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Posts Tagged ‘spending’



Chamber’s Hypocritical Swing at Brown on Prop. 13

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

It’s not often in politics that an esteemed organization like the California Chamber of Commerce produces and finances a political ad that is as cynical and disingenuous as “Enough is Enough” — the Chamber’s attack on Attorney General Jerry Brown, masquerading as an “issues ad.”

“California’s lost one million jobs, we’re 200 billion dollars in debt and Jerry Brown has a 35-year record of higher spending and taxes,” the ad begins, as if these assertions are  related.  And that’s just the opener.

“Governor Brown opposed Prop. 13. Spending increased 163 percent. He turned a budget surplus into a massive deficit,” the ad continues, ignoring the inconvenient truth that former Governors George Deukmejian (Steve Poizner camp) and Pete Wilson (Meg Whitman camp) and the California Chamber of Commerce itself — and almost every major corporate entity in California — opposed Prop.13 at the time.

In other words, Allan Zaremberg’s executive committee at the Chamber — which got clearance from the Chamber board to do issue advocacy — has instead leaped into the governor’s race with both feet as a rank partisan opposed to Jerry Brown.

“It’s not an attack ad,” Zaremberg insisted to Calbuzz. “This is an issue ad.”

“We want to ensure that we integrate the issues that are critically important to our members and Californians into the election debate,” he said in a press release “The goal of these ads is to press the candidates to articulate how their views about taxing and spending are likely to impact our job climate in the future.”

To which Calbuzz says: Ah, horseshit. This is an attack ad. Watch it yourself.

What is galling about this is not that Zaremberg has decided to go to war with Brown — we frankly don’t have a dog in that fight. It’s the smarmy, hiding-behind-the-skirts pretense of principles that we find loathsome.

Meg Whitman’s campaign strategist, Mike Murphy, had no qualms about describing the ad. “Cal Chamber runs TV ad to remind voters of Jerry Brown’s 35 yr record of fiscal disaster. Large media buy. See it here: http://bit.ly/bZfS3A,” Murph tweeted.

If  Zaremberg wants to lead the Chamber into battle against the Attorney General, then  man up, go to the board — including the CEOs of the University of California, State Universities and Community Colleges — and get them to agree to open fire.

As for the truth of the ad, Brown’s people vehemently dispute virtually every statement. Their response can be found  . . .  oops, looks like Brown’s campaign brain trust has decided, for strategic reasons, not to post their rapid response. Huh? But you can find a partial defense of Brown at Calitics, written by the Oracle of Cruickshank himself.

BTW, the Chamber didn’t fund this ad through its political action committee which would have been subject to disclosure regulations. Instead it’s funding the ad  — reportedly more than a $1 million buy — on its own, complete with a phony front site.

P.S. The news that Peter Schurman, founding director of lefty MoveOn.org, has decided to challenge Brown in the Democratic primary can only benefit Crusty. With Meg Whitman bashing Brown as a statist commie, Schurman’s platform of sweeping tax increases gives the General a handy opportunity to position himself more visibly in the middle on budget issues.

Boon or boondoggle: A new Public Policy Institute of California study of illegal immigration, showing that a legalization program would have little impact on the economy, is significant for both policy and political reasons.

As a policy matter, it sharply conflicts with recent reports out of USC and UCLA, both of which predicted a huge boost to California’s economy from legalizing the state’s several million undocumented adult workers, at a time when the immigration debate has been renewed in Washington. As a political matter, it comes amid a campaign battle over immigration that has been raging for weeks between Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner in the Republican primary for governor.

The new PPIC report is based on an analysis of data compiled by the New Immigrant Survey, a joint project sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and several universities. Among its key conclusions:

–There is little evidence for claims, such as those in the USC and UCLA reports, that legalization would help boost the economy by generating large amounts of new tax revenue.

–Charges that newly legalized immigrants would put a new burden on government through heavy reliance on welfare programs are also without much quantitative foundation.

–Newly legalized immigrants rarely move into better paying jobs because of their changed status and, for that reason, do not represent much competition for jobs with native-born workers.

Said researcher Laura Hill:

A legalization program is unlikely to lead to dramatic changes in the labor market. We wouldn’t expect it to significantly affect the job prospects of low-skilled workers in the short run – whether immigrant or native-born.

eMeg vs. The Commish: One conclusion that reasonable people (we name no names) can draw from the PPIC report is that all sides in the debate routinely overstate the effects of illegal immigration, an intriguing point given the rug-chewing hysterical froth that Poizner has worked himself into over the issue in the past several weeks.

Immigration barely registered as a concern for state voters in last month’s PPIC poll, but Poizner has been beating the drum on it because he knows that there’s an ideological passion gap on the issue, with Republicans and conservatives far more concerned than Democrats or independents, which suits his paddle-to-the-right primary bid just fine.

But some of the cross tab findings on immigration in the new L.A. Times/USC survey may give him pause.

It is true that by 2-to-1 margins, both Republicans and self-described conservatives support Poizner’s Prop. 187-like call to “turn off the magnets” and deny virtually all government services to illegals, one of the key issues he harps on.

But it’s also true that Republicans (65-to-29) and conservatives (61-to-33)  support a “path to legalization” as described in the LAT/USC poll, which makes them not much different than  Democrats and independents alike.

Poizner has been bashing eMeg for a statement she made last fall in favor of a “path to legalization” by accusing her of backing “amnesty,” a hot button word that does not truly describe the framework of a compromise plan being discussed in Washington , which calls for undocumented immigrants to pay fines and back taxes, perform community service, learn English and pass a background check, among other requirements.

This just in: The Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center will launch its latest effort to revive the Tranquillon Ridge offshore oil project Wednesday, with a news conference, including local favorite Rep. Lois Capps, positioning the proposal for a new state drilling lease as a way to stop expanded oil drilling. Key question: will they release the text of the new agreement they’ve reached with PXP energy company, after getting beat up for keeping an earlier version secret?

OK Meg and Steve: Let’s Analyze California, Inc.

Friday, February 26th, 2010

By Mark Paul
Special to Calbuzz

Meg Whitman says she wants to run California state government like a business.

Given all we’ve learned in the past decade about business — Enron, IndyMac, Bernie Madoff, Wall Street — some people hear that as a threat. I prefer to be hopeful. Long mired in consultant-speak and ideology, California government and politics could use a dose of the practices by which the best businesses thrive — open-eyed realism about a firm’s strengths and weaknesses; rigorous analysis; strategic thinking.

That hope withered the other day when I heard one of Whitman’s recent radio ads. “We know spending has been out of control in Sacramento,” she crooned from the speakers. Et tu, Meg? Say it ain’t so.

The only people who “know” state spending is “out of control” don’t know what they’re talking about. According to the latest budget estimates, the state will spend less this year than it did in 2005, when there were two million fewer people in California. And as this chart shows, when measured as a share of California ’s personal income, state spending is at the lowest level in a generation. If it’s smaller government you want, California has already got it, the smallest since Ronald Reagan’s final years in Sacramento .

When they say what they’ll do about “out of control” spending, Whitman and Steve Poizner, her rival for the Republican nomination for governor, point quickly to how many people work for the state. Here, too, they have flunked their business due diligence.

Yes, more people work for the state today than a generation ago. As this chart shows, their number has almost doubled in the last 35 years. But so has California ’s population. If state government employment were increasing faster than state population, you’d be worried. In this chart, you can see the opposite is true. The number of state employees per 1,000 Californians has declined since the mid-1970s.

And there’s more to the story. Not everybody counted in the tally of state employees cited by Whitman and others is a state worker in the usual understanding of that term.  More than 120,000 of them work for the University of California and California State University , public institutions that get some of their money from the state but control their own hiring.

The University of California , in particular, is a collection of many businesses, involving everything from undergraduate teaching to research institutes to hospital medical centers to nuclear weapons laboratories.

Most of the revenue for UC comes from sources other than the state budget — research grants, student fees, patient reimbursements for medical care, management fees, gifts. That explains how the university added nearly 25,000 people to its “state employee” headcount over the past decade even though it today receives less direct support from the state than it did in 2001.

It’s nonsensical to count all those new UC employees, who get paid from sources other than the state, as evidence of “out of control” spending in Sacramento . But that’s the horse Whitman is riding.

When you take all the university employees out of the mix, and look only at state civil servants — the blue line in this chart—there’s been almost no change over a generation. But the story doesn’t end there.

As everybody knows, California over the past three decades has locked up a lot more criminals, in the process quadrupling the number of people working in corrections. Corrections employees now make up a third of the state workforce, and an even larger share of workers paid from the deficit-ridden general fund.

In this chart, the green line shows that, when university and corrections employees are taken out of the mix (and they make up half the total), what people think of as the state “bureaucracy” has shrunk dramatically relative to California ’s population. In fact, since 2001, the number of non-college, non-corrections state workers has barely increased — even as the number of Californians has grown by the equivalent of the state of Louisiana .

That’s why, if you examine California state government as a business, one of the first things you are likely to notice is how few people it employs compared to others in its “industry.” Over that past decade, California has ranked between 46th and 50th among the states in the annual federal listing comparing state workforces to  population; its state workforce is about 25 percent smaller than the national average.

And if you think about it, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Since 1967, every California state budget has been proposed — and later subjected to line-item veto — as by a fiscally conservative governor: Reagan, Brown, Deukmejian, Wilson, Davis, and Schwarzenegger, skinflints every one of them. If you believe California is out of line in how many people it employs in state government, you haven’t been paying attention.

Control the size of the state workforce? Sorry, Meg and Steve. Been there, done that.

Mark Paul, senior scholar and deputy director of the California program at the New America Foundation, is co-author, with Joe Mathews, of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How It Can Be Fixed (UC Press, forthcoming).