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A Maldonado re-vote?

It’s still at least theoretically possible for Assembly Democrats to beat Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger at his own game and reject state Sen. Abel Maldonado as lieutenant governor.

The Assembly voted 37-35 yesterday on confirming Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, as lieutenant governor. Assembly Democrats contend this is a rejection, as Maldonado didn’t get 41 votes to confirm. Schwarzenegger and Maldonado interpret the state constitution otherwise, arguing that the Assembly must act by majority either to confirm or reject Maldonado, or else Maldonado can just be sworn in 90 days after his nomination.

This no doubt has the California Supreme Court’s justices rubbing their temples in anticipation of a possible intervention so politically charged that it’s sure to leave everyone unhappy.

But that need not necessarily come to pass. The governor’s office confirmed to me today that under this interpretation, the Assembly could vote again between now and Feb. 21 – the 90-day mark – to either confirm or reject Maldonado with 41 votes. And seven Assembly members didn’t vote yesterday.

One will remain on the sidelines no matter what. Republican U.S. Senate candidate and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, was on the campaign trail yesterday and absent from the vote, but issued a statement saying he would have abstained anyway. (Ed. note at 4:10 p.m.: Trevino informs me DeVore “actually was present on the Assembly floor for the morning vote. He was only gone for the afternoon session. Doesn’t affect his purposeful abstention, though.”)

“One year ago, I resigned as Assembly Minority Whip because I would not support the budget deal that led to the failed Proposition 1A — which would have been the largest state tax increase in American history. Senator Maldonado, by contrast, played a decisive role in putting 1A before the people. I won’t reward bad behavior with high office. It is in that spirit that I abstained from this vote.”

Today, campaign spokesman Joshua Trevino told me DeVore will abstain if there’s a re-vote.

“As he just told E.J. Schultz at the Fresno Bee (via Twitter), the GOP Assembly caucus has decided to support Maldonado. If Chuck votes no, it will be more a hit at them than the nominee per se. An abstention registers disapproval of the nomination without expressing direct disapproval of his fellow Republicans. It also serves as a de facto no when the affirmations are tallied.”

Two Assembly Democrats – Dave Jones, D-Sacramento, and Mary Salas, D-Chula Vista – opposed Maldonado in an earlier round of voting, but didn’t vote in the final tally. Let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that they would again oppose Maldonado in a re-vote. That would make it 37-37 – still four votes shy of a majority to confirm or reject.

Three Assembly Democrats – Hector De La Torre, D-South Gate; Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles; and Ed Hernandez, D-West Covina – were present but didn’t vote. Assemblywoman Wilmer Carter, D-Rialto, was absent.

I queried all four about what they would do if there’s a re-vote. Carter spokeswoman Ellen Braunstein responded to my query just before noon: “I haven’t been able to contact the Assemblymember yet, and will wait for her response.”

But, perhaps unsurprisingly, none of the other three have responded yet. Perhaps they were busy having their heads knocked together by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Speaker-elect John Perez and/or California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton, all of whom might like to see them fall into the party line to sink Maldonado once and for all.

Posted on Friday, February 12th, 2010
Under: Abel Maldonado, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, Chuck DeVore, John Perez, Karen Bass, Lt. Governor | 3 Comments »

Obama, Arnold, Steinberg throw down on taxes

So is it President Obama versus California Democrats, Schwarzenegger versus the truth, or both?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s office this morning sent reporters a missive noting President Obama’s comment in an interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer yesterday that “I can guarantee that the worst thing we could do would be to raise taxes when the economy is still this weak.”

Although the President was talking about federal taxes, the governor’s office juxtaposed this with Legislative Democrats’ calls to help close the state’s chronic budget shortfalls and structural deficit with some revenue increases. Among those was this:

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) Calls For Tax Increase On Independent Contractors.
“Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento said the state could generate a one-time boost of $2 billion simply by requiring tax withholdings on payments to independent contractors.” (Judy Lin, “Schwarzenegger Doesn’t Blame Voters For Ill Will,” The Associated Press, 1/25/10)
Steinberg: “At every opportunity I decry the governor and minority party’s refusal to consider applying the same tax withholding rules to businesses that we apply to working people. The Franchise Tax Board tells us that applying a 3 percent withholding for independent contractors would raise $2 billion.” (Senator Darrell Steinberg, “Schwarzenegger’s Budget Doesn’t Reflect California’s Priorities,” San Jose Mercury News, 1/18/10)

Steinberg’s office shot back a short while ago, accusing the governor of perpetuating his pattern of not letting the facts get in the way of his rhetoric.

Governor Schwarzenegger’s office today released a document stating that Senate President pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg’s endorsement of a tax withholding requirement on independent contractors is a tax increase.

That assertion is patently false, and is yet another example of how the Governor refuses to let the facts get in the way of his rhetoric.

Here are the facts. Under existing law, employers are required to deduct and withhold from wages an amount equivalent to an employee’s reasonable tax obligation. Each quarter, employers are then required to remit to the Employment Development Department the total amount of income taxes they withheld. These provisions do not currently apply to payments made for goods and services performed by independent contractors.

In other words, the proposal endorsed by Steinberg does not increase anybody’s taxes; it only proposes that independent contractors pay the taxes they currently owe. Indeed, according to the Franchise Tax Board, such a policy would result in more than $1 billion in revenue for fiscal year 10/11, with ongoing revenues in the hundreds of millions in the following years.

So here’s a question for the Governor: Why do you believe that the law-abiding taxpayers of California should be forced year after year to pick up the slack for tax-dodgers?

Posted on Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, state budget, taxes | 1 Comment »

Maldonado’s confirmation hearing scheduled

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, has set a Rules Committee hearing to consider Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s appointment of state Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, as Lieutenant Governor for 1:30 p.m. next Wednesday, Feb. 3 in room 113 of the State Capitol.

Posted on Wednesday, January 27th, 2010
Under: Abel Maldonado, Arnold Schwarzenegger, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Lt. Governor | No Comments »

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 »