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Tools you can use for the Nov. 4 election

As the election advertising reaches fever pitch, burning up your TV and clogging your mailbox, here are a few resources for cutting through the smoke:

Voters Edge, set up by MAPLight.org and the League of Women Voters California Education Fund, takes your home address and presents you with a virtual version of your ballot with click-throughs that not only informs you about the measures and candidates, but also provides a run-down of those measures’ and candidates’ biggest campaign donors.

California Choices, a collaborative effort by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Next 10 and UC-Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, has updated its website to include guides to the six statewide ballot measures, as well as a page where you can compare endorsements from unions, nonprofits, parties and news organizations.

The nonpartisan, nonprofit California Voter Foundation’s guide is pretty easy to navigate. And, though you should’ve received it in the mail already, the state’s Official Voter Information Guide is available online as well.

Don’t forget: Next Monday, Oct. 20 is the last day to register to vote in this election. You can do so online, or pick up a paper voter registration application at your county elections office, library, Department of Motor Vehicles offices, or U.S. post office.

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GO REGISTER TO VOTE. NOW.

If you’re not yet registered to vote in the June 3 primary election, you only have one more week in which to get signed up.

The deadline is next Monday, May 19, Secretary of State Debra Bowen reminds Californians. “With the deadline to register to vote almost here, now is the time to get it done and check it off your ‘to-do’ list,” she said. “Registering to vote is now easier than ever for eligible Californians, so there is no need to wait.”

Eligible Californians can register online at RegisterToVote.ca.gov or get a paper application at local libraries, U.S. post offices, California Department of Motor Vehicles offices, and many more places. Voter registration closes 15 days prior to any California election.

A person must re-register to vote after moving or changing names, or to change his or her political party preference. Voters can check their registration status by contacting their county registars’ offices; a list of websites and phone numbers is available at www.sos.ca.gov/elections/registration-status.

Remember: If you don’t register and vote, you get whatever everyone else thinks you deserve and you have no right to complain.

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No love for GOP in statewide race finance reports

Republicans are taking a drubbing in trying to raise money for California’s statewide elections, according to campaign finance reports that were due Monday.

Monday was the deadline to file reports for Jan. 1 through March 17, and there wasn’t much good news for the GOP. That might not be surprising, after state GOP Chairman Jim Brulte said recently that statewide races won’t be a priority for his party this year, given that only a few are even competitive (and he wouldn’t say which ones).

Even gubernatorial contender Neel Kashkari seems to have ended his honeymoon with contributors early. Though he said in February that he had raised $976,000 in his campaign’s first two weeks, the report he filed Monday indicated he has raised only about $1.34 million total so far – a signficant slowdown after that first burst, and a pittance next to incumbent Gov. Jerry Brown’s $19.7 million war chest.

So, here’s a sampling of how it’s shaking out as of now; all figures below are as of March 17, and I’ll be updating as reports come in.

Governor
Jerry Brown (D)(i) – $19,747,924 cash on hand; $0 debt
Neel Kashkari (R) – $903,478 cash on hand; $93,807 debt
Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount (R) – $8,184 cash on hand; $19,832 debt
Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R) – $10,766 cash on hand; $149,068 debt

Lt. Governor
Gavin Newsom (D)(i) – $1,915,093 cash on hand; $30,315 debt
Ron Nehring (R) –
George Yang (R) –

Attorney General
Kamala Harris (D)(i) – $3,164,966 cash on hand; $5,044 debt
Ronald Gold (R) –
John Haggerty (R) –
David King (R) –
Phil Wyman (R) –

Secretary of State
state Sen. Alex Padilla (D) – $614,426 cash on hand; $73,900 debt
state Sen. Leland Yee (D) – $134,556 cash on hand; $48,088 debt
Derek Cressman (D) – $77,317 cash on hand; $192,781 debt
Pete Peterson (R) – $1,638 cash on hand; $84,913 debt
Dan Schnur (NPP) – $260,441 cash on hand; $64,390 debt

Controller
Assembly Speaker John Perez (D) – $1,792,681 cash on hand; $6,089 debt
Brd of Equalization member Betty Yee (D) – $100,530 cash on hand; $35,672 debt
David Evans (R) –
Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin (R) –

Treasurer
Controller John Chiang (D) – $2,037,770 cash on hand; $376 debt
Greg Conlon (R) –

Insurance Commissioner
Dave Jones (D)(i) – $1,578,714 cash on hand; $1,777 debt
State Sen. Ted Gaines (R) – $32,000 cash on hand; $12,451 debt

Superintendent of Public Instruction
Tom Torlakson (i) – $581,588 cash on hand; $4,624 debt
Marshall Tuck – $454,600 cash on hand; $65,668 debt
Lydia Gutierrez – $6,163 cash on hand; $21,865 debt

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Oil-extraction tax measure dies, but will return

A student-led campaign to put an oil-extraction tax ballot measure before California voters has failed – and is starting all over again with renewed vigor.

Monday was the signature-gathering deadline for the “California Modernization and Economic Development Act,” a measure conceived at UC-Berkeley that would’ve imposed a 9.5 percent tax on oil and natural gas extracted in the state. Petition circulation began April 25, but the proponents couldn’t hit their 504,760-signature mark.

But Californians for Responsible Economic Development, the student-led group that drafted the initiative, plans to resubmit a revised measure.

California oil wells“This summer has been busy for the CMED team,” said Aaron Thule, the campaign’s grassroots coordinator. “After a lot of hard work, we have built a signature gathering coalition for fall and winter that will be ready to activate and qualify this initiative come November.”

The tax would’ve raised an estimated $1.5 billion to $2 billion per year. In its first decade, 60 percent of its revenue would’ve been split equally among K-12 education, community colleges, the California State University system and the University of California system; 22 percent would’ve gone to clean-energy projects and research; 15 percent would’ve gone to counties for infrastructure and public health and safety services; and 3 percent would’ve gone to state parks. After the first decade, 80 percent would’ve gone to education, 15 percent to counties and 5 percent to state parks.

The revised initiative will have a sliding scale tax of 2 percent to 8 percent, which the proponents say will protect small business owners and jobs while still bringing in about $1 billion per year.

The revised initiative also will change the revenue allocation: 50 percent would be put in a special 30-year endowment fund for education, which after three years would start paying out equally to K-12, community colleges, CSU and UC. The proponents predict that after 30 years of collecting interest, it would bring in as much as $3.5 billion per year for education.

Another 25 percent would provide families and businesses with subsidies for switching to cleaner, cheaper energy, and the final 25 percent would be put toward rolling back the gas tax increase enacted last July, to make gas more affordable for working-class Californians, the proponents say.

Working to qualify the measure by early spring will be the University of California Student Association, groups at San Francisco State University, Sonoma State University, CSU Bakersfield and several community colleges. California College Democrats and California Young Democrats, both of which have endorsed an extraction tax for education and clean energy, are also lending support.

“It’s hard to believe that California is the only state that practically gives away our energy – especially when, as a state, our schools and colleges continue to struggle and we have yet to provide adequate funding to meet our own renewable energy standards,” College Democrats President Erik Taylor said.

The UCSA, representing hundreds of thousands of UC students, plans to organize across several campuses. “Affordability and funding are critical issues at the UC and Prop 30 simply is not the solution in itself that we need,” UCSA President Kareem Aref. “Our campaigns for this year are designed to ensure a stable and long term funding stream for the UC.”

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State targeting those who didn’t file 2011 returns

You might be getting a call soon from the state Franchise Tax Board if you didn’t file a state income tax return for 2011.

The board is contacting more than one million Californians who didn’t meet the Oct. 15, 2012 deadline. It’s comparing records of filed tax returns with more than 400 million income records it receives each year from third parties to find those who earned California income but didn’t file a return. The FTB gets income information from the IRS, banks, employers, state departments, and other sources, and also uses occupational licenses and mortgage interest payment information to detect others who may also have a requirement to file a state tax return.

Around here, the FTB is looking up 27,751 people in Alameda County; 19,466 in Contra Costa County; 10,855 in San Mateo County; 25,435 in Santa Clara County, and 3,876 in Santa Cruz County. Last year, FTB collected more than $714 million statewide through these efforts.

Those contacted have 30 days to file a state tax return or show why one is not due. When a required return is not filed, FTB issues a tax assessment using income records to estimate the amount of state tax due; that assessment includes interest, fees, and penalties that can total up to 50 percent.

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California poised to set voter registration record

California is on track for a record-high number of registered voters, Secretary of State Debra Bowen said today.

Yesterday was the deadline to register to vote in next month’s presidential election. Bowen said more than 679,000 Californians were added to the state’s voter rolls in the final 45 days leading up to that deadline, and that number will go up as county elections officials keep verifying the eligibility of tens of thousands more last-minute registrants.

The last certified statewide data, as of Sept. 7, showed 17,259,680 Californians registered to vote. The record high for California – set in February 2009 – was 17,334,275 registrants, so all those from the last few weeks are sure to put the state well past that mark.

“I must emphasize these are preliminary numbers and not the final confirmed roster of eligible voters in California because county elections officials are now hard at work verifying each and every application,” Bowen said in a news release. “After all 58 county elections officials send their registration data to my office, we will compile the certified statewide numbers and publish a final report of registered voters on November 2.”

Of the more than 679,000 verified new voters so far, about 381,000 submitted their applications using the Secretary of State’s new online system and about 298,000 submitted paper applications.