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Archive for June, 2011

Chiang: Lawmakers won’t get paid

The state budget passed by legislative Democrats but vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown last week was incomplete and unbalanced, according to state Controller John Chiang’s analysis, so lawmakers failed to meet Proposition 25’s requirement of a balanced budget by June 15 and will have to forfeit their pay since that date.

“My office’s careful review of the recently-passed budget found components that were miscalculated, miscounted or unfinished,” Chiang said. “The numbers simply did not add up, and the Legislature will forfeit their pay until a balanced budget is sent to the Governor.”

Chiang’s news release noted nothing in the California Constitution or state law gives the state controller authority to judge the honesty, legitimacy or viability of a budget; the controller can only determine whether the expected revenues will equal or exceed planned expenditures in the budget.

“While the vetoed budget contains solutions of questionable achievability and some to which I am personally opposed, current law provides no authority for my office to second-guess them in my enforcement of Proposition 25,” Chiang said. “My job is not to substitute my policy judgment for that of the Legislature and the Governor, rather it is to be the honest-broker of the numbers.”

Using this standard, Chiang said, his analysis found that the recently-vetoed budget committed the State to $89.75 billion in spending, but only provided $87.9 billion in revenues, leaving an imbalance of $1.85 billion. The largest problem involved the guaranteed level of education funding under Proposition 98. The June 15 budget underfunded education by more than $1.3 billion. Underfunding is not possible without suspending Proposition 98, which would require a supermajority (two-thirds) vote of the Legislature.

The budget also counted on $320 million in hospital fees, $103 million in taxes on managed-care plans, and $300 million in vehicle registration charges. However, the Legislature never passed the bills necessary to collect or spend those funds as part of the State budget.

Click here for a summary of Chiang’s analysis, and check back here as the day goes on for howls of indignation from certain lawmakers…

UPDATE @ 1:39 P.M.: From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“While I respect the Controller’s efforts to render a decision within the guidelines of our Constitution, I believe he was wrong. I continue to maintain that the Legislature met our constitutional duties in passing the budget last week. We carried out our responsibility to pass a budget reflecting all the options available to close the deficit without new revenues and without cuts so deep as to cost the state jobs and jeopardize our economic recovery. The Controller is, in effect, allowing Legislative Republicans to control the budget process and I believe that’s a very unfortunate outcome that is inconsistent with the intent of Proposition 25. In the coming days, we will be taking additional budget action informed by the Controller’s analysis, and consistent with the values of the budget we passed last week.”

From Gov. Jerry Brown:

“The Controller has made his determination. We should all work together to pass a solid budget.”

UPDATE @ 2:39 P.M.: From California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro:

“In spite of the Assembly Speaker’s whining, the only person controlling the budget is the Governor and he’s avoided doing the right thing since the day he took office. Rather than try to ram through a 27% increase in government spending over the next three years, Jerry Brown needs to drop his massive tax plan, take this year’s revenue increases and present a no-gimmicks, no-tax-increase budget right away.

“If the governor is serious about solving this budget problem today, he should work with Republican leadership and present a workable budget proposal tomorrow.”

UPDATE @ 3:29 P.M.: From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“The Controller’s decision today sets a dangerous precedent. The impact on legislative members is real, but it pales in comparison to the impact on school children, the elderly, and the men and women who protect our safety. This decision will not change our commitment and obligation to stand for the people we represent.”

Posted on Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Jerry Brown, John Chiang, state budget | 4 Comments »

Arnold touts California at Vienna Energy Forum

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger touted California’s energy and environmental accomplishments – from solar roofs to tailpipe emission standards – in a speech today at the the United Nations Industrial Development Organization’s Vienna Energy Forum.

“I love that my homeland of Austria and adopted home of California are global action heroes both proving you can protect the environment and improve the economy at the same time,” he said. “Universal energy access isn’t about just lighting a dark room or cookingon a better stove, it is about the freedom that energy and especially renewable energy gives us.”

Posted on Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, energy, Environment | No Comments »

Steinberg raises legal questions over pay issue

Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, made it clear that there are legal implications — lawsuit, anyone? — with the decision on legislative pay that state Controller John Chiang is expected to make Tuesday.

Steinberg suggested that any decision by the Controller would be legally questionable.

The question that got Steinberg reverting back to the lawyer that he is: Will you be able to hold out and negotiate all summer if your members are not being paid.

The unspoken suggestion: that legislators would cave on demands of $2 billion to $6 billion more in cuts to schools, universities and public safety to ensure they get their salary and daily expenses.

“It is a bad precedent for anybody in the executive branch to question the quality of a budget passed by the Legislature,” he told reporters after a quick Senate session Monday. “Because to do so is to shift the balance of power … in a way that is dangerous.

“Think about if there was a governor, a treasurer or controller from the other party and they were unhappy with the quality of the budget the Legislature passed, they would have the ability — if Proposition 25 is interpreted in a way some suggest — to say it’s not good enough, we withhold your pay until you make all of the decisions and and all of the cuts that we believe are appropriate.”

The follow-up question: Could withholding legislators’ pay “tip the balance” to legislators accepting the governor’s cuts?

“If it is an attempt to tip the balance, then it is a conflict of interest like California has never seen,” Steinberg said.

Salary matters are best decided by the Citizens Compensation Commission, Steinberg said, and legislators should not be forced to determine their vote based on whether or not they would be paid.

(Well, that would be news to voters, who indeed voted for Proposition 25 to provide an incentive to legislators to approve a budget on time.)

“We cannot vote on matters on which we have a personal interest,” he said. “So, think about how all that could be tipped on its head here.

“If we have to make a decision on choices that have real impact on the people of California and our own well being, I don’t think the author of Proposition 25 or anyone who might look at and respect the separation of powers would see that as any kind of healthy development for California.

“We ought to make the decisions we make on the level of cuts based on the merits.”

(It could be argued — and has been — that by voting for the budget to meet the June 15 deadline, legislators indeed were voting with their own interests in mind.)

Chiang is mulling the issue of whether legislators fulfilled their requirement to approve a balanced budget by the constitutional deadline, as required by a pair of ballot measures approved by voters — last year’s Proposition 25, which requires a budget to be approved by the June 15 constitutional deadline and Proposition 58 from 2004, which requires a balanced budget.

The only reason that Chiang is considering the issue is that the Department of Finance, which typically scores budgets, did not this year because it was vetoed, said Hallye Jordan, spokeswoman for Chiang.

“The Controller is finishing up his analysis to determine whether projected revenues equal or exceed the expenditures authorized by the Legislature, which is the only test spelled out in the Constitution for determining whether a budget is balanced,” Jordan said.

The Controller’s office will compare projected revenues to expenditures authorized in the budget. But the Controller has no authority to determine how valid those projections or expenditures are, only that they pencil out, Jordan said.

Posted on Monday, June 20th, 2011
Under: Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Swanson’s seismic retrofit bill becomes law

Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law today an East Bay lawmaker’s bill that lets local officials use public financing to help private property owners pay for seismic improvements.

AB 184, the Seismic Safety Financing Act, will make retrofits easier to achieve and more affordable by offering a financing option that removes much of the upfront expense, according to its author, Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda.

Unreinforced masonry buildings present a big seismic hazard, and this bill’s state Senate floor analysis noted the Association of Bay Area Governments’ estimate that 26,000 of Oakland’s 163,000 housing units will become uninhabitable when the Hayward Fault has a major earthquake.

“Because commercial loans for earthquake improvements can be expensive, local officials want to accelerate retrofit work on vulnerable buildings by loaning money to private property owners at below-market rates,” the analysis said. “This bill provides local officials with another tool to help property owners pay for structural upgrades that save lives, protect rescue workers, and reduce economic disruption after a major earthquake.”

ABAG supported Swanson’s bill, as did the City of Oakland and the California Association of Realtors. The Assembly passed it on a 49-10 vote in April; the state Senate approved it on a 26-10 vote June 6.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had vetoed Swanson’s earlier incarnation of this bill last September, saying he didn’t support expanding contractual assessment programs – now used for energy and water efficiency improvements – to include seismic retrofits.

Posted on Monday, June 20th, 2011
Under: Assembly, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, Sandre Swanson | No Comments »

Woolsey to say next week if she’ll run or retire

Rep. Lynn Woolsey‘s office indicated today that she’ll hold a news conference next Monday afternoon June 27 at her Petaluma home – almost certainly to announce her decision on whether to seek another House term or to retire.

The 10-term Democrat said she’ll be joined at the event by Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, with whom she co-chaired the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Woolsey, 73, now represents all of Marin County and most of Sonoma County, but redistricting could change all that. Woolsey fired off an angry statement 10 days ago when the California Citizens Redistricting Commission’s first draft Congressional map showed her district being narrowed and elongated along the state’s North Coast to stretch all the way from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Oregon border.

Among Democrats who might vie to replace her if she bows out are Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa; Marin County Supervisor Susan Adams of San Rafael; and progressive activist Normon Solomon of Inverness.

Of those four, only Evans’ home would fall outside the newly drawn district according to this draft – not that living within the district is a constitutional requirement.

Posted on Monday, June 20th, 2011
Under: Lynn Woolsey, redistricting, U.S. House | 2 Comments »

George Miller blasts SCOTUS’ Walmart decision

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that invalidated a class-action lawsuit brought against Walmart by women from across the country alleging years of discrimination in pay and promotions is a travesty, argues Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez.

“Today’s ruling from the right wing Roberts court is another blow to a woman’s right to fair pay and fair treatment on the job. There is no place in this country for a business to pay women less or promote them less because of their gender,” Miller, the House Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat, said in a news release.

“Americans have come to know the phrase ‘too big to fail’ when it comes to our nation’s big banks. Today, the Supreme Court said that women’s efforts to join together nationwide to seek justice against a powerful corporation can be so big they must not be allowed to succeed. This ruling underscores the need for Congress to strengthen our civil rights laws, especially when it comes to ensuring equal pay for equal work, by enacting measures like the Paycheck Fairness Act,” Miller said. “Nondiscrimination is not just a moral issue. In this economy, with family budgets stretched so thinly, no breadwinner can afford to have her pay reduced or her career ladder cut short because she simply happens to be a woman.”

Walmart, of course, is pleased with today’s ruling and believes the court made the right decision.

“Walmart has had strong policies against discrimination for many years. The Court today unanimously rejected class certification and, as the majority made clear, the plaintiffs’ claims were worlds away from showing a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy,” Gisel Ruiz, executive vice president of people for Walmart U.S., said today. ““By reversing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision, the majority effectively ends this class action lawsuit. Walmart has a long history of providing advancement opportunities for our female associates and will continue its efforts to build a robust pipeline of future female leaders.”

The case’s plaintiffs include some East Bay Walmart employees. Read more on the ruling here.

Posted on Monday, June 20th, 2011
Under: George Miller, U.S. House | 6 Comments »

Corgi’s cash contributed to California coffers

Sutter Brown, California’s First Dog, is doing his share to close the state budget deficit.

Sutter BrownSteve Glazer, the Orinda political advisor who managed Jerry Brown’s successful gubernatorial campaign last year, today tweeted a picture of a $665.56 check made out to California’s General Fund from San Mateo-based, where Gov. Jerry Brown’s pup is peddling a line of First Dog paraphernalia. Sutter is donating his $3 from each sale to the taxpayers of California.

“Controller’s revenue estimate misses the mark. New @SutterBrown contribution to state deficit reduction,” Glazer captioned the twitpic.

Glazer said this is actually Sutter’s second contribution; a CafePress check for the Corgi’s commissions last month brought in $1,184.57.

Good on you, Sutter. That’s $1,850.13 down, $9,599,998,149.87 to go.

Posted on Monday, June 20th, 2011
Under: Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown, state budget | No Comments »

John Yoo defends Obama’s war powers in Libya

Cal law professor John Yoo – who as a Justice Department attorney helped build a legal framework for the “enhanced interrogation” techniques many consider to be torture and for other perceived Bush Administration transgressions – has found a new way to make Bay Area liberals mad: supporting President Barack Obama’s stance on his power to attack Libya.

In an op-ed piece that appeared in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Yoo argues House Republicans are sacrificing constitutional principle for partisan advantage in battling the President on Libya.

John Yoo “By accusing President Barack Obama of violating the War Powers Resolution, House Republicans are abandoning their party’s longstanding position that the Constitution allows the executive to use force abroad, subject to Congress’s control over funding,” Yoo wrote. “Sadly, they’ve fallen victim to the siren song of short-term political gain against a president who continues to stumble in national-security matters.”

OK, so he’s not an Obama fan by any stretch of the imagination. But Yoo wrote that “Mr. Obama’s constitutional position today on war powers is little different from that of President George W. Bush, whom Democrats portrayed as a warmongering dictator.”

“If the Constitution gives the president the executive authority to use force abroad, Congress cannot take it away,” Yoo wrote. “Surely Mr. Boehner agreed with this proposition before the current president took office. He, for instance, never claimed that President George W. Bush’s exercise of broad executive powers in the war on terror violated the Constitution. Nor does he appear to have thought that legislative authorization of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars was constitutionally necessary in 2001 and 2002.”

If Republicans want to end U.S. involvement in Libya, Yoo concludes, they should cut the operation’s purse strings; refuse to lift the debt ceiling until they get what they want; or even start impeachment proceedings. “But holding hands with isolationist Democrats out of political convenience is no way to defend the Constitution.”

So, Yoo’s tally is: House Republicans are wrong; antiwar Democrats are wrong; and the President is wrong but constitutionally protected.

UPDATE @ 9:50 A.M.: Liz Cheney and Karl Rove agree.

Posted on Monday, June 20th, 2011
Under: International politics | 1 Comment »

Marriage, state budget & San Jose on ‘TWINC’

I was on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California” last night to discuss this week’s developments in the same-sex marriage wars. With me were KQED’s John Myers to discuss the state budget fiasco, and the Wall Street Journal’s Bobby White to discuss how San Jose is grappling with its monumental budget deficit.

Posted on Saturday, June 18th, 2011
Under: same-sex marriage, state budget, TWINC | No Comments »

Dems can’t stop GOP ag spending bill

The House today voted 217-203 to pass H.R. 2112, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food & Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2012, which Democrats say would cut 400,000 to 550,000 eligible low-income women and young children from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

No Democrats supported the bill; 19 Republicans opposed it.

Critics said the bill also would undermine food safety efforts, increasing the risk of food-borne illnesses, as well as risk another financial crisis and drive up gas prices by defunding the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, the Education and the Workforce Committee’s ranking Democrat, issued a statement saying the bill “is harmful, ineffective and plays politics with our children’s health.”

“WIC is a necessity for thousands of moms and their children, and these cuts are a slap in the face to those who rely on these services to help feed their families. There is no place for partisan politics when it comes to the well-being of our children,” Miller said. “The Republicans also roll back important and historic substantive changes we made to the school meals program last Congress. For millions of children, the meals they eat at school serve as a nutritional safety net – denying these children healthy options at school is just another example of House Republicans choosing to prioritize oil companies and big business instead of the children who need our help the most.”

House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Kent., said the bill “answers the call from Americans to reduce government spending while still providing for critical programs that keep American agriculture competitive in a global economy.

“The funding in this bill will help our rural communities to thrive, provide daily nutrition to children and families across the country, and keep our food and drug supply safe,” Rogers said. “This legislation will also help to put the Department of Agriculture, the FDA, and other agencies back on a sustainable budget path that is accountable to the taxpayers of this country.”

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, spoke against it repeatedly on the House floor:

More of Garamendi’s opposition to the bill, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 16th, 2011
Under: Agriculture, George Miller, John Garamendi, U.S. House | 1 Comment »