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How Bay Area members voted on taxes/spending

Congress on Friday cleared a year-end spending and tax deal with a strong bipartisan support, despite grumbling from both parties over what was included in the agreement and what got left out, the Washington Post reports.

The House passed the $1.1 trillion spending portion of the deal on a 316-113 vote early Friday morning, with 150 Republicans and 166 Democrats supporting the measure, after passing the $622 billion tax section of the agreement Thursday on a 318-109 vote.

The Senate soon after passed both parts of the agreement on a 65-33 vote, with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., in support and Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., not voting. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law.

From the Bay Area, representatives Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord; Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto; Sam Farr, D-Carmel; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Barbara Lee, D-Oakland; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco; Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough; and Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, all opposed the tax section of the deal Thursday, while Jerry McNerney, D-Stockton, and Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, voted for it.

DeSaulnier said the tax-extender section isn’t paid for and will increase the deficit. “This package largely benefits corporations at the expense of working families and undermines programs like Pell grants, Headstart, job training and health research,” he said. “I could not support a package that mortgages our children’s future, reduces our payments on the nation’s debt and robs from the Social Security Trust Fund.”

All Bay Area House members except Lofgren supported the omnibus spending deal Friday morning.

“I was unable to vote for the Omnibus spending bill today because it included an extraneous provision purported to facilitate cybersecurity information sharing that – in effect – will function as a surveillance tool,” Lofgren said, noting Congress has debated cybersecurity for the past year and she voted for an earlier bill that would address concerns while protecting Americans’ private digital information.

“Information sharing requires measures to protect Americans’ privacy. It should also be debated in regular order. But this so-called ‘cybersecurity legislation’ was inserted into a must-pass Omnibus at the 11th hour, without debate,” she said. “The protective measures that such a bill should have – including those I believe the Constitution requires – were removed. While the Omnibus had both pros and cons, my obligation to protect constitutional rights isn’t negotiable. I made clear to House Leadership and the White House that I could not support the Omnibus with this cyber surveillance measure included. I have enclosed several letters crafted in the last two days outlining my concerns related to the bill.”

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SD7: Would they extend Prop. 30 taxes?

Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer says Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla flip-flopped on extending Proposition 30’s tax hikes to fund California’s schools, but Bonilla’s campaign said she has been consistent all along: She doesn’t support extending those taxes, but would support imposing new ones in their place.

The two Democrats are facing off in the 7th State Senate District’s special election, scheduled for May 19.

A new Bonilla campaign mailer that attacks Glazer for distorting her positions says she opposes extending the Prop. 30 taxes: “Glazer and his billionaire mega donor Bill Bloomfield are lying about Bonilla because they want to hide the fact that Steve Glazer was the ‘mastermind’ behind Prop 30, the $13.1 billion tax increase.”

The mailer follows that with a direct quote from Bonilla: “Steve Glazer and I both oppose extending Prop. 30.”

Bonilla

Josh Pulliam, Bonilla’s campaign consultant, said late Thursday afternoon that Bonilla has never supported an extension – whether by legislative action or another ballot measure – of Proposition 30’s taxes, and on several occasions has publicly corrected those who said otherwise.

She does, however, support a new, different, voter-approved tax hike measure to fund education in place of Prop. 30, he said.

Many apparently have been confused by this – perhaps including me.

In January, I reported on a TriValley Democratic Club forum at which Bonilla and then-candidate Joan Buchanan (who was eliminated in March’s special primary election) made their pitches.

Unsurprisingly, both said they would work to extend the Prop. 30 sales taxes and income taxes on the rich – due to expire in 2016 and 2018, respectively – in order to keep bankrolling education.

“The governor has made it very clear that the word ‘temporary’ means temporary, but … we need to go out to the people, I believe we can make the case,” Bonilla said. “There’s no way that you can get education on the cheap, it just doesn’t work.”

Contra Costa Times columnist Tom Barnridge wrote this after asking questions at a televised candidates’ forum in February:

What to do when Proposition 30 expires, ending temporary increases in sales and income taxes? Buchanan, Bonilla and Kremin would put an extension before voters. Glazer would let it expire because a temporary tax, he said, is meant to be temporary.

And the Lamorinda Democratic Club’s March newsletter recounted a Feb. 4 candidates’ forum thusly:

Susan Bonilla and Joan Buchanan favored extending Proposition 30 taxes, and a oil severance tax to continue to improve California schools—especially for the less fortunate. Steve Glazer, meanwhile, was against any new taxes and instead believed the government would have to live with the revenues it already receives.

Glazer campaign spokesman Jason Bezis said “there are more flips and flops in the Bonilla tax position than an amusement park roller coaster.

“She blindly supported a Prop. 30 tax extension in the primary, even though the promise to voters in 2012 was that it would be temporary. Now, in the general election, she flops away from it because that broken promise hurts her,” he claimed. “After this duplicity is uncovered, she flips yet again and says she wants to raise billions in new taxes, but just not ‘Prop 30’ taxes. You can see why voters are dizzy with Sacramento politicians like Bonilla. They have had enough of the political doublespeak.”

Incidentally, the Lamorinda Democratic Club – Glazer’s home turf – was scheduled to take an endorsement vote last week, president Katie Ricklefs said Thursday. But the vote was scrapped when a Glazer campaign operative cited a club bylaw – not updated since before the top-two primary system took effect – that essentially precludes the club from picking one Democrat over another in a general election. “We did a straw poll that showed 100 percent support for Susan, though,” Ricklefs said.

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SD7: Bonilla v. Glazer on business support, taxes

The battle between 7th State Senate District special election candidates Steve Glazer and Susan Bonilla to define themselves and each other roared on Wednesday, with Bonilla’s campaign simultaneously touting a significant business endorsement and faulting Glazer for supporting a parcel-tax hike that she supports, too.

Susan BonillaAs I reported in Sunday’s editions, the Democrat-on-Democrat race largely has pitted labor unions (supporting Bonilla, an Assemblywoman from Concord) against business interests (supporting Glazer, Orinda’s mayor).

But neither candidate fully embraces that division, and the lines do get blurry in places. Bonilla, who already had several corporate contributors and the support of the California Dental Association and California Medical Association, announced the California Small Business Association’s endorsement Wednesday.

“Susan Bonilla is a fiscally responsible leader with a strong record of partnering with small businesses, giving them tools to succeed and create good jobs,” CSBA President Betty Jo Toccoli said in Bonilla’s news release.

Bonilla may have some small businesses’ support, but Glazer has big businesses’ money on his side. JobsPAC, the California Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee, has independently spent at least $555,000 as of Wednesday on Glazer’s behalf.

Bonilla’s campaign also Wednesday issued a memo to reporters decrying Glazer’s support of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District’s Measure A, which would renew an existing $144-per-year-parcel tax.

Steve Glazer“The list of Steve Glazer’s proclamations that he is a ‘fiscal conservative’ and that he would ‘hold the line on taxes’ is longer than Pinocchio’s nose,” Bonilla campaign consultant Josh Pulliam wrote in the memo. “Susan Bonilla supports the Measure A Parcel Tax … but she doesn’t play political games like Glazer, who broke his own campaign promise on taxes by endorsing the Measure A Parcel Tax.”

But Glazer’s campaign says Pulliam played it fast and loose with the facts.

“First, it’s an extension not a new tax and is a local choice,” spokesman Jason Bezis said. “Second, Bonilla is playing politics with an important school measure and this is typical of a Sacramento politician. Her lack of support for local schools is not a surprise given her bad vote last year to cap local school district reserves.”

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CA17: Honda & Khanna spar on taxes, truthfulness

Rep. Mike Honda this week posted to his campaign’s website a series of “concerns” his supporters purportedly have about Democratic challenger Ro Khanna, but Khanna replies the incumbent is playing it fast and loose with the facts.

honda.jpg“Democrats in the district are concerned that Ro Khanna has consistently supported tax breaks for big corporations and opposes President Obama’s plan to raise taxes on the richest two percent of the population,” Honda’s site says, citing a Salon article in which Khanna claimed the current corporate tax rate is too high as well as Mercury News and Forbes articles.

But Khanna’s site notes President Obama and many Democrats support lowering the corporate tax rate as part of comprehensive tax reform; he also said he has consistently opposed tax breaks for big corporations, while Honda has acknowledged the top 35 percent corporate tax rate is not globally competitive. Khanna continues to tout the fact that he has refused to take corporate PAC money (which Honda accepts), although Khanna has received contribution from many Silicon Valley executives.

As for personal income taxes, Khanna said he supported raising taxes on the richest but joined with President Obama in supporting extension of the Bush tax cuts for middle-class families, while Honda supported a budget that would’ve wiped out all of the tax cuts.

“Khanna also supports lowering taxes on corporations’ overseas profits, which means more outsourcing of American jobs,” Honda said on his site, citing a Mercury News article. “Khanna supports the same failed Republican policies that hurt our economy in the first place and puts corporations and the wealthy ahead of the middle class.”

Ro KhannaBut Khanna’s site replies that “President Obama supports lowering corporate taxes on overseas profits so that capital can be used here in America,” and that Honda himself seems to feel likewise. “This position is on his website so it’s puzzling that the Congressman attacks Ro for having the same position.”

And as for “the same failed Republican policies,” Khanna notes he’s the only candidate in the race with a comprehensive jobs plan, and that his book – which argues government must help manufacturing companies compete more effectively – has been praised by labor leaders such as California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. (It should be noted, however, that labor unions are staunchly supporting Honda in this race.)

More, after the jump…
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Neel Kashkari: Now isn’t the time to cut taxes

GOP gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari’s top priority isn’t cutting taxes, he told the San Jose State University College Republicans on Thursday night.

They’re too high, he agreed, but he called for first getting the state’s money’s worth from the taxes it does collect to foster new jobs and better education. Once the economy is strong again, he said, it’ll be time to reform the tax code to lower the overall taxation level.

“To be candid with you, I don’t think we start there; I think we start by putting people back to work,” he told about 20 students who’d gathered to hear him speak.

Kashkari & SJSU College Republicans, photo by Josh Richman

Because Kashkari’s speech occurred on our print deadline and due to limited space in the paper, here are a few other tidbits that didn’t make it into today’s story:

He’s “not comfortable with legalizing marijuana. … I’ve never smoked pot in my life,” he said. “But I also don’t think it makes sense to lock people up, to ruin their lives, to waste millions of dollars for a small amount of drugs,” he added, noting there must be a better approach than the “war on drugs” that has disproportionately hurt minorities.

Kashkari again called for opening the Monterey Shale to fracking for shale oil, saying it’ll be a key part of the job boom California desperately needs. The nation’s highest rents aren’t in San Francisco or New York, he noted, but actually in a small North Dakota town at the epicenter of that state’s fracking boom.

A true climate-change response must be national or international in order to have any effect, he said, and a robust state economy will bring more tax revenues that can be spent in part on basic research into clean energy sources and other climate-change solutions.

“I love our natural beauty, we have to protect the environment, but I believe we need to find the right balance,” he said.

Kashkari & Barr, photo by Josh RichmanKashkari got into a back-and-forth with Cheryl Barr, 22, an industrial-design student who disagreed with his environmental positions.

Barr after the meeting said Kashkari generally “seems like a decent guy,” and she likes that he has an engineering background – he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering and worked briefly as an aerospace engineer, before earning his M.B.A. and entering the financial sector. But his campaign mantra of “‘jobs and education’ is kind of vague,” she said, and she believes his support of fracking is misguided.

“There actually is room to create jobs that can help the environment at the same time,” she said.