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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.

5

Judge issues temporary order to halt IHSS cuts

A federal judge in Oakland has issued a temporary restraining order to keep California from implementing a 20 percent across-the-board cut in the In-Home Supportive Services program on Jan. 1.

IHSS is meant as an alternative to nursing homes or other out-of-home institutionalization for the elderly, disabled and blind. The deep cut was part of the state budget deal passed earlier this year.

But U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken found that the planned cut “will cause immediate and irreparable harm by placing members of the plaintiff class at imminent and serious risk of harm to their health and safety, as well as unnecessary and unwanted out-of-home placement including institutionalization.”

The order gives a coalition of disability rights and senior-citizen advocacy groups, plus labor unions representing IHSS workers, more time to make a case to overturn the cut completely. A hearing on a preliminary injunction in the case is scheduled for Dec. 15.

The TRO will remain in effect until there is a hearing in which the Court will decide whether to grant a preliminary injunction. This hearing is tentatively scheduled for December 15th.

“We are pleased that Judge Wilken recognized the urgency of preventing the state from moving ahead with this devastating cut that would affect nearly 400,000 elderly and disabled Californians,” Doug Moore, executive director of the 65,000-member UDW Homecare Providers Union and an international vice president of AFSCME, said in a news release. “We believe these cuts to IHSS would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws and need to be stopped immediately.”

6

Loni Hancock speaks in support of faculty strike

State Senator Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, joined striking faculty members, staff, students and California Faculty Association supporters at a rally this afternoon at California State University, East Bay in Hayward.

From her prepared remarks:

“This is a pivotal moment for California’s educational system. In times of economic fragility such as we are in now, we are faced with gut-wrenching choices. It is all too easy for high-level managers to shift a disproportionate burden of cutbacks and suffering to those who are the real heart of the university system – the faculty, staff and students.

“I am here to congratulate and support the faculty of this great university for having the courage to stand up for fairness and for making a stand against the destruction of our education system.

“You have been more than patient as you have watched the California university system diminished by drastic budget cuts, skyrocketing tuition and fee increases, reduced resources for faculty and staff and an intransigent administration refusing to compromise on contracts.

“You have been more than patient as you have watched students suffer the consequences. Every day, I hear from frustrated and angry Americans worried about being able to send their kids to college because their savings have been depleted thanks to Wall Street greed and mismanagement.

“I urge the university’s administration to listen to you – to heed the voices of the faculty, staff and students who are the heart and soul of this great university. You are the 99 percent, and your voice will be heard.”

17

Dissecting the debt-ceiling/deficit deal

The debt-ceiling and deficit reduction package on which Congress will vote later today “removed the cloud of uncertainty that was over our economy” and paves the way for further, balanced debttt reduction later on, a top White House aide said a few minutes ago.

On a conference call with reporters, David Plouffe – senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama – said the bipartisan “supercommittee” this package creates will have until Thanksgiving to come up with a plan that will mix spending cuts with tax reform, possibly including closing corporate tax loopholes and raising taxes on the nation’s wealthiest.

Asked why anyone should believe this panel will succeed in accomplishing what so many others have failed to do – devising a plan that can get enough votes in Congress plus the President’s signature – Plouffe replied that this commission isn’t starting from square one. Its work will be based in part on frameworks already established by the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and in the more recent, direct talks between the President and House Speaker John Boehner.

National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling noted that when the Senate’s “Gang of Six” recently advanced a plan with even more revenue than the President had sought, as many as 15 to 20 Republican senators appeared ready to sign on. Poll show the public wants a balanced approach and experts say it’s the only way to go, Sperling said, so Republicans in both chambers will have to realize they can’t put an undue burden of deficit reduction on the nation’s most vulnerable if they want to see it become law.

But voices at both sides of the political spectrum are crying foul. Lots more on that, after the jump…
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2

East Bay man becomes courts’ top administrator

A Danville man and former Alameda County Superior Court administrator is taking over as the California court system’s top bureaucrat, just as the courts face crippling budget cuts.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced today that she and the Judicial Council approved the appointment of Ronald Overholt, 59, as interim Administrative Director of the California Courts, effective Sept. 10. He’ll succeed William Vickrey, who will retire Sept. 9 after doing that job for 19 years.

“As Chief Deputy Director of the AOC for the past 11 years and as a highly experienced former trial court executive, Ron is intimately familiar with the statewide budget process and many other aspects of court administration,” Cantil-Sakauye said in a news release. “I look forward to working with Ron and have confidence that he will continue the highest standards of leadership.”

Overholt has been the Administrative Office of the Court’s chief deputy director since 2000; before that, he had been the Executive Officer, Jury Commissioner, and Clerk of the Superior Court of Alameda County. He also had been a manager in the San Diego County courts from 1979 to 1988. In 2010, he received the National Center for State Courts‘ Distinguished Service Award, one of the highest honors bestowed by the national organization. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from National University in San Diego and a bachelor’s degree in sociology from San Diego State University. Overholt and his wife, PJ, have a daughter, Blaire.

Overholt, in the news release, said he’s honored by the promotion: “I could not be more proud to be a member of the staff of the AOC and to lead its work.”

Temporarily, at least. The Judicial Council also Friday authorized Cantil-Sakauye to appoint a committee to develop a process for selecting a permanent director.

It might be a largely thankless job. The Judicial Council on Friday voted unanimously to stand by its plan for apportioning out the $350 million in cuts necessitated by the Legislature’s 2011-2012 budget. The council rejected trial judges’ pleas for deeper bureaucratic cuts to protect their courtrooms – the system’s main interface with the public – from widespread closures that will make the wheels of civil justice grind even slower.

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Lockyer: Let further cuts start in GOP districts

State lawmakers who want an all-cuts budget because less government is better should get their wish starting with their own districts, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer said this morning.

Lockyer, visiting the Bay Area News Group-East Bay’s editorial board, said that when these lawmakers – many of whom already serve the state’s most recession-stricken areas – start hearing from their constituents about even deeper cutbacks in police and fire services, public schools and universities, social services and the like, they’ll soon think the better of stonewalling a public vote on Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to extend current tax rates for five more years.

It’s a put-your-money – or lack thereof – where-your-mouth-is tactic.

Short of even more painful cuts atop those already signed into law, Lockyer sees no end to the current deadlock, he said.

Refuting the common “it’s a spending problem, not a revenue problem” meme, Lockyer noted that under Gov. Ronald Reagan, general fund spending amounted to about $5.02 for every $100 of wealth in the state. If Brown’s tax extensions are enacted, the rate would be about $5.05 per $100 – basically flat since 40 years ago.

He came loaded for bear with a packet of graphs and charts showing the huge spending reductions that an all-cuts budget would entail, and as well as tracking various scenarios under various kinds of spending caps. The long and short of it is that Brown’s plan would allow the most growth in general-fund spending over the next five years; about 4.7 percent; a spending cap based only on personal income growth would allow about 4.4 percent growth; a spending cap based on growth in population and the Consumer Price Index would allow for about 2 percent growth; an all-cuts budget espoused by Republicans would allow for about 1.7 percent growth; and ACA 4, a rainy-day-fund expansion measure passed by the Legislature last year and now awaiting voter approval, would shrink spending by about 0.7 percent.

“The dirty little secret is that neither D’s nor R’s know what creates jobs,” he said, noting that Democrats tend toward dumping more money into public spending while Republicans look to “make the rich richer.” There’s less evidence for the latter’s efficacy, he said, but both reflect more ideology than actual track record.

He said although he favored moving in January to put a tax-extension measure on the ballot without Republican votes, he understands why Brown might’ve felt “the optics necessitated the exercise” – an effort to allow for bipartisanship, even if Republicans “were always going to find an out” from signing onto the plan.

“The people who want less government ought to be at the front of that line to get less government,” he said, even as Brown “has to keep doing what he’s doing, keep engaging Republicans.” The task is to “have people try to understand what an all-cuts budget means, in very specific terms.”