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Archive for the 'California budget' Category

Hertzberg turns on reformer’s charm in Walnut Creek

For a little while today, we all forgot that Democrat Bob Hertzberg is no longer the Assembly speaker or even an elected official. (Read the full story here.)

Three days after he officially bowed out of a state senate bid against Sen. Fran Pavely, D-Augoura Hills, Hertzberg was in Walnut Creek stumping for his favorite constitutional amendment, the Government Performance and Accountability Act written by reform group California Forward.

Hertzberg was the main event at Contra Costa Supervisor Karen Mitchoff’s luncheon speaker series on Thursday at the Marriott Hotel in Walnut Creek.

He is undeniably entertaining and he made performance-based budgeting sound like something everyone should run out and buy today. He cracked jokes. He was passionate. He didn’t bury us in technical details.

But the best part of his speech was his story about how he met billionaire Nicolas Berggruen, the founder of the state’s other big reform organization, the Think Long Committee for California.

Click here to watch video of Hertzberg’s comments.

But the story has it all. Mysterious call from a stranger. Overnight flight to Panama. A scruffy but brilliant uber-rich guy.  Aboarding a private plane with an unknown destination.

Posted on Thursday, February 2nd, 2012
Under: ballot measures, California budget | No Comments »

State reform groups merge and revive ballot measure

Two state reform groups with disparate timelines have combined forces and resurrected a budget  initiative using what every successful ballot measure needs: Cash.

With matching $3 million pledges, eccentric billionaire Nicolas Berggruen and his Think Long Committee will join California Forward, a reform organization led by former Contra Costa Supervisor Sunne Wright McPeak and former Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg.

The Think Long Committee last week announced it would postpone its reform initiative until 2014 and California Forward has struggled to find the money to put on an expensive statewide signature gathering effort and mount a campaign.

The merger’s baby is the Government Performance and Accountability Act and its target is the November 2012 election.

The act requires state and local governments to produce budgets that spell out in detail the expected results from every dollar spent and publish an annual account of their performance.

It also allows local governments to band together, write a community strategy plan and if the legislature approve it, the local partnership will receive regulatory relief to carry it out.

“It’s a reboot,” McPeak told 250 community, business and political leaders gathered in Concord today for the Contra Costa Business Council’s annual daylong conference. “California needs a new operating system.”

Read on for the full release. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, January 26th, 2012
Under: ballot measures, California budget | 1 Comment »

DeSaulnier to host budget town hall in Concord

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, will host a budget town hall on Feb. 2, where residents may share their concerns and offer ideas for improving statement government operations.

The free event will be held from 7-9 p.m. at Concord City Council Chambers, 1950 Parkside Drive, Concord.

For information, call 925-942-6082.

Posted on Wednesday, January 25th, 2012
Under: California budget, California Senate | No Comments »

State budget reform initiative unveiled

The California Forward Action Fund, a state fiscal reform group, has submitted a ballot measure that would substantially alter the state and local government budget process.

The Government Performance and Accountability Act would mandate the adoption of two-year budgets, five-year reviews of every program and the identification of the source of the money for new programs. It would also require the Legislature and local agencies to make their proposed budgets public for at least three days before voting on them.

Among its other provisions, it would permit counties, cities and schools to create a “community strategic action plan” and decide for themselves how to spend state dollars.

According to the action fund, the measure “will make local governments the nexus for action, producing major improvements in government accountability, transparency and responsible budgeting. It is built around a simple idea: Californians need to know what they are getting for their tax dollars.”

“The people of California have told us that they want to fix the state in a long-term meaningful way,” said Action Fund Board co-chairwoman Sunne Wright McPeak, a former Contra Costa County supervisor and the one-time state Business, Transportation and Housing director under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. “By assuring performance, participation and results, the Government Performance and Accountability Act encourages local, regional and state groups to work together to achieve positive social gains that are financially sustainable over time.”

Action Fund Board co-chairman Bruce McPherson, the former California Secretary of State, said  “the current system often prohibits cooperation and participation. As a result, Californians no longer share in the bounty the state once promised: good jobs, world class education, affordable health care and safe neighborhoods. It’s time Californians have a government structure that allows for greater local responsibility and authority.”

The California Forward Action Fund says it intends to gather sufficient numbers of signatures in time to place the measure on the November 2012 ballot.




Posted on Friday, November 4th, 2011
Under: California budget, Initiative petitions | 1 Comment »

Supreme Court to hear redevelopment case Nov. 10

The California Supreme Court will hear arguments Nov. 10 on a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of state lawmakers’ decision to divert $1.7 billion in redevelopment dollars this fiscal year to help balance the budget.

The California Redevelopment Association and the League of California Cities is bringing the suit. It will be heard in San Francisco at 9 a.m.

The court agreed to fast-track its decision and beat a Jan. 15, 2012, deadline for redevelopment agencies to make their first payment to the state.

Read through for the full release from the California Redevelopment Association.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, October 19th, 2011
Under: California budget, redevelopment | No Comments »

Legislature posts members’ spending

Bowing to political pressure, the California Legislature has released its members’ office spending numbers, according to the Los Angeles Times.

But the man who started this debate, Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, called the reports released by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, a joke.

“If these documents were not posted on the Assembly’s web page, I would think they were an April fool’s joke,” Portantino said in a statement. “Today, Assembly Speaker John Perez released 8 month expenditures that continue to mislead the public on how the Assembly operates. The documents released hide true and accurate accounting of staff budgets and complete staff expenditures. I once again implore Assembly leaders to come clean and open the Assembly to true transparency. The documents released today are an insult to the public.”

Portantino has been feuding with Perez over cuts to his office budget.

Incomplete or not, an examination of the numbers shows that the bulk of the members’ annual expenses are staff salaries. And state senators have office budgets four to five times bigger than assemblymembers.

Interestingly, the Senate GOP Caucus spent more than its Democratic counterparts: $1.58 million for the Republicans vs. $1.52 million for Democrats. The Republican floor leader spent $1 million, while the Democratic floor leader spent $477,161. Aren’t Democrats the majority party?

I was also curious about East Bay members’ spending.

In a sampling of Assembly expenditures of Dec. 1, 2009, through Nov. 30, 2010:

  • Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo:  $322,459 total expenses, of which $171,034 went to salaries. Her second-highest expense was $65,590 for communications.
  • Former Assemblyman Tom Torlakson (now state superintendent of public instruction), D-Antioch: $321,972 total expenses, of which $223,288 went to salaries. His second-highest expense was $52,017 for rent and utilities in his district office.
  • Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley: $278,678 in total expenses, of which $225,820 went to salaries. Her second-highest expense was $28,967 for personal per diem.

Assembly expenditures from Dec. 1, 2010 through July 31, 2011 (eight months):

  • Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord: $257,476 total expenses, of which $178,917 was salaries. Her second-highest expense was $34,217 for rent and utilities at her district office.
  • Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo: $244,868 total expenses, of which $148,267 was salaries. Her second-highest expense was$28,812 for rent and utilities at her district office.
  • Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley: $204,113 total expenses, of which $158,691 was salaries. Her second-highest expense was $24,328 for personal per diem.

Senate expenditures for Nov. 1, 2009, through Nov. 30, 2010:

  • Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord: $1.09 million in total expenditures, of which $847,134 was salaries. His second-highest expense was $63,289 for his district office.
  • Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley: $922,551 in total expenditures, of which $851,505 was salaries. Her second-highest expense was $28,797 for personal per diem.
  • Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro: $983,547 in total expenditures, of which $802,258 was for salaries. Her second-highest expense was $72,592 for her district office.

Posted on Friday, August 26th, 2011
Under: California Assembly, California budget, California Legislature, California Senate | 5 Comments »

Redevelopment advocates fight back

Organizations that represent California’s cities and redevelopment agencies have filed a lawsuit challenging recently passed legislation that all but eliminates  redevelopment as a separate entity.

The League of California Cities, California Redevelopment Association and the cities of San Jose and Union City filed will challenge in the bill as unconstitutional in the state Supreme Court, citing voter-approved Proposition 22 which barred state raids on local funds.

Read on for their joint release sent out a few minutes ago.

SAN FRANCISCO — Today, the League of California Cities (League), the California Redevelopment Association (CRA) and the cities of San Jose and Union City filed a petition with the California Supreme Court, challenging the constitutionality of AB 1X 26 and AB 1X 27, the two redevelopment bills passed as part of the state budget in June. AB 1X 26 eliminates redevelopment agencies. AB 1X 27 allows agencies to continue to exist (albeit on life-support) if they agree to pay their share of $1.7 billion this year and $400 million annually in perpetuity.

The lawsuit also requested the California Supreme Court to issue a stay to prevent the legislation from going into effect until the Court can rule on the merits of these claims.

The central claim in the lawsuit is that AB 1X 26/27 violate Proposition 22, the constitutional amendment passed by 61% of California voters in November 2010, just eight months ago. Proposition 22 was passed by voters to “conclusively and completely prohibit State politicians in Sacramento from seizing, diverting, shifting, borrowing, transferring, suspending, or otherwise taking or interfering with” revenue dedicated to local government. The revenues protected by Proposition 22 specifically include the annual increments of property taxes allocated to California’s 400 redevelopment agencies.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, July 18th, 2011
Under: California budget, redevelopment | No Comments »

Education online town hall set for tonight

California Superintendent of Public Schools Tom Torlakson will participate in an Internet town hall on education starting at 7 p.m. tonight.

Torlakson, a former state senator and assemblyman from Antioch, will join state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and California Community College Chanceller Jack Scott in a live, online discussion of the state’s severe financial crisis and it will hit schools unless voters approve tax extensions.

To submit questions and watch the town hall, click here.

Read on for the full news release. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
Under: California budget, education | No Comments »

Controller will withhold legislators’ pay

California Controller John Chiang will withhold state legislators’ paychecks starting June 16 if they fail to approve a balanced budget within the next two weeks.

The provision is part of Proposition 25, which voters approved in November. Some analysts had concluded that Legislature’s March budget satisfied the requirement but Chiang disagrees.

Here’s what the controller had to say today:

SACRAMENTO – In response to recent questions regarding the impact of Proposition 25, Controller John Chiang today announced he will permanently withhold Legislators’ salary and per diem beginning on June 16 if they fail to approve a balanced budget in the next two weeks.

“Presenting the Governor with a balanced budget by the Constitutional deadline is the most important, if not most difficult, job of the California Legislature,” Chiang said.  “In passing Proposition 25 last November, voters clearly stated they expect their representatives to make the difficult decisions needed to resolve any budget shortfalls by the mandatory deadline, or be penalized.  I will enforce the voters’ demand.”

Proposition 25, titled the “On-Time Budget Act of 2010,” was approved by voters November 2, 2010.  The initiative lowered the vote requirement for passing a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority.  It also required members of the Legislature to forfeit their salary and reimbursement for travel and living expenses incurred from June 16 until “the day that the budget bill is presented to the Governor.”  Payments forfeited will not be paid retroactively.

Recently, questions have been raised regarding whether the budget passed by the Legislature had to be balanced, or if the budget bills passed in March would suffice.  The Controller’s analysis of these issues concludes Proposition 25 cannot be read in a vacuum, and must take into account the provisions of Proposition 58 (passed by voters on March 2, 2004), the intent language found in Proposition 25, and the voter information and campaign materials upon which the voters relied.

Proposition 58 states, “[T]he Legislature may not send to the Governor for consideration, nor may the Governor sign into law, a budget bill that would appropriate from the General Fund, for that fiscal year, a total amount that …exceeds General Fund revenues for that fiscal year estimated as of the date of the budget bill’s passage.”  Because Propositions 58 and 25 overlap in the same section of the Constitution and address the same topic, they must be read together.  A copy of the Controller’s full legal analysis can be found here .

Posted on Thursday, June 2nd, 2011
Under: California budget, California Legislature | No Comments »

Brown unveils budget, talks begin

Read Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget here, but don’t expect any cheery news.

It contains big cuts in everything from childcare subsidies to higher education.

And expect a lot of talk around this innocent-sounding word: Realignment.

It refers to Brown’s interest in shifting responsibility away from the state to local government. The idea is to send the money chiefly to counties that the state spends on programs such as incarceration of short-term prisoners, individuals on probation and court security. In return, local governments will decide how much they want to pay to provide the services.

Brown’s plan freezes redevelopment agencies going forward but keeps intact existing projects. The money would instead go to local agencies and schools.

The success of Brown’s proposal depends a great deal on whether or not voters will agree, probably in June, to extend taxes five years.  First, though, Brown must persuade legislators to place the measure on the ballot, a very difficult proposition given Democrats’ unhappiness with cuts to social services and Republicans’ desire to avoid tax hikes.

Posted on Monday, January 10th, 2011
Under: California budget | No Comments »