Posts Tagged ‘Thomas McKernan’

Cal Forward: We ‘Make No Change’ in Sinclair

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

mckernhertzLast week, Calbuzz stirred up a hornet’s nest by reporting that one of  California Forward’s proposed constitutional initiatives would effectively overturn the Legislature’s ability to raise fees with a majority vote as granted by the courts in the Sinclair Paint case. In doing so, we cited Section 7 of one of their two proposed measures. It amends Section 3 of Article XIII A of California’s Constitution to specify that a two-thirds vote of the Legislature would be required to replace, with a fee, any “revenue…that was generated by a tax” the previous year. Cal Forward squawked about our piece, so  we offered them a chance to explain why our analysis was wrong. Here’s their response which simply asserts they’re making “no change.” But their argument begs the question: If it’s true that the measure would “make no change” in Sinclair, why is Cal Forward seeking to, uh, change it? We stand by our analysis.

By Thomas V. McKernan and Robert M. Hertzberg
Special to Calbuzz

In the hyper-partisan world of California politics, folks aren’t quite sure what to make of California Forward and our plan to reform state government.

Critics on the left object that our plan doesn’t make it easier to raise taxes.  Critics on the right complain that it won’t let a minority of the state’s lawmakers continue to hold up the state budget.

They’re both right – but both are also missing something important about this effort: Our plan doesn’t lend itself to the typical scorecard that attempts to tally winners and losers on one side or the other.

Why? Because its fundamental orientation comes from neither the left nor the right. It doesn’t seek to tilt the playing field in either direction. It is instead, quite simply, a plan to make California’s government work again.

Take for example, the partisan wrangling over fees. As Calbuzz noted last week about the Sinclair Paint court decision, the Legislature needs only a simple majority to impose fees when a nexus exists between the regulatory program being imposed and the payer of the fee.

Conservatives have long viewed this authority as an end-run around the two-thirds majority vote requirement for raising taxes. These concerns were heightened late last year when Democratic lawmakers attempted to impose a multi-billion dollar fee that would have replaced the state’s current gas tax, and simultaneously raised other taxes, all by majority vote.

After much debate, the leadership of California Forward agreed its reform initiatives plan should make no change to the Legislature’s authority under Sinclair Paint.

Instead, the plan requires a two-thirds vote only on a fee that replaces revenue previously generated by a tax.  The good folks here at Calbuzz read this provision differently than the bipartisan legal team that helped California Forward craft our proposals. No surprise there.

But there’s also no question about our intent, which was to raise the vote requirement only in those rare instances where lawmakers impose a new fee to replace an existing tax forestalling the kind of “triple flip” that was attempted last year.

Those who expect our reform initiatives to mark just one more round in the ongoing partisan battle royale are likely to be disappointed.

That’s no accident. The members of California Forward’s bipartisan Leadership Council believe strongly that the problems facing our state won’t be solved by politics as usual, where the parties and the special interests square off against each other, dig in their heels and get nothing done.

You don’t have to be a policy expert to know that one of the biggest problems we face is California’s inability to approve a sensible state budget on time. Our first proposal, the Best Practices Budget Accountability Act, makes some practical, common-sense changes to end budget gridlock by taking sound practices from other states and applying them to California. Among them:

— Pay-As-You-Go – Requiring leaders to make hard choices by identifying right from the start how any new program would be paid for.

— Reduce Inefficiency and Waste – Requiring the Governor and Legislature to set clear goals for every program, measure its effectiveness, and fix or cut what doesn’t work.

— Pay Down Debt – Setting aside funds from occasional spikes in revenues to pay off debt.

— Long-term Planning – Requiring leaders to think ahead by creating two-year budgets and long-term revenue and spending forecasts.

— Majority Vote Budgets – to keep a small minority of politicians from holding up the budget for the entire state, but requiring a two-thirds majority for any tax increase.

— No Budget, No Paycheck – Requiring all legislators to forfeit their salary, travel and living expenses whenever they miss the budget deadline.

A second measure, the Community Funding Protection and Accountability Act, shifts power away from Sacramento and gives more responsibility to local government. It protects local tax dollars that belong to counties, cities and schools from being redirected to balance the state budget, and gives local officials new incentives to work together, eliminate overlapping programs and become more efficient.

The stakes in this debate may not be partisan, but we believe they’re high enough.

We all take pride in the fact that California has always led the way – in technology, education and quality of life.

But year after year of structural budget deficits, accounting gimmickry and a lack of clear priorities has shaken our confidence in ourselves and threatened our standing in the world. Our role as a national leader is in jeopardy.

We don’t need another partisan cat fight. We need a plan that gets California moving again so California can lead again — and that’s what California Forward is bringing to the table.

Robert M. Hertzberg and Thomas McKernan are co-chairs of California Forward, a nonpartisan reform group supported by contributions from California foundations. Their web site is www.caforward.org.

Fishwrap Friday: Goo-Goos Gone Wild (Not)

Friday, May 29th, 2009

Will It Be California Forward or Backward? California Forward, the good government group with name-brand backing and top-drawer credentials, will be meeting in Sacramento next week to decide whether to become irrelevant.

Okay, that’s not exactly on the agenda Wednesday. But as the Bay Area Ccafwd_logo1ouncil aggressively forges ahead toward a constitutional convention, its weak brother reform group is moving closer to beside-the-point status — despite backing from the California Endowment, the Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the James Irvine Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

The bi-partisan group, headed by former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg, and Southern California Automobile Association executive Thomas McKernan, has a whole bunch of proposals for Kumbaya stuff like better representation, smarter budgeting and fiscal management.

All of which boil down to: Managing the status quo.

Unless the group resolves next week to take a clear and strong stand on something controversial – say, undoing the two-thirds vote requirement to pass a state budget — the consensus-obsessed California Forward might as well rename itself California Backward.

It’s ironic. The guy who had been heading up the group was former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta, until he got called on by President Obama to go to DC to run the CIA. And the group’s roster remains impressive: after Hertzberg and McKernan, it’s got Bob Balgenorth, President of the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, AFL-CIO; Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Chief Executive Officer, Green For All; Bill Hauck, President, California Business Roundtable; Antonia Hernández, President and CEO of the California Community Foundation; Fred Keeley, Treasurer, Santa Cruz County; Stewart Kwoh, President and Executive Director, Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California; Donna Lucas, Founder, Lucas Public Affairs Group; Sunne Wright McPeak, President and Chief Executive Officer, California Emerging Technology Fund; Bruce McPherson, Former California Secretary of State; Chuck Poochigian, Former State Senator and Assemblymember; Cruz Reynoso, Former Associate Justice, California Supreme Court and the Third District Court of Appeal; Constance Rice, Co-Director, Advancement Project and Gene Voiland, Principal, Voiland Enterprises LLC.

But by dithering and doddering about whether to take clear stands on big issues, California Forward risks squandering its stature and taking a permanent back seat to the Bay Area Council on the government reform front . . .

Inmates Push for Asylum Management: Having the Legislature seize control of the University of California from the Board of Regents “is like having the management of GM take over Microsoft.”

That was the best line making the rounds Thursday, one day after Senator Leland Yee trumpeted a whacky proposal for a constitutional amendment to exchange UC’s 141-year old practice of independent governance for an exciting new future hunkered down in the Capitol muck of petty politics.

“It’s ridiculous, silly stuff,” Board of Regents Chairman Dick Blum told Calbuzz. “The people in Sacramento are going to tell us how to run the UC?”

In an interview, Blum vigorously defended the Regents’ management, contrasting the system’s balanced budget with the state’s $25 billion deficit and its AAA bond rating with the state’s, um, ZZZ rank. He also noted UC’s ability to attract top academic and administrative talent, portraying the regents’ hiring of President Mark Yudof a year ago as a milestone in improving the system’s management. Yudof is a nationally recognized leader of the accountability movement, which stresses the use of measurable results systems for universities: “You won’t find a better, proven manager of a hugely complex, public higher education institution anywhere.”

Yee and his allies have attacked the recent approval of mid-six figure salaries for campus chancellors as just the latest outrage of out-of-control executive compensation at UC. Blum said that the average income for the top executives of the system’s 10 campuses are “35-to-40 percent below market” and that the biggest problem for the $18-billion UC is that the state keeps cutting its share of the overall budget, which now amounts to less than $3 billion.

“There is such a thing as the marketplace, there is such a thing as reality,” Blum told us.

Yee’s chief of staff, Adam Keigwin, said the senator is not seeking “day to day management” of the UC system, just more “oversight” that would give the Legislature greater authority over what he described as abuses involving pay for top university officials. Which sounds kinda like a distinction without a difference . . .

The Meg and John Show: Having captured a smashing 37 percent of the vote in California last November, Arizona Senator John McCain will give Republican wannabe governor Meg Whitman some tips on running strong in the Golden State today.

Her Megness is scheduled to appear with Joe the Plumber’s best friend at a Town Hall meeting in Orange County, followed by a “private event” (i.e. fundraiser) in Fresno, according to her campaign. For media mavens desperately seeking a rare opportunity to pose a question to the elusive eMeg, she’ll have a press avail at 2:50 pm (and that’s not 2:51 p.m., either, mister!) in the Executive Room of the Piccadilly Inn. The release on the event says it’s for “Credentialed Media Only” and that part is in BOLD CAPS, so don’t even try sneaking in if you’re some kind of low-rent blogger or something…Wait a minute, credentialed by whom? . . .

Offshore Plan Sinking Fast: Look for a whole lotta pushback on Arnold’s controversial plan to raise revenue by drilling for oil offshore of Santa Barbara, when the State Lands Commission meets Monday in Santa Monica. It’s the first meeting of the group since Governor Deltoids announced the proposal, which would end run a commission vote turning down the project last January . . .

Today’s Sign the End of Civilization is Near: Four states now prohibit drivers from smiling for the photos on their licenses, according to a USA Today report. Arkansas, Indiana, Nevada and Virginia all require you to wipe that grin off your face because it messes with their high-tech, face-recognition software. Bring on the Vulcans! . . .

Spell Check: Congratulations to Kavya Shivashankar, 13, of Olathe, Kansas, who won the National Spelling Bee Thursday by correctly spelling “laodicean” which means lukewarm or indifferent in religion or politics. Pronounced “lay-ah-di-see-an,” this is NOT what makes a good Calbuzzer.