Posts Tagged ‘May 19’

A Calbuzz Look Beyond the Obvious: PPIC’s Poll on the Loser Props

Friday, May 8th, 2009

Growling BearThe Public Policy Institute of California is out with a new poll and – we trust you’re sitting down, Maude – all the May 19 budget props (1A-1E) are losing. Even 1F (which blocks pay increases for state electeds in deficit years) has lost ground (though it’s still a likely winner).

Prop 1A, Governor Arnold’s Big Dog, deficit-limiting/tax-hiking/rainy-day-fund-building kitchen sink measure, is losing 52-35% among likely voters, and runs even lamer among those following the election most closely: 65% No Way Dude vs 29% Sounds Like a Great Idea.

As PPIC pollster and big kahuna Marc Baldassare put it: “The voters who are really tuned in are really turned off.”

Here’s the PPIC Prop rundown among likely voters and corresponding Field Poll results:
• Prop. 1A (Rainy Day Budget Stabilization Fund)
52% N, 35% Y, 13% DK. Field Poll: 49-40-11.
• Prop. 1B (Education Funding)
47% N, 40% Y, 13% DK. Field: 49-40-11.
• Prop. 1C (Lottery Modernization)
58% N, 32% Y, 10% DK. Field: 59-32-9.
• Prop. 1D (Children’s Services Funding)
45% N, 43% Y, 12% DK. Field: 49-40-11.
• Prop. 1E (Mental Health Funding)
48% N, 41% Y, 11% DK. Field: 51-40-9.
• Prop. 1F (Elected Officials Salaries)
73% Y, 24% N, 3% DK. Field: 71-24-5.

What you gotta’ love about PPIC is that the late Bill Hewlett’s gonzo endowment, plus lotsa cash money from the James Irvine Foundation, lets these guys poll huge samples – in this case 2,005 respondents (+/- 2%), among whom they identify 1,080 likely voters (+/- 3%). Of course, size doesn’t always matter, since there’s not much real props news here beyond the lean, mean Field Poll published April 29.

Other numbers from PPIC, however, offer some important insight into the political landscape in California: voters are in an incredibly cranky and pessimistic state of mind. Check it:

— 91% say the state is in a recession
— 76% say the state’s headed in the wrong direction.
— 75% expect bad times financially for California in the next year.
— 51% have already lost a job or are concerned that they or a family member will lose a job.

More political gloom and doom:

— 80% disapprove of the Legislature.
— 76% say the state is run by a few big interests.
— 71% say people in government waste tax money.
— 56% disapprove of the governor.
— 16% say they trust state government to do what’s right all or most of the time.

Key nuance: While state pols are basically dead to likely voters (think Al Pacino kissing Fredo in Godfather II) and only 39% approve of the “job” Congress is doing – a staggering 66% of likelies, and 72% of all adults, approve of Barack Obama’s performance as president. Hmmm . . .

The underlying message: Those leading California today are, not to put too fine a point on it, UTTERLY TONE DEAF!

Cogito, ergo sum: When 47% of adults – and 57% of Californians making less than $40K – say they’re somewhat or very concerned they may lose their job in the next year, you have to be out of your bloody mind to propose anything that even smells like a tax increase for working people.

Will some candidate for governor tap into the voters’ fear and loathing? Will 2010 be the year of soak-the-rich populism? Will class warfare be the call of the wily? Stay tuned to Calbuzz. Plenty of free parking.

Arnold on Prop. 1A Cuts for Firefighting: Never Mind

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

govfireAs Calbuzz foresaw several days ago, Gov. Arnold turned up in Santa Barbara Thursday, canceling a staged “Wildfire Awareness Week” event in Riverside in favor of preening for the cameras on the scene of an actual, out-of-control, wind-whipped wildfire that has local residents on the run.

The switch in venues wasn’t the only big change for the governor: He also altered his tune about the impact on public safety if his Proposition 1A is defeated at the May 19 special election.

Earlier in the week, absent the messy political inconvenience of speaking in front of a real natural disaster, Schwarzenegger threatened voters that he would lay off nearly 2,000 state firefighters if his pet initiative is defeated. On Thursday, hours after declaring a state of emergency for the uncontained Jesusista fire, the Terminator assured Santa Barbarians they needn’t fear an inadequate state emergency response, however:

“First of all, let me just make it clear, because there’s always the question that comes up, what happens to the fire departments and to the budget if those initiatives don’t pass,” Schwarzenegger told reporters. “The first thing you should know is, I will always fight and get every dollar I can for public safety, that is the important thing you should know.”

“No. 2, it is very clear that when the initiatives fail there will be $6 billion less that will be available, so therefore there will have to be additional cuts made, if it is in law enforcement, fire, education,” he added. “. . . But I will fight for every dollar, and will always make sure we have enough manpower and enough engines and helicopters ready to fight those fires.”

(Note the interesting slip there: “when” the initiatives fail, not “if.”)

Inside baseball: Our Legal Affairs Department was forced to evacuate Wednesday evening, when the dread sundowner winds blew 60 mph to the south, and we got the reverse 911 call to split; tonight, the wind’s blowing the other way, and we’re hunkered down at Calbuzz headquarters with pizza and fresh double A batteries in the flashlight.

Once again, for the best real time coverage of the Santa Barbara fire, go to our friends at Noozhawk or the Santa Barbara Independent.

Santa Barbara Burns Again: New Prop 1A Ad To Follow?

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

jesusita-fire112For the third time in less than a year, a major wildfire is burning in Santa Barbara – which could be propitious political timing for Gov. Schwarzenegger and his allies pushing Proposition 1A.

About 1,200 homes were evacuated Tuesday night, a few hours after the wind-whipped Jesusita fire broke out in the drought-dry tinder of the San Roque and Mission Canyon areas above the city.

The fire ignited just one day after the governor warned that as many as 1,700 Cal Fire firefighters could be laid off if voters don’t approve his Prop. 1A budget package at the May 19 special election. The governor and his allies have also used the threat of reduced fire protection in TV ads promoting the measure.

Calbuzz World Marketing Headquarters lies about three blocks outside the evacuation warning area, and we’re listening to air tankers and helicopters drop retardant and water on the fire zone now; we won’t be surprised if Arnold, who recently bought a $4.7 million, 25-acre spread in nearby Carpinteria, turns up in the next day or two to pose with firefighters – great up-to-the-minute stuff for his next ad.

BTW, the best real time local coverage of the fire is available online from our blogroll partners at Noozhawk and the Santa Barbara Independent (where we got the photo above.)

What Happens If (When) Budget Props Go Down

Friday, May 1st, 2009

By Greg Lucas, Calbuzz Capitol Bureau

arnoldshotupThe state’s budget plot sickens.

April income tax and corporate tax collections fell nearly $2 billion short of expectations – and voters seem poised to reject three key propositions on the May 19 special election ballot, adding $5.8 billion to an already serious problem.

Given the sorry state of the state’s economy, the gap between revenue and spending commitments is only going to get bigger – the consensus being double digit billions for the foreseeable future. So what will Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democrat majority Legislature do on the morning of May 20, assuming current polling trends hold?

First will come the mandatory, flat-footed dance macabre: Rounds of obligatory teeth-gnashing and garment-rending over how draconian spending cuts will devastate the most vulnerable among us – that would be the Democrats — and, from the other guys, how hard-working Californians will be crippled by stealing more of their livelihood through higher taxes to feather the nests of soul-less bureaucrats.

Then what will really happen?

There are basically only three ways to balance a budget – increase revenues, decrease spending or a combination of both. A combination of both would seem the most rationale strategy – but don’t look for that to happen.

In February, Democrats were able to lure a handful of Republicans into voting for a budget that temporarily increased taxes by more than $12 billion, including a 1-cent boost in the sales tax that took effect April 1. Those tax increases will be in place for this and next fiscal year, even if Prop. 1A, which would extend the taxes two more years, loses on May 19.

The price tag charged by GOP senator Abel Maldonado for his vote – in the dead of night – included allowing a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment to allow open primaries; getting rid of an increase in the gas tax in the budget; and placing Prop. 1F on the May 19 ballot prohibiting lawmakers from receiving salary raises in ugly budget years.

Because Democrats blithely paid his ransom, they effectively set a new floor. Now, similarly minded vote-traders will raise the extortion bar far higher. High enough that even Democrats eager to strike a deal, any deal, may find the price too dear.

Some Republicans, like several members of the Assembly, voted for the budget without any political quid pro quos, earning the ire of their party and, in two instances, recall attempts. Senate Republican leader Dave Cogdill of Fresno lost his post when a majority of his caucus opposed the taxes he had negotiated in the budget. They replaced him with Dennis Hollingsworth of Murrieta who has repeatedly voiced his refusal to lend Republican support to any further tax increases.

The GOP governor has gotten over his pledge not to increase taxes but legislative Republicans simply don’t fear or even respect him and would be more likely to do the opposite of whatever he says – just as, in most cases, they have already.

So if the chances of Republicans voting again to jack up taxes are slim to none – and slim left town – that means even further ratcheting down of state spending. So where would the cuts fall?

Mostly on public schools. The budget signed by Schwarzenegger in February gives schools 43 percent of the state’s $92 billion general fund. Like Willie Sutton, who robbed banks because that’s where the money was, budget cutters turn first to the biggest ticket item, irrespective of numerous speeches by lawmakers and the governor about education’s importance.

Second biggest call on general fund revenues is health and human services programs like welfare and Medi-Cal, the state’s health care program for the poor. Those programs comprise 34 percent of general fund spending for the fiscal year beginning July 1. Higher education is 13 percent; prisons are 11 percent.

Democrats are not eager to cut further into state spending – some $15.7 billion was axed in the current budget. Their leadership has also been snubbed by some of their most generous givers – public employee unions who were angered by this year’s spending cuts.

So, as they have in the past, Democrats likely will try to close some of the budget gap through “fees” which can be approved by majority vote, rather than general taxes, which require two-thirds.

The Hail Mary play would be what the Democrats threatened to do in December – pass a “revenue-neutral” majority-vote budget that cuts out the ability of the GOP to influence it.

Cities and counties fear that, as it has in past fiscal crises like 1991, the state will transfer some of its responsibilities to reduce state expenditures. This time, though, cities and counties worry all that will come their way will be responsibilities and no cash to pay for them.

If passage of this most recent budget – and the previous one, which set a record for tardiness – are any indication, rigid Republican lawmakers, unfettered by a governor capable of reining them in, are going to hold what Willie Brown calls the “whip hand” until California ditches its two-thirds vote requirement.

Greg Lucas is a Sacramento-based political writer who covered state government for the San Francisco Chronicle. He blogs about the people, policies and plots of the Capitol at www.californiascapitol.com.

Friday Fishwrap: No Name Steve, Rose Garden Meg, Me Too Tom

Friday, May 1st, 2009

Desperados: At some point, almost every political campaign descends into a debate about debates: A trailing candidate publicly calls on her rival to agree to a series of, oh say, 13 or 14 debates over the weekend, because “the voters deserve to understand the important differences between us on key issues.” At which point the front-runner condescendingly demurs, saying what the voters really want is to “hear directly from both of us, without the 30-second sound bites of commercials.” It’s a traditional piece of political kabuki theatre that usually pops up in the final days or weeks of a race, when a contest is all but decided.

So it was a bit surprising Thursday to see the three Republican contenders for governor suddenly don [mixed metaphor alert: we’re very multicultural here at Calbuzz] kimonos and kumadori to begin enacting the debate over debates ritual, 404 freaking days before the primary election.

Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, performing Act I, released a letter brimming with civic sanctity that called on rivals Meg Whitman and Tom Campbell to join him in two debates about the May 19 ballot propositions: “Such debates represent the political process at its best.”

Former everything Campbell nearly broke a leg running onto the stage for Act II, in which he accepted the invitation: “California voters deserve to know where the candidates stand not just on these measures, but what they propose as a realistic solution to our budget crisis if they oppose them – especially Proposition 1A.”.

But former eBay CEO Whitman, bringing conflict and climax to Act III, dismissed Poizner’s invite with a sneer: “We smell desperation,” Whitman mouthpiece Rob Stutzman told Calbuzz. “The cheap and stupid stunts are suggesting that (Poizner) is taking his place in the polls seriously — as also-ran.”

At which point Poizner flack Kevin Spillane played for a curtain call: “So the Whitman campaign is now confirming they believe public debates on issues by gubernatorial candidates are cheap and stupid stunts,” he told us. “That also confirms their view of the California electorate. Apparently voters should just shut up and be grateful Meg Whitman is blessing us with her candidacy for Governor.”

[Can you tell Calbuzz just loves this stuff?]

As a practical matter, the Poizner-Whitman family feud is all about tactics, not substance, as the two of them agree on three of the five budget props; the big difference on the props lies between the two of them and Campbell.

The bottom line: All three of the Reps are desperate, at least mildly, in his or her own way: Poizner, to raise his public profile by aggressively setting the pace of the race, and Campbell, for any kind of attention to overcome his financial handicap against the two Richie Riches. As for Whitman, she’s starting to seem rather desperate to avoid uncontrolled public exposure entirely, not the kind of behavior you normally see in your candidates for governor.

[PS: Since posting we noticed that our colleague Jon Fleischman over at Flashreport has offered to moderate a debate on Prop 1A with Whitman and Poizner against Campbell and Schwarzenegger: nice promotional idea Jon!]

Gavin’s Potemkin Party: S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom scored plentygavinwave of positive ink for last weekend’s big block party in Sacramento, ostensibly hosted by the California College Democrats, which featured Wyclef Jean and “honored” the Democrat wannabe governor.

But the high cost, high tech, high production value of the event seemed a tad, well, high end, for a bunch of college kids, no matter how entitled:

Scene: Interior cluttered college dorm room where an attractive couple are conversing while listening to their Ipods, texting and sipping vente non-fat caramel macchiatos:

Elliot (Shia La Beouf): Gee, Brianna, I really feel like honoring Gavin Newsom – but what the heck can we do?

Brianna (Mischa Barton): Oh…My…God! We could so put on a show!!

So Calbuzz padded off to learn who actually put the thing together. The press release trumpeting the event was unusual in that it had no contact phone numbers; when we checked the listed web site – www.blockpartyforcaliforniasfuture.com – it was a shell that was registered by TCR Studios of West Sacramento. That turned out to be one of the IT shops used by Jason Kinney of California Strategies, the premiere engulf and devour Capitol consulting firm.

Kinney, who coincidentally rounded up corporate contributions for the bash, and who happens to be a close ally of Gavin Newsom’s, directed our questions to Claremont McKenna College student Nick Warshaw, the president of CCD. Warshaw said he was in on all the decision-making, but acknowledged that Kinney or his people handled the permits, staging, sound, video, bands, security, you know, stuff like that.

Beyond the widespread media bounce, Newsom ended up with the name, address, phone number, email address, and Facebook and Twitter data from about 3,000 young Democrats and others who signed up for free tickets to the Wyclef concert.

So was it a Newsom event, with CCD as the beard, set up so everyone would think the “honored” Newsom is the darling of young people? Or was it a CCD event, organized with a big assist from Newsom allies? Or is that a distinction without a difference?

Boxer Prebellion: Calbuzz is impressed boxer1that Sen. Barbara Boxer, anticipating a challenge from former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, has nailed down three Silicon Valley mega-names as backers: Safra Catz, President and CFO of Oracle; John Chambers, Chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems; and John Doerr, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

The trio agreed to serve as co-chairs of the new Technology Leaders for Boxer committee. Lining up Chambers, especially, reminds us of Bill Clinton’s move in 1992, when he snared John Young — Fiorina’s predecessor at HP. When Republican business leaders like Chambers support the Republican candidate, it’s dog bites man; when they back a Democrat, that’s man bites dog.

Leon Air, Newest Carrier in the West: Catch the details of how CIA Chief Leon Panetta gets charter treatment commuting from Monterey to Langley here. (more…)