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3 from Bay Area on budget conference committee

The Bay Area is well-represented on the joint legislative committee tasked with hammering out a state budget deal.

The Joint Conference Committee on the Budget has four assemblymembers and four state senators who’ll reconcile differences over the budget between the two houses of the Legislature.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has named state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, as a co-chair of the committee, and the other senate appointees are Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles; and Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands.

On the Assembly side, Speaker John Perez named Bob Blumenfield, D-San Fernando Valley, who will serve as co-chair; Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; Jeff Gorell, R-Camarillo, and Holly Mitchell, D-Culver City.

“For the first time in years, we are headed into budget negotiations without the dire need to cut billions from the budget, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to celebrate,” Pérez said in a news release. “It is time to assure our citizens that we are putting the state on a path to avoid future devastating cuts to state-provided services and education. I have confidence that the Conference Committee will craft the best budget possible for the people of California.”

Posted on Thursday, May 30th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, John Perez, Loni Hancock, Mark Leno, Nancy Skinner, state budget | No Comments »

Reactions to Jerry Brown’s May budget revision

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“The Governor’s May Budget Revision is another key milestone in our effort to pass a balanced on-time budget by June 15th. We appreciate the Governor’s commitment to maintaining the fiscal stability that has come from an improving economy, legislative Democrats making tough but necessary budget cuts, voters approving the majority-vote budget and voters standing with Democrats in supporting temporary tax revenues. We will review the Governor’s proposals and revenue projections, along with the LAO’s revenue projections, in depth, and his revised budget will be thoroughly discussed throughout the Budget committee and subcommittee process. Assemblymembers will review the Governor’s proposal through the prism of principles outlined in our Blueprint for a Responsible Budget: continuing fiscal responsibility, strengthening the middle class, and delivering effective, efficient services for Californians. On the whole, the Governor’s framework and the Assembly’s Blueprint seem to track well, and we’ll spend the next month reconciling our priorities.”

From Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Visalia:

“Governor Brown today put forward a revised state spending plan that I believe charts a realistic path forward in meeting the budget priorities of hard-working taxpayers. Republicans share the Governor’s commitment to paying down state debt and holding the line on new spending. It is our hope that Legislative Democrats will follow the Governor’s lead in making fiscal discipline a core budget principle. We must resist the temptation to blow through the surplus using one-time money for ongoing programs and reverse the progress we’ve made in closing the deficit.”

From state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento:

“Overall, this May Revision is a refreshing change. For the first time in four years, we no longer have to stare at enormous deficits and make agonizing decisions on which cuts will do the least harm to our children, to the poor, and to middle class families.

“That’s the politically correct thing to say, and it happens to be true.

“I agree we must aggressively pay down our state’s debt and set aside money for a reserve, but there’s a disappointing aspect to this proposal. It’s important that we also begin making up for some of the damage done to tens of thousands of Californians. Unless the Legislative Analyst has a different conclusion, the Governor proposes few if any resources to restore cuts made over the past few years to the courts, and to health and human services.

“The Governor’s Local Control Funding Formula is the right policy direction, but our serious concern about how it’s accomplished remains. The concentration grants treat thousands of disadvantaged students unequally. It also fails to expand the proven success of career pathway programs which can reduce dropout rates and improve our kids’ readiness for the workforce by combining rigorous curriculum that’s also relevant to students’ career goals.

“The budget debate begins in earnest. I look forward to a deeper analysis of revenue projections in the coming weeks while we continue to work with the Governor on the best budget for California’s economic recovery and its people.”

From state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea:

“The Governor has revenue estimates that are lower than anyone expected, largely due to the increased payroll tax suppressing the economy. Higher tax rates and continuing high unemployment mean less money in people’s pockets and less money to propel the economy.

“We have common ground with the Governor in a belief that we cannot return to a culture of overspending that drives new budget crises. Governor Brown referred to this as a ‘Call for Prudence,’ we would call it ‘Common Sense.’ It seems that the Governor’s biggest budget challenge will be in restraining legislative Democrats and their growing wish list of new spending.

“Senate Republicans continue to believe that the State must meet the promises of the voter approved Proposition 30 tax increase measure by increasing funding for K-14 and higher education. We also believe that the Governor should support our efforts to allow Californians to vote on the bi-partisan rainy day reserve fund that had been previously scheduled for the 2012 ballot. Implementing a voter approved rainy day reserve requirement is the best way to protect against future budget crises and ensure stability.

“The Legislature should spend less time on a growing list of additional tax proposals such as soda taxes, oil severance taxes, tobacco taxes and several property tax measures that undermine historic Proposition 13 protections and instead focus on the growing public safety crises caused by the passage of AB 109, the Governor’s Public Safety Realignment scheme that has shifted 65,000 criminals from state prison to our local communities and neighborhoods.”

From California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye:

“I’m disappointed that the Governor’s revised budget proposals provide no more fiscal relief to the courts. Given the state’s current fiscal condition, I had hoped for more effort to help stop the downward spiral of the judicial branch budget. Courts across the state are already closing courthouses, courtrooms, and reducing the hours they serve the public. Without reinvestment in the courts, these terrible impacts will only expand, and the poor and middle class residents who rely on the courts to resolve issues that affect their lives and livelihoods will be adversely affected, as well those businesses still digging out from the effects of the great recession. We need adequate, ongoing funding for the courts that will permit us to reverse the damage caused by five years of budget cuts. The reforms I’ve put in place have helped save money and created more efficiencies. We needed critical support a year ago from the other two branches and now the need for justice is urgent. I am heartened by Speaker Perez’s comments last week about the need to begin reinvesting in the courts. I am optimistic that the Legislature and the Governor can work toward reversing some of the adverse impacts on access to justice before a budget bill is passed and signed.”

There’s a whole lot more, after the jump…
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Posted on Tuesday, May 14th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Connie Conway, Darrell Steinberg, Ellen Corbett, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Leland Yee, Mark Leno, Rich Gordon, state budget, Uncategorized | 4 Comments »

John Chiang: California’s books still look good

California took in $15.03 billion in revenue in April – $119.9 million short of estimates, but still leaving the Golden State in relatively solid financial condition, state Controller John Chiang reported today.

Total revenues for the first 10 months of the fiscal year exceeded Gov. Jerry Brown’s January projections by $4.6 billion (6.1 percent), due largely to $4.4 billion (8.5 percent) in better-than-expected personal income tax revenue.

“We’ve reached an important milestone in California’s economic recovery. For the first time in nearly six years, we closed out a month without borrowing from internal state funds to pay our bills,” Chiang said in a news release. “But, there remains significant debt that must be shed before we can claim victory and these unanticipated revenues provide us with an important opportunity to take further steps toward long-term fiscal stability.”

Chiang said California had to borrow at unprecedented levels over the past six years from its own internal special funds and from Wall Street to meet its payment obligations; the state also withheld some payments and used IOUs for only the second time since the Great Depression. June 2007 was the last time the State was able to pay its bills without leveraging its internal funds.

California ended the last fiscal year with a $9.6 billion cash deficit, but April 30, that deficit narrowed to $5.8 billion, Chiang said. The gap is being covered by $10 billion in external borrowing, which the state will start repaying later this month.

Personal income taxes for April came in $275 million (2.2 percent) below monthly estimates outlined in the governor’s budget, due mostly to fewer returns filed and more refunds paid out than expected in the month of April. But corporate taxes for April were $6.6 million (0.5 percent) above monthly estimates and sales tax receipts were $113.4 million (26.6 percent) above estimates.

Posted on Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
Under: Jerry Brown, John Chiang, state budget | 3 Comments »

What they’re saying about the governor’s budget

From Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles:

“This is a proposal that clearly shows California has turned the corner. The Governor’s budget is sober, restrained and forward thinking, and I believe it’s a solid foundation for the budget process. I am looking forward to thorough and insightful public hearings as we work with the Governor to adopt the final budget by our Constitutional deadline.”

From California Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro:

“It’s easy for Gov. Brown to tout austerity and fiscal restraint when he has more of the taxpayers’ money in his pocket. His challenge will be to follow through on those promises when the economy continues to stagnate and the Democrats’ pie-in-the-sky projections don’t come to pass. That’s why Republican legislative leadership correctly proposed this week for the Governor to mandate that his new Prop 30 taxes fund our classrooms and protect our communities.

“What’s disappointing about Gov. Brown’s announcement is that job creation was never mentioned. Cutting the regulatory burden was ignored. Working with Republicans to unify the state is sadly not part of his agenda. In order for California to finally emerge from its economic doldrums and enter a new Golden Age, the answer lies with policies that encourage job growth and unleash the innovation of small business owners, not with budget wrangling and deferred payments that mask billions in debt to the federal government for unemployment insurance and more.

“We need bold reforms to go hand in hand with accountability and responsible fiscal governance if we want to return California and its citizens to prosperity. If Jerry Brown thinks we’re out of the woods just because, on paper, we’ll finally be ‘living within our means,’ he’s sadly mistaken.”

From state Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco:

“The budget proposal released today by Governor Brown is the most positive one we have seen in half a decade. The budget is narrowly balanced and contains elements that ensure a modest reserve. However, it reflects the difficult cuts and decisions the Legislature and Governor have made in the past few years to address the state’s structural budget deficit. It also demonstrates the confidence entrusted in us by voters in November who recognized that our fiscal situation was untenable without new temporary revenues. Although we are still under fiscal constraints, I am hopeful we are now past the period of devastating cuts we saw in previous years to education and programs that provide critical aid to elderly Californians, disabled people and working families.

“With the improvement of our fiscal outlook comes the opportunity to continue our work to restore California. While our recent efforts have focused largely on making cuts in the least harmful manner possible, we will now have more capacity to refine our work to improve essential programs and analyze the role of government and its effectiveness. I look forward to working with Governor Brown and my colleagues in the Legislature to evaluate this year’s budget to help ensure it is the best possible plan for a state on the mend.”

From state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar:

“New funding for our classrooms is a positive step forward for California. However, the Governor’s budget only seems to include $2.7 billion in new funding for K-12 schools and community colleges even though Proposition 30 taxes will generate $6 billion this year alone – Californians should be disappointed.

“I remain concerned that while state spending is being increased by $5 billion over last year, much of this money is used to expand state programs and provides major pay and benefit increases for state employees.

“Basically, this budget is balanced by a $50 billion tax increase, and Californians have yet to see any real, long-term plan to bring back jobs and help our struggling families.”

More, after the jump…
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Posted on Thursday, January 10th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Gavin Newsom, Jerry Brown, John Perez, Kamala Harris, Loni Hancock, Mark DeSaulnier, Mark Leno, Rob Bonta, state budget | No Comments »

Skinner: Dems must choose battles, but fight some

With supermajorities in both legislative chambers, Democrats must walk a finer line than ever, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner said Wednesday.

My coffee meeting with Skinner, D-Berkeley, yielded a wide-ranging conversation about her party’s considerable new power and the responsibilities that go with it, as well as her own legislative priorities. The former Berkeley councilwoman has just won re-election to her third and final Assembly term, and she sees a productive but sensitive session ahead.

“We’ve been given this privilege by the voters and we want to be respectful of the privilege we’ve been handed,” she said Wednesday.

The caucus must choose its battles, she said, but not choose them so carefully that none ever get fought.

She’s in a position to help choose those battles because, as the Assembly Rules Committee’s chair, Skinner is among the Legislature’s top leaders. Rules is responsible for assigning bills to committees, setting salaries for legislative staff, waiving rules and overseeing the Assembly’s business; it’s basically an executive committee for the chamber, and its seats are coveted.

But Skinner on Wednesday said the supermajorities were achieved by votes in individual districts, not a statewide vote, and so lawmakers must move cautiously to ensure they don’t salt the field.

For example, she said, voters’ approval of Proposition 30 – Gov. Jerry Brown’s measure temporarily increasing sales taxes and income taxes for the state’s richest residents to fund K-12 and higher education – was “great,” but it would take a lot more revenue to return the state’s schools, colleges and universities to their heyday.

“There’s probably appetite for some more revenue,” she said, but it has to be something that’s palatable to voters.

For example, state Sen. Ted Lieu’s proposal to triple the Vehicle License Fee – which was slashed by former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, blowing a huge hole in the state budget – was withdrawn almost as soon as it was advanced last month due to public backlash. And voters in November 2010 handily rejected Proposition 21, which would’ve boosted the VLF to bankroll state parks. Voters just don’t like the VLF, Skinner said.

“We have to look at the range of … tax expenditures, what I call tax loopholes or tax giveaways, that were part of various budget deals in order to get a Republican vote” in past years, she said.

One such loophole was the single-sales factor, just repealed last month by Proposition 39; that’ll bring in about $1 billion a year, half of which for the first five years is earmarked for projects increasing energy efficiency and creating green jobs. Skinner this month introduced the Assembly version of a bill to implement that.

“But there’s others like that,” she said, citing the “net operating loss carryback” deduction that was suspended for 2010 and 2011 but will apply to 2012’s corporate taxes.

This and other loopholes, if closed, “could be worth from $2.5 billion to $4 billion, which is significant,” she said.

And of course there’s the possibility of “split-roll” reform of Proposition 13 so that residential properties remain protected but commercial properties are re-assessed more often, she said. Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, already has announced a bill to tighten state laws enacted under Prop. 13 so that it’s harder for businesses to avoid re-assessment and higher taxes when property changes hands – a half-step toward split-roll that wouldn’t require voters’ approval of a ballot measure.

Lots more, after the jump…
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Posted on Wednesday, December 12th, 2012
Under: Assembly, gun control, marijuana, Nancy Skinner, same-sex marriage, state budget, taxes | 2 Comments »

Longtime legislative aide goes to bat for courts

A longtime Bay Area legislative staffer has been hired to head the state court system’s governmental affairs office – and lead the courts’ fight against draconian budget cuts by the Legislature and governor.

Cory Jasperson was hired by California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye at the recommendation of a Judicial Council search committee led by Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvin Baxter. Jasperson, 42, will start Dec. 3 as a replacement for Curt Child, who was promoted last month to become the Administrative Office of the Courts’ chief operating officer.

“The search committee was very impressed with Cory Jasperson’s personal attributes, professional experience, and outstanding reputation he has earned in the Capitol,” Baxter said in a news release. “We are confident that he will lead the Office of Governmental Affairs with great distinction.”

Jasperson currently is chief of staff to state Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who is term-limited out at the end of this year and is about to start a term on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Earlier, Jasperson served as a top aide to other lawmakers including Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, and Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Mountain View.

Jasperson, in the courts’ news release, said he’s eager to get to work. “I strongly believe that our democracy requires a vibrant and independent judiciary to provide access to justice for all Californians. At the same time, I am acutely aware of the challenges faced by all three branches because of the state’s fiscal crisis.”

Indeed, Jasperson is in for quite a ride: The California judicial system’s budget has been cut by 30 percent since the 2008-2009 fiscal year, leading to layoffs, reduced hours and services, and delayed or cancelled construction projects.

Posted on Wednesday, November 14th, 2012
Under: state budget | No Comments »

Poll: Support slipping for Brown’s tax measure

Grim news for Gov. Jerry Brown: Support for his proposed November ballot measure to hike California’s sales tax and income taxes on the wealthiest residents is slipping, even after news of a larger-than-expected budget deficit.

The latest University of Southern California Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll, conducted May 17 through 21, shows 59 percent of voters support his ballot measure while 36 percent oppose it. That’s a five-point drop in support from March, when 64 percent supported it and 33 percent opposed it.

The margin narrows further when voters are given arguments for and against Brown’s proposal, along with information – first announced by Brown on May 14 – that California faces a budget deficit of $16 billion, much higher than the initial projection of $9 billion.

In the face of these new numbers, 51 percent of likely voters agreed it’s “more important than ever to support Governor Brown’s proposal to temporarily increase the income tax on high earners. No one wants higher taxes, but we need to make these tough choices to protect public schools, higher education and public safety.”

But in contrast, 41 percent of likely voters agreed “the increased budget deficit shows clearly that state government does not know how to balance a budget or spend taxpayer dollars. It’s more important than ever to oppose Governor Brown’s proposal to temporarily increase the state sales tax because the money will just be wasted again.”

“Governor Brown and his advisors have argued that the prospect of difficult spending cuts would lead to increased support for additional revenues, but the ongoing news coverage of the state’s budget problems may be creating an obstacle for his ballot initiative as well,” said Dan Schnur, who directs the poll as well as USC’s Unruh Institute of Politics. “Voters have indicated a willingness to pay more for public schools and public safety. But they are also getting skeptical about whether their elected representatives can be trusted to spend their money wisely.”

Here’s a video of Schnur and Times reporter Anthony York discussing the poll results:

Brown’s proposed measure for November’s ballot would raise the state’s sales tax by a quarter cent – from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent – for the next four years. It also would, for the next seven years, create three new high-income tax brackets for those making more than $250,000 per year, the top 3 percent of California taxpayers. Of these new revenues, which Brown estimates at $9 billion but the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s office pegs at $6.8 million, 89 percent would go to K-12 education and the rest to community colleges.

Brown’s job approval rating stands at 49 percent, virtually unchanged from the March poll, but his disapproval rating rose from 35 percent to 39 percent.

Brown’s May budget revision includes spending cuts such as reducing state employees’ workweek by 5 percent, from 40 hours a week to 38. The new poll shows voters support this by a two-to-one margin – 60 percent to 30 percent – so long as public safety workers aren’t affected, in order to save an estimated $400 million. Latino voters were much less likely than voters overall to support the state workweek cut: Only 44 percent favored this, with 45 percent opposed.

But when told this cut would mean state offices are open four days a week, overall support for reduced work hours for public employees declined to only 54 percent, with 39 percent opposed.

The poll’s full sample of 1,002 registered voters had a 3.5-percentage-point margin of error.

Posted on Tuesday, May 29th, 2012
Under: ballot measures, Jerry Brown, state budget, taxes | 9 Comments »

Bay Area lawmakers react to Brown’s budget

The rhetoric is flying hot and heavy in the hours since Gov. Jerry Brown issued his May budget revision. We’ve got an overall look at the situation in our main story, but here’s what some of your Bay Area lawmakers are saying…

From Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont:

“As we work through this shortfall, we should do all we can to protect education and access to our colleges and universities. I appreciate the Governor’s continuing commitment to demand more accountability from for-profit higher education institutions who are saddling our students with large amounts of loan debts. We can no longer accept such high levels of student loan defaults. By making more of these colleges ineligible for Cal grant funds, our students will be more likely to attend better institutions where their chances of success will be higher.”

From Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Menlo Park:

“The Governor’s May Revise reveals the tough decisions that lie ahead. I agree with the Governor that it has taken years to create the fiscal calamity that we face, and it will take years to make the structural reforms to get out of it. However, with a now $16 billion budget deficit for this year, it is near impossible to balance the budget without cuts to services we value.

“This new budget prompts the question of how much government Californians’ truly want. We cannot provide services without adequate funding. At the moment, we are severely underfunded.

“As we continue to enter budget negotiations and talks, I hope the Governor and both parties will have honest conversations of how to balance the budget without compromising our safety net, public safety, or public education system.

“It is essential that we refrain from gimmicks and tactics of kicking the can down the road. This is a problem that we face now, and in turn, we must solve this immediate deficit now. As a member of the Assembly Budget Committee, I look forward to delving into the details of this revise in order to produce a balanced, on-time budget.”

From Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco:

“The challenging cuts that Governor Brown announced today in his revised budget proposal are temporary solutions until we are able to pass responsible tax measures this November. No one is happy about $8 billion in cuts but I applaud the Governor for understanding that cuts alone will not solve our budget crisis and that California will not be able to recover economically unless we have a balanced approach to the budget deficit.

“I strongly support the proposed November tax measures and I am committed to other common sense revenue ideas like closing the corporate loopholes in Proposition 13, taxing and legalizing marijuana and enacting an oil severance tax, all of which combined would bring in more than $2 billion in new revenue annually to the state. Only by creating new revenue will we restore California’s economic health and put people back to work.”

From Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda:

“Today’s May Revise makes it clear that it is more important than ever that we move forward with Governor Brown’s tax initiative proposal. California must honestly address our structural budget deficit and thoughtfully cultivate new revenue sources. We need more revenue to responsibly fund education and protect the safety net for our most vulnerable populations. The moral and social cost of more unproductive cuts and no new revenue will be felt well past the life of this budget.”

Posted on Monday, May 14th, 2012
Under: Assembly, Bob Wieckowski, Jerry Brown, Rich Gordon, Sandre Swanson, state budget, taxes, Tom Ammiano | 9 Comments »

Jean Ross is leaving the California Budget Project

A leading advocate for state fiscal policy that protects low- and middle-income Californians is moving on to a new post.

Jean Ross is leaving her position as executive director of the California Budget Project, a nonprofit that advocates on behalf of low- and middle-income Californians. She has held this post since the CBP was founded in 1995. She’ll be taking a position next month at the Ford Foundation as the U.S. Program Officer for Transparent, Effective, and Accountable Government.

“My 17 years with the CBP have been incredibly rewarding. From day one, my goal has been to build a lasting organizational capacity to engage in timely, credible, and accessible analysis of fiscal and economic policies and their impact on California that is much greater than any one individual,” she wrote today. “I leave my position confident in the ability of the CBP’s staff, with the strong support of the organization’s board, to continue to produce the insightful analyses that policymakers, advocates, members of the media, and thousands of other Californians have come to depend on.”

She said she hopes to apply her CBP experience in her new Ford Foundation job, at which she is supposed to “ensure that federal and state governments effectively address the needs of the American people, especially the most vulnerable; that the public sector has adequate resources and revenue to accomplish this; and that government decision-making is open and accessible and encourages broad participation by the general public.”

I’ve always been deeply impressed by Ross’s encyclopedic knowledge of California’s budgets; her ability to convey that often-esoteric knowledge in terms anyone can understand; and by the passion with which she advocated for those that the CBP exists to serve.

Posted on Monday, February 6th, 2012
Under: state budget | 1 Comment »

Tax touters seek Kim Kardashian’s support (?)

How better to build support for a millionaires’ tax than to pick on one of California’s most annoying millionaires?

So they must’ve thought over at the Courage Campaign, which launched this video this afternoon:

“We love Ms. Kardashian’s sense of style and we know she gets lots of attention,” Courage Campaign founder and chairman Rick Jacobs said in a news release. “Now we want to catch her eye and ask her if she’ll support our tax proposal which asks the rich to pay their fair share in our state. Why not? After all, California’s middle class continues to suffer from endless budget cuts, and we hope to catch Ms. Kardashian in the holiday spirit.”

Seems like a win-win for the would-be taxers. If she agrees with them, it’s a high-profile celebrity endorsement. If she doesn’t, it gins up some blue-collar outrage.

For what it’s worth, I do see that Kim Kardashian is registered as a decline-to-state voter.

The Courage Campaign is a member of the Restoring California Coalition, which is pushing one of the many tax-hike proposals seeking a place on next November’s ballot. The coalition last week touted poll numbers it claims show is most popular among voters and so has the best chance of passing.

Posted on Monday, December 19th, 2011
Under: ballot measures, state budget, taxes | 5 Comments »