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John Chiang raising money for gubenatorial bid

John Chiang

Treasurer John Chiang has been upfront about his interest in running for governor in 2018, and Monday, he filed paperwork to start raising money to take on a potentially star-studded field.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is already a candidate. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and billionaire activist Tom Steyer are also rumored candidates.

See below for Chiang’s announcement:

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CA17: Five statewide officials endorse Honda

Five of California’s eight statewide constitutional officers endorsed Rep. Mike Honda on Monday for re-election over Democratic challenger Ro Khanna in the 17th Congressional District.

Honda, D-San Jose, issued a news release saying he’s humbled to have the support of Attorney General Kamala Harris, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, Treasurer John Chiang, Controller Betty Yee and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

“I share their deep passion and commitment to solving problems facing many of California’s working families,” Honda said. “They represent the very best of what our state has to offer and I look forward to continuing my work with them.”

Harris, currently the frontrunner for the U.S. Senate seat from which Barbara Boxer will retire at year’s end, said that “from improving public safety, fighting to end human trafficking, and ensuring the civil rights of all people are protected – Mike has always been there.”

Yee said “Honda has been a tireless advocate for the people of Silicon Valley: securing funding for BART expansion, boosting critical research in nanotechnology, and fighting to ensure that every child has access to quality education.”

And Torlakson called Honda “an unwavering ally to California’s students and teachers. As a former science teacher and principal, education has always been one of his top priorities. Mike is working across the aisle to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in our classroom’s, which will provide our children and country with the skills to stay competitive in this global economy.”

Among the other statewide constitutional officers, Secretary of State Alex Padilla has endorsed Khanna; Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom endorsed Khanna in 2014 but has not yet made an endorsement for 2016; and Gov. Jerry Brown endorsed Honda in 2014 but has not yet made an endorsement for 2016.

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Chiang urges CalSTRS to divest from gun maker

California Treasurer John Chiang is concerned that the state’s teachers’ pension system still has investments managed by a firm that hasn’t kept its promise to sell off its firearm-manufacturing holdings.

This all started with the December, 2012 schoolhouse massacre in Newtown, Conn., in which a Bushmaster AR-15-type semi-automatic rifle – which fit California’s definition of an assault weapon – was used to kill 20 children and six adults. Bushmaster – along with Remington, Marlin and several other firearm brands – belongs to the Freedom Group, which in turn is owned by Cerberus Capital Management.

Bushmaster XM15

Soon after the Newtown shooting, the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) issued a statement expressing concern that Cerberus – which manages some private equity funds in which CalSTRS is invested – owned Freedom Group. But Cerberus had just announced that it intended to sell Freedom Group, so CalSTRS was satisfied.

Yet Cerberus still owns Freedom Group today.

“Two years ago, I was proud to support the effort of CalSTRS to divest from assault weapon manufacturers,” Chiang wrote this week CalSTRS investment committee chairwoman Sharon Hendricks. “I am frustrated that two years have passed and the Freedom Group remains in their portfolio, indirectly financed by the pension contributions of California teachers.”

Chiang acknowledged the pension fund is obliged to find sound investments, but “it must consider how those investments may be used to finance business interests that run counter to the beliefs of CalSTRS and its members.”

“We rightly determined that there is significant risk in investing in the Freedom Group, a business that manufactures weapons that are susceptible to sanctions, regulations, and actions that could be detrimental to the fund,” he wrote, urging the CalSTRS board to do whatever is necessary to fully divest from the Freedom Group.

Chiang also asked that Cerberus’ leadership attend the CalSTRS board meeting this Friday “to explain why the Freedom Group remains in its portfolio despite agreeing to remove it more than two years ago. It is vital that Cerberus understand the strong desire of CalSTRS, its Board, and teachers in California, that none of its funds be used to fund the manufacturing of weapons used to commit such terrible atrocities.”

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State oversight avalanche bears down on ABAG

State officials are rushing to put new oversights in place following the embezzlement of almost $1.3 million by an Association of Bay Area Governments official from a bond-funded San Francisco development account.

State Treasurer John Chiang on Thursday announced a partnership with Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, to conduct legislative oversight hearings to make sure money raised through government bond sales is safe from fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. Chiang also said he has created a special task force to develop best-practices guidelines on the care of bond proceeds that will be issued to all state and local governments.

California and its local governments over the past decade have issued more than $700 billion in public debt, Chiang noted in a news release.

“We rely on these borrowed moneys to build and maintain the critical infrastructure upon which our communities and economy depend – from schools and roads to levees and libraries,” Chiang said. “The ease in which one of ABAG’s leaders allegedly fleeced more than a million dollars in bond funds raises concerns regarding whether there are sufficient safeguards at the thousands of State and local agencies which are responsible for nearly three-quarters of a trillion bond dollars.”

And state Controller Betty Yee announced Thursday her staff will audit ABAG’s internal administrative and accounting controls.

“As California’s chief fiscal officer, I am charged with protecting state resources,” Yee said. “When public money goes missing, I need to determine how it happened and whether effective controls are in place.”

Yee’s audit will initially focus on FY 2012-13 and 2013-2014, but that might expand if investigators discover accounting weaknesses that may have affected earlier years. The Controller’s Office sent a letter today to ABAG asking that the association make available documents that will be used in the audit including ledgers, contracts, invoices, personnel records, meeting minutes, policies and procedures. The audit work will begin Feb. 20 and is expected to take a few weeks.

More, after the jump…
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Reactions to Barbara Boxer’s decision not to run

Click here to read our full story on Boxer’s decision.

From U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.:

“It was 22 years ago this week when Barbara became a senator, and she has certainly left her mark. After I spoke with Barbara this morning about her decision, I realized that even though she may leave the Senate, I’m confident she’ll remain a champion on the many issues that defined her public service.

“Barbara took on a lot of challenges in Congress, but I think I’m most grateful for her hard work in support of women and families, the environment, human rights and her tireless efforts to modernize our country’s infrastructure. She has made a real difference for California and the country.

“Barbara and I worked particularly hard on the fight against global warming—I think no one is more engaged on this issue than she. It’s been an uphill battle, but today we’re seeing the success Barbara has had on making climate change a real priority for Americans.

“I always knew I had a partner in Barbara. She is never one to shy away from any challenge, and I can’t thank her enough for being such a resilient collaborator. We blazed many trails together, and now I’m eager to see where her next steps take her. Barbara is so passionate about so many things, I know her work has really just started. I’m sure she’ll continue to be a role model and inspiration to us all.

“Barbara, thank you and best wishes as you take that next step forward. It has been a true honor to serve with you.”

From California Republican Party Vice Chairwoman Harmeet Dhillon:

Harmeet Dhillon“Senator Boxer’s impending retirement at the end of 2016 will bring a long-overdue opportunity for change to California’s representation in the Senate. For far too long Senator Boxer has pushed a liberal agenda that does little to address the challenges facing millions of Californians and Americans alike. Important issues to Californians such as the economy, technology, energy policy, excessive regulation on small businesses, education, and meaningful immigration reform have fallen behind in the wake of her focus to push a strictly partisan agenda at the cost of California citizens. We look forward to a spirited campaign to replace Senator Boxer with someone more in line with the needs and the goals of California voters.”

From House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, at her weekly news conference:

Nancy Pelosi“She called me before I came down here. It’s funny, she called me and she said she wanted to talk to me personally. I thought maybe she wanted to have dinner tonight or something. Oh my. Well, her decision is an important one for her and her family. It’s all personal and individual. Senator Boxer has been such a champion for the people of California and, indeed, for our entire country.

“I have always said of Congresswoman Boxer, Senator Boxer – Congresswoman when I came to Congress – Senator Boxer, that she is – this will sound like an oxymoron to you, but she is one of the most unselfish politicians I have ever known of. She has always shared her ideas. She has always shared the credit. She has always tried to help people succeed with their ideas. She has reached across the aisle. She has reached across our state, which is a glorious state. And her leaving will be a great loss to the Congress of the United States, the people of California, and to our country.

“I hope as she goes – I assume that she’s not running, but she’ll be here the next two years – and in the course of that time, there will be real recognition of the difference that she has made for fairness in our economy, protection of our environment, respect for our men and women in uniform. She’s really a great leader for our country – small in size but a giant in terms of her contribution to the country. I didn’t know. As I said, all I had was a call from her, but I didn’t want to keep you waiting.

“It’s a real loss, I think. But God bless her, for her decision. And I wish her and Stewart and their family well. Thank you. My granddaughter just took her grandson out for their sixth birthday. They were born a couple months apart. So we are very close, from a family standpoint. Senator Boxer had a shower for my daughter, Christine, five days [before] – that would be six years [ago] – and the next day, her daughter Nicole had the baby, Sawyer. So they are just very close in age. And our family celebrations have been together over time, whether it’s weddings or babies or whatever. So, it’s a close personal friendship.

“Of course, I wish the best for her in that regard personally. Officially, I think it’s a big loss for the country. But she knows her timetable. Thank you very much.”

Much, much more, after the jump…
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California’s budget finished 2013-14 in the black

California finished its fiscal year in the black for the first time since 2007, state Controller John Chiang confirmed Thursday.

California in the blackThat means the state had funds available to meet all of its payment obligations without needing to borrow from Wall Street or from the $23.8 billion available in its more than 700 internal special funds and accounts.

“While this is welcome news after seven years of record-high borrowing just to pay our everyday bills, we still have much work to do,” Chiang said in a news release. “We should remain laser-focused on paying down the Wall of Debt, reversing the many accounting gimmicks to which we’ve become addicted and keeping the State as liquid as possible to avoid experiencing the payment delays and IOUs that plagued our State during the Great Recession.”

The economy inevitably will decline again sooner or later, he noted. “We should be vigilant about preparing for that day while we celebrate the great progress we’ve made to date.”

Chiang’s report found the General Fund had $1.9 billion in cash on June 30, marking the first time it has ended the fiscal year in the black since 2007, when it ended the year with $2.5 billion in the bank.

For the 2013-14 fiscal year, revenues came in at $101.6 billion, or $2.1 billion (2.1 percent) more than projected in the Governor’s budget released in January. Personal income taxes totaled $66.2 billion, coming in $1.7 billion above the January estimates (2.6 percent). Corporate taxes totaled $8.5 billion, which was $725 million more than expected (9.3 percent). Retail sales and use taxes came in at $22.2 billion, or $415 million under (1.8 percent) the estimates.

Revenues for June alone totaled $14.8 billion, beating estimates in the 2014-15 Governor’s Budget by $304 million (2.1 percent). Income tax collections for the month of June came in $635 million (7.4 percent) above estimates. Corporate taxes topped estimates by $289 million (13.2 percent). Sales taxes came in short of estimates by $265.8 million (11.6 percent).