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California Budget Challenge launches 2009 edition

The nonpartisan Next 10 has launched its 2009 online write-your-own California budget web site: www.next10.org/challenge/

Some of you may recall that this group started the budget challenge a few yeas ago in an effort to help Californians understand the trade-offs required to balance a state budget. Next10 even has a roadshow version complete with instant vote results.

Try it out. You will find it very interesting.

Here are more details from Next 10:

Sacramento, CA – It took California’s legislature three long months of intense negotiations to resolve this year’s budget standoff. Now Californians can try their hand at solving the Golden State’s budget woes in just 15 minutes. The nonpartisan “California Budget Challenge” (next10.org/challenge) is a free online educational tool from Next 10 that lets users try to balance California’s books and see how their choices will affect the state five years into the future.

“The California Budget Challenge allows Californians to set their own priorities and make tough decisions about what is best for the people of the state,” said F. Noel Perry, founder of Next 10.¬† “This nonpartisan tool allows everyday Californians to consider the ongoing effects of important policy choices.” Continue Reading

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Assemblywoman Buchanan cuts her pay 10 percent

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo

What a gal.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, is voluntarily cutting her pay 10 percent or nearly $12,000 a year.

A press release from her office says the newly elected lawmaker sent a letter to Controller John Chiang requesting the salary adjustment. State legislators earn $116,098 a year plus $170 in per diem for each day they are in session.

“Recognizing that we must lead by example, the Assembly has reduced its budget 10 percent and has directed the savings to the Employment Development Department (EDD) to support California’s families,” Buchanan said in a press release. “Further, I will direct the State Controller to reduce my salary 10 percent. I cannot, in good conscience, ask others to sacrifice if I am not willing to do the same.”

Read more for Buchanan’s full press release. Continue Reading

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Tri-Valley Dems kick off campaign to end 2/3rds threshhold

With the California Senate still deadlocked over a budget, the Tri-Valley Democratic Club passed a resolution this week to support a petition campaign that would end the state’s requirement for two-thirds vote of the Legislature to pass a budget.

Democrats in the Senate need only one more Republican vote to pass a budget deal that calls for a mix of $42 billion in new taxes and spending cuts. Eliminate the two-thirds requirement and Democrats have plenty of votes in both the Senate and the Assembly to pass a budget without a single Republican vote.

Republicans, of course, oppose it. But many Democrats believe the answer to the annual budget stalemate — which has been exacerbated by the recession — is to ask voters to strip that threshhold from the law. There is ample talk that Democrats and their allies in the labor community will seek to put such a ballot measure before voters in the November 2009 election.

Read on for the Tri-Valley Democrats’ resolution: Continue Reading

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DeSaulnier sends out e-alert on budget

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier

As state senators prepare to go into a budget session this afternoon — one that that will turn into a slumber party unless at least one Republican votes for the budget — Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, sent out a gloomy e-mail alert.

From the sounds of it, he will need a sleeping bag, a toothbrush and, dare we suggest, earplugs.

Here is DeSaulnier’s alert:

Dear Friends and Neighbors:

Since the afternoon of Valentine’s Day and through the President’s Weekend holiday, my Senate colleagues and I have been on the Senate floor debating the best way to move our state forward. Over the last 5 months we have seen what can, without dramatics, be called the implosion of our national financial markets, the collapse of the American Dream of homeownership and the strife of precipitous middle and working-class job losses.

As the leading state in the nation, California must turn itself around and begin to work toward financial solvency. The road to economic recovery begins TODAY with this budget vote. As we speak, 276 more crucial infrastructure investments are being shut down. TODAY, The Governor has called for layoffs of 10,000 Californians. Continue Reading

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Contra Costa assessor interviewed on NPR

Contra Costa County Assessor Gus Kramer was featured on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” talking about the impacts of budget cuts on county health and human services. Click here to listen: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99974984

Kramer is undoubtedly grateful to be in the news for something other than a lawsuit.

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What does California need? Reform, reform, reform

Sunne Wright McPeak

Sunne Wright McPeak

California’s increasingly precarious financial predicament will require major reforms of a wide variety, agreed¬† state leaders and former elected officials who spoke to the Contra Costa Council this morning during its annual CCUSA conference in Concord.

They blamed — not in equal parts — term limits, the two-thirds voting threshhold for budgets and taxes, campaign finance reform, partisan primaries, polemic politics in Sacramento and the Legislature’s inability to focus on solutions that work.

Ex=Business, Transportatoin and Housing Secretary Sunne Wright McPeak even went so far as to diss her former boss, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, calling his decision to roll back the vehicle license fee a terrible one that has helped contribute to at least $6 billion of the state’s structural deficit. McPeak has in the past been very circumspect in her comments about the governor and the three years she worked for him.

Asked how she woudl fix the $41 billion state budget gap, McPeak told the audience she would take three years in order to avoid irreparable damage to schools and social services. But she would hike the sales tax for two or three years and reinstate the vehicle license fee and permanently dedicate it to city and county governments.

McPeak called it a distraction to focus on the two-thirds requirement in the legislature to pass a budget or a tax hike.

“I don’t want ot get to a bad budget faster,” she said.

Instead, McPeak said she would shift the state’s full attention to growing the economy as a means to restore public funds in conjunction with a full analysis of existing state programs’ effectiveness.

Willie Brown

Willie Brown

Former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown’s reform ideas included an end to term limits and called it absurd that the two-thirds voting requirements have been imposed by a majority vote given the fact that these rules would never receive a two-thirds vote.

As for campaign finance, he called for a repeal of much of what he referred to as “so-called” reforms.

“In my time in public office, there were no such things as independent expenditures, he said. ” I was the independent expenditure. The public is entitled ot know who gave money and how much and how it was spent. These modern campaign reforms are bullshit. It conceals what is really happening and never really know the source of the money.”

Click through to next page for recommendations offered by anothe speaker, former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg.

Continue Reading