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Man repays 1964 jobless benefits to state, plus

The state’s budget gap has narrowed by $10,000 thanks to a debt repaid by someone California did right by almost half a century ago.

Dennis FergusonDennis Ferguson, 74, of South Carolina, recently sent the state a check for $10,000 to pay back with interest the unemployment benefits he received for about four months in 1964, after he’d been laid off as an engineer at Douglas Aircraft in Los Angeles, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s office reports.

Ferguson’s benefits for the roughly 20-week period he received aid would have totaled about $1,100, according to information provided by the State Employment Development Department. Ferguson told Lockyer’s office he wanted to show his appreciation for the help he’d received by adding “interest,” and he figured $10,000 was a “nice round figure.” On the Nov. 23 check, Ferguson wrote, “REPAYMENT FOR WHAT CALIF. DID FOR ME!”

“Anyone who is helped out when they are down ought to give something back, especially now that California has budget problems,” Ferguson told Lockyer’s office.

Because the check didn’t designate a specific recipient, state law requires that it go to public schools.

“It’s appropriate this money will go to educate our kids, because there’s a lesson to be learned here about what it means to have a sense of shared sacrifice and commitment to the common good,” Lockyer said in a news release. “On behalf of Californians, I want to express our deepest appreciation to Mr. Ferguson. I hope that as we work together to meet our budget challenges, we keep in mind his act of generosity, and the spirit it embodies.”

In a note Ferguson sent to the State Treasurer’s Office along with the check, the retire wrote, “In 1964, the State of California allowed me to collect unemployment while I attended a storefront school to learn how to program a computer. This allowed me to have a great career and I’ve been ever thankful. Please find enclosed a check for $10,000 as a repayment. Happy Thanksgiving!”

And a very Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas to you, too, Mr. Ferguson.

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Lockyer: ‘Straight Talk, No Bull#*+!”

Incumbent state Treasurer Bill Lockyer launched the first television ad of his re-election campaign today, with a slogan of “Straight Talk, No Bull#*+!”

For real.

If there’s one thing Lockyer can safely tout, it’s plain-spokenness. After all, he was the state Attorney General who suggested in 2001 that Enron CEO Ken Lay should do time in “an 8-by-10 cell that he could share with a tattooed dude who says, ‘Hi, my name is Spike, honey;’ ” the Democrat who after 2003’s gubernatorial recall election admitted he had voted for Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger; and the Treasurer who has bluntly criticized both the governor and Democratic legislative leaders for the state’s budget boondoggles. In fact, there are some who believe his penchant for “straight talk” might’ve burned bridges that otherwise might’ve led him to the governor’s office.

Lockyer’s ad comes almost a month after the launch of an ad by his Republican challenger, state Sen. Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, wherein she marks him as a career politician who’s part of Sacramento’s culture of failure.

No word yet from Lockyer’s camp as to how much he’s spending on this ad buy, but don’t you worry – he can afford it. His campaign had $7.7 million in the bank as of Sept. 30, compared to Walters’ $315,000.

UPDATE @ 5:20 P.M.: Per Lockyer campaign spokesman Tom Dresslar, “Without getting into specific numbers, it’s a substantial buy. We’re starting in LA, and extending statewide in a few days.”

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Mimi Walters launching first ad against Lockyer

With all the heat and light of California’s gubernatorial and senatorial campaigns, it’s almost easy to forget about the down-ticket races. But with Labor Day behind us and the general-election season now fully upon us, forgetting is no longer an option.

To that end, Republican nominee for state Treasurer Mimi Walters – the state Senator from Laguna Niguel – announced today that she’ll start airing this ad next week on cable television in the Central Valley and parts of Southern California:

As you can see, it’s all about painting Democratic incumbent Bill Lockyer of Hayward as a career politician – which, of course, he is.

You can almost forgive her that, as it would be hard if not impossible to explain in a 30-second ad what the state Treasurer – California’s chief asset manager, banker and financier – actually does. More on that, after the jump…
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Dunn leads Bowen in fundraising for Sec’y of State

Campaign finance reports are due today, and incumbent Secretary of State Debra Bowen filed her report saying she raised more than $60,000 and spent more than $12,600 from May 23 through June 30, leaving her with more than $113,000 cash on hand at mid-year. She’s lagging behind Republican nominee for Secretary of State Damon Dunn, a former NFL player turned businessman, who reported raising more than $126,500 and spending more than $81,000 during this period, leaving him with cash on hand of almost $176,600.

In other statewide races, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s re-election committee reported having a mammoth $8.52 million cash on hand as of June 30, even after having spent more than a million in the first half of this year (including almost $258,000 from May 23 through June 30); that spending includes the more than $676,000 his committee has given to his wife’s campaign as she seeks a seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Meanwhile, Republican nominee for state Treasurer Mimi Walters, the state Senator from Laguna Niguel, reported raising $36,455 and spending $26,505.42 from May 23 through June 30, leaving her with cash on hand of almost $350,000.

Incumbent state Controller John Chiang’s re-election campaign reported raising $125,000 and spending more than $31,000 from May 23 to June 30, leaving almost $1.28 million cash on hand at midyear. Republican state Controller nominee Tony Strickland, the state Senator from Moorpark, reported raising $173,000 and spending almost $38,000 during this period, leaving him with almost $309,000 cash on hand as of June 30.

Still awaiting full readouts on the races for attorney general, lieutenant governor and insurance commissioner…

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Bill Lockyer: Arnold right to veto gas-tax swap

The Legislature really dropped the ball with its version of the gas-tax-swap deal, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer told Alameda County officials today, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was right to promise a veto.

Lockyer @ AlaCo budget workgroup 3-17-10Lockyer addressed the county Board of Supervisors Budget Workgroup, with attendees including supervisors Keith Carson, Alice Lai-Bitker and Gail Steele; County Administrator Susan Muranishi; and dozens of county department heads and staffers, local nonprofit officials and other stakeholders.

Schwarzenegger’s version of the gas-tax-swap deal would’ve saved a lot of money, but the changes and compromises it underwent while wending its way through the Legislature reduced the General Fund savings to a fraction of what they had been, he said.

“Why do all this complicated shifting around if the net result is confusion,” Lockyer later elucidated outside the budget session. “It didn’t make sense to change everything around and have lawsuits about it … for a very modest net result.”

Lockyer said he also agrees with the governor’s pitch for a sales-tax exemption for green tech manufacturing equipment.

Inside the budget session, Lockyer had delivered a somewhat sobering assessment of the state’s fiscal situation – and so, the outlook for cities and counties – in the months to come.

Cash flow is fine now, he said, but if the Legislature and Schwarzenegger can’t reach a budget deal early in the summer, the state’s payments of gas tax funds, mental-health tax funds and other monies to cities, counties and school districts “almost inevitably” could be deferred for up to two months, to the tune of billions of dollars.

And Sacramento is counting on “unrealistically high” estimates of federal aid to help balance its books, meaning lawmakers and the governor will have to scramble to backfill an even bigger hole when that money from Washington doesn’t materialize.

Lockyer said he intends to sell about $14 billion worth of general obligation bonds this year to pay for infrastructure projects, and as much as $10 million (depending on when we have a budget deal) in short-term borrowing this summer to tide us through our annual cash-flow issues.

He said California gets a bad rap from bond-rating agencies, not because there’s any real risk of default – he’s constitutionally empowered to service the state’s debts no matter what the Legislature does or doesn’t do – but rather because of the widespread perception of legislative gridlock Sacramento exudes year after year, a perception unlikely to be dispelled so long as the state constitution requires two-thirds votes of the Legislature for all budget and tax bills. But with no significant chance of changing that any time soon and no chance of reforming Proposition 13 to allow for reassessment of commercial property, California will keep having to find ways to muddle through, he said.

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One-stop shopping for Democratic candidates

The Coalition of Bay Area Young Democrats, conjunction with the San Francisco Young Democrats, will host a massive candidates’ forum at 1 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 6 at the SEIU Local 87 hall, 240 Golden Gate Ave. in San Francisco.

Free and open to the public, the forum aims to hear from, and give attendees a chance to ask questions of, candidates in some of 2010’s highest-profile races. Confirmed speakers include gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown; lieutenant governor candidate Janice Hahn; Attorney General candidates Kamala Harris, Chris Kelly, Pedro Nava and Alberto Torrico; incumbent state Treasurer Bill Lockyer; Insurance Commissioner candidates Hector De La Torre and Dave Jones; Superintendent of Public instruction candidates Larry Aceves and Tom Torlakson; and incumbent Board of Equalization member Betty Yee.