And on Friday, she reported having received $2,500 from San Ramon-based Chevron Corp. on June 2. That’s interesting in light of Hayashi’s opposition to fracking, and her attack upon rival Democrat Bob Wieckowski for not supporting a moratorium; Chevron semi-notoriously provided free pizza to residents near the site of a fracking explosion and fire this past February in Pennsylvania.
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said this morning she intends to introduce a bill this week that will provide tax relief to Californians donating money to Haiti earthquake relief efforts in January.
“Giving is one way for people to deal with the enormity of a catastrophe like this,” Bass said. “Many Californians have responded by giving even if it means taking on an extra financial burden in these tough times. This legislation makes it easier for more to give and participate in the relief effort that our neighbors in Haiti desperately need.”
It’ll allow individual and corporate taxpayers making cash contributions this month to eligible charitable organizations for relief Haiti earthquake victims to deduct these contributions in the 2009 tax year. The Legislature passed a similar measure in response to the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004.
Bass yesterday announced that her successor as Speaker, John Perez, D-Los Angeles, will be sworn into his leadership post March 1.
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, this afternoon announced that Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, and Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, will be among the 10 members of her chamber (eight Democrats and two Republicans) serving on the Joint Select Committee on Reform.
Bass and state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, are forming the panel with the goals of making the Legislature more transparent and effective and making state government more efficient and customer friendly. Steinberg announced his appointments last week, including state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, as co-chairman .
Hill issued a statement saying he’s “eager to answer the call of our constituents for a more efficient and transparent government. I’m confident this group will lead the way to a more productive government with thorough analysis of potential reforms.”
Bass said her appointees “are ready to hit the ground running on reforms. I look forward to the Committee’s recommendations as they work throughout the coming weeks to produce a roadmap to help California work better.”
According to last week’s news release announcing the committee’s formation, the panel will be tasked with:
– Giving Californians more value for their tax dollars by making government more efficient and accountable.
– Prioritizing key issues, so government makes the tough decisions and only turns to the voters when absolutely necessary.
– Cutting through the gridlock caused by outmoded rules and undue partisanship.
– Making government more transparent and accessible from around the state.
– Diminishing the influence of special interests.
– Making government more customer-friendly.
– Creating a process that encourages decisions that reflect long-term thinking, not short-term band-aids.
The Public Policy Institute of California found in July that only 17 percent of California adults, 14 percent of registered voters and 10 percent of likely voters it had surveyed approved of the way the state Legislature is handling it’s job, and I’m willing to bet the last two months haven’t brought any significant improvement. Re-instilling faith in our state lawmakers won’t be easy or quick; here’s hoping these and other appointees are up to the task, and that the task itself isn’t inherently impossible.
I went through the state Legislature’s database today to see how all of our Bay Area lawmakers voted on each of the more than two dozen budget bills passed late last week. It turns out that Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda, voted against at least 14 of the bills, more than anyone else in the region.
It’s not the first time he has bucked his party’s leadership: Swanson was stripped of his Assembly Labor and Employment Committee chairmanship in March after defying Assembly Speaker Karen Bass by voting against parts of the budget-and-special-election package the Big Five had pounded out in February.
Apparently, for Swanson, freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.
“A number of us cast votes that reflected our consciences and our constituencies,” he told me today. “The reason why it (the budget agreement) didn’t sit well with me is that if we’re being honest with the people of California, this was as close to an all-cuts budget in the series of budgets we’ve produced.”
That all-cuts approach is what the Republican caucus wanted, he said, and if they wanted it, they had to be made to vote for it.
“If I cast a vote for something based on the caucus asking me to cast a vote versus my constituency, it allowed a Republican member to hide their real feelings about it. I felt they should own this budget… I’m not giving them any cover on it,” he said. “If they want to raid local counties and cities, they have to vote for it.”
Any Republican proudly proclaiming that he or she didn’t vote to raise taxes as part of this deal is making “a disingenuous statement,” Swanson charged. “What they have done is avoided responsibility for raising fees and taxes and pushed that onto the counties and the cities.”
“There are no free lunches, and there is no way around our taking care of the safety net,” he said – squeeze spending down in one area, and the demand for services will cause a budget bulge somewhere else.
And anyway, he said, “the serious work is still yet to be done” – he’s heard projections that California will have another budget shortfall of as much as $6 billion by January as the economy continues to struggle. “At some point as a Legislature and a governor, we’re going to have to do things to actually fix the structural budget deficit in California.”
Swanson said he believes California, as a “donor state” which sends to the federal government about $50 billion more per year than it gets back, can and will do more to work with the Obama Administration to secure the Golden State’s fair share. But that won’t be a substitute for true reform, he said, and that involves changing the state constitution so a simple legislative majority can approve the budget rather than the two-thirds vote required now.
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, and Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, hosted a conference call this afternoon for bloggers — mostly the liberal Democratic netroots, as it turned out.
It was contentious to say the least. Bass was hammered with questions about what she is and isn’t willing to give up in order to get a budget plan passed by this month’s end, and ultimately offered few details.
“We are going to fight as hard as we can for a balanced approach,” Bass vowed, adding that while that almost certainly won’t mean a 50-50 split between budget cuts and revenue increases, “we are going to do everything we can” to ensure the state’s $24 billion deficit isn’t solved by cuts alone.
“We really do have to put this incredible pressure on the governor to sign majority-vote revenue,” Skinner urged – fees or revenue-neutral tax swaps, as opposed to tax increases requiring a two-thirds majority and thus effectively stonewalled by Republicans.
Bass agreed, but wouldn’t identify specific revenues she wants to hike: “I just want them to total up to about $5 billion, minimum.”
Bass said her caucus is committed to changing Proposition 13’s property tax assessment restrictions so that residential owners remain fully protected while commercial owners are reassessed more regularly. But just as with abolishing the two-thirds-vote requirement for taxes and budgets, she said, no Republican will ever sign off on it, so it’ll have to be accomplished with an initiative placed on the ballot via petition signatures. And that’ll come long after the state runs out of cash and goes into default next month, she noted.
Bass said she’s worried that if the state defaults, “some entity” – which a blogger later narrowed down to a special master appointed by a bankruptcy court – could take control of state finances and enact cuts without lawmakers input. The blogger – I believe it was the relentless Michael Fox of The Liberal OC – said he couldn’t imagine how such a thing could happen given the state and federal constitutions’ guarantee of representative government.
More on whose arms are about to be twisted, after the jump…
From Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Alameda:
“The Governor’s proposal to balance the $24 billion budget shortfall without the use of additional revenues is neither a fair nor realistic solution to the budget crisis. I find it morally objectionable for the Governor’s proposals to specifically cut Cal-Works, Healthy Families, Cal-Grants, In-home service care for the elderly, and even access to State parks. The Governor’s proposal also fails at its intended goals: it fails to address our deficit and it fails to reflect our priorities.
“In this budget year alone, we have instituted $23 billion of cuts, over 20% of our $105 billion budget. These cuts represent a tremendous amount of pain for California, a serious reduction in services to our constituencies, and a reduction in the prosperity of our state.
“Our budget must reflect our priorities. It must reflect what kind of state we want to be. I believe our state should be one that gives priority to children, seniors, and support for working families, all of which requires us to invest in our state. I hope we will look at revenue solutions that are realistic, that help the state support its safety net programs, and that provide Californians with the services they require and demand as they work to bring our state through this economic crisis.”
From State Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley:
“That was Governor Schwarzenegger’s best speech yet. He understands, as I do, that voters sent an undeniably strong message during the special election last month: cut spending, do your job and live within your means with no new taxes. Senate Republicans have been preaching this message of fiscal conservatism for years.
“The Governor understands, as we do, that our options are few. There is no combination of taxes and fees that will close this yawning $24 billion deficit, nor does the legislative will exist to raise taxes again. Raising taxes is not the answer. We cannot borrow our way out of this mess. Banks do not consider California to be a good loan risk, and with our track record of overspending, I can’t blame them. The only option left on the table is to cut spending, reform inefficient government agencies, live within our means and never make the mistake of spending more than we have again.
“Now, let’s get to work!”
More, after the jump…