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Jerry Brown will lead trade mission to Mexico

Gov. Jerry Brown will lead a trade and investment mission to Mexico – California’s largest export market – in the last week of July, he announced Tuesday.

California’s neighbor has a role to play in the Golden State’s push to address its energy and environmental needs, Brown had said in his State of the State address in January.

“Reducing our oil consumption, two-thirds of which is imported by ships and tank cars, will take time, breakthrough technologies and steadfast commitment. It will also require that the countries which burn the most fossil fuel join with us,” he said at the time. “We’ve started building those partnerships with other states and countries like China. We will go to Mexico next. California can’t do this alone.”

A delegation of California government, business, economic development, investment and policy leaders will join Brown on this mission, which is being organized by the California Chamber of Commerce. The focus will be on boosting direct investment in the state, expanding bilateral economic and environmental cooperation, and connecting California businesses with new opportunities and partnerships.

Brown met last month with Mexican consuls general from cities across California.

The governor one year ago led a similar mission to China, during which he met with government leaders including China Premier Li Keqiang, opened the California-China Office of Trade and Investment in Shanghai and signed the first economic and environmental agreements ever between a subnational entity and Chinese Ministries. Brown later last year met with China’s President Xi Jinping in California to sign a climate-change pact; he also has signed pacts in the past year with leaders from Canada, Israel and Peru to combat climate change, strengthen economic ties and cooperate on research.

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Reich visits Capitol on CEO pay, oil extraction tax

It’s Robert Reich day at California’s State Capitol.

No, there hasn’t been an official proclamation. But the former U.S. Secretary of Labor, now a UC-Berkeley public policy professor, will be under the dome Thursday to speak on behalf of two bills introduced by Bay Area lawmakers.

Reich is doing a news conference with state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley; and California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski in support of DeSaulnier’s SB 1372, which would create a new corporate tax table that increases taxes on businesses with big disparities between the salaries of their workers and their CEOs. The bill is being heard Thursday morning by the State Governance and Finance Committee.

“For example, if the CEO makes 100 times the median worker in the company, the company’s tax rate drops from the current 8.8 percent down to 8 percent. If the CEO makes 25 times the pay of the typical worker, the tax rate goes down to 7 percent,” Reich wrote on his blog Monday. “On the other hand, corporations with big disparities face higher taxes. If the CEO makes 200 times the typical employee, the tax rate goes to 9.5 percent; 400 times, to 13 percent.”

“Pushing companies to put less money into the hands of their CEOs and more into the hands of average employees creates more buying power among people who will buy, and therefore more jobs,” he wrote. “For the last thirty years, almost all the incentives operating on companies have been to lower the pay of their workers while increasing the pay of their CEOs and other top executives. It’s about time some incentives were applied in the other direction.”

And, Reich will testify to the Senate Public Education Committee in favor of SB 1017 by state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, which would create an oil extraction tax to fund higher education, health and human services, state parks and more.

Reich endorsed a similar student-organized ballot measure effort last year, saying that using oil severance tax revenue for education “should be a no-brainer. It will only improve our schools. The real question is why California hasn’t done this long before now.”

The California Chamber of Commerce this month put both bills on its list of “job killers,” arguing they create barriers to economic development.

“The economic recovery is still the number one issue for Californians,” Chamber President and CEO Allan Zaremberg said when announcing the list. “These bills pose a serious threat to our economy and, if enacted, would dampen job growth in the state.”

Of Evans’ bill, Zaremberg said “an oil extraction tax will drive up consumer prices, push jobs away and upset a fragile economy that is showing strong signs of life.”

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AD 18 brawl erupts over SEIU’s ‘un-endorsement’

We don’t tend to get excited about unions endorsing Democratic candidates, but when a union later revokes that endorsement, our ears perk up.

That’s exactly what happened to Joel Young, a candidate in the 18th Assembly District, who had gained the Service Employees International Union of California’s endorsement only to then lose it.

Actually, SEIU California in early February had endorsed all three Democrats in the 18th District race: Young, who is an AC Transit director; Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta; and Peralta Community Colleges Trustee Abel Guillen. (Republican Rhonda Weber also is in the race.) But SEIU California’s board unanimously voted at the end of last month to revoke the endorsement from Young.

Here’s what’s not in dispute: Young somehow obtained parts of the endorsement questionnaires that Bonta and Guillen had filled out – papers meant for the union’s eyes only. He was showing around his opponents’ pledges not to take money from JobsPAC, a political action committee co-chaired by the California Chamber of Commerce – a pledge he never made.

Here’s what is in dispute: Young’s motivation.

Joel Young“It’s my understanding that after making a pledge not to seek money from JobsPAC or members of JobsPAC, they are indeed doing that,” Young said Thursday of Bonta and Guillen. “I realize that it’s common in our politics to talk out of both sides of our mouth, but that doesn’t make it right. Both Abel and Rob have made pledges to people in this community and it’s wrong for them to go against those pledges in Sacramento.”

“I was happy that the locals voted to support me and naturally disappointed that their vote was overridden. But that’s none of my business, that’s an SEIU issue,” he said. “While I would love to have had SEIU’s support, I remain committed to giving SEIU my support if I am elected.”

Other sources, however, said Young is putting a respectable spin on a disrespectful act – they say he used the union’s confidential information to solicit money from, and badmouth his opponents with, more conservative interests hostile to the union. As someone close to the union’s deliberations put it, “It’s uncommon for someone to accept an endorsement with one hand and then use the issues we care about as a bludgeon with the other hand.”

SEIU California Communications Director Michael Cox said Thursday he wouldn’t get into the details.

“Our local unions did not take lightly the decision to rescind Mr. Young’s endorsement. His actions violated the integrity of our member-driven, democratic endorsement process,” Cox said. “Unfortunately, his representations here are not accurate and are of a piece with the behavior that led to the withdrawal of our endorsement.”

Philemon Abraham, Bonta’s campaign coordinator, would say only that “Rob is a very principled candidate, and that’s why he earned and maintains strong support from SEIU.”

And Pat Dennis, Guillen’s campaign spokesman, said Young “needs to learn to live with the consequences of his actions. Despite Joel Young’s spin, the members of SEIU spoke with one voice and took this unprecedented action.”

Rumor has it the Alameda Labor Council will be weighing in on this next week. Stay tuned.

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Oakland chamber supports Brown’s budget plan

As expected, the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce – serving the city where the governor used to be mayor – today endorsed Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plan:

The State of California is facing a serious budget problem with an expected shortfall of over $25 billion. The Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce supports Governor Brown’s effort to address the problem in a comprehensive manner. Budget cuts are necessary but can be costly in terms of lost jobs and services. Allowing the voters to decide if temporary tax measures should be extended is appropriate and the Chamber will evaluate those ballot measures at the appropriate time.

While supportve of the overall plan, the Chamber continues its call for action in other areas critical to putting the state on a firm financial footing. These critical policy areas include public employee pension reform, regulatory reform to help attract and retain jobs and improvements to the budget process.

Brown also today trotted out support from the California Grocers Association and the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, a prominent Indian gaming entity.

In a letter to Brown, grocers association Chairman Jim Amen and President & CEO Ronald K. Fong wrote to “express support of your efforts in concept, which will allow voters to decide California’s future. It goes without saying that our state is faced with an unprecedented deficit and that the solution to our current fiscal problems will be significantly burdensome for citizens and businesses alike.”

All this as the governor continues trying to provide enough business-sector cover to any Legislative Republicans who’ll break with their leadership to vote alongside Democrats to enact cuts and let voters decide in a special election whether to extend current income, sales and vehicle taxes for another five years.

So far, no Republican has committed to doing so, but tense meetings continue in Sacramento. Tomorrow is the deadline Brown had set for legislative votes on the package, as he said he’d need this much time in order to call and prepare for a June 7 special election, ahead of the state constitution’s June 15 deadline for adopting next year’s budget.

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More insurance-industry cash to help Villines

I’d reported last week that the insurance industry seems to be buying into the election for state Insurance Commissioner by dumping money into JobsPAC – a political action committee co-chaired by the California Chamber of Commerce – which in turn is running an independent expenditure campaign for Republican nominee Mike Villines and against Democratic nominee Dave Jones.

That spending continued this weekend. JobsPAC on Saturday reported having received:

  • $450,000 from Allstate Insurance Co. on Thursday;
  • $250,000 from Mercury Insurance Chairman George Joseph on Thursday;
  • $365,000 from Liberty Mutual Group Inc. on Thursday; and
  • $300,000 from Progressive Insurance on Thursday and Friday.
  • The PAC also reported Saturday a $40,125 ad buy in support of Villines, and the same amount for an ad buy against Jones.

    Villines campaign spokeswoman Jennifer Gibbons on Thursday had said the campaign neither has coordinated with JobsPAC nor has any knowledge of their activities or contributors.

    The San Francisco Chronicle, in endorsing Villines at the start of this month, had noted both Villines and Jones have refused to accept industry-related contributions; apparently Villines has no problem, however, accepting industry-funded help so long as it’s coming through an intermediary. (In fairness, and as the Chronicle noted as well, Jones has taken lots of campaign money from attorneys, who often battle insurers in court and so have a vested interest in this race, too.)