Posts Tagged ‘Proposition 25’

Brown Proposes Baseball Arbitration Budget Plan

Monday, September 20th, 2010

On a recent appearance on “Good Day L.A.,” the popular morning show on KTTV Fox 11, Jerry Brown endorsed the framework of the “Baseball Arbitration Budget Plan,” first proposed by political consultant Richie Ross on Calbuzz.

The proposal is designed to short circuit the annual bitter and sustained gridlock over California’s finances, if no compromise budget agreement can   be reached in a specified time; at that point, Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature would each put forth their own version of a spending plan and both plans would be presented to voters, who would select one or the other as the state’s fiscal blueprint for the next budget cycle.

This either-or process is similar to that used by Major League Baseball to resolve contract disputes between players and teams.

In the version presented by Brown, responding to questions posed by Good Day L.A.’s Jillian Reynolds and Dorothy Lucey (pictured below), the governor could also prepare a third budget document, which he said should be on a special election ballot.

The interview took place last Wednesday,  with Brown motor-mouthing as if someone had spiked his green tea. The interview began with a discussion of the TV ads being aired by him and Republican rival Meg Whitman; the hosts did not appear to be aware of  Ross’s Calbuzz proposal.

Reynolds: …but when do you get to the (crosstalk), I hear you, but I’d like to hear the issues.

Brown: Okay, the issue, the issue is, that the state, the Republicans and the Democrats can’t work together, they’re just in polar opposite positions. One says ‘don’t cut,’ one says, ‘don’t tax.’

Lucey: But how are you going to pull them together? I asked Meg this, Schwarzenegger obviously couldn’t do it.

Brown: I’ll tell you how. The governor usually waits and releases their budget in January. Then they come back in June and start talking to the leadership. I’m going to start in November – the week after the election I’m going to call all 120 (legislators) together and I’m going to work them, every day if I have to, until we get the budget solution .

If they can’t agree on a solution, I’m going to ask the Republicans, ‘give me your best offer,’ and I’m going to ask the Democrats, ‘give me yours,’ and I’m going to put mine in – we’ll go to the people and get a vote at a special election. (cross talk) That’s how we’ll resolve it.

Majority rules: Brown also confirmed that he supports Proposition 25 on the November ballot. The initiative calls for the current requirement that a budget must receive a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, a state constitutional provision dating to the FDR era, be reduced to a majority vote.

Following up Brown’s special election remarks, Steve Edwards, the program’s host, noted that Whitman opposes Prop. 25, which Brown answered by saying:

Well, she doesn’t believe in the majority. I’m going to vote for it. It’s not a cure-all, but I say, ‘yes, the majority rules in this country’ – that’s the budget, not taxes – and when the people of Oakland voted for more money by 70 percent, Meg said the people of Oakland were wrong, they don’t have a right to vote because Meg says, ‘I know best,’ and I don’t think that’s the right answer.

Taken together, Brown’s statements on Prop. 25, and on the statewide vote process for resolving budget deadlock, represent the most substantive commentary by either candidate about their ideas for resolving the now-routine delays in passing a budget; in the current impasse, the longest in history, Schwarzenegger and the Legislature do not seem close to a solution nearly three months past the July 1 start of the fiscal year.

The Ross Reform Plan: Ross, a longtime Sacramento-based consultant, first raised the innovative idea of using a baseball arbitration-style popular vote to settle partisan differences over the budget in a Calbuzz guest commentary on May 18, 2009.  In his piece, he noted that Governor Schwarzenegger had used the process in helping to resolve disputes over Indian gaming casinos between tribes and local governments.

Unlike most arbitrations, in which a neutral finder of fact weighs the two sides, looks for middle ground, then crafts a solution to impose on the parties, baseball’s version is an all-or-nothing proposition. The arbitrator looks at the final position of each side and chooses one. Each side only knows its own final position, not the other. One side’s position is chosen in its entirety. The other is rejected…

Saying he believed the idea would work best after adoption of a two-year budget cycle, Ross proposed three steps that would follow:

2. Start the fiscal year on December 1. There’s nothing magical about the current July 1 start. The Feds start in October. A lot of businesses start in January. So let’s move the state’s to December 1 of the even-numbered years.

3. Make Republicans and Democrats write a complete budget. Right now, Republicans hang on to the 2/3rds majority requirement because they say it’s the only way they can be relevant. But they never have to write a complete budget plan, they just potshot the Democrats’ plan. That’s an accountability-free zone. And Democrats tell their groups how they wish they could raise the taxes to save programs but the Republicans won’t let them.

4. Put both budgets on the general election ballot — baseball arbitration style. Neither needs a majority. The one with the most votes wins.

Voters and the “winners” will live with the outcome for two years. If we like the budget we had, we’ll reward them with re-election and another budget. If they sold us on a turkey, we’ll punish them at the polls and probably give the other side’s budget a chance.

Noting that nothing changed in Sacramento in the nearly year-and-a-half since his piece first ran, Calbuzz re-published it on August 31, under a headline that said: “Ross Baseball Budget Plan: Now More Than Ever.”

What would eMeg do: David Siders’ strong piece in Sunday’s SacBee examined the crucial question about Whitman’s candidacy: whether the command-and-control management skills of CEO are useful, or even suitable, for an executive position in government, which requires more persuasion, tact and consensus-building.

It’s instructive that during the campaign, Whitman has done plenty of bashing of the governor and legislators for being late with the budget, but offered no solutions much beyond threats to crack heads. Siders reports:

When asked in Folsom how she would address the state budget impasse, one of the most persistent problems in Sacramento, Whitman said, “I would have chained them (legislative leaders) to the desk to get this done.”

“This is about leadership,” she said.

Corzine never knew what hit him: The killer quote in the Siders piece came from recently ousted New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine, who was first elected to office on bold promises that he would bring his private business skills to bear on government, after a successful career at Goldman-Sachs:

Jon Corzine, the former Goldman Sachs executive, senator and one-term governor of New Jersey told Newsweek this year that he, like Whitman, thought “the managerial skill set would be helpful.”

It wasn’t, he said.

“The idea that you’re accountable to a bottom line and to a payroll in managing a business – it gives voters the confidence that you have the right skills (to govern),” Corzine told Newsweek. “But it’s 20,000 people vs. 9 million. I don’t think candidates get the scale and scope of what governing is. You don’t have the flexibility you imagined. There’s no exact translation.”

Are you listening, Meg?

eMeg’s Charm Offensive (Take 47); Foxy & Brown

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

Meg Whitman’s new ad, “130 Miles,” is an attempt to use the glamor of Silicon Valley to reboot eMeg’s image as a can-do business executive whose skill is needed to repair California’s “mismanaged, ineffective” government. It’s polished and – if you knew nothing else about her, Silicon Valley or how government works – a persuasive 30-second argument.

But alas, reality bites. Give eMeg’s ad minions props for drawing a sharp line between Sacramento and Silicon Valley, which “gave us Apple, Intel, eBay.” Of course, as Jerry Brown’s campaign noted in its response, “At least eight Fortune 500 companies were founded in California during Brown’s governorship,” including Apple, Oracle, Amgen, Symantec, Electronic Arts and Sun (purchased by Oracle in 2009).

BTW, the choice of Apple, Intel and eBay is clever cherry-picking, but actually, the largest Silicon Valley companies in terms of 2009 sales were Hewlett-Packard, Apple, Cisco, Intel, Oracle, Google and Sun, in that order Then came eBay.

Calbuzz: The Prairie Years (With Actual Longhorn)

Brown can quibble but can’t really refute the ad’s assertion that Whitman “started with 30 people, led them, managed them, executed the plan that grew this main street company to 15,000 employees and made small business dreams come true.” But they did come up with a nice little gotcha: seems the eBay small-business success story featured visually in the ad – EasySale – is based in Arlington, Texas, and isn’t licensed to do business in California. Go Longhorns! Oops.

But we digress. What this very slick ad does not address is perhaps the most important question facing Whitman’s candidacy for governor: Even if she was a smashing success in Silicon Valley (and there’s certainly debate about that), what does that have to do with governing in Sacramento?

Since at least half of your Calbuzz team cut his teeth in Silicon Valley, we know that there are plenty of big fish who’ve come out of the Valley – Larry Ellison, Jerry Sanders, John Scully, Frank Quattrone, Mark Hurd, Steve Jobs, Scott McNealy to name a few – who don’t belong in politics. (Note: We’re not even mentioning Carly Fiorina.)

Running a company, answering to venture capitalists or a board of directors and shareholders, placing profit at the core of your soul, issuing commands to underlings, laying out an action plan and ordering people to implement it – these skills may serve the bottom line. But they don’t remotely resemble the abilities a governor needs: civic vision, coupled with facility for cajoling, compromising and co-operating, to name a small part of the collaborative, consensus-building skill set required of an effective political leader.

That 130 miles between Silicon Valley and Sacramento is indeed more like the distance between two planets. It’s Whitman’s challenge to demonstrate that she can do more than yammer about how she understands what it takes to create jobs. She needs to convince Californians that she could actually govern.

One more intriguing note: In this new version of eMeg’s Charm Offensive (she’s trying to get her favorables up from 40%) there are shots of her from four different magazines but no live footage of Her Megness Herself.  Guess they just ran out of time.

Department of burning pants: As we noted Wednesday, state Republican leaders are spinning like Schwins the claim that the GOP statewide ticket represents not only a breakthrough for their white man’s party, but, more broadly, a stirring display of never-before-seen diversity in the history of California politics.

The latest reporter to bite on this story is Araceli Martinez Ortega, writing at the Spanish language site Impre.com. Here’s a bit of a translated excerpt eblasted by the GOP:

As never before in its history, Republicans have managed to put together a formula that represents the diversity of the state – two female candidates, a Latino, and an African-American – with the goal of winning the general election in November…They face a Democratic ticket consisting primarily of Caucasians (emphasis ours).

Sigh. Ortega can probably be forgiven for peddling this canard; after all, for her him to have discovered that the two party tickets have exactly the same numbers of men, women, whites and minorities would have taken incredible effort, on the order of the complex and wide-ranging investigation Calbuzz conducted by counting up the demographic traits of those on the ballot.

But the state party is a different story.  They sent this stinky cheese around the state, knowing full well that the claim of an ethnic and gender difference between the two slates is a total crock.

For that we’re awarding them a copy of the shortest book ever published – “Richard Nixon’s Guide to Telling the Truth” (Introduction by Meg Whitman).

Out-foxed: There’s no bigger sacred cow in politics these days than small business (the phrase “small business is the backbone of the economy” Google generates 469,000 results).

Just now, for example, folks in Washington who favor extending the Bush tax cuts to the richest one percent of Americans constantly cloak their position in the self-righteous and cynical argument that anyone who opposes such an  outrageous homage to oligarchy is a pinko socialist determined to ruin poor old Uncle Chester’s hardware store, a stance that happens to be a lie.

In California, few are the equal of the wily Joel Fox in hoisting the small business fig leaf to disguise the big balls corporate beneficiaries of such policies. The resourceful Anthony York was the first to offer a glimpse behind this political pretense of plucky Main Street merchants, with a post detailing the actual sources of contributions to the Fox-run Small Business Action Committee PAC:

The SBAPAC revealed Tuesday evening that it received more than $1 million from alcohol, tobacco and real estate groups. Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris USA, donated $500,000. Anheuser-Busch, which brews Budweiser, gave $200,000 and the Wine Institute chipped in another $50,000. Los Angeles-based Cypress Management Company gave the group $250,000.

Ah yes, Anheuser-Busch, your favorite neighborhood brewer, and good old Philip Morris, who runs the family farm out on the old River Road. Sheesh.

The $1 million detailed in the SBAPAC’s new spending report is only a fraction of the total amount of contributions to the group. That’s just the money earmarked for campaigns over two ballot measures, Propositions 25 and 27, in which corporations are fighting to preserve their sacred right (in California, anyway) to avoid being taxed just because a mere majority of lawmakers elected by the voters thinks it’s a good idea. Perish the thought.

What the SBAPAC report does not account for is another $3 million in contributions now being used to air ersatz “issue ads” whose clear purpose is to rip Jerry Brown’s face off on behalf of poor little rich girl eMeg.

Fox’s group uses a gaping loophole in the law to avoid disclosing those special interests donations, an avoidance he’s tried to tart up in the flag, the First Amendment and the Boston Tea Party several times over at his Fox and Hounds web site (we’d link to his recent pieces but F&H appears to be crashed at the moment).

Your Calbuzzards, however, think he got much closer to the nut of the matter when he told York: “I’ve got two lawyers who have looked at all of this, and there are different rules for the PAC. This has all been lawyered to death.”

We just bet it has.