Archive for the ‘Proposition 26’ Category



Meyer on Krusty: Why Exactly Did He Want This Job?

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

When Dianne Feinstein called Jerry Brown last winter to confirm what everyone in the world already knew – that she wasn’t going to run for governor, so the Democratic nomination was all his – Krusty responded that he was kind of hoping she would run so he wouldn’t have to.   When we reported the conversation at the time, we said that Brown was half-joking; after Leg Analyst Mac Taylor’s announcement this week that California faces a $25 billion budget deficit, now we’re thinking he wasn’t kidding at all.

As Calbuzzer Tom Meyer, Tim Gunn’s favorite editorial cartoonist,shows this week, the task is made far more difficult by a whole batch of initiatives passed by the state’s self-canceling-minded voters – More services – Less taxes! – not only hardy perennials like Props 13 and 98 but also Props 21, 22 and 26, a new trio of budget straitjackets passed in last week’s election.

Calbuzz is particularly miffed about Prop. 26, which for the first time imposes a two-thirds vote requirement for a whole batch of fees on corporate polluters and the like, because it snuck through with almost no coverage and little notice. As long-time readers know, the measure effectively voids the state Supreme Court’s decision in the Sinclair Paint decision, a business-backed effort that we first blew the whistle on way back when corporate types were trying to weasel it through buried deep inside a “good government” reform package being fronted by California Backward Forward.

As the full implications of Prop. 26 begin to dawn in Sacramento, we confess we’re kicking ourselves now for not screaming to the heavens about it more during the campaign, beyond the excellent Jean Ross piece we ran on its hidden agenda. While we, of course, criticize ourselves severely for the oversight, a full investigation by our Division of Corporate Responsibility and It Didn’t Happen On Our Shift Unaccountability absolves us from responsiblity and concludes that now it’s Krusty’s problem, not ours.

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Mac’s World: Here are Calbuzz Washington Correspondent Mackenzie Weinger’s latest whip counts and doped-out updates on the California House delegation amid the fierce maneuvering that has followed the Republican skunking of the Democrats in the mid-terms:

Despite her stated intention to remain her party’s leader in the 112th Congress, soon-to-be former Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces mounting opposition within the Democratic caucus.

As of November 12, 18 Democrats — including one Californian, Rep. Jim Costa (who declared victory this week, although votes are still being counted in the 20th CD) have said they will oppose Pelosi in her quest to become House Minority Leader. In the contest to become House Minority Whip, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) is leading Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) with 51 public backers to Clyburn’s 13.

(Update: The New York Times, quoting unnamed Democratic sources, is now reporting that the Hoyer-Clyburn fight has been resolved, and that the South Carolinian will accept a newly created #3 post in the caucus).

Among Clyburn’s backers is Rep. Xavier Becerra of L.A., a rising star in the party. He currently serves as vice chair of the Democratic Caucus and is angling to stay in that position, announcing his intentionto stay in leadership in a November 5 letter to fellow Democrats: “As your Vice Chair in the 111th Congress, I have devoted my energy and resources to pass our Democratic agenda…. In the coming days, I hope you will give me the opportunity to speak to you personally about my candidacy for Vice Chair.”

At the start of the week, there was discussion of possibly moving each leader below minority whip down a spot amid the Hoyer-Clyburn contest,; that would have left Becerra out of luck for his vice chairmanship. But the new Democratic Caucus election schedule for next Wednesday ends with the minority whip race, meaning leadership posts lower down the food chain should  be settled, protecting the currently unopposed Becerra.

The other Californians supporting Clyburn are Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, as well as Reps. Barbara Lee and Grace Napolitano. Hoyer’s California backing comes from Reps. Joe Baca, Howard Berman, Lois Capps, Dennis Cardoza, Sam Farr, Bob Filner, John Garamendi, Jane Harman, Lucille Roybal-Allard, Linda Sanchez, Adam Schiff, Brad Sherman, Jackie Speier and Henry Waxman.

Across the aisle as members of the new majority party, several California Republicans appear set to become major power brokers in the 112th Congress. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is currently unopposed for House Majority Whip.

Among House committees, a batch of state GOPers are in line or vying for important chair positions: Rep. Dan Lungren, House Administration, Rep. Buck McKeon, Armed Services, Rep. Jerry Lewis, Appropriations, Rep. Darrell Issa, Oversight and Government Reform; Rep. David Dreier, Rules and Rep. Ed Royce, Financial Services.

Lewis, who served as the Appropriations chair in the 109th Congress, faces a challenge from Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, another veteran on the panel. And Royce is vying against Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), the current ranking minority member, for the top spot on the Financial Services committee.

With the GOP’s gains, of course, a number of California Democrats have lost powerful committee chairmanships: Rep. George Miller, Education and Labor; Rep. Henry Waxman,  Energy and Commerce;, Rep. Howard Berman, Foreign Affairs: Rep. Bob Filner, Veterans’ Affairs and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, Standards of Official Conduct.

In other California congressional news, Dreier, McKeon and Rep. John Campbell are now in DC as part of the GOP majority transition team. And, along with Costa, who claimed victory over Republican Andy Vidak, Democrat Jerry McNerney in the 11th district also crowned himself a winner, in his close race against Republican David Harmer. Neither Vidak nor Harmer have conceded.

ABC – Always Believe Calbuzz: There were many doubters among the Calbuzz cognoscenti – some of them on our own staff! – who whispered darkly that in the midst of the worst recession in decades, we were totally nuts to keep yammering on about the importance of Prop. 23, which sought to suspend California’s landmark climate change legislation. This just in: the “No” on Prop. 23 campaign wracked up more votes – 5,416,385 at press time – than any candidate or other initiative, yay or nay, on the statewide ballot.

In other toldja’ news, the record will show that the Calbuzz Sports Desk focused its reporting from spring training on the Giants vs. Rangers, the match-up that made it into the World Series. Sometimes we amaze even ourselves.

Why Prop 26 is the Polluters Protection Act of 2010

Monday, October 4th, 2010

By Jean Ross
Special to Calbuzz

One of the least publicized measures appearing on the Nov. 2 ballot is one of the most mind-numbing but nevertheless one of the most important issues voters will decide.

Proposition 26 makes two major changes to the state’s constitution. First, it ­redefines some types of “fees” as “taxes,” thereby requiring two-thirds, rather than a majority, vote of the Legislature to increase or enact a fee at the state level. And it requires a vote of the people, rather than an action of a governing body, at the local level.

The debate over what’s a tax and what’s a fee is one of those “only in California” issues that dates back to Proposition 13 and its limitations on the Legislature’s ability to raise a tax and its subsequent requirement that local governments seek voter approval in order to impose or raise a tax.

Opponents of Proposition 26 have christened it the “Polluter Protection Act,” since the fees at issue are primarily those that regulate, mitigate and otherwise respond to environmental, health, and other social impacts of products and services. In other words, businesses seeking to avoid financial responsibility for the “externalities” of the products that they sell. Proposition 26 would not, in contrast, apply to fees paid by “ordinary Californians” such as community college and state park entry fees.

Proposition 26 is aimed at overturning a unanimous 1997 California Supreme Court decision in  Sinclair Paint Company v. Board of Equalization. The Sinclair decision upheld the constitutionality of a fee imposed on paint producers to defray the cost of services for children at risk of poisoning from lead-based paint.

The court found that such fees were regulatory fees – not taxes — and could be imposed by a majority vote. Sinclair built on the logic of a prior appellate court ruling that ruled that, “A reasonable way to achieve Proposition 13’s goal of tax relief is to shift the costs of controlling stationary sources of pollution from the tax-paying public to the pollution-causing industries themselves.”

Conversely, if the state can’t impose the fees on “pollution-causing industries” to recoup the cost of environmental monitoring and remediation, those costs will be shifted to taxpayers as a whole. Or, in an era where budget crises have become the status quo, programs that enforce environmental, food safety and other laws will be scaled back, if not eliminated. Which may be the true goal of the backers of Proposition 26.

If all of this wasn’t enough, Proposition 26 would also impose a two-thirds vote requirement for approval of “Any change in state statute which results in any taxpayer paying a higher tax.”

This is a subtle but important change from the state’s existing two-thirds requirement for any “changes in state taxes enacted for the purpose of increasing revenues.” It means that a bill that closed an obscure and ineffective corporate tax loophole, while lowering taxes for, say, all personal income taxpayers, would require a two-thirds vote.

More troubling, the language is sufficiently vague as to potentially allow a handful of lawmakers to block any bill, not just a tax bill that required anyone to pay a higher tax. How might this work? Think about future increases in the state’s minimum wage that increased the tax bill for low-wage workers or, at the higher end of the income distribution, an increase in Medi-Cal payments to physicians that also translate into higher incomes and income tax liability. Or seismic safety laws that require the purchase of sales-taxable building materials. You get the picture.

Because the “any taxpayer who pays a higher tax” provision is retroactive to January 1, 2010, Proposition 26 would also blow a $1 billion bigger hole in this and future years’ budgets by repealing a carefully crafted, revenue neutral “fuel tax swap” approved by the legislature earlier this year that was designed to give the state greater flexibility to use existing tax dollars to help close the budget gap absent subsequent two-thirds approval by the legislature.

The bottom line: Proposition 26 would take away one of the few remaining budget-balancing  tools from state and local governments, allow polluters and their allies to shift the cost of monitoring and remediating environmental and other hazards to the general public, make it even tougher to get rid of special interest tax breaks, and open the door to even more supermajority gridlock.

Voters got it right in 2000 when they defeated a similar measure 48-52%. Californians should tell the backers of Proposition 26 that the second time around isn’t a charm.

Jean Ross is the executive director of the California Budget Project