Archive for the ‘Parsky Commission’ Category



Little Pulitzers: Myers, York, Collins, Skelton . . .

Saturday, January 16th, 2010

john-myers-158x225Hiding in Plain Sight: This week’s I.F. Stone all-I-did-was-read-the-documents award goes to the steady John Myers over at Capital Notes, for his report that Gerry Parsky’s famous Business Net Receipts Tax would result in a $10 billion decrease in state revenues. We probably missed other takes on this, but Myers for sure got the full import of the Assembly Rev and Tax hearing Wednesday, when he noted that the Leg Analyst’s take on the fiscal impact of the pet project of Arnold’s guy “may be the final nail in the coffin” for the Parsky hustle.

The report uses 2007 tax data in finding that the commission plan would lower personal income taxes by $13 billion and completely wipe out $28 billion in sales taxes and $8.7 billion in corporate taxes. The BNRT, says the LAO report, would bring in $39.2 billion… thus, a loss of $10. 2 billion.

High time someone put this dog with fleas out of its misery.

Hiding in Plain Sight II: Sameway kudos to Anthony York at Capitol Weekly and to Beekeeper Dan Walters, who both wrote in plain English what everbody in the world already knows – that the well-pleased-with-himself  “Collectanator’s” brilliant strategy of shaking his fist at Washington has absolutely no chance of shaking the feds down for the imaginary billions of dollars he phonied up to skate through his budget presentation last week.

How many more times will the bookers on “Meet the Press” fall for this guy’s act before they catch on to what a total blowhard he is?

chestertonEnough already: Tom Campbell’s endless farewell-to-the-governor’s race tour, which feels like it dragged on since he last ran for Senate, put us in mind of G.K. Chesterton, author of our all-time favorite quote about journalism:

Journalism largely consists of saying ‘Lord Jones is Dead’ to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive.

And speaking of whatever happened to what’s his name, we greatly enjoyed Capitol Weekly’s where-are-they-now feature on former Insurance Commissioner and GOP Golden Boy Chuck Quackenbush, hounded out of office by scandal just one step ahead of the posse and, it appears, was scared straight by the experience:

After his resignation, Quackenbush left California – he had lived in Rio Linda north of Sacramento – and moved to Hawaii. He also lived briefly in Ohio. In 2005, he moved to Lee County, Florida, which includes Fort Myers and Bonita Springs, and became a sheriff’s deputy –quackenbush first as a reserve deputy, then as a full-time law enforcement officer. Quackenbush also planned to become a helicopter pilot for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department.

The 55-year-old Quackenbush had largely avoided the public eye until 2008, when he shot and critically wounded a suspect in a domestic disturbance who allegedly was resisting arrest. Quackenbush was cleared of any wrongdoing.

At least he was in Florida.

All right-thinking people agree with us: Rant of the week honors to NYT’s Gail Collins, who let loose on the spectacle of a gaggle of comb-over U.S. Senators representing states with more pumas than people setting policy for the U.S., regardless of that whole pesky election thing, a Calbuzz pet peeve made manifest by the terminally annoying Kent Conrad.

People, think about what we went through to elect a new president — a year and a half of campaigning, three dozen debates, $1.6 billion in donations. Then the voters sent a clear, unmistakable message. Which can be totally ignored because of a parliamentary rule that allows the representatives of slightly more than 10 percent of the population to call the shots.

Why isn’t 90 percent of the country marching on the Capitol with teapots and funny hats, waving signs about the filibuster?

Sign us up.

You can’tnone_skelton_ be serious: Investigative punditry award yet again goes to the ever-reliable George Skelton, whose tone of pure bafflement about the views of Prop. 8 backers, regarding the shaky institution of marriage, was delightful:

The idea that marriages are first and foremost about baby-making-and-rearing was expressed by (pro-Prop 8 lawyer Charles) Cooper in October in an unsuccessful attempt to dismiss the suit filed by two same-sex couples against Prop. 8.

‘We say that the central and defining purpose of marriage is to channel naturally procreative sexual activity between men and women into stable, enduring unions for the sake of begetting, nurturing and raising the next generation,’ Cooper told U.S. Chief District Judge Vaughn R. Walker in San Francisco.

‘Well,’ the judge replied, ‘ the last marriage that I performed, Mr. Cooper, involved a groom who was 95 and the bride was 83. I did not demand that they prove that they intended to engage in procreative activity. Now, was I missing something?’

‘No, your honor.’

Uhh, so what are we doing in court, exactly?

jerryhandsMust-listen of the week: Mega-kudos to KGO radio’s Ed Baxter and Jennifer Jones for scoring a splendid sandbagging interview with Jerry Brown, in which Crusty let loose with all manner of truth-telling.

Brown, who was on the phone to talk about Prop. 8, went on a real tear when the morning news anchors slipped in some “as long as we have you” questions about the campaign for governor, opposition search and his planting of a negative story about S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom.

“Some people pretend they don’t do that. But they hire their henchmen….and they whisper, whisper into the ear of the various reporters. And you find out that most of these reporters’ stories derive from the opposition campaign. That’s kind of the dirty little secret of the news media,” he told KGO.

“Most of the political news is dug up by the oppositon research teams and then handed over to the media, and then put out as though the journalist found it and it’s news. When it’s really just part of the ongoing war between the candidates,” he said. “If you’re not prepared for it, you gotta get out of it.”jennifer-love-hewitt-3

That’s what makes Brown so much fun as a candidate. Like he did in his irreverent interview with CNBC back in October – he’s unafraid to get caught up by conventional political and media bullshit. You can hear the whole thing at Thursday’s 8-9 am hour on KGO.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: Is that a disco ball in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Arnold’s Alliterative Aspirational Adieu Address

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

stateofstate2The best commentary on Governor Schwarzmuscle’s State of the State Address came in the form of Capitol Alert’s word cloud.

Thanks to them, we know that Arnold used at least 31 words beginning with “P,” more than any other letter. For those who missed the SOS – and why wouldn’t you? – here’s the Calbuzz  15-word recap:

Pigs & pony
Persevere & prosper.
Painful priorities,
Prudent policies,
Privatized prisons,
Pension problem.
Patriotism!

The pig & pony show: Except for his opening, an endless and near-incomprehensible tortured metaphor comparing the Legislature to his household pets, the governor’s final SOS was pretty much the same as every other such address ever delivered (OCD memo:  pig and pony intro accounted for 269 of speech’s 2,947 words, or 9.1 percent). Aspirational in tone and theme, it included three mandatory elements: elevated rhetoric about the California Dream, a big heap of self-congratulation and a laundry list of legislative proposals.

The devil, to coin a phrase, is in the details, of course, so the real opening bell of this election-year session won’t come until Friday, when Arnold’s Department of Finance minions release their $20 billion deficit budget, and he runs like hell out of town.

“Every year, in spite of whatever challenges are before us,” he said in the meantime, “I stand up here and tell you how much I believe in California’s future.”

Exactly. In fact, he could have given the same speech back in 2004. Oh wait, he did.

Schwarzenegger 2010Let’s do lunch: The gov made sure to give lawmakers a little love, applauding their approval of education reform (of the small caliber variety), and of water legislation that calls for $11 billion in new bond spending (boosting the state’s annual interest payment obligation, the fastest growing item in the budget). Having invited them all to lunch at the Sutter Club, he tried not to spoil their appetites by dwelling on the unpleasant fact that they’ll once again be taking the deficit out of the hides of California’s least fortunate citizens.

“Which child do we cut? The poor one? The sick one? The uneducated one? The one with special needs?”

How about all of the above, governor?

Now there’s a thought: As for what he wants to accomplish this year, The Terminator’s best ideas were to “protect education,” whatever that means, and to put a higher priority on the UC/CSU/Community College systems than on prisons:

Thirty years ago 10 percent of the general fund went to higher education and 3 percent went to prisons. Today almost 11 percent goes to prisons and 7.5 percent goes to higher education. Spending 45 percent more on prisons than universities is no way to proceed into the future. What does it say about a state that focuses more on prison uniforms than caps and gowns? It simply is not healthy.

No duh.

Two problems with Arnold’s big, blinding insight: 1) His notion for a constitutional amendment to require this policy keeps California locked in the same old ballot box budgeting box that helped get the state in the mess it’s in; 2) why didn’t he think of this earlier?

Most of his other big ideas were based variously on lies, damn lies and statistics:

“The worst is over for the California economy.” Really?

Even if you accept the argument that the recession is technically over, the lack of real economic growth in the form of new jobs, or a decline in the state’s 12.3 percent rate of unemployment, makes the case an empty, statistical claim, as everything from retail sales to real estate is forecast to sag at least until the fourth quarter in California.

“We cannot have a robust recovery while banks are not lending,” said Bill Watkins, our favorite, hard-headed economist. “So, fixing our banks should be our first priority. Unless we do that, we’re just going to muddle along.”

The feds will pay for it. Really?

Schwarzenegger is right to bitch that the state doesn’t get our fair share of federal tax money:

When President Clinton was in office, California got back 94 cents on the dollar from the federal government. Today we get only 78 cents back…This should be more fair and equitable.

Then again, if life was fair, Calbuzz would have big biceps and six-pack abs, too.

Even if the Obama Administration decides to back a too-big-to-fail  sweetheart deal for California, the odds of Congress falling in line in an election year, particularly given growing public concern about the deficit, plus the Anybody But California attitude on Capitol Hill, are slim. Arnold surely didn’t help his case with the White House by launching a surprise attack Wednesday on Democratic health care plans as “a trough of bribes, deals and loopholes.”

The Parsky plan will save us all. Really?conan

The one true outrage in Schwarzenegger’s speech was his demand that the Legislature pass the Parsky Commission proposal for tax reform — some nasty, secretive hide-the-pig-and-pony flapdoodle to which Calbuzz devoted a fair amount of attention.

I sent you the Tax Reform Commission’s plan in late September, but it seems to have disappeared somewhere under this dome. Where is it? Maybe the pig and the pony have taken it.

Or maybe it’s a dog-ass, half-baked, secretly-concocted, serve-the-rich scheme that’s been rightly denounced from every point on the political spectrum, Conan.

Views from the grandstand: Having utterly failed to end deficits or ease gridlock, the two big promises that swept him into office, Arnold is fast running out of time to try to repair his battered image, and it’s not going to help that every candidate for governor will rightfully campaign this year by pointing to him as a fine example of what not to do.

As political scientist Sherry Bebitch Jeffe put it, in a masterpiece of tongue-biting, understated, academic self-restraint:

The best word is ‘disappointing,’ and that’s being very kind. As governor, he’s accomplished little of what he said he wanted to do.

Not so diplomatic was California League of Conservation Voters CEO Warner Chabot., whose comments suggest that environmental issues, including Arnold’s own AB32 plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, could prove signficant in the 2010 campaign.

The governor has proposed an outrageous plan to gut California’s landmark environmental protection law with the false hope of job creation. Under his plan, dozens of communities throughout California will lose their constitutional right to question the health and environmental impact of major development projects in their backyard. The notion that we can stimulate our economy by making it easier to pollute the air that we breathe and the water that we drink is just plain false.

Senior Senator Dianne Feinstein joined in, bitch-slapping Schwarzenegger for blaming the feds for California’s problems:

It sounds like the Governor is looking for someone else to blame for California’s budget. California’s budget crisis was created in Sacramento, not Washington. These problems are not going away until there is wholesale reform of the state’s budget process.

Even the enigmatic, not-yet-announced Democratic candidate for governor,  Attorney General Jerry Brown, took a sideways whack at Arnold’s idea to save money by privatizing prisons.

I view with suspicion efforts to take a traditional public sector responsibility, whether it’s in schools or in prisons or maybe even in community health, and turn it over to a profit-making appropriation, particularly when it involves the coercive power of the state.

As a political matter, Schwarzmuscle on Wednesday was speaking, in his Landon Parvin-penned, final State of the State address, to an audience outside the Capitol, not in it.

But with three of four Californians turning thumbs down on his performance, it’s pretty clear they’ve already stopped listening.

Mr. Speaker John Perez: All Cattle, No Hat

Monday, January 4th, 2010

perezbrownAs the Legislature returns this week, John Perez is poised to become the new Speaker of the Assembly, assuming the office with  ambitious reform notions –- and few of the institutional political tools needed to achieve them.

If Willie Brown was the Assembly’s Ayatollah, Perez is inheriting a speakership whose powers more closely resemble those invested in the  King of the Belgians. Despite the steep decline in influence of what once was the second most powerful office in California, Perez said in an interview that as Speaker he intends to tackle a host of reforms, from revamping the tax code (including a re-examination of Proposition 13) to seeking an escape from the straight jacket of term limits (and an out-of-control  initiative system).

“This is not a small task,” Perez told Calbuzz. “The challenges are monumental. If we fail to engage fully, the problems will only be pushed onto future generations.”

Brown wielded extraordinary power during his generation-long speakership, the last undiluted by the impact of term limits. More transactional than transformative, however, Brown’s actions most often focused on doing deals, refereeing economic battles between big special interests and reaping massive amounts of campaign cash on behalf of Democrats in the bargain. By contrast, Perez now seeks to accomplish big, substantive policy changes, at a time when the Speaker’s power to reward, punish and instill fear has been sapped since Brown left town in 1996.

In an interview a few days before New Year’s, Perez said that although the intractable budget fight will necessarily be his top priority, he intends to take on and “struggle with these big structural issues.”

gordian knotRefusing to take a position on major reform initiatives already being pushed by California Forward and the Bay Area Council, Perez suggested state lawmakers should pursue their own efforts to cut the Gordian knot of dead-end, deadlock politics that has dominated the Capitol in the post-Brown era: “The Legislature never intended to abdicate its responsibility” on such issues, he said.

“The most fundamental difference (between now and Brown’s tenure) is that there’s no ability for people to work with each other over time,” he added, acknowledging the difficulty of achieving political success amid the Capitol’s gridlock and every-member-for-him/herself environment. He insisted – despite the massive weight of evidence to the contrary – that he can “find Republicans who want to do what’s in the best interest of the state, not drive it off the cliff.”

A former union organizer from L.A., the 40-year old Perez as Speaker will become the highest-ranking, out-of-the-closet gay person in California history. As he completed his first Assembly term in December, he prevailed in a very public Democratic political brawl, overcoming a challenge from fellow Latino Assemblyman Kevin DeLeon, after Speaker Karen Bass abdicated amid constant rumors of an impending coup.

vasco

Mindful of lingering political sensitivities and the need to mend fences, Perez nervously objected when Calbuzz addressed him as “Mr. Speaker-elect” – “I’m not Speaker-elect yet” – a small but endearing display of modesty and humility that bodes well for his ability to massage the outsize egos of his constituency of 80 members. Perez strikes us as very intelligent if overly earnest, as he melds policy speak with New Age psychobabble that made us wonder if the disembodied aura of John Vasconcellos was lurking around the next corner of the Capitol.

“My job is to create a space where it’s safe for members to do their jobs and have an honest discussion of the impact” of policy decisions, he said. “The majority of members of both parties really care.”

Here’s a look at what he said on key issues:

Taxes: Perez bashed the Parsky Commission for coming up with a “political proposal” that would tilt California’s tax structure to favor rich people, instead of developing a “policy driven discussion” that presented a set of well-crafted options to put before elected decision makers. He said the Legislature should pursue its own rewrite of the tax code, a process in which “everything is on the table” – including Prop. 13.

Term limits: Perez pointed to term limits as the most fundamental factor underlying the dysfunction of Sacramento. With at least one initiative on term limits headed for the ballot, he said the current system encourages lawmakers to make policy choices without regard to their future impact and should be “eliminated any way we can do that.”

Reform proposals: Perez ducked questions about his views on both the constitutional convention initiative package backed by the Bay Area Council, and Cal Forward’s more incremental reform initiative. “Both are well-intentioned,” he said, “both need more public hearing and discussion.”

Working with Republicans: Perez called the temporary budget fix passed last June a “tremendous display of bipartisanship.” While favoring the repeal of the two-thirds budget vote requirement, he insisted “a large number” of GOP Assembly members are “not ideologues (and) really care about having an honest discussion of the impact” of budget cuts.

gay_marriage_210Gay marriage: The state’s first gay Speaker said that while public opinion is steadily if slowly shifting in favor of same sex marriage, an effort to pass a new initiative in 2010, just two years after the Prop. 8 ban on it, would be a serious tactical error, would likely lose and set back the cause for years.

Calbuzz Bottom Line: Like Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, Perez appears to be a very sharp guy. As with Steinberg, the key question will be whether he has the requisite ruthlessness and resourcefulness to make real change from a position of institutional weakness. In any case, we applaud him for trying and wish him all the luck in the world. He’ll need it.

Slimy Parsky Oil Play and a Yorba Linda Lecher

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

waynepunchAs we first reported late Wednesday, tax reform commission Chairman Gerald Parsky sucker-punched at least some members of his panel by sending them an unexpected, last-minute recommendation to generate “tens of billions of dollars” of new revenue by vastly expanding offshore oil drilling in state waters.

Also in the last-minute materials was the final proposal for a nearly-flat (two-tier) personal income tax  that would give a massive tax cut to the richest California taxpayers and a teensy-weensy slice to the poorest taxpayers. Coupled with the knuckle-dragging business net receipts tax, the Parsky proposals are about as regressive as musclebound Gov. Schwarzblunder and his diminutive, cigar-sucking sidekick Susan Kennedy could ask for.

But at least commissioners and the public knew that was coming.  The revival of Schwarzenegger’s proposal (which we understand was the brainchild of his economics guru David Crane) to gain approval of the twice-defeated Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil project as a tax-revenue scheme — now that was a nasty surprise.

“There are several economic reasons for permitting new oil leases,” reads the oil-drilling recommendation, to be considered by the commission today, when it meets to craft a final proposal to send to the governor and Legislature. “Unlike all other revenue sources, the oil companies, which would make these new royalty payments, have requested the ability to do so. Revenues from this source would create no economic distortions, and the economic activity being taxes could not migrate elsewhere.”

The recommendation came as a shock, not only because the offshore issue was only casually discussed during the commission’s months of hearings, but also because it deepened the atmosphere of secrecy and sleight-of-hand in which Parsky assembled the agenda for the panel’s final, crucial meeting. As a political matter, such an expansion of offshore drilling would also directly conflict with decades of state policy, in which environmental protection of coastal waters and beaches have trumped economic issues, resulting in a long-held moratorium on new leases.

The proposal for more offshore drilling seems to have worked its way onto the commission’s plate at least in part at the request of conservative Hoover Institution economist Michael Boskin, who also sits on the board of Exxon Mobil.

The commission’s analysis cites a State Lands Commission study estimating that there are 1.635 billion barrels of “recoverable oil on state lands that are not currently under lease.” The U.S. Minerals Management Services, which controls leasing and drilling on federal lands beyond three miles from shore, projects an additional 10.1 billion barrels that remain “undiscovered but is technically recoverable.”

Current royalties paid by oil companies on a small number of existing, small state leases vary from 16.7 percent to 55 percent of the revenues they generate, which altogether yield about $400 million for the state.

“If the ban (on new leases) were lifted,” the recommendation says, “it could make available the 1.63 billion barrels (and) California would receive a share of revenue from new leases on federal lands off of the state’s coast.”

“Over time, the state could receive as much as $34 billion in royalty revenues from new leases in California waters, assuming oil trades on average $70 per barrel and the average royalty rate is 30 percent.”

The recommendation, sure to draw the ire of environmentalists and coastal legislators, pointedly does not suggest imposing a new severance tax on oil companies. California is the only oil-producing state that does not have such a tax, which is being pushed in the legislature by several members of the Assembly, including Assemblymen Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, and Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont.

BTW: There’s no frigging way the agenda and agenda packet was ready early enough for the public to have legal notice. Not that Parsky seems to give a rat’s butt.

duvall

Eternal Filthiness of the Adulterous  Mind: To be honest, Calbuzz had never heard of (now) ex-Assemblyman Mike Duvall, a Republican from Yorba Linda, until Wednesday morning. But after this and this , and his resignation a few hours later, it’s hard to imagine there’s anyone left on the planet who hasn’t heard of him now. Seriously, you just know that in, oh say, Guinea Bissau or the Republic of Nauru or on Chuuk Island, guys were walking up to their friends all day and saying, “Mike Duvall,” and then both of them would fall down in the street and laugh uncontrollably.

We’ll leave it to others to draw the great moral lessons implicit in the NFW tale of a dumbass holy roller, family values, fat lying tub of goo who brags over an open mike about cheating with kinky sex, not only on his wife but also on his mistress, in favor of noting that no matter what he does or where he goes the rest of his life, Mike Duvall will be a walking double entendre:

Take for example, this lede on a recent Capitol Weekly piece about him:

“If you want to know what issues are important to Assemblyman Mike Duvall, R-Brea, just look at what he did the other weekend.”

Or this from his soon-to-be shut down web site:

“In February 2009 Assemblyman Duvall was named “Legislator of the Year for 2008″ by the California Attractions and Parks Association for his opposition to Governor Schwarzenegger’s proposed ‘fun tax.’”

You also gotta wonder whether Chapman University wants its plaque back:

“Chapman University awarded Duvall the Ethics in America Award in 2000 for his ‘demonstration of the highest standards of ethical integrity.’”

And finally this: The hearing room where Duvall let his potty mouth run wild is festooned with a large color portrait of the late, great Jesse Unruh, a man of great appetites who famously said of lobbyists, “If you can’t take their money, drink their liquor, fuck their women, and then come in here the next day and vote against them, you don’t belong here.”

Of course, that was in the days before women were lobbyists.

PS: Get this, from Duvall’s web site:  “I want to make it clear that my decision to resign is in no way an admission that I had an affair or affairs. My offense was engaging in inappropriate story-telling and I regret my language and choice of words. The resulting media coverage was proving to be an unneeded distraction to my colleagues and I resigned in the hope that my decision would allow them to return to the business of the state.”

Got it.

Parsky Aimin’ to Bushwhack His Tax Reform Panel

Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

johnwayne[3:45 pm update] Whoa there!  We just got sent a document titled “Revenues From Development of California Oil Reserves” which is not on the agenda, is not in the proposed tax package and is not on the commission’s web site. It doesn’t say who it came from although it is likely the result of a request by commissioner Michael Boskin of Hoover Institution and — note this — a member of the board of Exxon Mobil (psst was this disclosed?).

It begins:

Proposal: The state should permit additional offshore oil leases, under strict environmental safeguards, with royalty revenues going to a reserve fund to be used for specific limited purposes.

Rationale: The development of additional oil resources would expand the domestic oil supply, while providing tens of billion of dollars of revenue to the state over a number of years.

[3 pm update below] Gerald Parsky, the Republican bigwig appointed by the governor to run the Commission on the 21st Century Economy, has broken his promise to have proposed legislation available for public review 72 hours before the commission meets Thursday in LA.

The materials weren’t even available 48 hours before Thursday’s 11 a.m. meeting. [UPDATE: A batch of documents, including some draft legislation, were posted on the commission's site and sent to fellow commissioners at about 12:20 pm on Wednesday -- less than 24 hours before the meeting where commissioners are expected to consider completely restructuring California's taxes.] So what does that mean — besides being a violation of the Brown Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act? It means Parsky is planning to do exactly what Calbuzz warned against: after leadin’ the commission down a box canyon, he’s aimin’ to bushwhack ‘em.

Hey pilgrim — you don’t get to propose a wholesale restructuring of the California tax code without giving the public – and your fellow commissioners — a chance to study the proposals. Who do you think you are — some arrogant, Nixonian gasbag who can run roughshod over the rest of us?

Here’s a more reasoned — less angry — critique by Timm Herdt in the Ventura County Star.