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Arnold’s veto-message wordplay lives on

(Note: This post was penned by San Jose Mercury News reporter Denis C. Theriault, in the Sacramento bureau.)

Reports of a certain veto message’s death — as in the one with the hidden, four-letter message apparently sent from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to Assemblyman Tom Ammiano — have been exaggerated.

Despite a blog post by the Sacramento Bee last week saying the message had gone “poof,” it’s alive and well for all the world to see over on the governor’s Web site.

The message, you might remember, was issued in response to AB 1176 and seemed to follow the governor’s usual form when rejecting bills. But careful readers, eyeballing the first letter of each line, found something else: a familiar curse word, plus the word “you.”

The discovery kicked off a brief national media storm and saw the governor’s office defending the acrostic as mere coincidence — never mind that Ammiano had only weeks before peppered the governor at an appearance with some choice words of his own.

The Bee, in its post, looked only at the Legislature’s bill-tracking site, leginfo.ca.gov, which formatted the message’s text differently and ended up wiping out the acrostic.

So, after bleak budget forecast after bleak budget forecast, long live one of the lighter pieces of writing to come from the governor’s office last year.

Posted on Tuesday, January 26th, 2010
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, Tom Ammiano | No Comments »

Tomorrow is National Angel Island Day

Angel IslandPresident Barack Obama has proclaimed tomorrow, Thursday, Jan. 21, to be “National Angel Island Day,” commemorating the 100th anniversary of the former immigration station in the middle of the San Francisco Bay.

Y’know, Angel Island State Park — one of the parks that the feds threatened to seize last summer after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed closing it due to budget cuts? Yeah, that one.

ANYhoo, President Obama used the proclamation as an opportunity to reflect upon immigrants’ contributions to the nation. Read the full text, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, January 20th, 2010
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Immigration, Obama presidency | No Comments »

Berkeley-for-Berkeley swap on energy panel?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today nominated two people, one of whom is from the East Bay, to the California Energy Commission.

Robert WeisenmillerRobert Weisenmiller, 61, of Berkeley, has been principal and co-founder of the energy consulting company MRW and Associates since 1986; earlier he was co-founder and executive vice-president of Independent Power Corporation from 1982 to 1986. Weisenmiller was this commission’s policy and program evaluation director from 1980 to 1982, special projects officer from 1978 to 1980 and assistant to the commissioner from 1977 to 1978.

And Anthony Eggert, 37, of Davis, has served as science and technology policy advisor to the chair of the California Air Resources Board since 2007; earlier he was an advisor on energy and climate policy to the Office of Federal Governmental Relations for the University of California, Office of the President in 2007 and associate research director for the University of California, Davis Institute of Transportation Studies from 2002 to 2006. Eggert worked for the Ford Motor Company as manager of the California Fuel Cell Partnership from 2001 to 2002 and project engineer of Vehicle Environmental Engineering from 1996 to 1999.

Both men are registered decline-to-state; if confirmed by the state Senate, they’ll earn an annual salary of $128,109.

“The Energy Commission plays a vital role in helping meet the aggressive environmental goals my Administration is committed to achieving, through streamlining the permitting of renewable energy projects to help break ground quicker and create jobs while maximizing the billions of dollars in federal treasury grant funds for renewable energy projects,” said Schwarzenegger in his news release. “Both Anthony and Robert are the best, most qualified individuals to serve this purpose on the commission. They have the necessary experience and know-how to push our energy policies forward and I am confident that their service will help California take another step on the path toward meeting our goal of 33 percent renewable energy by 2020.”

That is, of course, assuming this goal stays in place. More on that after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, January 13th, 2010
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, energy, Environment, Global warming, Schwarzenegger | No Comments »

Of false dilemmas and hostage-taking

The oil-for-parks plan I wrote about earlier doesn’t seem to be the only, or biggest, false dilemma Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is setting up in his state budget proposal.

The governor’s plan relies on collecting $6.9 billion more in federal tax dollars, what he calls California’s “fair share” owed the state for faulty reimbursement formulas and federal mandates. He says California gets back only 78 cents on every tax dollar it sends to Washington, D.C. – a far lower rate than many states – and deserves much more considering its costs as an economic engine and a border state.

If the federal government won’t ante up, the governor says, he can entirely eliminate the CalWORKS welfare program, the IHSS program, and the Healthy Families low-cost medical insurance program for children, while freezing Cal Grants for higher education, eliminating funding for University of California and California State University enrollment growth and cutting state worker salaries by another 5 percent, among other measures – a wholesale shredding of the state’s social safety net and educational system.

But many governors before and including Schwarzenegger have tried and failed to reformulate the federal government’s support of California; to put all responsibility for this now on California’s Congressional delegation, especially in a time of national economic crisis, is passing the thus-far-unachievable buck. Remember when Arnold pledged to be “The Collectinator” way back in 2003, upon meeting with a President of his own party while the national economy was in far better shape? At the time, he was talking about $50 billion.

Bruce Cain, who directs the University of California, Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies and UC’s Washington Center, might’ve said it best when I talked to him in late 2006 as San Francisco’s Nancy Pelosi was preparing to take over as Speaker of the House and named two Bay Area lawmakers to the powerful Appropriations Committee. Most federal spending is set by formula and isn’t easily changed, even by a change of leadership, he had said, so California wasn’t much more likely to get a significantly bigger slice of the budget pie now than it was before.

“You can’t expect to go from 79 cents on the dollar to 99 cents on the dollar because of this. You’re probably talking about maybe changing things by a couple of pennies,” Cain said at the time.

Other governors of both parties managed to better protect education, health and social services without the federal fix than Schwarzenegger has. Is he admitting his own failure? Is he merely creating a pretext for these draconian cuts he fully expects to make later in his final year in office, already knowing full well that the federal pot at the end of the rainbow isn’t likely to materialize?

Or is this a show of action-movie bravado, holding a gun to the head of California’s poor, elderly, disabled and students and hoping Congress will blink? And if it’s this, then isn’t it something the action-movie villain does, not the hero?

UPDATE @ 5:46 P.M.: I just spoke with Mary Beth Sullivan, executive director of the California Institute for Federal Policy Research, who agreed with Cain’s 2006 sentiments.

“Once you get into tweaking the formulas, you’re into whose ox gets gored,” she said – that is, reformulating to California’s benefit requires reformulating to some other state or states’ detriment, so it’s usually a slow, hard process with few returns. “All other governors tried it too…. It’s a laudable purpose because quite frankly if he gets it up to 80 cents on the dollar, that’s something, but is it realistic to think he can do it? I don’t think so.”

Congress might pass another stimulus bill with direct help for California and other budget-stricken states, she said, but like the first stimulus bill, that’ll be one-time funding, not a permanent reformulation. Beyond that, Congress is likely to start focusing on the national budget deficit, a process that might not be pretty for any of the states. So, she said, the best California should be hoping for is another one-time influx and maybe some tweaking around the edges.

That said, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer insists the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act already has made Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s data obsolete.

Boxer’s office put out a report today estimating that Recovery Act money, coupled with the fall in Californians’ federal tax revenues due to the struggling economy, made it so that California received $1.45 for every $1 in federal tax dollars it sent to Washington in Fiscal 2009; Schwarzenegger’s 78-cents-on-the-dollar figure is based on data from 2005, which economically speaking was a different world entirely.

I pointed out that ARRA funding is one-time-only, not a reformulation that supports California going forward. Boxer’s staff acknowledged this, but also noted ARRA funding is still pouring into California during this budget crisis; they ballparked that the state has received about $18 billion so far, and there’s another $37 billion still in the pipeline.

The overall message from Boxer’s camp: Congress and the Obama Administration have been helping California – and other states – a lot, but can’t be expected to cure all of Sacramento’s ills.

Posted on Friday, January 8th, 2010
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Schwarzenegger, state budget | 2 Comments »

Enviros blast Arnold’s oil-for-parks plan

Amid the cacaphony of outrage we’re hearing today over Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s state budget proposals, environmentalists say they’re aghast at his plan to drop General Fund support for California’s state parks and replace it with money from controversial, not-yet-approved new oil and gas leases off the Santa Barbara coast.

They say Schwarzenegger is trying to set up a false dilemma by pitting the interests of one of California’s greatest natural resources – its coastline – against another – its parks.

Coastwalk California board president Fran Gibson said her group strongly opposes any further General Fund cuts for state parks, which already have been whacked in recent years. “It is unconscionable to leverage the PXP project against state parks in this way and use our coast and state parks as pawns in his budget game,” she said. “Both are critical natural public assets for current and future generations of Californians.”

California Coastal Protection Network Director Susan Jordan said the governor’s hypocrisy “cannot be overstated.

“He would rather reverse forty years of bi-partisan California state policy against offshore oil drilling to push through a pet project over 100 statewide groups have joined to oppose rather than require oil companies extracting oil from our state’s sea beds pay a severance tax – their fair share to taxpayers for doing business in California,” Jordan said. “We are the only oil producing state in America that does not tax extraction of gas and oil on lands owned by the state. This would bring in more than $1.5 billion annually to the state’s General Fund.”

And the California State Parks Foundation rejects the governor’s plan as “the wrong idea at the wrong time,” said president Elizabeth Goldstein.

“It’s noteworthy that the Governor has finally come around to the side of park advocates and park users in California by proposing to fund state parks, instead of cutting them as he’s proposed in the last two budget cycles,” she said. “But pegging the fiscal future of the state park system to offshore oil drilling sets up an unacceptable tradeoff between coastal protection and park preservation, and attempts to provide a band-aid for our state park system yet again. Band-aids are not what’s needed; what’s needed for state parks is a reliable, sustainable funding source, and CSPF and our partners are working toward that in the State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act of 2010.”

That’s a proposed ballot measure which would create an $18-per-vehicle surcharge to raise the $130 million per year needed to support the state park system; all day-use access would become free of charge. Proponents must gather valid signatures from at least 433,971 registered voters by May 28 in order to put the measure on November’s ballot.

Posted on Friday, January 8th, 2010
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, California budget, energy, Environment, state budget | 1 Comment »

Lottery vendor spending big bucks on… something

Will Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration take another stab at convincing California to borrow money against future lottery earnings?

State lottery technology vendor GTECH Corp. of Providence, RI, today disclosed that it sank $1.7 million Monday into the Maximize Lottery Funding for Education Now committee, a general purpose committee formed last month to provide support for the lottery. The committee’s president is Chris Shaban, GTECH’s vice president of U.S. sales and business development.

GTECH last year spent $1,386,000 to support Proposition 1C on last May’s special-election ballot, a measure that called for luring investors to lend California $5 billion in order to reap a slice of a modernized lottery’s take over the next 20 to 30 years. The company also had given $100,000 to Budget Reform Now, a committee supporting all of the special-election measures. Prop. 1C was rejected by 64 percent of voters, but GTECH’s investment in California didn’t stop there: The company spent almost $201,000 on lobbying in 2009′s first three quarters.

GTECH is willing to lay down this kind of money because it stands to gain substantially more from beefing up California’s lottery. The company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rome-based Lottomatica Group, in July 2008 had signed a four-year extention of its contract with the California Lottery, to end in October 2013. In October it announced it had signed an amendment for another year beyond that (until October 2014) for “retail equipment, messaging devices and enhanced player services,” expecting “revenues in the range of $40 million to $50 million” from the extention alone.

I’ve left messages at GTECH asking what this new committee is for; no answer yet. I asked the governor’s office whether a Prop. 1C-like plan might be part of the governor’s budget proposal, forthcoming tomorrow; I’m told there’s a lockdown on all information on the budget proposal now. Another Sacramento source tells me not to hold my breath, perhaps given 1C’s resounding failure last year.

Still, GTECH sees something on the horizon that’s worth investing at least $1.7 million.

Posted on Thursday, January 7th, 2010
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, campaign finance, state budget | No Comments »

What they’re saying about the State of the State

We’ve got a full story up on the governor’s speech and Legislative leaders’ reactions, but here are some other quarters heard from:

From Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda:

“I am encouraged by the broad themes the Governor emphasized in his address, including making education a larger budget priority than prisons. This is the third state of the state address I have attended since taking office in 2006, and it is probably one of the most important, considering the fact that California is at a crossroads where the next year can define the character and determine the future of the entire State for decades to come.

“The Governor acknowledged that there is a severe financial crisis in California, and I agree with the Governor’s statement that the State needs to make education a priority. We are spending 11 percent of our budget on prisons and only 7 percent on higher education. We need to find a real, long-term solution to this systemic problem by determining our priorities and realizing that we increase the prison population by not instituting an aggressive rehabilitation strategy, failing to reduce prison overcrowding, and failing to respect education and the intellectual potential of our children.

“Privatization of prisons, however, is not the solution. Instead, we need to thoughtfully and critically evaluate the prison system, with a focus toward restructuring the parole system and reducing the recidivism rate, thereby realizing a savings of billions of dollars a year and freeing up funding for education.

“Although I don’t agree with some of the Governor’s solutions, I do agree with his proposals for job training, job development, and tax credits for housing and green technology. Those proposals are worth considering and I look forward to reviewing the details.”

From California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring:

“Too many Californians are hurting because the state’s economy is still lagging way behind the nation’s, with higher unemployment and slower growth. The Governor made it clear that improving California’s economy is his top priority in 2010 by promoting economic growth and the job creation that comes with it.

“Solving the state’s current budget crisis starts with fixing the health of California’s economy. Increasing the number of available jobs, supporting small business development, and allowing for more shovel-ready projects to actually get their shovels in the ground will finally create the positive economic results that Californians desperately need.

“With California already at the economic brink, we don’t need more job-killing policies from the Democrats. This is a critical time for all Californians and, hopefully, the Democrat legislators will stop taking their orders from the public employee unions and special interest groups that willingly stand in the way of opportunity, and realize that higher taxes and more red-tape will end up destroying the dream that made California great. We support the Governor’s efforts to re-establish California as a business-friendly environment and help make the Golden State golden again.”

From California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton:

“For the last three years the budget has been balanced on the backs of the aged, the blind, the disabled, the poor and those who are without a strong voice in Sacramento.

“Our sincere hope is that the governor’s call for teamwork extends to members of his own Republican Party in the legislature. California Republicans should at least consider, if not agree to, a tax on oil company profits instead of insisting on what amounts to wholesale divestment from California.”

From former eBay CEO and Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman:

“Governor Schwarzenegger’s remarks were a sober reminder that we have a government that we can no longer afford and we have serious challenges to overcome. I am confident that by focusing on the number one priority for the state, creating a prosperous economy and putting Californians back to work, we will succeed. As Governor, I will focus on implementing targeted tax cuts and eliminating burdensome regulations so it’s easier to create jobs and start new businesses. We must also put an end to the never-ending cycle of wasteful overspending in Sacramento and spend smarter so we can focus on priorities like improving our schools. Time is urgent. Californians cannot afford to let Sacramento politicians in the legislature continue to promote the same failed policies of the past. We must overcome our challenges by counting on the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit that is a hallmark of California, and put in place real, lasting solutions.”

From state Controller John Chiang:

“A year ago, I told the Governor and Legislature that without their courage and collaboration in fixing the budget, there would not be enough cash in the treasury to pay for hard-working Californians’ tax refunds through the spring, and local governments would be hung out to dry. Our cash crisis last year was a shameful chapter in California’s history and a dark reminder of the consequences of a government’s reluctance to make tough decisions quickly.

“We are a year older, and I hope we are a year wiser. Although the deficit is a third of the size of what we faced last year, the one-time solutions and accounting tricks in the last budget pushed more problems into 2010. There are no easy cuts to now bare-bone programs, and federal stimulus funds are drying up.

“I hope we have learned that the best prevention against future payment delays and IOUs is for the Governor and Legislature to quickly provide lasting, responsible budget solutions. I look forward to updating the State’s cash outlook for the year as soon as I have the opportunity to test the cash flow data in the Governor’s budget proposal.”

Lots more after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, state budget | 2 Comments »

Liveblogging the State of the State

Introductions are being made… stand by for content!

1007: Standing O and cheers for Maria, far more popular than her husband.

1008: Da Mayor is in the da house.

1010: The governor has just likened California’s government to a miniature pony and a pot-bellied pig, but the message is about teamwork, so it’s OK.

1012: He’ll sign the Race to the Top education legislation as soon as it hits his desk.

1014: He’s happy about the water deal, too. “We here in this room made history.” But it’s up to the Legislature to sell it to constituents before the bond-issue ballot vote.

1016: “Priorities” for the coming year: “We have to get them straight and we have to keep them straight… jobs, jobs, jobs.” People and businesses are California’s engine of self-betterment and progress. Four proposals: $500 million jobs package to create jobs and retrain workers; streamline construction job permitting; home-buyers’ tax credits of up to $10,000 for purchase of new or existing homes; exempt purchases of green-tech manufacturing equipment from sales tax.

10:20: Worst is over for California’s economy, we’re well-positioned to take advantage of future, but government can be a better partner to economy. We must reform our tax system, which doesn’t reflect our economy. Too much reliance on income taxes for the rich; we’re “stuck in the wrong century.” He’s touting the wildly unpopular recommendations of the tax reform commission. “Bold is what we do in California.”

1021: Pass the Best Practices Budget Accountability Act, especially using one-time spikes in revenue to pay one-time costs. Current tax and budget system is cruel, forces us to make “Sophie’s choice” where only the most vulnerable are getting hurt.

1025: “As bitter as the words in my mouth are, we face additional cuts … We have no choice.” But, “I will protect education funding in this budget.” That goes for higher ed, too. Can’t be spending more on prisons than universities, it’s “no way to proceed into the future … It simply is not healthy.” Will propose constitutional amendment that prison spending can’t exceed higher ed spending. We must find more cost-effective ways to run prison system: Let private prison companies compete, and put savings into higher ed. “A historic and transforming realignment of California’s priorities.”

1027: Federal funds must be part of solution. We only get 78 cents back on every tax dollar we send to Washington, DC. “We are not looking for a federal bailout, just for federal fairness.” In particular, need support on immigration-related costs. “We no longer can ignore what is owed to us, or what we’re forced to spend on federal mandates.” Now Congress is about to pile billions more onto California with health care reform, which while a laudable goal, has become rife with “bribes, deals and loopholes.” California’s delegation should vote against the bill, or get in there and fight for same “sweetheart deals” that Ben Nelson got for Nebraska. “He got the corn and we got the husk.”

1028: Pension reform! For current employees, pensions can’t be changed, either legally or morally: “We cannot break the promises we already have made.” But burden must be reduced going forward.

1031: Time magazine piece “sounded just like one of my speeches,” praising California for greenness, diversity, globalization, innovation. “So now do you believe me? This is the greatest place in the world!” See the positives, and use the brainpower to solve problems.

1032: Visited troops in Iraq, broke bread with them, chatted – “I pumped them up.” Many have served tour after tour, losing homes, spouses, limbs, lives. Vets need help; California has more returning vets than any other state. Helping anyone who shed or risked blood for our nation is a priority. Recent Afghanistan and Iraq veterans are in the gallery, getting a standing O.

1033: No matter how hard our times, veterans understand the Golden State’s promise, and we in this chamber must fulfill our sacred trust to keep the state a great place to come home to. Thanks, God Bless.

Posted on Wednesday, January 6th, 2010
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Arnold loses one, wins one on furloughs

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s smackdown by an Alameda County Superior Court judge over salary cuts for correctional officers in the form of unpaid furlough time that many actually can’t take off, the Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger today is crowing over his victory in another furlough-related case, this one filed in San Francisco on behalf of CalPERS workers.

“Government Code sections 19851 and 19849 give the Executive broad authority to control the work week,” the ruling says, adding there’s no showing that the governor’s executive orders on the furloughs exceeded his powers. “The Governor acted reasonably in furloughing all employees to save funds and preserve parity.”

“The governor’s authority to furlough state workers is clear, and this is another ruling in our favor,” Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Rachel Arrezola said a few minutes ago. “As California families and businesses are forced to cut back in today’s economy, the governor does not believe state workers should be shielded from the same economic realities.”

Posted on Friday, December 18th, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, state budget | 2 Comments »

Schwarzenegger’s speech in Copenhagen

Here’s the entirety of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech at the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen.

From The Guardian (UK): “Until today, Copenhagen’s most famous citizen was a girl with a fishy tail sitting on a rock. No more. The day saw the big beasts of the green jungle arrive — what ecologists would term the ‘charismatic megafauna,’ intent on adding their weight and lustre to the struggling climate negotiation.”

From Politico: “California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger – who once drove Hummers but now files commercial – was the star of the show Tuesday at the U.N. climate conference, where he swooped in to say that small is beautiful.

But… “I’ll be back!” Still with the movie taglines? [sigh]

Posted on Tuesday, December 15th, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Global warming | 2 Comments »