is likely also due to growth in the economy, particularly during the dot-com boom of the late 1990s.

welfare06.gif


Posted by dweintraub at 4:59 AM



December 20, 2006

California Supreme Court to hear gay marriage case

The California Supreme Court is going to hear the state's gay marriage case, to decide whether a voter-imposed ban is constitutional.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:43 PM



Health insurance coverage

Here is the latest graphic illustrating the numbers in my California Quality of Life column, which will appear on New Year's Eve.

This one is on health insurance.

The number of Californians with health insurance declined in 2005, according to the Census Bureau. The number of people with some type of insurance from either a private source or the government shrunk from 29.1 million to 29 million. The percentage of people with coverage declined from 81.3 percent to 80.6 percent.

The recent peak in the percentage covered by insurance was 81.8, in 2002. Though the percentage has declined in recent years, it is still higher than it was 10 years ago. In 1995, 79.4 percent of Californians had health insurance coverage.

healthinsure2006.gif

Posted by dweintraub at 11:56 AM



Poverty

Here is the latest graphic illustrating the numbers in my California Quality of Life Index, which will appear in my New Years Eve column.

This one is on poverty.

The poverty rate held steady in 2005 at 13.2 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Ten years ago, the poverty rate was 16.7 percent.

About 4.7 million Californians were living below the poverty line last year. That compares to 5.3 million in 1995. During that period, California added about 5 million people to its population. Most of them were immigrants who arrived here poor and uneducated, or the children of those immigrants. It's actually an impressive achievement for the state to have absorbed all of those folks and have fewer people in poverty today than 10 years ago.

poverty2006.gif

Posted by dweintraub at 11:25 AM



Employment

Here is the latest graphic illustrating the numbers in my annual California Quality of Life Index, which will appear in my column on New Year's Eve. This one is on jobs.

Total civilian employment grew by 1.1 percent from October 2005 to October 2006, from 16.9 million to just over 17 million, according to the Employment Development Department. The unemployment rate declined from 5.2 percent to 4.5 percent.

Over the past decade, California employers have added a net of about 2.6 million jobs.

employment06.gif

Posted by dweintraub at 10:45 AM



Cali pop now 37.4 million

California's population grew by 462,000 to 37.4 million during the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to new numbers from the Department of Finance. The state had a net increase of 317,000 people from births and deaths, plus net migration of 146,000. That was made up of legal and (estimated) illegal immigration of 213,000, less a net of 67,000 people who left for other states. Read the full report here.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:35 AM



Mandate bashing is so last summer

Dan Walters says it would be "ironic" if Schwarzenegger endorsed an employer mandate for health care after bashing Phil Angelides all year for doing just that. Schwarzenegger's campaign said repeatedly that a mandate would be the equivalent of a $7 billion tax increase, and the governor himself said he would not raise taxes if he were reelected.

Ironic seems too kind a word for that sort of dishonesty.


Posted by dweintraub at 6:11 AM



December 19, 2006

Per capita personal income

I've been working on my annual column featuring my California Quality of Life Index, a set of statistical measures of wellbeing in the state. The column is scheduled to appear In The Bee's Forum section on New Years Eve. As a companion to that, I'll be posting on my blog some charts and graphs that illustrate the numbers I will include in the column.

Here is the first, on the personal income. Real per capita personal income in California grew from about $26,400 in 1995 to $33,100 in 2005, an increase of 25 percent. Most of that growth came in the late 1990s at the end of the dot-com boom. But after declines in 2001, 2002 and 2003 -- the only three-year period of shrinking incomes in the past 50 years -- income has risen again in 2004 and 2005.

py2006.gif

Posted by dweintraub at 6:01 PM



Garamendi's daughter in drunken driving accident

The 20-year-old daughter of Insurance Commissioner John Garamendi is "lucky to be alive" after an accident near Clarksburg.

Posted by dweintraub at 4:22 PM



December 18, 2006

Health care tax?

The governor today said he would not propose taxes as part of his health care plan but seemed to leave the door open for considering legislative proposals that did. He also mentioned the "hidden tax" that those with insurance pay now to cover the cost of providing care to the uninsured.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:47 PM



Official results from Nov. 7

Secretary of State Bruce McPherson has certified the results of the Nov. 7 election. Turnout was 56.2 percent of registered voters, and 41.5 percent of the vote was cast by absentee ballot.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:15 PM



December 16, 2006

The money flows in...

Schwarzenegger has raised at least $640,000 from private donors for his inaugural.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:32 AM



December 15, 2006

Judge: lethal injection unconstitutional

A federal judge has ruled California's method of execution by lethal injection is unconstitutional because it violates the 8th Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:42 PM



Senior advisers

It's the new title of choice, apparently. Schwarzenegger has a bunch of them. Now the California Democratic Party has added two: Roger Salazar and Andrew Acosta. The two are partners in the political consulting firm Acosta/Salazar, and Salazar, a former Gray Davis aide, was communications director for the party's Victory 2006 committee. Salazar will be a senior adviser to Chairman Art Torres and the party spokesman. Acosta will merely be a senior adviser.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:54 PM



November revenues down $657 million

The Department of Finance’s monthly revenue report today has an ominous number: general fund revenues are down $657 million in November from projections for the month. That’s a huge drop and, if it signals a trend, would be a disaster for the state and for Schwarzenegger’s efforts to balance the budget without raising taxes.

Finance, however, says they are thinking that most of the drop can be explained by one-time factors that don’t presage an economic shift that will result in lower revenues going forward.

The sales tax, for instance, was down $127 million for the month. But Anne Maitland, a revenue analyst for the department, says October sales tax payments came in higher than expected as taxes due on Nov. 1 came in early. The November number, then, represents the flipside. For the year, sales tax payments are very close to the forecast.

Corporate taxes were also down in November, $192 million below the projection. Much of that, Maitland said, was due to refunds being higher than expected, and some of those refunds were tied to the tax amnesty plans that brought in so much money over the past few years. Many firms paid up to beat those amnesty deadlines but still fought the judgments. Now some of them are prevailing and the money is going back out, but it is difficult for the analysts to predict months in advance when those refunds will be paid.

Another big hit came from the sale of unclaimed property bringing in less than expected in November.

On the other side of the ledger, withholding for the personal income tax was very healthy, at $138 million above the projection of $2.5 billion. And that’s one sign that the economy is still going strong.

Bottom line: an eye-opening number, but not reason to panic. Yet.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:03 PM



Friends in high places

This NY Times story focuses on several last-minute items added to a health care finance bill passed as Congress was wrapping up business. Sen. Frist inserted a provision that is expected to bring $131 million to Tennessee for care of the indigent. It's not clear from the story if this is money that California already is getting, but given our historic spot on the low-end of the Medicaid funding totem poll, you have to wonder. On a per capita basis, the same allocation for California would be worth $750 million. Here's the relevant part of the NYT story:

In Tennessee, hospitals estimate that they will get at least $131 million because of the provision added by Mr. Frist, who is retiring from the Senate next month. The money will go to about 90 hospitals serving disproportionate numbers of low-income Medicaid patients and people without insurance.

Craig A. Becker, president of the Tennessee Hospital Association, said his organization had received help from an influential Washington lobbyist: Thomas A. Scully, former administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, who is now a lawyer at Alston & Bird.

The same section of the bill provides $10 million for hospitals in Hawaii. That state’s senators, Daniel K. Akaka and Daniel K. Inouye, both Democrats, have been trying to get such an allotment for years.

Hawaii, like Tennessee, is exempted from many requirements of the federal Medicaid law because of a waiver granted by federal officials. The waivers give the states a great deal of freedom in setting eligibility and benefits, but do not provide the extra money available to other states for hospitals serving large numbers of poor people.


Posted by dweintraub at 11:17 AM



December 14, 2006

Voter turnout

Frank Russo takes a look at the final voter turnout, which came in at more than 56 percent, low but a bit higher than either the Secretary of State or the pollsters projected.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:40 PM



The great debate

William Saracino rips Gov. Schwarzenegger for straying so far from the words of candidate Schwarzenegger (version 1.0).

Posted by dweintraub at 10:33 AM



December 13, 2006

Guv weighs in on Truckee coal contract

Gov. Schwarzenegger is urging a municipal utility district in Truckee not to sign a 50-year contract for coal-fired power because of the effect on global warming. Here is his letter, via the Sierra Sun.

Posted by dweintraub at 3:18 PM



Health care conversation

Over at our Crossroads/Healthcare sister site, the discussion is getting going on the health care plans put forward this week by Sen. Perata and Kaiser. Come join the fun!

Posted by dweintraub at 1:46 PM



A private sales tax

Here is a short, interesting story from the Sierra Sun about a private, 2 percent sales tax charged by the businesses in the village at the Northstar ski resort. All businesses that go into the development have to agree to collect (or at least pay) the tax on their sales. The money goes to pay for entertainment events in the village. Apparently Squaw Valley has something similar. I know it's common for landlords to charge commercial tenants a portion of revenues as part of the rent, but the twist here is that the retailers openly pass it along to customers and itemize it on their bill.

Posted by dweintraub at 1:19 PM



Musical chairs in guv's office

Gov. Schwarzenegger has reshuffled his senior staff, filling jobs recently vacated and moving some folks around. Here are the details:

Chris Kahn, a lobbyist and former Republican legislative aide and deputy legislative secretary for Pete Wilson, replaces Richard Costigan as legislative secretary. Michael Prosio, who has been a deputy in the office, moves up as chief deputy under Kahn.

Dan Dunmoyer, a former insurance lobbyist and Republican legislative aide who has been a policy adviser to the governor, moves over to become cabinet secretary. Alice Dowdin Cavillo, who was in the appointments unit, moves over to be Dunmoyer's deputy.

Cynthia Bryant, who was deputy legislative secretary, moves up to deputy chief of staff and takes over as director of the office of Planning and Research, where she'll manage policy development for Schwarzenegger. Sean Walsh, who was director of OPR, moves over to the horseshoe as a senior adviser.

Margaret Fortune, who was director of public affairs, shifts to the role of senior adviser.

Newcomer Ross LaJeunesse, who worked for Susan Kennedy at the PUC, comes to Sacramento to join her as a deputy chief of staff.

Luis Portillo, who was a deputy in the office of constituent affairs, moves up to head that unit.

Finally, Daniel Zingale, who is Maria Shriver's chief of staff, gains the new title of senior adviser to the governor.


Posted by dweintraub at 11:19 AM



December 12, 2006

Sen. Perata's health care plan

Here is a link to the summary and supporting documents for Sen. Perata's health care proposal, unveiled a few hours ago. Perata is proposing a plan he says would cover about two-thirds of the uninsured, namely all those working legally in California. He specifically omits coverage of illegal immigrants. The plan includes an individual mandate enforced through the tax code and subsidies financed by payroll taxes on employers who don't provide insurance. The amount of the tax has yet to be determined. Individuals would be able to buy coverage through a statewide pool and would not be denied because of pre-existing conditions. Small employers could also buy coverage for their workers through the pool.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:15 PM



Kaiser official proposes California health plan

The chairman and CEO of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan has proposed a health plan for California that would broaden access to care through an individual mandate and subsidies financed by a health-care sales tax and a payroll tax on employers who do not cover their workers. You can read the proposal here, at Health Affairs.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:16 AM



Mike Murphy on Bush

Sometimes-Schwarzenegger adviser Mike Murphy has surfaced with an op-ed in the LA Times suggesting a radical idea to save Bush on Iraq: a bipartisan war council.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:41 AM



On a carbon tax

Harvard economist and former Bush adviser Greg Mankiw has been beating the drum for a more efficient tax system, that is, one that raises taxes on things we don't like (such as pollution) and lowers them on things we do like (investment, savings, work). Mankiw refers to the more favored taxes as "Pigovian taxes," after an economist who developed the theory that underlies them.

Mankiw's preference for such levies leads him to advocate a carbon tax, which he says he prefers to the "cap and trade" systems that allow firms to earn and sell credits to the right to pollute. Mankiw argues that the cap and trade idea, while preferable to straight, top-down regulation, allows firms to profit from their earlier pollution by being granted credits to continue polluting at that level.

This is going to be an increasingly hot topic for discussion in the country over the next few years, and with California's AB 32 about to move into the implementation phase, that discussion might start here.

This is what Mankiw has to say about it:

I am less fond of cap-and-trade programs than Pigovian taxes because they, in essence, give the revenue from a Pigovian tax lump-sum to a regulated entity. Why should an electric utility, for example, be given a valuable resource simply because it has for years polluted the environment? That does not strike me as equitable. A new firm entering the market should not have to pay for something that an incumbent gets for free. And the fact that the incumbent has for years been taking a valuable resource from the rest of society is no reason to think it deserves a free ride in the future. On equity grounds, one could just as easily argue that the incumbents should compensate society for their past misdeeds.

Cap-and-trade systems are also relatively inefficient, for two reasons. First, they encourage utilities to pollute more before the cap-and-trade system is put into effect in order to "earn" pollution rights. Second, they waste the opportunity to use the Pigovian tax revenue to reduce distortionary taxes on labor and capital. Of course, cap-and-trade systems are better than heavy-handed regulatory systems. But they are not as desirable, in my view, as Pigovian taxes coupled with reductions in other taxes. One exception: If the pollution rights are auctioned off rather than handed out, then cap-and-trade systems are almost identical to Pigovian taxes, including all the desirable efficiency properties.

Posted by dweintraub at 6:11 AM



December 8, 2006

Comings and goings

Ruben Barrales, the former San Mateo County supervisor who has been heading up local government relations for the White House, is moving to San Diego to lead the Chamber of Commerce there as its president and CEO.

and

David Lyons, the founding president and CEO of the Public Policy Institute of California, is retiring next June after 12 years on the job.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:40 PM



December 7, 2006

Spreading the wealth

According to Dick Morris, John Doolittle is far from alone among members of Congress in putting his spouse or family on the campaign payroll. He suggests Democrats ban the practice. Here's his list of offenders. Several Californians are on it, including Barbara Boxer:


Those who have hired spouses and family members include: Reps. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), wife and two brothers; Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), husband's law firm; Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), wife and step-daughter; John Doolittle (R-Calif.), wife; Ralph Hall (R-Texas), daughter-in-law; Pete Stark (D-Calif.), wife; Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), wife; Ron Lewis (R-Ky.), wife; Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), wife; Jim Costa (D-Calif.), cousin; Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), wife; Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), nephew; Chris Cannon (R-Utah), three daughters; Lincoln Davis (D-Tenn.), sister-in-law and daughter; Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), wife; Tim Bishop (D-N.Y.), daughter; Bob Filner (D-Calif.), wife; J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.), wife; Bob Inglis (R-S.C.), wife; Elton Gallegly (R-Calif.), wife; Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), wife; John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), wife; Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), wife; Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), nephew; John Shadegg (R-Ariz.), son; and Howard Berman (D-Calif.), brother Michael's political consulting firm; Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), son; and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), son and daughter during vice presidential race; and ex-Reps. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), wife; and Tom DeLay (R-Texas), wife and daughter.


Posted by dweintraub at 1:12 PM



Lockyer to settle with HP?

CNET is reporting that Bill Lockyer has reached a civil settlement with HP over the company's spying scandal.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:57 PM



Building bridges

My first-born son was five months old when the Loma Prieta earthquake damaged the Bay Bridge in October 1989. The quake prompted the state to decide to replace the old bridge with a safer structure. By my calculations, my son will be 24 years old when the new bridge is finished, according to this AP story. A quarter-century to plan and build a bridge? Nuts.

Posted by dweintraub at 5:49 AM



December 6, 2006

Retiree health benefits

In San Diego, some of the first tangible fallout of the new accounting rules that force government to acknowledge the unfunded liability of health care benefits for retirees. The county supervisors has voted to eliminate the benefit for workers who retired after March 2002. Even with the action, the county said it still faces a $1.8 billion liability from the benefits over the next 20 years.

Posted by dweintraub at 12:32 PM



December 5, 2006

Redistricting? I don't think so

I admit I was skeptical a year ago that the Democrats in the Legislature would play ball with the governor on infrastructure. The balance of interests seemed heavily weighted toward them doing nothing, and leaving Schwarzenegger looking like a do-nothing governor. But I am still willing to go out on a limb and say I see absolutely no reason for them to deal with him on redistricting. Well, almost no reason. Perhaps the possibility of term limits reform would do it, but we know how tenuous that is. But on redistricting alone, why should they deal? The voters don't care either way, and all their interest groups are against it. Plus there is very little if anything in it for them personally. With visions of a Democratic Legislature and a Gov. Villaraigosa drawing the next set of lines in 2011, I will be shocked if the Democrats go anywhere near this deal.

Posted by dweintraub at 2:31 PM



December 4, 2006

Núñez: Republican voters want bipartisanship too

Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez spoke with reporters Monday after legislators in his house were sworn in for the new session. Núñez, who said in his speech to the house that he wanted to focus on health care, education and the environment, didn’t add much in his meeting with the press. He said Democrats would stand for “fundamental health care reform” and noted that they passed a plan (in concept) for a single payer system last year and most of them still support it. He also said he would be going to Washington this week for meetings with Sen. Barbara Boxer, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and others, in hopes of increasing the state’s share of federal aid. “We want to bring home the bacon for California,” he said.

Núñez said he was committed to maintaining the bipartisan spirit he enjoyed with the governor last year and urged Republican lawmakers to join them. He noted that Schwarzenegger, despite agreeing with Democrats on a number of high-profile issues, still managed to win a huge share of the Republican vote on Nov. 7.

“Why? Because Republican like bipartisan cooperation.”

Núñez stood at the lectern surrounded by his leadership team, which included seven women, a black man, a Latino and two gay men. He said California has the “most diverse state Legislative body” anywhere in the world.

Mark Leno, the San Francisco lawmaker who is the new chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, looked around at the team and quipped:

“I want to put a good word in for the straight white men in our caucus.”

Posted by dweintraub at 2:14 PM



New leader lays out priorities

Mile Villines, the new Assembly Republican Leader, held his first press availability with Capitol reporters this morning and laid out his positions on a host of issues. Among them:

--Redistricting reform. He's for it and will introduce a constitutional amendment calling for a citizens commission to draw compact, nested and (he hopes) more competitive districts.

--Term limits. He's fine with the status quo. He doesn't think the issue should be linked to redistricting.

--Health care. No mandates, no new taxes (or fees), free-market approach. He said a tax increase "will not pass" in the Legislature.

--Budget. He thinks they can do an on-time budget that narrows the gap, even if it does not close it this year. He thinks the state is likely to "get lucky" again with a surge in revenues in the spring.

--Workers' comp. He won't support rolling back any of the changes passed in 2003 and 2004.

Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez will do his thing this afternoon, after the swearing-in session.

Posted by dweintraub at 11:50 AM



December 1, 2006

Difi on electronic voting

Sen. Feinstein says she's concerned about this report on electronic voting from the National Insitute of Standards and Technology. She's going to be pushing federal legisaltion requiring a paper trail and audits on all voting equipment.

Posted by dweintraub at 10:19 AM



 
 

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