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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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Will Oakland Chamber support Brown’s budget?

The San Francisco Chamber of Commerce endorsed Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget plan today. The Bay Area Council endorsed it Friday. The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce endorsed it last month. And even the California Chamber of Commerce’s president has voiced some cautious support for the framework.

Yet there’s been only silence so far from the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, representing the city where the governor used to be mayor.

Joe HaraburdaOakland Chamber President and CEO Joseph Haraburda said the silence won’t last much longer.

“We expect to (announce a position) in the next 48 hours, I would expect,” Haraburda said when reached at home this evening. “Check back with us late tomorrow or early the following day, and we’ll probably have something for you.”

The San Francisco Chamber issued a news release issued this afternoon announcing its support of Brown’s proposed special election and budget package “contingent upon pension, regulatory and other reforms that will bring long-term fiscal stability and economic growth to California,” much the same as the Bay Area council had on Friday.

“Governor Brown’s proposed budget cuts and tax extensions will be painful for the businesses and people of California,” San Francisco Chamber President & CEO Steve Falk said in the release. “However, we must address the budget crisis now to restore our state’s fiscal health in the future. It’s time to put the Governor’s proposal to a vote and move towards a bipartisan solution that is good for California.”

But while the Bay Area Council had seemed to reluctantly accept Brown’s plan to eliminate local redevelopment agencies and enterprise zones to redirect their money toward the $26.6 billion state budget deficit, the San Francisco Chamber is still pushing for some other solution.

“Redevelopment agencies and enterprise zones are critical tools to transform neighborhoods, create jobs and stimulate economic growth,” Falk said. “San Francisco has been successful in leveraging these tools for some of our city’s most significant projects including Mission Bay, the Bayview Hunters Point Shipyard, the Transbay Transit Center and many others. We encourage the Governor, the Legislature and the voters to preserve these important resources.”

I’m sure this, and pension reform, will figure heavily in the Oakland Chamber’s position as well.

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The Barbara Boxer Building Blitz, Day 2

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., followed up her news conference Wednesday in San Francisco with a luncheon address to the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce today, hammering home a theme that America should build its way out of this recession.

“We can and we will move this great city forward,” she told the crowd of local politicos and businesspeople, noting she has an apartment just a few blocks away and comes to them “not only as your Senator but as your neighbor.”

She blasted President Bush for forcing Congress to strip out earmarks which included $300,000 for the city’s green-jobs initiative; $300,000 for the city’s “Grow Our Own” police recruiting initiative; $500,000 for the city’s police equipment and technology; $20 million to continue the Port of Oakland’s dredging project.

“There’s nothing in there that’s nefarious. They’re all legislative priorities that I’m very proud of,” she said, later adding “it isn’t pork when you’ve got a ship coming into Oakland’s port and it gets stuck — that’s beef.”

But as Democrats feel more and more optimistic about taking not only the White House but also a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority in the Senate, she said, “we could be on the verge of some changes here.”

Meanwhile, as the economy continues to trudge through recession, government should be looking to highway, water and other badly needed infrastructure projects to create jobs, she said, as well as to clean-energy “green jobs.”

“We worry about jobs going overseas, but you can’t put a solar panel on that house down the street from India — unless you have very long arms,” she quipped.

Chairing the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has dominion over these sorts of projects, “is everything I’ve always dreamed about… and I can’t blow this opportunity,” she said, praising local leaders such as Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, Rep. Barbara Lee and Green for All founder/president Van Jones for being “committed to fighting economic hardship and global warming at the same time.”

Boxer once again defended her vote in favor of the $700 billion bailout of the financial markets, but once again said she would have preferred it if the government used its shareholder status with the bailed-out banks to take an active role in their lending policy. Any small business owners who are still having trouble regaining their lines of credit should call her office or Lee’s immediately, she invited.

Though she had referred to the presidential campaign somewhat obliquely during her remarks, she spoke more directly about it while taking questions from the audience. Asked what can be done to help the 37 million Americans living below the federal poverty line, Boxer told the audience to look at the candidates’ tax-break plans: with John McCain “it’s more of the same, we know that,” she said, while Barack Obama “says he’s going to give it to people who work.”

Also, she noted, “it took us 10 years — the biggest disgrace — to raise the minimum wage;” McCain has voted against such increases 19 times. “If he had his way, it would still be $3 – he has voted against it since then.”

She wrapped up the session by offering some rather fawning anecdotes about Obama, including how she herself hadn’t believed Dick Durbin — the senior U.S. Senator from Illinois — when he’d raved to her years ago what a marvelous Senator Obama would make. After seeing Obama in action in the Senate, she said, she was forced to admit to him that she’d initially doubted how good he would be, confessing “I was wrong — you’re better.”

And now, my confession. In my article yesterday, I wrote:

The crisis is all too real, Boxer noted: Almost 190,000 Californians lost their homes to foreclosure in the first nine months of the year, atop about 85,000 in 2007. “We’re talking about probably the number of people who live in Delaware. We are talking about a massive displacement in our communities.”

Delaware’s estimated 2007 population was 863,904. But the problem is still massive, and she said it will only get worse if California’s unemployment rate, now at 7.7 percent, keeps rising.

Boxer had indeed said almost 275,000 California homes have been lost to foreclosure from January 2007 through last month, but I’d missed the part where she said she was assuming several residents per home in making her Delaware analogy. Mea culpa, and thanks to the Senator for being kind when we discussed it today.