Posts Tagged ‘Abel Maldonado’

Friday Fishwrap: Cheap Shots, Drive-Bys, Three Dots

Friday, April 3rd, 2009

Snark alert: Count Kam Kuwata among the minority of political insiders who thought Steve Poizner’s “Happy 40th Anniversary” blast at Jerry Brown this week was a swing and a miss.

Poizner noted that April Fool’s Day marked exactly four decades since The Man Formerly Known as Moonbeam won his first election to the L.A. Community College Board, in not-no-subtly jabbing at Brown’s never-ending electioneering and his septuagenarian status: When Brown first won office, Poizner’s mouthpiece said in an e-blast, “Nixon was the newly inaugurated President, John Lennon and Yoko Ono were going strong, people were still using carbon paper, an Apple was something you ate and the Apollo Mission had not yet landed on the moon.”

Said Kuwata, who’s on the gubernatorial sidelines while his liege, Lady DiFi, clenches her furrowed brow in contemplation of whether to run: “It’s a surprise that Steve Poizner, who hasn’t been defined yet, comes out and starts talking about negative things before he starts talking about a vision about how to get California out of this mess.”

“Political hacks have a way of telling voters what they should believe about people,” Kuwata added, warming to the task. “But the reality is the age argument in California was tried against Ronald Reagan and failed and tried against Alan Cranston and failed. My experience is that voters care more about your ideas and how credible you are.”

While Kuwata makes a valid historical point, count on geezer digs at Brown –- born the same year “Gone With the Wind” was released and before Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling –- to abide, at least subtly, in a campaign when generational change could be an important theme (see Newsom, Gavin incited by South, Garry). Besides, the grumpy old men at calbuzz found the combination of acid and wit in the Poizner hit -– “Jerry Brown, what a long strange trip it’s been” –- kind of a refreshing change from usual attack fare.

In fact, we liked it enough that we suspected Poizner supporter Ken Khachigian — who once said he has studied Brown “like Patton studied Rommel” — was the invisible hand behind it. But the GOP senior statesman, who became Social Security eligible two years ago, demurred, and gave full credit to Poizner’s press point man, Kevin Spillane.

“Actually wish I could take credit,” Khachigian emailed calbuzz. “But my clone – Spillane, who I trained in the Rosario Marin and Chuck Poochigian campaigns — is trying to outshine the Yoda. Nice little blast, huh? I think Jerry’s free ride might be over.”

Limbering up for his shot at Brown, Spillane earlier in the week also fired on Republican state Sen. Abel Maldonado, who got all huffy with Poizner for opposing the tax-raising, budget-enacting Proposition 1A. Maldonado had released an apropos-of-nothing, two-page blistering letter saying the Insurance Commissioner’s stance would “let the state fall into financial ruin just to win a political campaign.”

Said Spillane: “Senator Maldonado’s letter is a bit like the arsonist lashing out at the fire department for not stopping him from burning the village.”

Not exactly a Michelle Obama squeeze for HRH . . .

Two-fisted giver: At first glance, it seemed perplexing that Jerry Perenchio, late of Spanish-language TV giant Univision, would fork over $1.5 million to help Gov. Arnold pass Prop. 1A, while maxing out — $25,900 from him and a like amount from his bride — to wannabe governor Meg Whitman, who’s been huffing and puffing against 1A.

But then it occurred that a total of fifty grand to Ms. Meg is a cheap date for Perenchio, while the 1.5 large ensures he’ll have a seat at the Terminator’s table in the year-and-a-half plus the gov has left to dole out favors.

As the esteemed Dr. Hackenflack points out: “Listen fellas, if you’re worth $3 billion, giving $25,900 is the equivalent of giving $8.63 if you’re worth $1 million, right?” . . .

Democratic firing squad: The 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill is often cited as the event that hatched the environmental movement in the U.S. Now the debate of how best to battle offshore oil is pitting enviros and progressives against each other in S.B. in a divisive Democratic primary feud that may draw statewide attention. Details here . . .

A good man leaves the trail: A calbuzz hats-off to John Wildermuth, longtime political writer for the Chronicle, who’s taking the buy-out in the latest episode of that paper’s slow-death movie. Chron suits prevailed on him to stay through the May 19 special but after that, he’s gone from 5th and Mission and, for now, from the trail. Big John covered a lot of big stories, but says his favorite memory is a small, intimate one: watching Barbara Boxer literally do a dance in a motel bar in Fresno, after reporters told her the next day’s L.A. Times poll put her ahead for the first time in her 1998 re-election campaign.

“These days, campaigns can rent a compact car, not a bus, to accommodate the traveling press,” he says, “since most papers are convinced you can cover politics by reading releases, watching videocasts of speeches and blogging from your desk. But it was the very human moments that made the trips worthwhile, both for reporters and their readers. I’ll miss it.” Safe travels, man.

This photo has been around the block already, but in case you missed it, and to underscore Wildermuth’s point, here’s what a campaign bus used to look like in California. This was Alan Cranston’s final campaign swing in 1986 including calbuzz founder Phil Trounstine and the aforementioned Kam Kuwata. For more detail, check here.

Photo courtesy of Dave Lesher’s Facebook

Deconstructing the props: BTW, for simplified explanations of the May 19 ballot propositions, you might want to check out the League of Women Voters site here.

Arnold and Legislature Are Toxic Assets for May 19 Measures

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

The screwball set of special election ballot measures cooked up by sleep-deprived politicians in Sacramento to implement their Rube Goldberg budget-balancing plan appear to be doomed.

That’s the bottom-line political prognosis to be drawn from a new Public Policy Institute of California statewide survey, which shows Propositions 1A and 1C, two linchpin initiatives needed to make last month’s budget deal work, badly lagging. Two other revenue measures, Propositions 1D and1E, lead by relatively small margins that may evaporate swiftly once opponents start hurling millions of dollars into TV campaigns to beat them. The full PPIC survey report is here:

As a political matter, the big problem for Governor Schwarzenegger and legislative Democrats, the major boosters of the Col. Mustard-With-The-Candlestick-In-The-Conservatory budget plan, is not the sheer complexity of the measures — though that alone could be enough to sink them, given the historic, reasonable man standard of Californians voting “no” on what they don’t understand.

Rather, the steepest political obstacle is that, less than eight weeks before the May 19 special, the governor and the Legislature have become political toxic assets.

Schwarzenegger’s approval rating has plunged to 33% percent — including 54% of Republicans who disapprove of his performance; only 29% of those surveyed approve of their own legislator, and the world’s least deliberative body as a whole, um, enjoys a staggering 11% approval rating.

“That’s a low I didn’t ever think could be reached,” PPIC poll-taker Mark Baldassare told us.

So: a batch of ballot measures, involving at least $6 billion of taxpayer money, that makes theoretical physics seem simple, being pitched by a sales team that voters don’t trust to mow the lawn. A recipe for electoral triumph? You be the judge.


As a financial matter, defeat of one or more of the key May 19 ballot initiatives will send Arnold and the Democratic leadership back to the drawing board for a new budget bail-out, barely three months after the shameful spectacle of legislative sleepovers yielded this alleged solution, passed by the barest of margins.

One Capitol financial maven, promised anonymity in exchange for candor, gave this reply when we asked what the effect on the budget would be if the mission-critical initiatives lose: “We’re fucked.”

The Legislative Analyst has reported that lower-than-expected state revenues have already pierced an $8 billion hole in the budget deal passed in February. With $5.8 billion more at stake in passage of the initiatives, state government may be looking at a new $15 billion deficit to fix come the May Revise, a week or so after the election.

For those who want to get into the weeds on fiscal stuff, this narrative about the budget deal http://www.dof.ca.gov/budget/historical/2009-10/documents/Budget_Agreement_Full-Package-w.pdf has data showing what the passage or defeat of initiatives would mean to state finances; details on revenue and borrowing issues are on page 8.


The six measures on the special election ballot are numbered Propositions 1A-1F. Looking at the PPIC poll results in reverse order:

Prop. 1F, the only initiative that’s winning big (81-13), is senator Abel Maldonado’s bid to block pay raises for state officials in years when the California is in deficit.

Prop. 1E would divert $460 million into the general fund over the next two years from a special, voter-approved fund earmarked for mental health services. Although it is now leading, its support falls short of a majority (47-37), historically not a strong indicator of future success.

Prop 1D would divert $1.4 billion into the general fund over the next four years from a special, voter-approved fund earmarked for early childhood education; although it is winning, its support also falls short of a majority (48-36) and will draw strong opposition from partisans of this worthy program .

Prop 1C would authorize $5 billion in borrowing from future lottery profits. It is getting creamed (37-50). Turn out the lights.

Prop 1B would require the state to repay public school and community colleges in the future for cuts made this year. It is in a statistical tie (44-41). But even it passes, 1B will not go into effect if Prop.1A loses.

Prop 1A is the foundation of the whole deal, and may now be at its high water mark, trailing by 39-to-46%.

The political problem with Prop 1A – which is being pitched as a conservative measure to increase the state’s “rainy day” reserve fund – is that it relies on extending for two years $16 billion in tax increases that were part of the February deal.

Or as the Legislative Analyst says: “Measure Results in Tax Increases.”

This rather salient point is not mentioned in the official ballot label, which was read to respondents in PPIC’s poll, because proper independent polling technique required their interviewers to read the ballot label verbatim to respondents, even if it is misleading, and um, incomplete. The ballot label – which conservatives tried unsuccessfully to alter in court – simply fails to tell voters that the tax increases would remain in effect.

It’s not likely that Republican candidates for governor Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner will follow suit. Look for one or both to pour a few of their multi-millions into TV ads telling voters that Schwarzenegger and the Democratic Legislature are trying to bamboozle them into voting for tax increases.

Baldassare agreed that the poll’s 39% approval rating for Prop. 1A could represent a peak. Not only does “no” beat “yes” when ballot measures are long and confusing, but, “It drives voters crazy if they get any sense that someone is trying to pull the wool over their eyes,” he said.

Abel Maldonado: Republicans Urged “Bankruptcy” for California

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

State Senator Abel Maldonado says that during the epic budget battle in Sacramento, some of his fellow Republicans urged him to withhold his vote so that the stalemate would bankrupt California.

“It was ‘Abel – let it go into bankruptcy, let it go off a cliff, we need to prove a point, that it’s the majority’s fault,’” he said in an interview, to be published Thursday in the Santa Barbara Independent.

Maldonado’s decisive vote on the budget deal last month thrust him into the state and national political spotlight. After two other senate Republicans signed on to the budget, Maldonado played hardball with the governor and the Democrats who needed his vote to get the two-thirds needed to pass it.

He got what he wanted: removal of a 12 cent per gallon gas tax increase from the plan, plus necessary approvals to put two pet political reforms on the ballot.

One is a measure, to come before voters next year, to revamp elections so that the top two finishers in a primary election – rather than the winner from each party – face off in the general election.

The second is Proposition 1F on the May 19 special election ballot. It would forbid the Citizens Compensation Commission, which sets salaries for legislators and statewide officeholders, from awarding pay raises in years when the state is in deficit.

Maldonado has been excoriated for his vote on the budget by doctrinaire, anti-tax Republicans because it includes $15 billion in higher taxes. Although a right-wing recall effort against him fizzled, the California Republican Party voted formally to deny him financial or any other political support. And most other Sacramento Republicans are giving him the cold shoulder.

Last month’s GOP convention was nasty, he said. “It wasn’t pretty,” he added. “There was a lot of shouting and a lot of insults. People were yelling at me, calling me a sell-out and stuff like that. I took my wife and maybe I shouldn’t have.”

The 41-year old Maldonado, born and raised in Santa Maria the son of immigrant farmers, was first elected to the senate to represent a long swath of the Central Coast in 2004, and re-elected in 2008, after three Assembly terms.

He said his vote on the budget allowed him to wrangle reforms that do not carry personal benefit for him but “are about California.” He also expressed regret that in the past he signed a “no new taxes” pledge, saying that Republican orthodoxy on the issue “is an irrational position.”

“I regret signing” the pledge, he said. “I regret not having a couple of words added – ‘unless there’s an emergency.’ We have a fiscal emergency in our state. People want ideas and solutions, not political positions.”

California Budget and Taxes Wonk Alert

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Pioneer Lansford Hastings must be the most optimistic guy in California history.

At the 1849 constitutional convention founding the state, Hastings opposed a limit on the load of public debt California could take on, for the curious reason that “in all likelihood, no debt at all would be created after the government got on its feet, no matter what amount the constitution permitted.”

So much for optimism.

A native Ohioan, Hastings authored “The Emigrants Guide to Oregon and California,” a kind of pre-Civil War Lonely Planet Guide, aimed at wooing millions of settlers to the Golden State. In his book, he reported a speedy overland alternative to the Oregon Trail; sadly the short-cut’s popularity was cut short, after the plucky but unlucky folks known as the Donner Party discovered a few problems with it that Hastings did not completely think through.

The man didn’t have much luck with budget prognosis, either; within two years, the state ran up $2 million in red ink, and never really stopped. Taxpayers now fork out $5 billion a year in interest for the insatiable borrowing that props up what is charitably called California’s spending plan.

Amid the debris of last month’s budget train wreck, business-oriented, good government advocates and liberal activists have called for a 21st century constitutional convention, to revamp the fiscal and political structures. The plan is just one part of a sweeping new push for reform in Sacramento and beyond that will soon (wonk alert!) confront Californians with a set of crucial, if arcane and complex, issues critical to their self-governance.

  • Last week more than 400 people showed up for a Sacramento summit meeting to discuss the constitutional convention proposal. The event featured an intriguing mix of Bay Area corporate leaders – fed up with the economic ripple effects of the budget meltdown – and statewide liberal activists – eager to pass reforms giving more power to majority Democrats in the Legislature. The group is eyeing a 2010 ballot initiative to jump-start the convention process.
  • On May 19, voters in a hastily convened special election will decide the fate of six initiatives, whose passage underpins the latest budget deal. The most far-reaching is Proposition 1A, which would cement into the constitution a cap on state spending and a rainy day reserve fund. The kicker: Prop 1A’s passage would also authorize $17 billion in higher taxes, by extending temporary raises in levies for income, sales and vehicles tucked into the new budget. The measure, already enmeshed in litigation, is opposed by a strange bedfellow alliance of anti-tax GOPers and pro-spending Democrats.
  • During the 2010 race for governor, voters also will decide whether to put in place the so-called “open primary” plan championed by state Senator Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria. That system would radically alter the state’s political landscape and weaken the power of California’s two major parties.

With this backdrop, Democrat legislators have introduced three separate measures to roll back the requirement for a two-thirds vote to pass a budget, while liberal activist groups are circulating petitions to qualify two similar 2010 initiatives, both aimed at ending the minority veto that Republicans now effectively hold over tax and spending proposals. One would overturn the 2/3rds requirement for budget votes; the other also seeks to dump the 2/3rds needed for new taxes.

Ted Anagnoson, a visiting professor of political science at UCSB, unearthed in the state archive a report, prepared during a previous push for constitutional reform, which traces the history of California’s government structure (including a footnote on Lansford Hastings’s no-worries-be-happy stance on debt). Anagnoson said in an interview that the fate of the supermajority vote is perhaps the most important, and polarizing, issue amid the new political reform debate.

“The two-thirds budget vote is the single thing that makes Sacramento difficult to govern,” he said.