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Politicos cheer Obama’s EPA waiver memo

California politicos’ joyful statements are piling up today, now that President Barack Obama has ordered a re-examination of whether California and other states should be allowed to have tougher auto tailpipe emission standards than those set by the federal government.

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

“For eight years the Bush Administration stood in the way of progress on energy independence. Today, President Obama made a bold move in our fight to end our dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, ordering the review of the Bush Administration’s decision to unjustifiably block California’s efforts to combat global warming and promote the use of cleaner, more efficient vehicles on their roads.

“As a longtime supporter of California’s bold agenda to reduce greenhouse gas emissions I am pleased by today’s announcement, which sends a clear signal from the Obama Administration regarding their commitment to work in concert with pioneering efforts at the municipal and state level in the fight against climate change.

“We have long recognized the real danger that global warming poses to all of us. Today’s move by the Obama Administration demonstrated that we will no longer put corporate interests before the health and well-being of the people of this country. I am hopeful that an accurate review of this decision by the EPA will provide a growing number of states the much-needed authority to implement stricter emissions standards that are needed to set our country on the path to a greener and more energy secure future.”

More, after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, January 26th, 2009
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, General, Global warming, Karen Bass, Nancy Pelosi, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Does Schwarzenegger’s veto rationale hold up?

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is holding a news conference in Fresno right now “to highlight the economic ramifications of the legislature’s failure to pass a real budget solution that would create jobs and provide mortgage relief.” Yesterday, he vowed to veto bills sent to him by the Legislature which would’ve narrowed the state’s staggering budget gap by about 18 billion.

“By exploiting a legal loophole over the definition of taxes vs. fees, Democrats had hoped to sidestep the state’s two-thirds majority hurdle for raising taxes,” my colleague Mike Zapler put it in his article today. “But the part of the package that offended the governor most did not involve the end-run on taxes; instead, Schwarzenegger said the proposal did not go far enough to trim spending and stimulate the economy.”

The governor yesterday accused the Legislature of “playing games.” Hmmm.

“I think the governor is sort of disrespecting the difficulty that both the Senate Pro Tem and the Speaker have had within their caucuses holding together a coalition of agreement over some very difficult choices,” Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, told me this morning.

Like many Democrats, he said, he wasn’t entirely comfortable with provisions to expedite California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) reviews to speed up infrastructure construction projects, or with the $2.5 billion in education cuts (though it’s better than the Republicans “draconian $10 billion cut,” he noted).

So this plan “was extremely difficult to put together,” Swanson said, and the governor has some nerve trying to “push this package further to his liking and still have confidence that leadership can still hold its caucuses together without the governor bringing any votes to the table.”

And this wasn’t meant to be a complete fix, Swanson noted – only a stop-gap measure to keep the state’s cash flow moving, with negotiations to continue over the remaining $28 billion gap. If Schwarzenegger vetoes this, he said, the governor will just have to come back not only with a timely counterproposal, but also with a larger package that addresses the whole problem plus three Republican Assembly votes and two Republican state Senate votes.

“He’s playing Russian roulette with the lives of so many working people in the state of California and California’s economy itself,” Swanson warned. “I really think this is a legacy moment from the governor.”

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, noted in a statement the bills sent to the governor “did $3 billion worth of bond acceleration to get job-creating infrastructure projects moving for transportation, drought relief, park restoration and green technologies;” Swanson had noted to me that every billion in infrastructure spending creates an estimated 18,000 jobs.

But California’s Pooled Money Investment Board has just pulled the plug on 2,000 transportation projects in the state because of the state’s cash crisis, which can’t be solved without a balanced budget in place.

“California’s Treasurer warned today that there would be further dire consequences from Wall Street if Governor Schwarzenegger threw away the solutions passed by the legislature. I am surprised that warning alone didn’t give the governor pause enough to thoughtfully consider bills that haven’t even reached his desk yet,” Bass said. “The governor’s haste is a waste of $18 billion in solutions that could have helped with our cash crisis and our budget deficit. The governor claims he wants to negotiate but then says things must be exactly as he wants. That is astonishing given the crisis we face. We are now waiting anxiously to see what the next step will be from a governor who has consistently been unable to produce even a single vote for a single budget solution.”

And state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said Democrats acted responsibly when nobody else has been willing to do so, and while “it would be easy to fire back at the Governor for his insults,” he remains “damn proud of what the Legislature did today.”

The California Employment Development Department this morning announced that the state’s unemployment rate rose to 8.4 percent in November, up from 8.2 percent in October and well above November’s national rate of 6.7 percent. Schwarzenegger quickly issued a statement saying this “reinforces the need for the state legislature to pass a real budget solution that includes aggressive economic stimulus — because we must do everything in our power to help Californians affected by the economic downturn get back to work. I’ve said countless times that any budget plan sent to my desk must include real stimulus that creates jobs, keeps Californians in their homes and provides strong, long-term recovery solutions for our state’s diverse economy.”

Yet it seems part of a solution was sent to him yesterday, and he turned his back on it. So who’s playing games?

UPDATE @ 12:02 P.M. FRIDAY: “It would be absolutely impossible to create jobs in 2009 from infrastructure projects with what they sent us,” Schwarzenegger spokesman Matt David insisted to me just now. “What they replaced CEQA with was more stringent and more burdensome than CEQA.”

“On public-private partnerships, the same thing – they added a line that would’ve led to countless, endless lawsuits over public-private partnerships and made it impossible to expedite any of these state projects,” he added. “They absolutely refused to eliminate any state holidays, even though state workers have 14 holidays – which is, I would guess, more than any private citizen in California gets. They left $300 million in CalWORKs cuts that the governor asked for on the table. They left about $800 million in cuts on the table when it comes to dealing with state workforce, and over $100 million in IHSS (In-Home Supportive Services) cuts.”

I asked him about the fact that Legislative Democrats already agreed to deep cuts to break this summer’s budget deadlock in September, and have agreed to more since, without any meaningful movement from Republicans. He maintained that “a fair package from the Democrats can’t be to increase the amount of revenues in taxes and fees, reduce the amount of cuts and water down the economic stimulus the governor is asking for and do nothing for mortgage relief. That’s unacceptable to the governor.”

Posted on Friday, December 19th, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, General, Karen Bass, Sandre Swanson | No Comments »

The deficit that stole Christmas

Apparently Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, is considering imposing an around-the clock Christmas week lockdown until lawmakers can come up with a plan to close the state’s staggering budget deficit. The plan, first floated by the Bay Area’s own Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, is OK with Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Alameda, he said today.

“I am in strong support of the Speaker’s plan for a lock down. Our current budget short fall is at $14.8 billion and is growing each day. Frankly, we need to act like adults and take full responsibility in this time of crisis,” Swanson said. “Many working families in California will not have a Christmas at all. I have my red pajamas and am ready to be locked in until we get the budget done for the people of California.”

Whoa. Is that what we’ve come to — legislators in their jammies? STOP THE MADNESS!!!

(P.S. — Please send photos.)

Posted on Friday, December 12th, 2008
Under: Alberto Torrico, Assembly, Karen Bass, Sandre Swanson | No Comments »

Lee/Reich, Bass/Newsom events Saturday

Interesting happenings in Oakland this Saturday, Sept. 20:

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, and former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich, now a University of California, Berkeley professor, will discuss the need to craft better economic policy and how Lee’s 9th Congressional District can help end the war in Iraq from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday in the James Moore Theater at the Oakland Museum, 1000 Oak St. (Lee and Reich were early supporters of Barack Obama, so don’t be surprised if that’s where the discussion is headed.) It’s free and open to the public but seating is limited and reservations are required; if you want to go, call 510-763-0370 to provide your name, phone number and e-mail address.

Then, Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom will headline while state Treasurer Bill Lockyer emcees the 38th Annual Alameda County Democratic Unity Dinner, a 6 p.m. reception and 7:30 p.m. dinner Saturday at the Oakland Airport Hilton, 1 Hegenberger Road. All interested Democrats are invited to attend; tickets cost $75 per person in advance and $125 for patrons, and tables cost $1,000 and up, all available by calling 510-263-5222. A limited number of door tickets will be available at $85 each.

Posted on Thursday, September 18th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Bill Lockyer, Democratic Party, Gavin Newsom, General, Karen Bass | No Comments »

Dems: ‘This budget sucks, but don’t veto it.’

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he’ll veto the slapdash state budget that the Legislature approved in the wee hours of this morning. State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, isn’t happy:

“A veto is perhaps good public relations, but poor leadership. This is not a budget the Democrats or the Governor wanted. It’s a failure. But Republicans had the final say – and they said no.”

“We need to end the spectacle and the suffering the impasse is causing.”

“Frankly, a veto simply puts the Governor in the starring role in California’s financial disaster.”

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, also laid much of the mess at the governor’s feet:

“The budget the legislature passed earlier today had one main purpose – to stop the real pain that was being caused to Californians because of the budget delay: Teachers who lost their jobs. Child care centers that closed their doors. Seniors who lost their caregivers and students who lost their financial aid.”

“They were only some of the victims of a chronic budget problem in California that has been going on for decades. Over the past few months it became clear that California’s chronic budget problems couldn’t be resolved in a single session of the legislature. Not when we have a 2/3 requirement to pass a budget and raise revenues — a disastrous tyranny of the minority that other states have sensibly avoided. Not when we have a revenue system based on what made sense in the 1930s — a system that careens from year to year with no long term stability.”

“If the people of California are the victims in the chronic budget crisis, the 2/3 vote and the outdated revenue system are the villains. Because of the two thirds vote requirement when legislative Democrats made cuts and supported taxes– and when the governor made cuts and supported taxes—a small Republican minority was still able to hold the budget hostage for almost three months.”

“If Governor Schwarzenegger had been able to convince even a handful of legislators from his party to support a budget – AS EVERY OTHER GOVERNOR IN HISTORY HAS BEEN ABLE TO DO – we wouldn’t be in this situation. But Governor Schwarzenegger was not able to produce a single vote — and the people of California were hurting — so we stepped in to pass a compromise budget that, while ugly in many aspects, at least buys us time to make progress on the real reforms we need: reforming the 2/3 vote requirement; moving forward with a bipartisan commission with budget experts from all sides to bring our revenue system into line with the 21st century economy; and looking at two-year budgets and other operating solutions that bring about some stability.”

“None of these can be done overnight. And we can not in good conscience let Californians suffer during the time it takes to fix these problems.”

“It’s easy for pundits to point out flaws in this budget instead of focusing their power on building support for the reforms we need. It wasn’t easy to pass this budget. There were too many cuts and not enough revenues and too many bitter pills my Democratic colleagues and I had to swallow. But it had to be done.”

“And the truth of the matter is Governor Schwarzenegger was supportive of this entire budget except for a single provision he wanted that he didn’t get. One single provision. That’s no excuse to close down services for the developmentally disabled and make small business owners mortgage their homes to stay in business.”

“This week my colleagues and I will meet to override the governor’s veto of the compromise budget. We will not let the people of California suffer. And most important, we will not give up our fight to restore sanity to the budget process by reforming the 2/3 vote, modernizing the revenue system and bringing stability to the process.”

“Ultimately, a lot of the decisions will be in your hands because fixing the system means changing the state constitution. I know with honest information the people of California will do the right thing.”

Posted on Tuesday, September 16th, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, Don Perata, Karen Bass | No Comments »

Responses to Schwarzenegger’s pay cuts, layoffs

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger did as he’d promised today and signed an executive order freezing state hiring, suspending all overtime pay, lowering the pay of more than 200,000 state employees to the federal minimum wage of $6.55 per hour, and laying off as many as 22,000 temporary state workers. Here’s how he explained it (roll your cursor over the viewer to find the “play” button):

State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, had this to say:

“This regrettable action undermines the state’s shaky economy, inflicts hardship on 200,000 hard-working Californians who have nothing to do with the state’s budget stalemate and reduces services to everyone who visits a DMV office, expects safe highways or needs other state assistance.

“Cutting state services reduces the quality of life for all Californians; that’s why the Democrats have a plan that avoids gutting education, health care, higher education and transportation by balancing the budget with a mix of cuts and new revenue.

“The Governor’s suggestion that the Legislature did nothing on the budget prior to May 14 shows how little attention he has paid to this process. The Senate held 67 subcommittee and full budget committee hearings going through the Governor’s proposal line by line. In mid-February, we took $7 billion in bipartisan budget actions – enough to solve half of the state’s deficit.

“On May 14, the Governor proposed a revised budget with a $7 billion hole in it. The Budget Conference Committee fixed this by balancing the budget in six weeks.

“If the Governor disagrees with the conference committee’s plan for filling the hole in his budget, we’re open to his suggestions on possible alternatives.

“On Monday, the Senate will hold a hearing examining the far-reaching impact of the Governor’s executive order.

More responses, after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, July 31st, 2008
Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, Don Perata, General, John Chiang, Karen Bass | 1 Comment »

Perata, Bass to roll out joint budget plan

State Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, has just announced that he and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, will hold a news conference Wednesday morning to roll out their Conference Committee budget agreement.

Perata’s office said the plan rejects Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposed deep cuts in education and health care and includes $9.7 billion in new revenue by raising taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents and closing corporate tax loopholes; that’s $1.8 billion lower than what the Senate recommended and $2.7 billion more in new revenue than what the Governor proposed.

On the spending side, this budget:

  • Provides $2.3 billion more for K-12 education than Schwarzenegger had recommended;
  • Restores $1.5 billion in health and human services the Governor cut, including nearly $200 million in health care services to some of the state’s most vulnerable residents, the reimbursement rate for Medi-Cal providers and federal pass-through funds for the aged, blind and disabled;
  • Cuts prison spending by $300 million with a reform package that helps lower the prison population; and
  • Restores $57 million in financial assistance for college students.
  • On the revenue side, this plan:

  • Reinstates the tax brackets on the wealthiest Californians by reinstating the 10 percent income tax rate for taxpayers filing joint returns with taxable income above $321,000 and the 11 percent rate for those with incomes above $642,000, generating about $5.6 billion;
  • Closes a corporate tax loophole for large corporations by suspending for three years companies’ permission to carry forward a portion of their losses incurred in one year for use as a deduction against earnings in later years, generating about $1.1 billion;
  • Suspends a tax adjustment for upper-income Californians, generating about $815 million;
  • Rolls back the nonrefundable dependent income tax credit (in 2007, $294) for taxpayers with adjusted gross income of more than $150,000 so that it’s equal to the personal exemption credit for all taxpayers (in 2007, $94 for single taxpayers and $188 for couples), generating about $215 million;
  • Rolls back the 1997 cut in the franchise tax, raising it from the current 8.84 percent rate to 9.3 percent, in order to raise about $470 million; and
  • Steps up tax enforcement — partly collecting money already owed to the state, partly accelerating revenues that would be paid in the future — to generate another $1.5 billion.
  • Perata’s release notes the state has cut $12.3 billion during the last three budgets, meaning “the fat is long gone, that a cuts-only approach would go deep into the bone of what the state provides. There is no free lunch: Quality education, health care, fire protection and law enforcement all require additional revenue.”

    In other words, “Perata and Bass to Cogdill and Villines: GAME ON!”

    UPDATE @ 1:48 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Here’s video of this morning’s news conference…

    Posted on Tuesday, July 8th, 2008
    Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly, California State Senate, Dave Cogdill, Don Perata, General, Karen Bass, Mike Villines | No Comments »

    Quotable quotes on same-sex marriage ruling

    I’ve been innundated by news releases today offering comments from elected officials, candidates, advocacy groups and your great aunt Bessie on the California Supreme Court’s decision striking down state law’s same-sex marriage ban as unconstituitional. There was room for but a fraction of them in our story, so if you want to read a slew of verbatim quotes, see ’em (in no particular order) after the jump… Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted on Thursday, May 15th, 2008
    Under: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Barbara Lee, Don Perata, Ellen Tauscher, Fabian Nunez, General, Karen Bass, Leland Yee, Lynn Woolsey, Mark Leno, Nancy Pelosi, Sandre Swanson | 9 Comments »