Posts Tagged ‘state employees’

Live from Los Angeles: Donkeys Run Wild

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

The big news at the convention: Jerry Brown challenges Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner to a three-way, pre-primary debate. It has to be all three of them, he said later at a news conference. More from Calbuzz on Jerry’s intriguing proposal to come.

11:10 Treasurer Bill Lockyer is challenging Meg Whitman’s assertions that California has one of the largest state governments and highest state tax rates in the nation, using a blizzard of stats and assailing Republicans for “selfish, scare-mongering, stupid and silly” policies.

10:33: The diminutive Barbara Boxer is asking delegates to stand with us against “Wall Street on steroids” and to join her in making California the hub for clean energy jobs  and ending tax breaks for corporations and the rich and add tax breaks for the middle class and small businesses.

Biggest whoppers: Boxer boasting of “working across party lines” on Capitol Hill and making a priority of reducing  the deficit. Best Line: Talking up health care as a big positive for Dems, she said: “Why would I want to pull the plug on grandma – I am grandma!”

10:24 Boxer was introduced and came through the center of the convention platform to a loud and enthusiastic non-spontaneous demonstration to the sounds of “Aint’ No Mountain High Enough” by Tammy Terrell and Marvin Gaye.

10:00 Chairman John Burton introduced Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis as “the only liberal in the Cabinet.” She delivered a tough partisan speech in which she challenged Republicans to campaign on a platform of opposing health care: “Bring it on,” she said repeatedly.

9:30 – After taking two buses, three cabs and a shuttle, Calbuzz finally made our way from the J.W. Marriott lobby to the L.A. Convention Center at the far end of the Earth.

Barbara Boxer scheduled a press conference before her speech. When she walked in, she went out of her way to greet Mickey Kaus, the pioneer blogger who’s filed a Democratic primary challenge to her. “I wanted to meet my opponent,” she said shaking his hand.

Kaus, who’s been banned from addressing the convention, told us he was allowed to come Boxer’s newser on condition he not ask any questions. In other non-news, Boxer said two reasons that the polls are close in her race is that she has “three strong (Republican) opponents who’ve been beating her up for months and voters haven’t been“paying attention to what I’ve done.”

In response to Calbuzz, she also offered a strong endorsement of AB32, arguing that Gov. Schwarzmuscle’s climate change legislation is necessary to jump-start a green energy industry in the state.  A batch of assembled press and bloggers had a bunch of questions left, but Boxer’s handlers cut it off at 9:45, saying she had to go make her speech to the delegates.

Arnold vs Calbuzz; eMeg’s Ad Buy; Memo to Media

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Calbuzz contributor Susan Rose, in a post filed Tuesday, roundly bashed Governor Arnold, characterizing his tenure as “a combination of insults, bullying, threats and failures.” After the post, David Crane, Special Adviser to Governor Schwarzenegger, asked for a chance to respond:

By David Crane
Special to Calbuzz

Susan Rose’s recent attack on Governor Schwarzenegger shows an utter disregard for facts.

Ms. Rose conveniently left out the single most important fact about the state budget, namely that explosive growth in government-employee compensation is responsible for crowding out spending for all those social programs she favors.

As one example, from 2003-2010, retirement benefit costs took more than $25 billion away from higher education, parks & recreation, environmental protection, health & human services and other important programs.  As another example, the per employee cost of compensation nearly doubled over the last ten years, stripping money from programs.

All of these costs were cemented into place by contracts and legislation passed by the last administration.  Governor Schwarzenegger has fought mightily to reform those contracts and legislation but legislators in hock to special interests refuse to budge.

Ms. Rose’s column is just another example of non-fact-based partisanship designed to fulfill the wishes of one special interest or another.  The real fact is that the only way to protect programs is by reforming government employee compensation.   While Ms. Rose is happy to raise taxes in order to keep paying more to government employees, Governor Schwarzenegger is not.

Actions speak louder than words. When Ms. Rose is ready to do something about the damage being caused by out-of-control government employee compensation it’ll be time to listen to her.

All eMeg All the Time: The Calbuzz Department of Dumpster Diving & Green Earth Recycling has stumbled upon an internal report from Meg Whitman’s campaign which details the size and reach of her current advertising buy, which can be described in two words: Holy Cow.

The campaign’s Gross Rating Point report, measuring total delivery of the current week’s broadcast ad schedule in 11 markets in California, shows that eMeg’s buy is comparable to what a fully-loaded campaign might ordinarily deliver in the closing weeks of a heated race – not three months before a primary that she’s prohibitively leading.

“These are some big fuckin’ numbers,” said Bill Carrick, the veteran Democratic media consultant after reviewing the report. “She’s buying the whole shebang.”

As a practical matter, 1,000 GRPs a week means that an average TV viewer in a large market would have about 10 opportunities a week to see a Meg Whitman ad;  in smaller markets, with only two or three stations, 700-800 GRPs would be a significant buy. Here’s what the internal campaign report shows she’s doing around the state (N.B. Calbuzz did not independently confirm these numbers):

–Bakersfield 806
–Chico-Redding 603
–Eureka 631
–Fresno-Visalia 986
–L.A. 1,008
–Monterey-Salinas 635
–Palm Springs 806
–Sacramento 984
–San Diego 1,008
–San Francisco 702
–Santa Barbara 929

“With this buy, the chances of not seeing a Meg Whitman spot are pretty slim,” Carrick said.

According to the report, Steve Poizner’s current buy in various markets is a fraction of eMeg’s – ranging from 15 to 50 percent – which seems in the ballpark, based on anecdotal reports from several veteran California media consultants who watch TV incessantly.

One Republican source not affiliated with the governor’s race said he thought the eMeg strategy of going on the air so heavy so early in the campaign might backfire:

“She’s way overdoing it – she’s going to wear out her welcome.”

Meg wears out her welcome: And that’s exactly what the Great Woman did in the East Bay yesterday, when she set off a row with veteran Bay Area political reporters by once again refusing to take any questions – after inviting press coverage of her tour of the Union Pacific Railroad site at the Port of Oakland. Chronicler Carla Marinucci picks up the story:

Then came the news that Whitman also wouldn’t take questions; reporters had been called in to “see” her make statements on “how she could be helpful as governor” on jobs and the economy, Whitman spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said.

Veteran reporters, who included KTVU’s Randy Shandobil and KPIX’s Hank Plante, were among the crowd that wasn’t amused. Question: is Whitman a candidate for governor, or a museum piece to be “watched” by reporters?

Pompei told reporters Whitman said the no press tour was a Union Pacific call — that the company’s officials did not want media coverage. (Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt begs to differ. He just told us that “we planned, actually, to have press talk with Meg on the tour….we understood there would be media availability and we wanted to work with that.”)

Calbuzz last year was among the first to throw a flag on eMeg’s obsessive avoidance of the California press corps as a significant campaign issue. (While Steve Poizner and Jerry Brown have both granted us extended interviews, the ticking clock on our request for a sit-down with Her Megness is now six months, three days and counting).

After Tuesday’s disgraceful performance, it seems clear that there are serious issues of  temperament and judgment – control freak arrogance, fear and contempt for reporters whose job is to serve as the eyes and ears of ordinary voters, for starters – that raise questions about her fitness to handle elected office and public life.

Here’s a suggestion for our campaign trail media colleagues: Don’t reward eMeg’s bad behavior. She’s not the governor, she’s not even the nominee of her party, she is a CANDIDATE for the nomination, and so far she has earned exactly nothing.

If Whitman is unwilling to abide by the norms and forms appropriate to a political campaign, then she should not receive coverage appropriate for candidates who do. Stop running stories on any Whitman events in which she refuses to take questions from reporters. Period.

Why Meg Went Negative on Poiz; Hell Freezes Over

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

Inquiring minds want to know: Scoop of the week honors to KTVU-TV in Oakland, which did the first story on new, 15-second eMeg spots attacking Steve Poizner, after some anonymous hero saw them suddenly turn up in the ad rotation and heads-upped the newsroom.

Channel 2’s Frank Sommerville did a report on “Mornings on 2,” about three hours before Poizner put out a release attacking eMeg for the attack, and about five hours before Team Whitman acknowledged the ads in their own release with its link to their “Why We Can’t Trust Steve Poizner” web site.

The key question — Why is Whitman bashing Poizner when she’s sitting on a 30-point lead?

The official line on that, from Sarah Pompei, Whitman’s volcanic mouthpiece,  is that “our campaign strongly believes Californians deserve a lengthened debate between the candidates.” (We note, however, that debate just won’t be uncontrolled or in front of actual human beings like, oh say, delegates to her party’s state convention).

After talking to other analysts and Dem and Reep consultants, we’ve got some more believable theories:

1) Meg’s got a glass jaw and she’s scared. Worried that her support is soft and that Poizner could smack her upside the head, the Armies of eMeg are a bit panicky and are striking out even though nobody knows who they’re talking about. (Steve Poizner: Isn’t he somebody’s insurance agent?) “Best case — she’s proactively pre-emptive; worst case — she bounces the rubble,” said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California.

2) She’s trying to drive him out of the race. Her consultants have done everything they can to cajole, bribe and threaten anyone in earshot in an effort to clear the field because eMeg does not want to run in a competitive primary. So it’s a last ditch attempt — $400,000 over four days, according to one GOP source — to convince Poizner not to run.

3) She’s hoping to kill the baby in the crib — to finish him off before he goes on the air. Who knows how much he could really spend. He’s damn near as rich as she is, so why couldn’t he spend 40 or 60 or 100 million dollars? Better to force him now to have to defend himself than to leave the path open for him to run positives for himself and negatives against her.

We think it’s a bit of all of the above. And we were, frankly, surprised to see eMeg rip into the Commish when she’s sitting on such a big fat lead. But then, we don’t think Stevie Wonder can be driven from the race, so all this negative airtime aimed at someone nobody knows seems kinda nutso to us. Unless you’re the media consultant getting 15% on the buy, of course.

We’re pretty sure the cry for a cease fire from folks like Bill Whalen, the former Pete Wilson operative now ensconced at the Hoover Institution, is pretty much a pipe dream.

“Which candidate is willing to move back to the high road and halt this destructive cycle before the Republicans produce what California Democrats want: a tarnished nominee?” Whalen asked.

Calbuzz bet: neither.

And the winner is: The prestigious Little Pulitzer for Investigative Punditry this week goes hands-down to Mark Paul, of the New America Foundation’s California Program, whose Friday piece in Calbuzz offered a moment of clarity about the state budget that should transform the way the issue is covered in the governor’s race.

Putting on a clinic of Actual Reporting, Paul not only shattered the easy demagoguery of every candidate who’s ever mouthed the phrase “waste, fraud and abuse,” but also put the lie to Meg Whitman’s bogus argument that she’ll fix everything by firing 40,000 surplus state employees.

Paul offered a healthy dose of fact-based reality to show that: a) the state is spending less this year than five years ago, despite population growth of two million people; b) the number of state employees per 1,000 Californians has declined over the last three decades; c) half of the bloated state workforce that eMeg is always caterwauling about consists of UC employees (many of whom are paid from independent sources) and guards and other workers in state prisons (many hired to keep up with demand generated by Three Strikes and other throw-away-the-key measures).

Excepting these two groups, the number of all other state employees has decreased over the last 30 years.  So: The next time Her Megness talks about cutting 40,000 workers, she can mean to do only one of three things:

1-Dump UC staff and faculty.

2-Fire many thousands of corrections officers, necessitating the early release of many thousands of felons.

3-Cut other state programs – which ones, please? – to 1970s levels.

…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.

Mark’s piece is a must-read. It’s here.

Hell Freezes Over: Mega-kudos to Ken McClaughlin of the Murky News, who scored the first in-depth interview with eMeg since she botched her way through a session with the LAT’s Michael Finnegan more than a year ago.

Three things jump out to us from the interview:

1-On the budget, Whitman has no clue what she’s talking about (see above).

2-On social issues, she’s all over the lot – equal rights for gays but no gay marriage, against illegal immigration but in favor of benefits – but she’s basically a liberal.

3-On governance, she confirmed her belief that the sign on the door of the Capitol says “Empress of California,” not “Governor of California.”

Asked by McLaughlin how she would be more successful than Arnold, who peddled much the same tired campaign wheeze as her when he first ran in 2003, eMeg said she would “get to know every senator and assembly member by name, letting them know what she ‘will and will not put up with.’”

What she “will and will not put up with?” Really?

Memo to John Perez: Put that cookie down, clean your room and then do your homework! And I mean NOW, Mister!

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).

Poizner Attacks; eMeg Would Axe Thousands; DiFi Speaks

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

poizneradIt’s a cheap trick and a cheap date, for sure. But Calbuzz is a sucker for all things new. So we’re passing along the link to Insurance commissioner Steve Poizner’s latest attempt to get his name in the news — his first “web video” of the campaign, attacking former eBay CEO Meg Whitman for ducking next Monday’s “debate” in Sacramento.

As a campaign tactic, Calbuzz finds this only a little bit cheesier than the phantom ads that candidates “release” but never spend money on to broadcast. These are not really campaign advertising in the sense of trying to reach a mass audience. They’re video press releases, masquerading as TV ads. We’ve called on those who are monitoring and covering campaigns to find out from candidates’ handlers just how big their big their buy is. If it’s less than $1 million in California, then it’s really being done to affect media coverage, not public opinion.

That’s exactly what Poizner is doing — even if he does use quotes from Calbuzz as third-party validation of his charges. It’s a video press release.

Meanwhile, Whitman today called for laying off 20,000 to 30,000 state employees “while prioritizing public safety and teachers” as a first step in dealing with a looming state deficit of up to $21 billion. In a speech to the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce, eMeg said “We shouldn’t have to lay off teachers, we need to lay off bureaucrats.”

For a critique of eMeg’s off-with-their-heads math, check out Josh Richman’s post at Political Blotter.

Feinstein Prop Update: U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, after commissioning an exhaustive study, finally weighed in on the ballot measures today, holding her nose and supporting Propositions 1A and 1B. “I will reluctantly vote for 1A and 1B because I do not see any way to prevent a greater financial disaster for the state of California,” she said.

But she also said: “I will vote against Prop. 1C because I do not believe that taking money from future lottery proceeds to reconcile existing debt is advisable in public finance.” Also: “Voters are confronted with these bad choices because we don’t have a budgeting system that works effectively and efficiently in times of budget crisis. Ultimately, I believe major reform is necessary in order to put California back on track.”

Feinstein did not declare her position on another key state fiscal issue: whether or not to dump California’s two-thirds vote requirement to pass a state budget in the legislature.