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Posts Tagged ‘State of the State’



Tulchin: Voters Back Legal, Regulated Online Poker

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

By Ben Tulchin
Special to Calbuzz

In his State of the State address, Gov. Jerry Brown asked for alternative solutions to California’s budget crisis and one solution is already in the works – Senate Bill 40 by State Sen. Lou Correa, to legalize and regulate online poker.

This bill would generate millions of dollars in revenue and create thousands of jobs in California, which will help balance the state’s budget and prevent deeper cuts to essential services.  So how do California voters feel about this proposal?

They strongly support it, according to a recent poll of 600 likely California voters by Tulchin Research.  The good news for the governor and lawmakers in Sacramento is that the people have strong and clear opinions on the matter:

– 66% of Californians, including strong majorities of Democrats (71%), Decline-to-State voters (68%) and Republicans (58%), support regulating and taxing the profits of online poker.

– By a margin of 65-5%, voters want California-based operators (as opposed to out-of-state operators) in charge of the gaming operations.  This number climbs to 76-3% when California operators are compared to off-shore companies.

– 76% of Californians believe California’s trusted gaming partners – those already licensed in the state – should be the ones eligible to operate online poker as opposed to 13% who believe the process should be open to any company.

– Perhaps most significantly, 84% of voters want California to regulate online poker as opposed to nationalized online gaming.

Correa’s SB 40 is predicated upon three key principles:

1. Create a long-term revenue stream for California.
2. Ensure that the jobs created from online poker revenues become California jobs.
3. There must be appropriate regulations to ensure that kids can’t play and those who are eligible and do play, do so without fear of fraud or identity theft.

With such strong public support and the governor and the Legislature eager for new sources of revenue, you’d think it would be a no-brainer for our elected officials in Sacramento to support SB 40 to regulate online poker.

Alas, things in Sacramento are never that simple as there are currently two online gambling bills: the aforementioned SB 40 by Sen. Correa and SB 45 authored by Sen. Rod Wright.

If public opinion is important – and if you heard any part of the governor’s State of the State you’ll know it is (and, as a pollster, I sure hope it is) — then the Legislature and governor should get behind SB 40.  Voters support Correa’s vision for online poker and see it as a way to keep California jobs and revenues in the state.

How many jobs, how much revenue are we talking about?  According to former California Finance Director Tim Gage, online poker could generate $1 billion over the next decade and create 1,100 new jobs in a variety of industry sectors.

News reports indicate Gov. Brown is open to Internet gambling. “I don’t think it can be stopped,” Brown said last year. “If it can’t be, then there ought to be some way that the state can derive some tax revenue from that.”

The Correa bill would ensure that the benefits of regulated online poker remain in California helping to create jobs and balance the state budget.  Even better, voters like its provisions.

Ben Tulchin is founder and president of Tulchin Research, a polling and strategic consulting firm in San Francisco.

Brown Works Inside Sac; No Budget Bully Pulpit Yet

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

You might think that Gov. Jerry Brown’s appearance tomorrow evening at a dinner hosted by the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce will mark the launch of Krusty’s “outside” campaign for his proposal to put $12 billion in tax and fee extensions on the June ballot. But you’d be wrong.

Although his State of the State address was aimed as much at building broad support for his proposal as it was designed to speak directly to legislators, Team Jerry’s continued emphasis for at least the next few weeks will be on the “inside” game in Sacramento.

“He’s disciplined and focused on things that matter the most,” said his political adviser Steve Glazer. That’s the strategy for now. As another Brown ally put it, “The outside game could push the Republicans into a corner right now.”

So on Tuesday Brown met with Senate and Assembly Democrats. And he’s scheduled to meet with Senate and Assembly Republicans on Wednesday, all the while working on individual and small groups of legislators in hopes of convincing them that it’s in their interest to place his tax and fee measure on the ballot. To do that, he needs agreement from all the Democrats plus two Republicans in the Assembly and three in the Senate.

Thus far, there’s no sign any Republicans want to give him their votes, although some GOP strategists and others have suggested that in exchange for pension reform and perhaps a spending cap of some sort, Brown might wheedle that handful of votes.

One possible scenario, according to a Brown adviser, would be for the governor to continue working the Cul de Sac for a couple more weeks and see what happens when his proposal is brought to a vote in the Legislature. If it fails to pass in the first house where it’s raised, then all hell breaks loose and Republicans in marginal districts get hammered for denying their constituents basic democratic rights.

Predictably, no Republican has yet put forth a formal legislative proposal on pension reform and there’s not a lot of time to consider one if one were forthcoming.

On the other hand, you want pension reform? Just check out Brown’s own campaign web site where he advocates: stopping pension spiking and abuse, renegotiations for a two-tiered system, and end to retroactive benefit enhancements, increased employee contributions, prohibiting pension “holidays,” independent oversight of pension funds, tightening of pension investment standards and a curb on investment placement agents.

All the Republicans have to do is get Brown to agree he will see that legislation seeking all of the above gets introduced and that he’ll fight tooth-and-nail for it and they’d have a pretty good deal to swap for a vote that just gives people a chance to decide if they want to extend some taxes and fees practically nobody is even aware of.

While only about a third of Californians are aware that some taxes and fees notched up a bit a couple of years ago, even fewer have any idea how California is financed or where the money is spent. Worse, according to the most authoritative study known to humankind on the issue of peoples’ knowledge about the California budget, it doesn’t friggin’ matter.

That’s what Eric McGhee at the Public Policy Institute of California demonstrated in “How Much Does the Public Know about the State Budget, and Does It Matter?” published in the California Journal of Politics and Policy. Here’s McGhee’s depressing conclusion:

The real driver of opinion on budget items is politics, not information. Popular programs like K-12 education receive strong support among all groups of voters, and unpopular ones like prisons do not. Within this variation, Republicans and conservatives oppose taxes and spending, while liberals and Democrats are more supportive of both. None of these conclusions is especially surprising, but the contrast with the weak effect of information is important nonetheless.

Overall, the results suggest no easy way out of our current budget impasse. The public might be confused about aspects of the California budget, but they have largely committed themselves to one side or the other in the budget wars. To the extent that they break ranks—for example, Democrats opposing spending or conservatives supporting taxes—it is tied to specific issues in a way that information affects only at the margins. As much as we may hope for it, we cannot educate the public and expect a clear path toward a balanced budget to emerge from the effort.

What this suggests is that a giant teach-in about the California budget is likely to have little effect. As we have argued before, what will matter – should Brown’s proposal make the ballot – is whether the issue is framed as a tax increase or an extension of existing taxes.

Press Clips: Special SOS-WWJD Edition w/o Flounder

Friday, February 4th, 2011

The Little Pulitzers: Scoop of the week honors to the inevitable Steve Harmon, first to jump on the key, unanswered question coming out of the new/old governor’s first* State of the State speech:

What Will Jerry Do if legislative Republicans stick to their irresponsible position of blocking a  measure on his $12 billion tax plan from a special election ballot?

Clearly aware that Brown has backed himself into a corner with his “no taxes without a vote,” as George Skelton sagely notes,  Harmon reports that labor groups and goons are quietly war gaming ways to punish groupthink knuckledraggers — already under double threat from the new reapportionment/top two primary rules that will reshape the political landscape of 2012 — by pressuring from the middle with some long overdue, district-by-district hardball (not to mix a metaphor):

Labor allies of Gov. Jerry Brown are actively considering backing moderate challengers in next year’s Republican legislative primary campaigns with the aim of forcing GOP incumbents to think twice about opposing Brown’s plan to push a tax extension measure on the ballot.

They are also considering ramping up direct mail efforts or door-to-door canvassing within the next several weeks in the districts of potentially vulnerable Republicans who continue to threaten to block a vote on Brown’s tax plan.

No sooner had the plugged-in Harmon used his not-for-attribution sources to stomp the competition than the redoubtable Kevin Yamamura battled back with a good second day yarn, broadening the story by getting Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and other D’s to think out loud about ways and means of forcing Reps to take ownership of the extra $12 billion in cuts that would be required if Brown’s tax plan flops.

Despite Jon Coupal’s intellectually dishonest effort to give the GOP cover by re-framing the special election debate, the plain facts are that the all-cuts crowd: 1) knows full well that whacking the $25 deficit solely with spending decreases is an unserious proposition, unless they pencil out the total budgets for higher ed and prisons, just for starters and; 2) lives in mortal terror that voters will go along with Brown’s bid to extend temporary higher tax rates, thus bringing to an abrupt end their interminable, one-note-symphony about tax cuts being the answer to all of life’s problems (and, in the process, eliminating the raison d’etre, not to mention the fat salaries, of Jarvis fetish advocates like Coupal).

Nonetheless, as the clock runs against Governor Gandalf’s March deadline to move the tax measure to the ballot, his biggest political problem remains the sad fact that a huge majority of Californians have not the slightest interest in lack the basic knowledge to follow the details and nuances of this debate, which preoccupies every waking hour of folks, like Calbuzz, who have no life.

Viz: a dandy myth-and-fact primer by the Bay Citizen’s Jonathan Weber (“Only six percent of adults can identify where the bulk of the state’s money comes from, and how it is spent”) or the more direct, people-are-really-stupid column by Dan Walters  (“Voters ignorance about budget matters a big factor”).

Costco Carla back in town: Carla Marinucci, working desperately to overcome her career-threatening blunder of missing the big Dr. Hackenflack dinner with the flimsy excuse that she was “on vacation,” partially redeemed herself in SOS week when the Little Pulitzer judges honored her with the George Gurdjieff Award for whirling dervish reporting.

The ace Chronicler’s recent, l’etat c’est moi self-appointment as CEO of Shaky Hands Productions was an enterprising if failed attempt to fake her way into the first stop on Meg Whitman’s Reinvention Tour; she didn’t let the disappointment of her brief-lived stint as a high-powered business executive, however, get in the way of quickly reaffirming her status as the best multi-platform political reporter in the state, as she and her trusty video camera were everywhere at once, finding stories that no one else had.

In the space of 21 hours and 13 minutes (you could look it up), Marinucci scored the best post-speech Silver Fox quotes about the GOP blockade of his budget proposal, scooped the world on Brown wandering into the Republicans’ well-oiled back-to-session bash and enabled the aforementioned Coupal in floating his Plan B special election trial balloon.

Whew. Inquiring minds want to know: Is the mighty Hearst Corporation paying overtime these days?

Safire’s corpse takes to spinning: Our Department of Vocabulary, Grammar and Spell Check Tune Ups was shocked – shocked! – to find Governor Brown committing a horrific crime of misusage in a Voice of the West SOS advancer: :

…if we don’t get this budget fixed, California will flounder, and it will really be a real impediment to doing all the other good things the state should be engaged in.

Flounder? Really? Seriously?

As every schoolboy knows:

5. FOUNDER vs. FLOUNDER

To founder means to sink or fail. A ship founders when it goes down–as does a company. To flounder means to act clumsily or ineffectively, or to thrash about helplessly. (As a mnemonic device, imagine a flounder on dry land, flopping about helplessly.)

~Before it finally foundered, the company floundered for several months.

Jesuit education, indeed.

Egyptology: It was John Madden who famously said “big players make big plays in big games” a lovely little homily that will apparently come as news to several of the nation’s biggest name, most overpaid, media hucksters.

While Anderson Cooper led the charge in doing Actual Reporting on the scene in Egypt, CBS diva Katie Couric spent the early days of the crisis  hard at work lavishing coca butter on her all-over tan in South Beach. To her credit, Katie finally got out of her lounge chair and made her way to Cairo — well after Brian Williams, Christiane Amanpour and other network types got there.

And the increasingly insufferable Tom Friedman, supposedly the world’s leading authority on the Mideast, was in Singapore, offering us yet another droning first person lecture about, well, we’re not sure about what, leaving it to firehorse colleague Nick Kristof to deliver the goods to Times readers.

ICYMI: We’re not sure who wrote his stuff, but Mitt Romney’s delivery of the Top 10 List on Letterman the other night was quite good, raising his score in the Calbuzz Republican Wannabe Standings by 1.4%.

Thank you, CalChannel: 20 years ago today, CalChannel started broadcasting gavel-to-gavel coverage of the California Legislature.  In celebration, they’re showing the greatest hits.

“The California Channel.” as they explain, “is an independent, non-profit public affairs cable network governed by California’s cable television industry, and modeled after the national CSPAN service. The channel’s primary mission is to provide Californians direct access to “gavel-to-gavel” proceedings of the California Legislature, and other forums where public policy is discussed, debated, and decided – all without editing, commentary, or analysis and with a balanced presentation of viewpoints. To view streaming and archived video, or to learn what station carries the California Channel on your local cable system, visit www.calchannel.com.”

Calbuzz pick: Packers 31-28.

* (The speech was technically Brown’s eighth SOS, as he was quick to remind everyone after Steinberg introduced him saying it was his seventh. Sic temper tyrannis).

Brown Goes Public With Tax Plan Vote Demand

Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

Blunt, feisty and funny, Gov. Jerry Brown called out Republicans Monday night, aggressively challenging them to allow Californians to vote on his proposal to extend $12 billion in temporary tax increases – or have the guts to put  forth their own, all-cuts budget plan.

With a civil but tough tone, he also directly confronted the statewide coalition of local officials who are furiously campaigning against his bid to eliminate redevelopment agencies, saying that “core services” like education, police, fire and health care for the poor are more crucial than their real estate developments projects; positioning himself directly in the political center, he also urged Democrats and liberal advocates for education and social welfare programs to make their own sacrifice, by accepting the $12 billion of cuts he wants.

As a political matter, Brown aimed his 1,722 words, not at the state office holders who crowded into the Assembly chamber to hear him, but at millions of voters beyond the Capitol.  Seeking to build popular support for what he repeatedly called his “honest” strategy to erase a $25 billion deficit, he clearly made the calculation that the time had come to frame the political debate in public, after weeks of low-key, backroom talks with lawmakers.

From the time I first proposed what I believe to be a balanced approach to our budget deficit – both cuts and a temporary extension of current taxes – dozens of groups affected by one or another of the proposed cuts have said we should cut somewhere else instead. Still others say we should not extend the current taxes but let them go away. So far, however, these same people have failed to offer even one alternative solution.

While Brown embroidered his 14-minute State of the State address with appeals for bipartisan cooperation to restore the “exceptionalism” of the California dream, his central message was clear, focusing on turning up the pressure on Republicans to abandon their hold-our-breath-til-we turn-blue stance against providing the handful of votes needed to put a tax measure on the June ballot.

“That’s his style,” said Robert Huckfeld, political science professor at UC Davis and director of the UC Center in Sacramento. “To his credit, he doesn’t pull his punches and he tells it like he sees it.”

“You don’t often see politicians speak that way,” agreed UC Davis environmental science professor Mark Schwartz. “But he’s got nothing to lose and he’s got to get something done.”

The money quotes:

Under our form of government, it would be unconscionable to tell the electors of this state that they have no right to decide whether it is better to extend current tax statutes another five years or chop another $12 billion out of schools, public safety, our universities and our system of caring for the most vulnerable…

When democratic ideals and calls for the right to vote are stirring the imagination of young people in Egypt and Tunisia and other parts of the world, we in California can’t say now is the time to block a vote of the people.

In the ordinary course of things, matters of state concern are properly handled in Sacramento. But when the elected representatives find themselves bogged down by deep differences which divide them, the only way forward is to go back to the people and seek their guidance. It is time for a legislative check-in with the people of California.

Formally dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and red tie, Brown in his plain-spoken words and firm demeanor took on the role of the tough-love truth-teller he had promised during his campaign for governor. Sounding like the adult in a roomful of squabbling adolescents, he pleaded for an end to silly partisan gamesmanship:

This is not the time for politics as usual…

If you are a Democrat who doesn’t want to make budget reductions in programs you fought for and deeply believe in, I understand that. If you are a Republican who has taken a stand against taxes, I understand where you are coming from.

But things are different this time. In fact, the people are telling us–in their own way–that they sense that something is profoundly wrong. They see that their leaders are divided when they should be decisive and acting with clear purpose.

Responding for the California Republican Party — but not necessarily for all the Republicans in the Legislature — CRP Chairman Ron Nehring proclaimed,  “We are determined to fight this unaffordable tax hike, no matter how many ways the Democrats try to soft sell it. Should the governor ever get around to embracing the serious, structural reforms our state needs, we’ll be equally supportive in those efforts.”

Nor were Brown’s allies on the labor left willing to fall in line. Art Pulaski, leader of the California Labor Federation priased Brown’s “vision for long-term recovery that’s been painfully absent in recent years,” but he decried “deep cuts to In-Home Supportive Services, health care and higher education {that] threaten to undermine his vision to rebuild California.”

A few other observations:

The influence of Anne: In his first turn as governor, Bachelor Brown  built a well-earned reputation for rudeness, as he routinely and dismissively dispensed with the niceties of politics. As a 72-year old married to the savvy former business executive Anne Gust, his approach last night was  civil and courteous, despite its tough message. He thanked lawmakers for their “cordiality and good will,” repeatedly invited them to share ideas with him and declared that he looked forward to “working with all of you,” doing a good job of at least faking sincerity.

Ad libs: A year and a half ago, Calbuzz recounted a LMAO appearance Brown made on CNBC   in which he broke the fourth plane, holding a white sheet of paper in front of his face and inviting reporter Michelle Caruso-Cabrera to truncate the interview after she ascribed craven political motives to a case he had brought as attorney general and tried to shine on his attempt to discuss its merits.

In his speech last night, Brown again broke through the bounds of convention, departing from his text  several times to deliver one-liner asides to the assembled politicians, in the manner of a comic telling jokes to the band: At one point he literally called attention to the elephant in the room: “I want to see some Republicans clapping,” he said as stone-faced GOP lawmakers sat on their hands; “That’s ambiguous,” he cracked at another point, after saying public pensions should be “fair to both taxpayers and workers alike.”

The vision thing: As he did in his inaugural address, Brown coupled his unvarnished description of the state’s budget woes with a high-minded appeal to the romantic ideal of California, leavening his message of painful choices with an optimistic view of the future:

Wherever I look, I see difficult choices. But I also see a bright future up ahead and a California economy that is on the mend…

We have the inventors, the dreamers, the entrepreneurs, the venture capitalists and a vast array of physical, intellectual and political assets. We have been called the great exception because for generations Californians have defied the odds and the conventional wisdom and prospered in totally unexpected ways. People keep coming here because of the dream that is still California, and once here, their determination and boundless energy feeds that dream and makes it grow.

Bottom line: While not as trenchant as the inaugural, the SOS was notable for its pull-no-punches candor — a top-notch performance.

Final count: eMeg $159 million, Krusty $36 million; 4.4-to-1 Whitman over Brown. She spent about $38.50 per vote; he spent about $6.60 per vote…But if you add in the primaries, the grand total for eMeg was $178.5 million and for Brown it was $36.7 million.

Press Clips: James Brown Meets Big Lebowski

Friday, January 8th, 2010

carlaI feel good: Mega-kudos to Chronicler Carla Marinucci, who came roaring back from the holidays to win the James Brown Hardest Working Person in Show Business award for her stellar performance at Arnold’s SOS speech Wednesday.

Following the paper’s long tradition of dispatching its political editor to Sacto for first week of session, Ms. M. did everything but cut the grass in Capitol Park: in the space of 3 hours and 58 minutes, she filed four strong web pieces offering different angles on the speech, including the role of former Reagan speechwriter Landon Parvin, before heading off to write her print edition analysis for the next day’s paper.

Most significantly, she appears to have been the only MSM political writer with the wit to file a separate on Jerry Brown. Her piece included a series of comments relevant to his soon-to-be-campaign for governor on key budget issues he’s been trying to avoid discussing with his shadow candidacy.

“I would never approve of a tax increase unless the voters themselves called for it and voted on it,” he said, adding some thoughts about lessons learned from the Prop. 13 tax revolt in his first stint as governor:

There’s a big difference. The last crisis, we had a $6 million billion surplus. Now the trouble is, we’ve been spending it. And now, we have the same crisis, but we have no surplus….there is no easy answer. The main point is, don’t hide the ball. Level with the people and tell them, ‘This where we are. We didn’t get here overnight, and we’re not going to get out of it (overnight).’nap time

Pillow and teddy bear in hand, Calbuzz padded off for a nappie, exhausted from just watching her.

Footnote: The Oracle of Cruickshank over at Calitics, took a whack at Carla and Crusty the General for not observing, as he did, that Jerry is “Trapped in 1978.” So there was at least one other full-scale political commentary about Brown posted on Wednesday.

Cliches for the ages: The best New Year’s piece we saw came from the venerable Ron Rosenbaum over at Slate, who captured the coveted  William Safire Memorial Linguistics Usage award for his piece on over-used catch phrases that should be banned from the language.

Noting the dThe_Big_Lebowski___Jeff_Bridgesreadful excess of “15 minutes of fame” that swept through Google during the flap over the Salahis crashing Obama’s State Dinner, Rosenbaum put a few other phrases on the chopping block:

Among those I wanted thrown off the island and under the bus: it is what it is (in the “tough-luck” sense), the optics, drill down, under the bus, not so much, and the take-away. Oh, yes, and dude—at least when it’s a Big Lebowski reference.

Speaking of clichés, shame on Politico for using the most hackneyed possible lede for its mini-profile of Brown in its tired “25 politicians to watch” New Year’s feature:

Yes, it’s that Jerry Brown—the former California governor who served two terms beginning in the mid-1970s and made three failed bids for the White House.

Yes it’s that kind of unimaginative boilerplate that’s a reliable cure for insomnia (Sleep theme today ? –ed).

hoffmanasrainman

What’s your margin of error, pal? In a fine piece over at Capitol Notes, the otherwise prudent John Myers asserted  that Arnold’s speech contained 3,507 words, a number shockingly at odds — by 560 words! — with the total reported by the Calbuzz Department of Mathematical Advancement and Spilled Toothpicks Counting (of course, I’m an excellent driver).

Unlike Myers, who acknowledged his number was merely “by my count” Calbuzz, as always, used the most complex, up-to-date and rigorous statistical methodology to gather our findings, and we’re nothing if not transparent in disclosing it: Starting with the speech transcript posted on Capitol Alert, we 1) clicked to the print version 2) painstakingly selected all and copied it 3) carefully pasted it into Word 4) used “word count” to complete our in-depth study. The margin of error is plus or minus zero. Thank you Bill Gates.

belvadavis-200x300Three Dot Lounge:* Nice work by Lisa Vorderbrueggen of the Coco Times on a good appreciation profile of the one and only Belva Davis, who put up with your Calbuzzers  many Friday nights a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…In the latest Triumph of the Old Guys, Peter Schrag reaffirms his standing as California’s top substance-of-state-government reporter, with a smart yarn offering a practical 10-point plan to fix the budget . . . Speaking of old guys, if you read only one piece on national politics this week, make it Tom Edsall’s analysis of why 2010 will be the biggest year ever for negative campaigning . . . The New York Times showed unusual nimbleness in rushing Peter Baker’s terrific 8,000 word takeout about Obama’s national security operation onto its web site, two weeks before it was to be published in the Sunday magazine, because of the Christmas Day bomber story ( HT to Politico’s Peter Calderone) . . . The Ross Douthat Fan Club was stricken with20061213mcdonalds awe yet again, when the Great Man released his own plan for Fixing Everything, using the phrase  “tour d’horizon” to boot.

Today’s sign the end of civilization is near: You want fries with that?

*With homage HT to Chron sports columnist Bruce Jenkins, who belongs in the Hall of Fame.