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Posts Tagged ‘Jim Moore’



PPIC: Voters Want Budget-Fix Taxes on the Ballot

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

A survey by the Public Policy Institute of California has found that two-thirds of likely voters say it’s a good idea to hold a special election on Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to extend fee and tax increases to help cover the state’s $25-billion budget deficit. More than half the voters say they’d support the measure.

The findings confirm private polling reported by Calbuzz last week that suggest the principal reason why conservative anti-tax jihadists don’t want to put Brown’s measure on the ballot is that they’re afraid it will pass.

According to PPIC, 66% of likely voters – including 73% of Democrats, 64% of independents and even 55% of Republicans – approve of putting Brown’s proposed extension of fees and taxes on the ballot.

Moreover, 54% of voters – 65% of Democrats, 60% of independents but just 37% of Republicans – favor the extension of personal income and sales taxes and vehicle license fees.

The survey also confirmed findings from polling by Jim Moore for the California Issues Forum that when the elements of Brown’s proposal are characterized as tax increases rather than extensions, voters recoil: 70% reject raising personal income taxes, 64% are against increasing sales taxes and 62% oppose increasing the vehicle license fee. The only tax increase with popular support – 55% — would be an increase in taxes paid by corporations. As we said last week, should Brown’s proposal make the ballot, the battle will be between those who call his plan an “extension” of taxes and those who call them tax “increases.”

In response to the part of Brown’s budget proposal that has generated the noisiest and most orchestrated blow-back, PPIC reported voters favored, by 63-26%, “phasing out funding for local redevelopment agencies and eliminating state tax benefits for enterprise zones in order to redirect that tax revenue to local governments for schools and other local services.”

[Coincidentally, Moore reported on Wednesday that another survey, just completed, found that by 73-20% voters favor Brown’s proposal to “eliminate local redevelopment agency programs that now use property tax revenues for development projects and instead use the money for schools, police and fire services.”  In both PPIC’s and Moore’s polls, Democrats (68% PPIC; 77% Moore) were even more supportive of eliminating redevelopment agencies than independents and Republicans.]

PPIC found that a slight plurality of voters – 45% — favor patching the state’s budget hole with a combination of spending cuts and tax increases, compared to 41% who favor mostly spending cuts and just 8% who support mostly tax increases.

Yet when asked about specific budget areas, 62% of voters say they’d support higher taxes to maintain current funding for K-12 public education, 51% for higher education and 46% for health and human services. Just 14% would support increasing taxes to maintain funding of prisons and corrections.

PPIC reported that when read a description of Brown’s proposed budget, 58% of likely voters say they are generally satisfied, including 64% of Democrats, 57% of independents and even 49% of Republicans.

Nearly three-fourths of voters – 73% — favor the governor’s call to shift responsibility and funds to local governments for various programs now run by the state. The idea is popular across party lines and throughout the state.

On the other hand, only half the voters now support the idea of giving local jurisdictions the ability to pass increased taxes with a 55% vote instead of a 2/3 majority. There’s a partisan divide on that question, with Democrats in favor 61-32%, independents leaning 50-41% in favor and Republicans opposed 61-33%.

While they like his budget proposal, Brown’s approval rating among likely voters is just 47-20% favorable, with 33% undecided. That a third of the voters have no opinion suggests that the governor has done little to reach out beyond the state capital to sell his budget plan – a reflection of his decision to work with legislators and interests groups before turning to the public broadly.

PPIC also reported:

Californians are feeling better about the direction of the state and their own financial futures, but most are still not feeling good. A majority (54%) continue to say that things in California are going in the wrong direction. However, the share of those who see things going in the right direction—38 percent—is up 22 points since October and the highest percentage since September 2007. Most independents (58%) and a large majority of Republicans (81%) remain pessimistic about the direction of the state. But for the first time since September 2007, Democrats are more likely to say the state is going in the right direction (51%) than in the wrong one (39%).

Turning to economic conditions in California, a majority of adults (56%) expect bad times financially in the next 12 months. But the percentage expecting good times—36 percent—is up 11 points since October. Despite their sunnier view of the economic outlook, most (86%) still believe the state is in a recession, with 48 percent viewing it as a serious recession.

PPIC surveyed 2,004 California adult residents interviewed on landlines and cell phones from January 11–18, 2011. Interviews were conducted in English or Spanish. The margin of error is ±3.5 percent for all adults and ±4.2 percent for the 987 likely voters.

Final Thoughts on IGS 2010 Gov Race Conference

Monday, January 24th, 2011

In the end, the weekend conference on California’s just-concluded campaign for governor looked a lot like the race itself: Meg Whitman refused to talk to an audience not of her choosing, got trashed for it and ended up the biggest loser for her selfish and self-absorbed behavior.

The UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies confab, held every four years, drew its largest crowd ever, an eclectic collection of media and political hacks, earnest students and academic chrome domes, professional pollsters and political wannabes, all drawn by the opportunity to hear, first-hand from the operatives who ran the campaigns, the inside story of how the deal went down.

Beyond its sheer entertainment value for an audience of obsessed political junkies, the conference in the past also served the more serious purpose of establishing a permanent record of the process by which Californians chose their chief executive, an important resource for scholars, authors and journalists. But the 2011 version was unfortunately flawed by two big shortcomings:

First, not a single member of the mighty Legions of eMeg had the courage, concern for history, not to mention common courtesy, to show his or her face; despite heroic efforts to represent the Republican perspective by top-rank GOP pols who didn’t work on the campaign (about whom more later) this left a huge hole in the record, given that Herself and Her Money, in many ways, became the story of the campaign.

Second, there was way too much spin and way too little candor by too many of those who did participate – an unfortunate departure from past years, which will leave a distorted and incomplete record of what was one of the most important campaigns in recent decades: “It just wasn’t the real story of the campaign,” one prominent political scientist complained at a post-conference reception. (Suggested reading for future scholars: this and this.)

That said, there still was value in the event, even if it was often to be found in the bar of the Hotel Shattuck Plaza and around the tables of nearby Berkeley restaurants, where war stories and unvarnished opinions were more frequently to be found. Some observations:

Most Valuable Player – The MVP of the conference was Jim Bognet, manager of Steve Poizner’s losing GOP primary effort. Funny, smart and honest, Bognet offered a sense of what it was like day-after-day to go up against a rival funded by $180 million (Meg’s spending “created its own center of gravity”) and displayed how personal the battle got between the Republicans (“never was so much spent on so many for so little”). He also provided – in the form of advice to students in the room thinking about going into politics — the best single riff of the weekend, defining the ethical rot at the center of Team Whitman that led to the most expensive disaster in the history of American politics:

When you’re getting paid a lot of money – and there were many consultants in this race that got paid a lot of money – it gives you an incentive not to speak truth to power. It gives you an incentive not to tell them what they don’t want to hear as candidates. You are more valuable as a campaign staffer and as a human being if you’re willing to say to the person who is paying your paycheck, “You are wrong. You need to talk to the press. You need to go out and answer these questions. You need to answer for why you switched your position.” It is a conflict of interest because the same person that is paying you, you have to give hard advice and talk about things, personal things that are not comfortable to talk about. So I would say, you have to fight against that continuously in order to add value to your candidate.

Least Valuable Player – The LVP of the conference was Peter Ragone, representing Gavin Newsom’s short and stunted primary bid for governor. Ragone is a nice guy and a competent operative, but his endless, obviously phony spin on behalf of the new Lite Governor had the audience groaning and looking for barf bags.

Newsom, it seems, is a politician of uncommon moral courage, motivated by only two idealistic factors – his unstinting and unselfish determination to do what is right and true and good for all the rest of us (after trashing the office of lieutenant governor, he changed his mind and ran because “he decided this was where he could the most good”) and the high moral courage that drives him to put his family above all else (no mention of him boinking the wife of his chief of staff in the mayor’s office). Self-interest never figures into it, Ragone would have us believe. Enough to make a hog puke. No matter what new UC Regent Newsom wanted, IGS should have invited Garry South and Nick Clemons, his actual gubernatorial campaign directors.

The missing characters –  The transcript of the proceedings will be turned into a book which purportedly will serve as the final word on the governor’s race. Puh-leeze. Consider this: the three most important behind-the-scenes players in the race – Brown’s wife Anne Gust, Whitman major domo Henry Gomez and top strategist Mike Murphy – didn’t figure in any of the discussions and, unless we missed it during a trip to the head or the cookie table, their names were never even mentioned. That’s like doing Hamlet without Hamlet.

Kudos to the stand-ins. While eMeg’s minions cowered in fear far away from Berkeley, former state chairmen Duf Sundheim and Bob Naylor, along with veteran strategist Jim Brulte, did a terrific job of describing the GOP perspective, their limited contacts with the candidate and her turf-conscious consultants, and how the establishment watched in horror as Whitman melted down.

“As Republicans, we were really concerned as the primary went on because since they were so close on the issues, it was really going to come down to a very nasty, personal fight,” Sundheim said. Said Naylor: “When the dust settled in the primary, the Whitman campaign was over.” And Brulte, who with his commentary reaffirmed his position as the sharpest Republican mind in the state, observed that except for Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger – celebrities who transcended politics – California voters have always wanted  an experienced hand as governor. By spending so much money on television without a break, Whitman undercut her own ability to be the next best thing, he argued. “By Labor Day, Jerry Brown, who was governor when I was in high school, was the fresh new face.”

Message trumps money – Since we’re kvetching about others for a lack of self-criticism, Calbuzz should acknowledge that our own coverage may have suffered from putting too much focus on the extraordinary spectacle of Meg’s crazed spending, which at times led us to the misassumption that she could make up for her lack of a clear and consistent winning message by throwing money at the problem.

“I never understood it,” said Democratic consultant Gale Kaufman. “Every time you turned on the TV, there were four or five tracks of (Whitman) ads that were completely different. They were switching ads all the time. You had no idea what their strategy was and never had anyone explain it to me.”  The Whitman campaign never had a compelling message, agreed consultant Rick Claussen: “Tactics is just a way to talk to voters.” You can spend all you want reaching out to voters, but if you don’t have something worth listening to, it’s a huge waste of money.

Brown was both lucky and good – In the final session of the conference, Brulte put his partisan perspective aside and offered his bottom line: Brown “ran a picture perfect campaign,” he said, a strategy built on keeping its focus on fundraising, using the office of Attorney General to keep him in the news and steering their own course no matter how much the winds emanating from Camp Whitman tried to blow them off course.

In Jim Moore, Brown had the best pollster in the race, the best ad man in Joe Trippi and the most disciplined manager in Glazer; their game plan to hold their fire until Labor Day, while many top Democrats and the political peanut gallery were hollering for them to answer eMeg’s summer assault, made all the difference. But Brown’s strategists also admitted that they benefited from missteps by eMeg. Said Glazer:

The one worry that I had when we went through that (2009) fall period into the new year was that Meg Whitman was going to use her resources to use Jerry Brown as the foil to be a stronger Republican . . . I thought that she would — even before the new year struck — that she would start to use Jerry Brown and start to raise our negatives by running against us as the presumptive Republican nominee. And I expected that all the way through until the primary day. I was very surprised that that actually never happened.

Once the primary was over, Trippi’s greatest fear was that Whitman would “go dark” over the summer, giving voters a respite from her 24/7 invasion of their living rooms and allowing her to re-emerge as a fresh face in the fall. Instead she essentially turned herself into the incumbent in a year when voters wanted change.

As Bognet had put it earlier: “She built herself a $180 million brand. Unfortunately, by the time the general came around her brand was, ‘She’s the woman with the money who won’t get off my TV.’”

Panelists also agreed that Whitman made a huge error by trying to portray Brown as a traditional tax and spend liberal, which simply misstates his record. As Republican Naylor, who served in the Assembly during Brown’s first turn as governor, put it: “Tax and spend doesn’t stick with Jerry Brown.”

Tone matters – Trippi correctly observed that the relentlessly snarky tone of Whitman’s relentless attack ads didn’t resonate with voters – “failure has followed him everywhere” he intoned — because they have a much more complex and long-running, if not always fond, relationship with him. Better for the Whitman people, Trippi said, to have been respectful to Brown by crafting a  more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger “gold watch” message, saying that he had performed valuable service to the state but adding that it was simply time for him to go, and to elect a “governor for the 21st century.”

Trying to avoid the press was a huge blunder — Speaker after speaker pointed to Whitman’s strategy of stiffing the media as a costly error for several reasons: it sent a message to voters that she thought she was too good to go through the usual hoops candidates for high office have always faced; it established a narrative that Whitman was secretive, and must have something to hide; it was a clear affront to the working press of the state, and their frustration showed up in the stories. As Poizner’s Jarrod Agen put it: “It never works to avoid the press.”

Bill Lockyer is the Diogenes of state politics — California’s treasurer was the keynote speaker of the conference and he turned in a boffo performance that provided a full-on and utterly frank look at the state of the state’s finances. Ask Lockyer what time it is and he’s liable to tell you how to make a watch, so some of his discourse on the niceties of the municipal bond market were a bit windy, but he’s smart, funny and seen it all. We’ll be running the text of his speech later this week.

Worst advice – The model for a California GOP comeback is Chris Christie in New Jersey, said Republican Tony Quinn. Sustained attacks on public employee unions and bloated government are the key to victory, he said. When Calbuzz rose to note that Whitman had done exactly that, he replied that she hadn’t done it very well.

Immigration sunk Whitman – Even before Meg’s Nicky Diaz housekeeper scandal, the immigration issue was a huge problem for Whitman. As Glazer explained, she had many liabilities on the issue even without Nicky – from shifting positions on a path to citizenship to her opposition to the Dream Act. Poizner’s hardline position in the primary forced her to move far right, which made her efforts to get back to the center in the general look pathetically calculated. When the Nicky story erupted, it merely personalized the hypocrisy and brazen opportunism of her political stances.

As Poizner’s Agen explained:

If we’d gotten into the general, it would have been a policy debate between Steve and Governor Brown on the policy issue of immigration. Jerry Brown would have had one stance on immigration, Steve would have had the other. But it would have been a policy discussion on immigration . . . What ended up happening, though, was immigration turned into a character issue and that is what ultimately hurts the Republican Party hugely is if immigration is a character issue. If it stays a policy issue, people are going to disagree with it and we felt that if you get to the general election, we’ll have it out, we’ll have that debate with Jerry on immigration, we’ll see how people, where people stand.

Best line – The strategists were asked at one point to name one thing they would have done that they didn’t do. “Telephone operational training,” said Glazer, a big laugh reference to Brown’s failure to hang up the phone when leaving a message with a law enforcement union, which led to the flap over someone in Brown headquarters (hello, Anne) referring to eMeg as a political “whore.”

Best fights – Field Pollster Mark Dicamillo ripped off the face of robopollster Jay Leve of SurveyUSA (in the nicest possible way), who responded with a furious defense of his methodology, a screed that included some whacks at Calbuzz. The Cage Match of the pollsters was only matched for excitement when Democratic operative Bob Mulholland and Tony Quinn got into a finger-pointing duel about the rules and political significance of the new “top two” primary system. Talk about don’t-invite-ems.

The new Whig party — A number of speakers at the conference strongly argued that the California Republican party is essentially dead. Brulte for one said there was no way Whitman could have won the race because of the structural and demographic political landscape of the state, while Sundheim said “Republicans, as a brand, are dead.” Speaker after speaker noted how the Republican hostility to Latinos and other minorities, coupled with tired messaging that has nothing for younger voters, has made them an isolated and marginal party of old white people. Most seemed to have read and adopted the Calbuzz Memo to CA GOP: Time to Do Something Different.

Speaking of Whigs — Sacramento consultant Ray McNally, proving that there’s not much new in American politics, read from an 1840 confidential memo written by Abraham Lincoln that laid out a complete organizing strategy for the “overthrow of the corrupt powers that now control our beloved country,” which included everything from polling and GOTV to voter contact and fundraising. Example: “3) It will also be their duty to report to you, at least once a month, the progress they are making, and on election days see that every Whig is brought to the polls.” You can read it here.

The two minds of the voters – Political scientist Kim Nalder from Sac State honed in on the most fundamental factor driving state politics today: the disconnect that voters feel between demanding high levels of service and their determination not to pay taxes. Lockyer underscored a Calbuzz report that voters think 48% of the money the state spends is wasted –  a high hurdle for Brown to overcome if he is to sell his cuts-and-taxes budget plan to fix the state’s $28 billion budget shortfall.

Deep thoughts: Thad Kousser of UC San Diego made some points that cut against the notion that California is forever blue (an argument that effectively lets the Armies of eMeg off the hook). A panel of political scientists agreed that “campaign effects” are marginal – but that marginal effects matter big time in close races, so the Whitman-Brown race could have been close – “Nothing was inevitable in this campaign.” And a note to future mega-spending candidates: “Campaigns can’t tell voters what to think, but they can tell them what to think about.”

Nice work — There were too many journalists from the LA Times on the program (although we were wrong to say two of the three didn’t cover the governor’s race: only one did not) and not enough from other major papers or news agencies. But the four who participated — Mark Barabak, Cathy Decker and Anthony York of the Times, and Timm Herdt of the Ventura County Star — did a fine job of moving the conversation along.

Looming Battle: ‘Extending’ vs. ‘Increasing’ Taxes

Monday, January 17th, 2011

As we suggested Friday, one of the reasons the Howard Jarvis fetishists, union bashers and gold standard crackpots are threatening to strangle any Republican legislator who helps Gov. Jerry Brown get an extension of income, sales and vehicle taxes onto the June ballot is likely their fear that California voters just might agree to extend those taxes rather than cut further into schools, parks, prisons, public safety and health care.

And it turns out they have good reason to be afraid: a survey done by pollster Jim Moore for the California Issues Forum has found that “to avoid 20-25% deeper state budget cuts” 58% of California voters – including nearly four in 10 Republicans – would indeed support extending those taxes. And that’s after they’re spelled out as a 1-cent increase in the state sales tax, a 1% increase in state income taxes, a 1% increase in the vehicle license fee.

According to Moore’s survey of 1,000 likely voters, 74% of Democrats, 57% of independents and 37% of Republicans would support the tax extensions. (The survey asked about a four-year extension, but it’s likely that asking about a five-year extension as Brown is seeking would have made little difference.)

Interestingly, only 36% of voters – 30% of Democrats, 47% of Republicans and 21% of independents – were even aware that $8 billion in temporary tax increases were enacted in 2009. Nearly two thirds of the voters – 64% — did not know that taxes had been raised.

Even after they were told about those increases, only 14% of voters said they’d been hurt by them a great deal, while 29% said they were hurt somewhat and 44% said they were hurt very little. Another 13% had no opinion.

The underlying problem for Brown, the Democrats and others who want to solve the state’s $28 billion budget deficit with a mix of taxes and cuts, however, is this: 65% of California voters do not trust state government to spend tax money wisely. That includes 82% of Republicans, 74% of independents and even 49% of the Democrats.

On average, voters think about half the money spent by state government – 48% — is wasted. And six in 10 voters – 72% of Republicans, 65% if independents and 51% of Democrats – think the state’s budget problems result from poor planning, while only 16% blame the national economic recession.

Unless voters are convinced that Sacramento has a plan to spend money more wisely, this fundamental concern is likely to kill any chance of extending those tax increases. Brown’s straight-forward, no-bullshit, tough-love talk about the budget — particularly his proposal to shift billions in tax money and programs from the state to local government — is exactly what voters need to hear if there’s any hope of getting them to go along with extending the 2009 tax increases.

Voters – despite what some liberal pie-in-the-sky dreamers imagine – oppose “increasing taxes to help balance the state budget” 59-37%. But they support “temporarily increasing taxes to help balance the budget” by 53-44%.  Which is why the battle over maintaining  the 2009 tax increases will be a fight about how the issue is framed: as a tax increase (as the Jarvis hardliners will argue) and as a temporary extension (as the Silver Fox et. al. will contend).

Mostly, this will be a battle for the center of the political spectrum – the Democratic and Republican swing voters and the independents – who do not always support the Democratic or Republican candidate or argument.

Moore, the only pollster we know who creates a demographic of swing voters, has found that the Democratic base comprises 38% of the voters while the Republican base accounts for 28%. That leaves 19% as Democratic swing voters and 15% as Republican swing voters.

How does this affect political messaging and outcomes? Consider this question Moore asked: “Republicans often criticize Democrats for being too willing to raise taxes and unwilling to cut spending for ineffective government programs. In your opinion, is this a valid criticism of Democrats?

Overall, 58% of likely votes said it’s a valid criticism and 37% said it was not. But how does that break down? Among Democratic base voters 62% said it is not a valid criticism versus 33% who agreed it is. But 54% of Democratic swing voters, 74% of Republican swing voters and 90% of the Republican base accepted that criticism of Democrats.

By the same token, Moore also asked: “Democrats often criticize Republicans for giving tax breaks to big business and being intolerant of others’ political views. In your opinion, is this a valid criticism of Republicans?”

By 64-33% voters agree with that critique, including 83% of the Democratic base, 83% of the Democratic swing voters, 50% of the Republican swing voters but just 29% of the Republican base voters.

Or consider that by 57-43%, voters say they’d prefer “less government and lower taxes” over “slightly higher taxes for better government services.”  That formula is a winner among 87% of the Republican base voters, 77% of the Republican swing voters and 51% of the Democratic swing voters. Only Democratic base voters would prefer higher taxes and better government services by 70-30%

But when the issue is framed as “less government and lower taxes” versus “better value for the taxes you currently pay,” voters prefer better value by 72-18% That includes 91% of the Democratic base, 78% of the Democratic swing voters and 52% of the Republican swing voters. Only Republican base voters prefer lower taxes and less government and only by 53-47%.

So there you have the battle lines: One side will argue that Brown’s plan isn’t a plan at all and that it will raise taxes to keep bloated government in Sacramento. The other side will argue that Brown and the Legislature have a plan and that they’re seeking a temporary extension of current taxes in order to streamline government in Sacramento.

It’s all about whose message is more compelling and believable, whose is better framed and delivered. But first, Brown and the Legislature must come to terms on budget cuts and a plan to extricate California from the mess left behind by former Govs. Gray Davis and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Unless they can do that, the only choice will be further budget cuts.

JMM Research surveyed 1,000 likely California voters by land line and cell phone Nov. 17-Dec. 4. The expected margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.9% at the 95% confidence level.

Cacophony of Whining; Still Computing Latino Votes

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

So much for Josiah Royce.

It was barely a week ago that Jerry Brown delivered a terrific inaugural address in which he cited the “philosophy of loyalty” propounded by Royce, a California pioneer sage, and called for a new era in our troubled state, shaped by communitarian shared sacrifice.

“We can overcome the sharp divisions that leave our politics in perpetual gridlock, but only if we reach into our heart and find that loyalty, that devotion to California above and beyond our narrow perspectives,” Brown said.

His speech won widespread kudos, from the bar stools of Sacramento saloons to the editorial pages of newspapers around the state, for its inspiring tone, its commonsense ideas and its urgent call for an end to the brain-dead politics of  rote partisanship and polarization.

But all the expressions of earnest and emotional admiration for the values and principles declaimed by Brown evaporated in an instant on Tuesday, as pols and special interests across the spectrum started screaming to the heavens as soon as he released his budget plan.

As promised, Brown provided a full and honest accounting of the state’s budget woes, along with a smart and balanced plan for easing them, free of the  full menu of cheap tricks, phony fixes and fiscal sleights of hand employed for years to cover up the mess.

Turns out shared sacrifice means: You sacrifice and I’ll take what’s left.

From dawn to dusk on Tuesday, a cacophony of caterwauling assailed the Calbuzzer Gmailbox, as one lobbyist, elected hack and do-gooder after another urgently let us know that business owners/children/university professors/old folks/real estate developers/union workers/your constituency goes here were under attack, to the great peril of the very future of the republic.

It must be said that some level-headed lawmakers and groups evinced at least a modicum of open-mindedness and willingness to do their far share in their early responses to Brown’s proposal. But a leisurely stroll through the thick wad of budget reaction messages, aided by a splendid compendium assembled by the Sacbee’s resourceful Torey (The Tulip) Van Oot, disclosed that most of these special interest pleadings followed the same script:

1-An introductory lie claiming that the sender “understands the tough choices facing the administration.” (In some cases, they “appreciate” the aforementioned tough choices instead, an equivalent canard, given that they wouldn’t have sent the damn email if they actually did).

2-A follow-up, phony compliment for Brown, declaring that the governor  no doubt did his best under the circumstances (despite his total short-sightedness in not recognizing the over-arching importance of the constituency now seeking special attention).

3-A hyperbolic assertion that this constituency, unlike all others, is being unfairly picked upon and so must be spared the cavalier and benighted treatment that Brown, apparently unaware that this issue is of “the highest priority,” is attempting to deliver.

So UC President Mark Yudof solemnly pronounced it “a sad day for California,” while Lakesha Harris of AFSCME Local 32 called the plan “devastating to the workers we represent” and state schools chief  Tom Torlakson protested that, as schools are “scraping the bottom of the barrel,” the governor’s budget proposal “extends the financial emergency” facing education (never mind that K-12 was about the only area largely spared).

On the other side, the head of the California Redevelopment Association insisted Brown meant to “cripple the local economy in cities and counties statewide” because redevelopment boards might have to compete with local agencies for budget dollars, as Board of Eek member George Runner decried the proposed abolition of the “enterprise zone” business scam as “irresponsible” and newbie GOP state senator Doug LaMalfa worked himself into a full lather to thunder that Brown “must remove government’s boot heel from business’s throat.”

Sheesh.

Actually, LaMalfa’s over-the-top rhetoric captured the spirit of most Republican legislators, whose big contribution to the important budget debate is to sit around in a circle, beat the ground with sticks and endlessly chant “No taxes, no taxes,” in a manner that recalls nothing so much as Jack and the boys in “Lord of the Flies” tromping through the woods and shouting “Kill the pig. Slit her throat. Spill her blood.”

Hey, we understand that Republicans need to oppose taxes on general principle. But nobody’s asking them to support taxes – just to give the voters of California the right to make the decision about them. What’s the big problem here, fellas? Inquiring minds want to know.

People! Listen up! Yes, you’re getting screwed. No duh. So is everyone else. Know why? BECAUSE CALIFORNIA HAS A BUDGET DEFICIT THAT’S MORE THAN $25 BILLION! So take the hit and let voters have the final say about keeping the tax rates now in place. Otherwise, you might as well start packing your bags for Mississippi.

How many Latinos on the head of a pin: Figuring out how many Hispanics are registered to vote in California and how many actually voted in any particular election is about 95% science and 5% art. The data are not actually in the Secretary of State’s voter file but the science is simple: there are sophisticated name screeners that identify Spanish surnames and are sensitive enough to distinguish Latinos from Portuguese and Filipinos.

The art is fuzzier. For example, how or whether to count foreign-born voters – say those born in Mexico or Latin America but who do not have a Spanish surname — is a fair question about which pollsters, consultants and advocates may honestly disagree.

It doesn’t make a big difference – about 1% is all. But for those who are intensely interested, it matters.

Calbuzz was lucky enough the other day to receive from pollster Jim Moore the first analysis of the voter file from November 2010 that had been done by Bob Proctor of Statewide Information Systems, one of the most respected voter file vendors in California. It showed that of 10,211,396 voters who cast ballots, 1,627,967 or 16% were cast by Hispanics – that is, those identified as Hispanic by a name screener.

Our Department of Weights, Measures and Obscurata thought it was important to make the data public as quickly as we could, in hopes of knocking down what appeared to be on its way to becoming myth: the incorrect assertion that 22% of the electorate had been Latinos, as found in the Edison Research exit poll that the networks and major news outlets had commissioned.

After our post appeared, however, consultant Richie Ross (who had written a piece for us citing the 22% figure in the exit poll) informed us that we’d been both right and wrong. The percentage of Latinos wasn’t 22%, he agreed – it was 17%.

How’d he come up with that? From an analysis of the voter file done by Political Data Inc. of Burbank, the fountain of all voter file data, that he’d asked for. It showed that of 10,237,578 voters who cast ballots, 1,634,244 or 16% were cast by Latinos – as identified by their name screener. But the number was 1,740,878 or 17% when taking into account those who were foreign-born but who had not been counted by the name screener.

So who’s right? First of all, according to the Secretary of State’s Statement of Vote, 10,300,392 voters cast ballots or voted by mail in the election. Both of the data vendors had vote totals less than 1% off from the official count. No problem there.

By counting foreign-born Latinos who were not picked up by the name screener, the PDI total – 17% — takes into account the possibility of a Latina, born perhaps in Mexico, who is married to an Anglo and has taken his last name. (Like the wife of a consultant we know, for example.)

On the other hand, the name screener (which both systems employ) already takes into account a non-Spanish-surnamed woman who has taken the name of a Spanish-surnamed man to whom she is married. She’s counted as a Latina whether she is or not.

Since the name screener is common to both systems and computes the same result – 16% — and already is increased by women who take the Spanish surnames of their husbands, it seems to us that it risks over-counting Latinos to also add in the foreign-born Latinos who were not picked up by the name screener.

Calbuzz — dancing, as we are, on the head of a pin — goes with 16%. (Until we hear a better argument.)

Calbuzz Rescues Inaugural from Crashing Boredom

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

Calbuzz staff psychiatrist Dr. P.J. Hackenflack greatly enhanced his reputation as the Perle Mesta of California Monday night, as he tossed the toughest-ticket bash of Inaugural Week, featuring fine cuisine and libation, fine fellowship and the brightest stars in the state’s glittering political firmament.

In a political social whirl otherwise dominated by an event where the big payoff was a couple of dogs and a small bag of chips, Calbuzz party organizers agreed with each other that their gathering of First Amendment scumbags and rapacious consultants was by far the best shindig of the week.

Unfortunately for the good Doctor H., he missed his own soiree, after passing out cold beneath a banquet room table from rapidly throwing down 13 or 14  double Jamesons on the rocks several hours before his guests arrived.

Still, the 90 or so revelers who were actually conscious for the big party, held at fabulous Lucca restaurant (plenty of valet parking), did their best to overcome their disappointment at his absence, dining on smoked chicken risotto, chicken saltimbocca, pan roasted salmon and grilled bistro steak, consuming mass quantities of Ray Station Merlot, Kendall Jackson Chardonnay and Camelot Cabernet, and enjoying an evening utterly bereft of the tedious, mind-numbing speechifying that characterizes most such events in Sacramento.

Plus, they got a really cool credential — the type which the skinflint Brown operation provided to no one covering his big day.

Consistent with the post-post-partisan values and ethics of Calbuzz — which hold that folks of differing political persuasions are to view their rivals not as bitter enemies, but as nutty neighbors — Republican operatives like Adam Mendelsohn, Jim Brulte, Kevin Spillane, Marty Wilson, Beth Miller and Julie Soderlund (special kudos to Rob Stutzman and Mitch Zak for being the only ex-members of the GOP’s Legions of eMeg with the stones to show up) mixed and mingled with leading Democratic lights, including Tom Quinn, David Townsend, Joe Trippi, Donna Bojarsky, Jim Moore, Steve Glazer, Jason Kinney, Roger Salazar, Steve Maviglio, Karen Skelton  and Garry South (whose frequent harsh criticisms of Jerry Brown’s campaign for governor make him an intraparty marked man, matched Stutz and Zak’s raw courage in taking his place  at the festivities), while other hacks (widely suspected of  RINO tendencies by some in the Neanderthal Caucus) including Jack Flanigan, Bob Naylor, Donna Lucas and Don Sipple, added to a gemutlicht ambience of general hilarity.

Along with members of the Capitol press corps that Calbuzz actually knows (apologies to Sactown hacks we don’t know), world-class media types, including New York Times L.A. bureau chief Adam Ngourney, by-God L.A. Times sage George Skelton and national political correspondent Mark Barabak, A.P. political writers Juliet Williams and Judy Lin and KCRA-TV’s inimitable Kevin Riggs sprinkled the crowd, as Greg Lucas of “California’s Capitol,” Joel Fox of “Fox and Hounds” and Torey Van Oot of “Capitol Alert” ably represented the political blogosphere and blindingly insightful eggheads and policy makers like Dan Schnur, H.D. Palmer, Dave Lesher, Nancy McFadden and Peter Schrag raised the average I.Q. of the room at least a point or two.

Here stood newly sworn-in governor Brown, huddling with newly named Resources Secretary John Laird over matters of apparent great urgency.

There was new First Lady Anne Gust, explaining to an astonished inaugural witness how she was surprised to find out she was introducing her husband about two minutes before his swearing in.

Across the room,  almost Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom passionately held forth on the insider intricacies of San Francisco politics that have delayed his swearing in (see Agnos, Art and his five votes).

We even have a boozy recollection of overhearing Krusty and the Prince dividing up the world: Gavin focuses on economic development and UC and stays out of Jerry’s way as he tries to run the government. Such a deal.

Worried Democrats meanwhile kept an anxious eye on Brown, lest he keel over and make incumbent Lite Gov Abel Maldonado a full-term governor before Newsom takes the oath of office.

A good time was had by all, except for the aforementioned, utterly plastered Dr. H. There were no injuries.