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Posts Tagged ‘California Commission on the 21st Century Economy’



Friday Fishwrap: Polls, Pols, Snoozers and Gems

Friday, August 14th, 2009

MarkosScrewEmMoulitsasThe most intriguing point in the curious new  Daily Kos survey  is the odd finding that half of California Democrats say they are undecided between Jerry Brown and Gavin Newsom in the 2010 primary for governor — a reported factoid that is likely to fuel speculation about a third candidate entering the race.

The survey of 600 likely voters (400 Democrats, we think*), done for the influential lefty web site by Research 2000, shows that  General Jerry  leads Prince Gavin, 29-to-20. (Note: the survey also shows gay marriage in a dead heat, with a whopping 54% of independents in favor — another puzzling result.)

Half the voters are also supposedly undecided on the GOP side (400 of them, too?*), where Meg Whitman leads Tom Campbell, 27-to-21 and Steve Poizner brings up the rear at 9. In general election match-ups, Brown leads all three Republican wannabes, with margins between 6 and 9 points, while Newsom ties all the GOP contenders.

With some Democratic insiders unhappy about the choice between Brown and Newsom — “What’s that old Leiber-Stoller song: ‘Is That All There Is?’” one grizzled SoCal pol told Calbuzz –- there’s been a spate of stories in recent days about a late entrant into the race, with the names of rich techie  Steve Westly and Rep. Loretta Sanchez thrown around most often.

But Westly couldn’t beat Phil Angelides, fercrineoutloud, and Sanchez has about 12 cents in the bank despite the good optics her campaign could present. If forced to name a long shot, Calbuzz would grudgingly go with Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who’s at least sitting on a wad of campaign cash. But we lean towards today’s conventional wisdom, propounded by our friend John Wildermuth that “the speculation is for entertainment value only.”

“Like them or not, the folks out there on the campaign trail right now — and that includes you, Jerry Brown –- are the ones you’re going to see on the primary ballot come June,” John Boy posted over at Fox and Hounds Daily.

Calbuzz has some questions about the poll’s methodology, but it reports data about both the race for governor and Barbara Boxer’s re-election bid, so at the least it’s fun to talk about. While Newsom and his faithful cheerleaders will doubtless trumpet the survey as proving that the race with Brown is tight, they’re unlikely to mention that the poll shows Prince Gavin is viewed negatively statewide: 42 percent have an unfavorable opinion while 40 percent view him favorably, which compares poorly to Brown who has a 48-to-37 percent positive image.

* Pollster weedwhacker questions: Research 2000 says, “A total of 600 likely voters who vote regularly in state elections were interviewed statewide by telephone. Those interviewed were selected by the random variation of the last four digits of telephone numbers. A cross-section of exchanges was utilized in order to ensure an accurate reflection of the state. Quotas were assigned to reflect the voter registration of distribution by county. . . There was an over sample conducted among Democratic and Republican primary voters totaling 400. The margin of error is 5% for both.”

Calbuzz, with considerable experience at statewide polling in California wants to know: 1) If the survey had 600 “likely voters who vote regularly in state elections,” was the sample drawn from the voter list or was it a random distribution of telephone exchanges (RDD)? If the former, what’s the deal with a “cross-section of exchanges”? If the latter, how were likely voters identified? 2) Were voters called who only have cell phones? 3) If quotas were assigned, what’s with the “over sample” and how did the survey come up with 400 Democrats and Republicans from a total of 600 likely voters? 5) The demographics say there were 271 Democrats, 180 Republicans and 149 Independents (600) and also that there were 172 Democratic men and 228 Democratic women (400) and also 208 Republican men and 192 Republican women (400).  We don’t get the math. 6) How did the surveyors decide that 21% of the sample should be Hispanics? 7) Why are voters age 60+ only 19% of the sample? 8.  Were independents included in the primary match-ups?

If it’s news, it’s news to us: In what we thought at first was an exercise in  self-parody, the By God L.A. Times ran a Monday piece discovering the Parsky Commission, which has been laboring for months to rewrite California’s tax code, amid widespread reports and analysis of ideological battles within the group.

Earnestly hewing to the Times’ unwritten code – OK to write it last, as long as you write it long – Eric Bailey churned out a 1,000 word snoozer including such astonishing scoops as this:

“A 14-member panel of political appointees dubbed the Commission on the 21st Century Economy has been meeting quietly since the start of the year to ponder potentially revolutionary changes.”

(Uh, actually, not all that quietly, bro).

“As envisioned by Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders, the notion was to bring together a collection of mostly apolitical wonks to settle issues that deeply divide the Capitol.

It has not been easy.”

Stop the presses, Maude – the Times says there’s politics afoot at the Parsky Commission!

Why Tterry grosserry Gross should be enshrined: Calbuzz pick for smartest political piece of the week is Geoffey Nunberg’s NPR essay on Terry’s  “Fresh Air” about the Republican success in reframing political debate by reinventing  usage of the word “government.”

Nunberg, a professor of linguistics at UC Berkeley, said the GOP is winning the fight over health care reform primarily by deriding Democratic proposals as medicine-by-government:

“In sickness and in health, Republicans have always been better than Democrats at singing from the same hymnal, and right now they’re all turned to the page that’s headed “government takeover.” The charge makes supporters of the Democrats’ health care plans apoplectic. There’s nothing remotely like that in the plans, they say — it’s like equating the provision of public toilets with a takeover of the nation’s bathrooms. Even so, the supporters would as soon leave the word government out of the conversation, which is why they describe the proposed federally run insurance program as the “public option.” Public is the word we use when we want to talk about government approvingly, by focusing on its beneficiaries -– as in public schools, public servants, public lands, and public works.”

Nunberg traced the roots of “government” as epithet back to Wendell Wilkie, but credited Ronald Reagan with finishing off the partisan task of turning it into a curse word:

“Reagan’s real contribution was to shrink the cast of characters to a simple opposition between government and “the people.” Big business was eliminated from the political landscape, absorbed into “the market,” where everyone was free to shop around for the ripest tomatoes. You could no longer ask the question, “Whose side is government on?” — government simply was the other side.”

The transcript of the piece is here and a podcast is here.

056686h1

Not so fast there: Chronster Carla Marinucci had the best second day story on the decision by Equality California, the state’s leading gay rights group, to delay until 2012 a new gay marriage initiative, reporting on the anger amid more populist gay groups determined to push a measure for 2010.

Equality California set forth all the political reasons for waiting until 2012 in an analysis you can download here and took a bunch of incoming fire for their trouble.

Equality California “is following the wishes of some of its donors who have cold feet, and not the wishes of the grassroots and the common man and woman in the community,” John Henning of an L.A. group called Love Honor Cherish told Ms. Carla. “They’re ignoring an enormous amount of momentum that is out there. People want this to be voted on and they expect it to be — and soon.”

Calbuzz says:  Careful what you wish for.

Weekend Swap Meet: Taxes, Death & Sarah Palin

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

carbontaxA bump for Keeley: One largely overlooked finding in news coverage of this week’s much-discussed PPIC poll was evidence of strong statewide support for a pollution tax on carbon-based fuels.

As a political matter, the finding is significant because the California Commission on the 21st Century Economy – aka the Parsky Commission – is considering such a levy as part of a package of liberal proposals, as the group works towards a formal recommendation for reforming state tax policy.

In the poll, 56 percent of those surveyed said they support a carbon tax, with 35 percent opposed. Democrats – 73-to-20 percent – and independents – 52-to-39 percent – both back the idea, while Republicans oppose it 60-to-33 percent.

The carbon tax question was one in a series that PPIC asked to test public attitudes about global warming. Six in 10 Californians believe that the effects of global warming have already begun, while 75 percent say immediate steps are needed to counter its effects.

The poll-takers also asked whether people favor a “cap and trade” system of regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Although Californians also favor such a plan, they do with only a plurality of 49-to-40 percent, with both Democrats and independents backing it by smaller margins than the carbon tax; Republicans oppose it, but like it slightly more than the carbon tax.

fred keeley_0102A tax on carbon-based fuels is one element of a plan for overhauling the state’s tax system that has been presented to the Parsky Commission by Santa Cruz County Treasurer Fred Keeley, a former Assemblyman, who leads the commission’s liberal faction. Keeley’s proposal calls for the “pollution tax” to move inversely with the price of crude oil, in order to put a floor under the price of gasoline.

“As proposed, the fuel tax will help to stabilize state revenues and reduce volatility by providing a steady source of revenue,” Keeley said in a presentation to fellow commissioners. “By supporting the clean energy and transportation industry, which many investors view as the next growth industry, this proposed tax reform will advance California’s role as a leader in the clean energy sector.”

(Memo to Fred: Hey, clean out your cell phone voice mail, man – how are we supposed to get a fresh quote?)

milton-friedman

Shock doctrine: threat or menace? Calbuzz bets that Tom Campbell, the Dudley Do-Right of  California politics, is the only candidate in America to issue a press release in which he gets all misty on the occasion of the, uh, third anniversary of the death of Milton Friedman.

“This Friday would have been Milton Friedman’s 97th birthday,” Campbell announced to the state’s political press corps, many of whose members, remarkably, might have remained otherwise oblivious to the occasion (we name no names). “He passed away in November, 2006, vibrant and insightful to the very end of his life.”

Ah, Milton, we hardly know ye’.

Nothing if not terminally earnest, the Republican wannabe’ governor recounted his long, personal history with the hard line conservative economist, who served as Campbell’s faculty adviser at the University of Chicago, before finally getting around to the political pandering: “On his birthday, it is an appropriate moment…to take a warning from his life’s work about current attempts to inject government regulation more and more into our country’s economy.”

Indeed.

Coincidentally, a very different view of the late Professor Friedman was propounded yesterday by state labor leader Willie Pelote over at California Progress Report.

“…economic shock therapy is based on the theories of University of Chicago economist Milton Friedman, who strongly believed that governments should play no role in the economic sphere other than to protect the rights of property owners…(S)ocieties in which these policies have been enacted are generally characterized by increased poverty, an ever widening gap between rich and poor, and a widespread host of social and economic problems most commonly associated with Third World countries.”

Boy, we just can’t wait for that constitutional convention to Bring Us All Together.

SarahPalinWavingGoodbyePalin Redux: As Politico was reporting Friday that Sarah Palin has decided to stiff  the Simi Valley Republican Women by backing out of her previously announced speech at the Reagan Library (Palin let them know via Facebook), Calbuzz was still trying to get our heads around the erstwhile Alaska’s governor farewell address.

To us, she mostly sounded like your teenager, who wrecks the family car, then insists you should loan it to her again because if she thought she was going to wreck twice, would she even ask?

“It is because I love Alaska this much, sir, that I feel it is my duty to avoid the unproductive, typical, politics-as-usual, lame-duck session in one’s last year in office. How does that benefit you? With this decision now, I will be able to fight even harder for you, for what is right and for truth.”

What…evvverrr…

Why Arnold’s “Legacy” Claim is a Fraud

Monday, July 27th, 2009

arnoldcigarThe day before the Legislature passed the third patchwork version of California’s budget in 10 months, Gov. Schwarzenegger took to “Flashreport,” the state’s leading conservative web site, to claim “a huge win.”

“(T)he biggest winner to emerge from our negotiations is California,” the governor bragged, “our state’s legacy, its priorities, and its budget stability.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong!!

Schwarzenegger’s triumphalist braying was little more than a one-step-ahead-of-the-posse exercise in spin control, a pathetically transparent bid to establish a positive narrative for the budget disaster over which he’s presided, in hopes that voters and his suck-up pals in the national media will buy his story without bothering to check it out.

(NOTE TO NATIONAL POLITICAL WRITERS: Schwarzenegger did NOT solve or stabilize California’s budget. Despite his assertion to the contrary, his budget – passed in February and now revised twice – actually RAISED TAXES by $12.5 BILLION. With the latest revision, he threw off enough ballast to keep his hot air balloon afloat but in no particular direction.)

As Fred Keeley, the elected treasurer of Santa Cruz County, put it:

“The governor set the standard when he said, at the start of the process, that this needs to be a complete solution. And then he violated his own standard by signing a budget which doesn’t solve the problem this year or next year and in fact, according to the Legislative Analyst and the Department of Finance, is going to create a multi-billion-dollar deficit next year.”

Keeley knows wherearnoldbuckof he speaks. He served on the Assembly Budget Committee for six years, was asked by former Gov. Gray Davis to be Finance Director and is a Senate appointee to the Governor’s 21st Century Commission on the Economy.

In truth, Arnold’s entire tenure has been one continuous failure of leadership. This is just the latest chapter.

From his first days in office (when he sowed the seeds of today’s never-ending fiscal crisis by his irresponsible cut in the vehicle license fee) to his ill-considered $15 billion borrowing bond (which helped make interest payments the fastest growing item in the budget) and his current shameful spending plan (which gives the University of California a major push into mediocrity while continuing the slow death of K-12 education and punishing the aged, blind and disabled), he has been little more than a narcissistic, tone-deaf poseur, surrounded by sycophants and devoid of principle or conviction.

At a time when the state’s economy is hemorrhaging, its schools failing and roads crumbling, Schwarzenegger has been utterly ineffective in explaining to Californians the reasons behind the problems we face, and even less so in proposing innovative solutions to any of them. His little touchdown dance about the current budget belies the painful truth that this is nothing but a stop-gap maneuver designed to escape the embarrassment of issuing IOUs and con the credit markets into a few months of cash to ease the state’s borrowing jones.

Schwarzenegger’s soaring claims about the wonders worked by his budget fail on three grounds:

1. It’s a short term fix. Amid all the high-fives and chest bumps in the governor’s circle, it’s important to recall that the latest budget plan comes just five months after the last one, which came only five months before the previous. In other words, California has had three budgets in less than a year and, given current revenue trends, it’s all but certain that Arnold and the gang will be back in the fall for yet another round of all-nighters. Filled with gimmicks, borrowing and Grand Theft from schools and local government, the “huge win” for California being trumpeted by Schwarzenegger is nothing but more of the same old same old.

2. It does nothing to address the state’s dysfunction. As Calbuzz has reported the ongoing budget mess is a symptom of a far more fundamental disorder – a state of permanent ideological gridlock shaped by term limits, gerrymandering and three decades worth of wrong-headed initiatives. The latest “drama” over the budget is just another re-run of Groundhog Day, and it will keep re-playing and replaying until the pols in the Capitol acknowledge and accept the need for fundamental reforms, and find the cojones and the political skill to sell them to their constituents across the state.

3. It will probably make things worse. While it is true that the state for years has had a structural deficit, caused by the governor and the Legislature’s effort to defy the laws of arithmetic, it is also true that the huge magnitude of the current deficit is overwhelmingly caused by the current recession, which slashed state revenues by nearly one-third in one year, reducing tax collections to the level of a decade ago. The bursting of the real estate bubble, and the structural decline of the economy that has followed it has put the entire state economy into treacherous territory that may yet turn into a full-blown depression.

Under these conditions, there’s a strong argument to be made that wholesale cuts that the budget delivers will make the recession more punishing: as layoffs of public employee push the unemployment rate higher, furloughed state workers spend less, as all the programs set up to help with those who fall on hard economic times are cut back at the very moment they’re needed most.

As Calbuzz reported about the latest forecast by California economist Bill Watkins: “California’s budget issues are likely to be made worse by continuing economic decline. Perversely, the budget then negatively feeds back into the economy. The problem is not likely to see relief, at least in terms of increased revenues, before late 2011.”

Fishwrap: eMeg Spends, Steve Spins, Sarah Pales

Friday, July 17th, 2009

megauctionThe road to Damascus: While the Capitol Knucklehead Patrol keeps flailing in their efforts to pass a new budget, Calbuzz — issue oriented and solution driven, as always –- experienced an epiphany about how to stem the tide of red ink: Let’s let eMeg do it.

The campaign of Republican wannabe governor Whitman –- aka The Political Consultant Relief Act of 2010 –- announced this week that the candidate had kicked another $15 million of her own dough into the race, bringing her self-contributions to $19 Large to date.

This works out to $123,376.62 per day (or $5,140.69 an hour) since announcing her candidacy in February, according to sources in the Calbuzz CFO’s office; at this rate, she can pay off the deficit in a jiffy * and save all of us a lot of trouble.

Whitman’s early embrace of the famed Governor Al Checchi strategy seems designed with two basic purposes: 1) to intimidate and demoralize the opposition and 2) to bypass the media, old and new, in controlling the message and introducing herself to voters through a no-doubt stirring set of TV spots, a movie that Californians have seen before but never really warmed to.

For Whitman, the first problem with her Checchi strategy is that one of her primary rivals is Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, who made his own pile in Silicon Valley and who keeps assuring us that his campaign will be “fully funded”; in other words, even though he’s currently throwing around nickels like manhole covers, when the deal goes down, he’ll spend whatever it takes.

“This election isn’t an eBay auction and you can’t win by out-bidding your opponent,” cracked recently arrived Poizner flack Jarron Agen. “With the economy in a recession, our message to Meg is: don’t stop at $15 million, spend it all and do it locally.”

Meg’s second problem is that while she seems intent on running a saccharine, Morning in America campaign – “Young voters find inspiration, common ground at San Diego MEGa WOMEN event,” her treacly website proclaims this week – both Poizner and the earnest Tom Campbell seem determined to talk about issues that actually matter to GOP voters.

Poizner noticeably stepped up his substance quotient in recent days, picking a fight with Nancy Pelosi in a speech about water delivered in Firebaugh, which was aimed straight at the heart of the conservative base in the drought-stricken Central Valley, where he also picked up another half-dozen ham and egg endorsements from local mayors, supervisors and tax assessors.

Next he showed up at Thursday’s big meeting of the tax reform Commission on the 21st Century Economy in San Francisco to ally himself with Republican true believers of the Arthur Laffer jihadist brigade: “As Governor, I will cut taxes for Californians,” he said after testifying to the commission.

While his woefully unspecific blanket statement at first glance seems kinda silly, Poizner’s red-meat-and-potatoes pitch is less designed for subtlety and weed whackers than for seizing hearts and minds among the true-believing anti-tax Republican base.

*(Calbuzz truth squad: Actually, if eMeg keeps giving her campaign money at the current rate, she’ll spend about $57 million of her fortune by next November’s election. Our Green Eyeshade Division advises that paying off California’s $27 billion deficit would take her slightly longer – until July 17, 2606. And we’re pretty sure she doesn’t have that much.)

palin winkStop the presses: Sacramento is not the worst state capital in America. In fact, according to the National Journal’s analysis of “The Six Most Dysfunctional State Governments” in the nation, California comes in a sorry sixth, scoring only 6.25 points out of a possible 10, and trailing South Carolina, Alaska, Illinois, Nevada and New York.

The magazine rated states according to four critieria, and while we scored big in “Policy Challenges” (10) and “Leadership Problems (8),” we lagged far behind in “Criminality” (1) and “Media Circus” atmosphere (6). Calbuzz notes that four of the five states finishing in front have had recent sex scandals while Alaska has Sarah Palin’s ongoing snowbilly soap opera saga. Memo to Arnold and Co. — Let’s get busy up there.

Calbuzz gets results: The worst idea of the year , Sen. Leland Yee’s effort to take control of the University of California away from the Regents and give it to the Legislature has died a quiet death at least for this legislative session.  “I guess the Regents have pretty powerful friends, that’s all I can say,” said Yee, D-S.F. Or rational ones, anyway.lorettacycle

Inquiring minds want to know: If Loretta Sanchez — she of the wacky Christmas cards — were to give up her seat in Congress and get herself  elected to succeed Arnold, would she forego the Governor’s Mansion for the Playboy Mansion?

Follow that story: Latest on the effort to free San Francisco journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, imprisoned in North Korea, is here , here and here.

Blue Plate Special: The Parsky Commission — you know, the bi-partisan panel charged by the governor with coming up with a unified proposal to restructure California’s tax system — on Thursday decided to accept for study the proposals from liberals to be thrown into the mix along with proposals from conservatives already in the hopper.

This is a smart move by the commission, which will now ask the governor for an extension of its term for at least another 45 days or so. The current leaders of the Legislature have pledged that whatever single proposal comes out of this group will get a straight up or down vote in both houses — an unparalleled  opportunity for a group of politically  and economically savvy outsides to affect fundamental change in California. If they don’t blow it by failing to find a compromise set of ideas.

Red-Blue Clash Emerges in 21st Century Commission

Monday, July 13th, 2009

fred keeley_0102The Commission on the 21st Century Economy, headed by Schwarzenegger pal and Republican bigwig Gerald Parsky, has been developing a plan to overhaul California’s tax system that includes flattening personal income tax rates and broadening the sales tax, as loyal Calbuzz readers know.

Instead of achieving the consensus sought by Parsky,  however, the commission faces an ideological (and factual) conflict at its meeting in San Francisco on Thursday, as liberal members are now proposing an alternative plan. Their draft proposal, among other things, rejects as too regressive a flat income tax system, and also suggests amendments to Proposition 13.

The commission’s Blue Wing (as in blue state/red state) is questioning underlying assumptions of the Red Wing flat-taxers, like: 1) Is California actually unfriendly to business? 2) Are jobs and businesses actually fleeing California? 3) Does improving competitiveness demand elimination of the progressive tax system and the sales tax?

The introduction of the Blue Plan has already raised partisan political hackles between appointees of the Republican governor and those of Democratic legislative leaders.

Former GOP Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle, in a letter obtained by Calbuzz, accused former Democratic Assemblyman Fred Keeley, one of the leaders of the liberal wing of  “crafting a plan in private” and end running commission procedures with “an 11th hour presentation.”

“Why shouldn’t every commissioner gather their respective philosophical mates and assemble and submit competing plans in the weeks and even the months ahead,” Pringle said.

But Keeley, now the Treasurer of Santa Cruz County, insisted he has honored commission procedures, and has been raising similar issues in meetings since March.

boskinThe conservative Red Wing, led by Parsky and Michael Boskin of Stanford, previously had hoped that their plan was on track for recommendations to flatten and simplify the income tax, eliminate the business tax and create a net receipts tax, like a European value added tax, to replace the sales tax.

But after the elements of that idea – which became known as the Red Plan — were well-publicized and thoroughly examined by the commission’s staff, the liberal wing on the commission, led by Keeley and Christopher Edley, dean of the Boalt Hall School of Law, came forth with an alternate Blue Plan.

Still in draft form, their plan would:
— Require that all state revenues that are 5% or higher than Department of Finance estimates be placed in a rainy day reserve fund.
— Make no change to personal income taxes, but reallocate capital gains tax revenue, with one-third going to the General Fund; one-third to debt and retirement fund payments; and one-third to the reserve fund
— Reduce the sales tax by 2% and expand it to cover, not just goods, but also a wide variety of services.
— Reduce the rate of the corporations tax, but broaden its base by restricting deductions on business losses and rolling back tax breaks for companies that operate outside California
— Subject the controversial business net receipts, or value-added, tax to further study.
— Adopt a pollution surtax on carbon-based fuels
— Amend Prop. 13 elements of the California Constitution to allow local governments (cities and counties) to increase existing local sales tax by up to 1.50% (or any .25% fraction thereof) by a majority vote of its electorate, instead of the currently required two-thirds,.
— Amend Prop. 13 to change the non-residential property tax rate from 1% to 1.50%, effective upon change of ownership, essentially establishing a “split roll” assessment system.

The Blues also would require display of all tax expenditures – special tax breaks, credits, deductions and exemptions – in the governor’s budget, and require them to sunset in no more than five years.

At this Thursday’s meeting at UCSF, the Blue Wing will ask that their proposals be given the same thorough analytical treatment that the Red Wing proposals have received and then be considered at the July 22nd meeting at UCLA.

The Blue Wing rebellion was first reported by Dan Walters of the Sac B-, who suggested the commission is headed for deadlock. That’s certainly possible, given the stark differences in world view commissioners have, but Keeley, for one, isn’t so sure.

He believes the commission can come up with a compromise, Purple Plan that combines elements of the two approaches.

It wouldn’t include a flat tax on income, but it might mitigate some of the brackets and could easily address capital gains. And while it might not replace the sales tax with a net receipts tax (which Michigan has had trouble predicting), it might lower the sales tax rate and broaden its application to services, as many other states have done.

“It depends how deeply people want to hold onto their ideology versus producing a game-changing product,” Keeley said.