Schwarzenegger Move No Surprise

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Those of you who were surprised when Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger floated the idea of a temporary sales tax increase as part of a budget solution, raise your hands.

As I thought, not many. It was hard not to see this proposal coming. The governor suggested a temporary sales tax solution as a back-up to his lottery lease plan months ago. As I wrote at the time, he dipped into former Governor George Deukmejian’s playbook in which Duke proposed a temporary sales tax be triggered by a certain time if the hole in the state budget hadn’t closed.

In budget negotiations, the governor apparently floated a package of a firm spending limit and structural budget reform along with the temporary sales tax, which he moved from back-up status to be part of the end game. In Arnold Schwarzenegger’s post-partisan world, he is the only one who would make this call.

And he may be the only one with an official say in the matter who likes this plan.

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The Product Police, Part Two

Patrick Dorinson
Host of The Cowboy Libertarian Radio Talk Show in Sacramento

When I was a boy, my folks owned a farm in Upper Lake in Lake County where we raised walnuts. It was managed by an aunt and uncle and I used to love going to visit. Every fall, we would go as a family to help with the harvest. The one thing I used to hate about it was drinking the water at my Aunt Betty’s house. It tasted horrible and there were always stains in the bathtub and the sink that looked like rust.

I remember asking my mother why the water tasted so bad and why there were those stains. It was the first time I ever heard the term hard water.

Hard water is water with a high mineral content. The United States Geological Survey states that 89.3% of homes in America of have some degree of hard water and some of the hardest water in the country is right here in California, including the counties of Los Angeles, Riverside, Ventura, and San Diego.

Hard water is hard on your clothes, hard on your appliances, takes more energy to run them and leaves a scum called scaling, which is the left over mineral deposits after the water has dried up. It can clog pipes, ruin water heaters, coat the insides of tea and coffee pots, and decrease the life of toilet flushing units. It can also leave salt residue in your hair after shampooing leaving it coarser and harder to manage.

Sounds like we need to do something! Why is the legislature not doing something about this environmental disaster?

Well, the Legislature is doing something about it. But as they always seem to do, they want to take away the only thing we have to combat the ill effects—water softeners. They want to ban them.

Not only do they want to ban them, they want to give largely unelected local water agency bureaucrats the ability to develop a “finding”, which is a government word for “excuse”, that will allow them to enter your home and remove your water softener.

That is what AB 2270 would do if it is passed and signed by the Governor. Where Assemblymen Mike Feuer and John Laird came up with this one I haven’t the foggiest idea. Suffice it to say, it yet another example of a solution desperately looking for a problem.

And how will you be compensated for removing your water softener?

Will they compensate you for your water softener? Don’t be silly. You have violated the law and the Wrench and Faucet Division of the Product Police don’t have to compensate you for anything.

Will the State of California compensate you for having to replace pipes, get new washers and dishwashers and buy new clothes after the mineral rich hard water has destroyed them? There you go being silly again. The government is doing this for your own good although they never tell you what that good is!

And what will the state do to compensate all those Hollywood stars that will be forced to deal with frizzy unruly hair caused by hard water? Maybe they will be given a waiver by the Shampoo Division of the Product Police.

Water softeners have been used effectively for years — so why now, all of the sudden, do they want to ban them?

And if it is such a dramatic problem with regards to our water supply, why isn’t it being discussed as part of the larger discussion on the future of California’s water supply?

Assemblyman Feuer comes from Los Angeles County, which has some of the hardest water in the nation. Wait until he tells them he is going to take their water softeners. I would love to see the reaction of his constituents. Cue the tar and feathers.

Finally, who is going to enforce this ban? Will there be special plumbers assigned to local police forces to go in and forcibly remove your property?

If this wasn’t so serious it would just be one of those “only in California” moments. But it is serious and it should be rejected by the Legislature and the Governor forthwith.

And if it is so dad burned important, its impacts need to be studied far more than it has been and as I said before it should be a small part of the larger issue of water.

Let’s not try to “solve” an alleged problem while at the same time creating new ones.

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Schwarzenegger move not a pay cut, and Chiang’s computers add but don’t subtract

Loren Kaye
President of the California Foundation for Commerce and Education

The state employees are marching. The editorial boards are wringing their collective hands. The Controller is standing firm. But guess what — Governor Schwarzenegger’s executive order on state spending issued last Thursday does not cut anybody’s pay.

Typical of the reporting is a story in yesterday’s Sacramento Bee which says, inaccurately, that the Governor instituted “a temporary pay cut.”

If anyone took the time to actually read the executive order, one would discover that it merely orders the Director of the Departments of Finance and Personnel Administration to
“work with the State Controller to develop and implement the necessary mechanisms, including but not limited to pay letters and computer programs, to comply with the California Supreme Court’s White v. Davis opinion to pay federal minimum wage to those nonexempt FLSA employees who did not work any overtime.”

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Maybe Chiang should switch to Mac?

Chandra Sharma
Political Communications, Redistricting and New Media Strategist

State Controller John Chiang, who last week announced his intent to ignore the Governor’s Executive Order reducing the salaries of state employees to the federal minimum wage during the budget impasse, issued a new statement this morning — he claims that even if he wanted to comply with the Governor’s order, the ‘antiquated’ computer system used by the state to manage and issue payroll would not allow it.

I don’t ever recall reading about the payroll system causing a 6-9 month delay in processing wage and salary increases for the state’s workforce — maybe the delay only occurs in one direction?

Nonetheless, I do understand how such a change could be so complex. Sure, updating 200,000 database records is considered a fairly straightforward function in the technology world and likely requires so little processing power that your average Blackberry, iPhone or graphing calculator could accomplish the task within the requisite timeframe, but we must be careful not to expect too much all at once.

Here’s a suggestion for the Controller – maybe it’s time to switch?

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Will Independent Voters be the Key for Assembly Democrats Bid for a Super-Majority in November?

Allan Hoffenblum
Publisher of the California Target Book and owner of Allan Hoffenblum & Associates

I have previously posted two articles on this site discussing the odds of the Democratic Party being able to achieve a veto-proof “supermajority” in the Senate or Assembly.

This would require the Democrats to gain two new seats in the Senate and six new seats in the Assembly.

Due to the Democrats’ failed attempt at recalling GOP Senator Jeff Denham last June, and no Democrat filing to run against GOP Senator Abel Maldonado – allowing him to run unopposed in November – the chances of Senate Democrats gaining two seats are all but nil.

On the Assembly side, the California Target Book, a non-partisan publication that analyses and handicaps legislative races in this state (which I publish), is tracking six assembly districts that are currently being held by a Republican that are believed to be at the top of the Democratic Target List.

The six districts are: AD’s 10, 15, 26, 37, 78 and 80.

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I’m from L.A. — Tax Me

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Taxpayers in the Los Angeles area are facing an amazing array of tax increase proposals on the November ballot. The question is how will voters respond when faced with multiple requests for more of their dollars?

The MTA wants a ½-cent sales tax hike for thirty years to cover various transportation projects. When implemented (if passed), L.A.’s sales tax will be 8.75%. That assumes there will be no state sales tax increase that may come along in a state budget deal. If that happens, along with a successful MTA sales tax increase, Los Angeles residents will be looking at a sales tax over 9%. A quick search reveals that only certain parts of Tennessee have a sales tax above 9%, but Tennessee has a small income tax, taxing income only derived from dividends and interest.

The City of Los Angeles put a $36 dollar a year parcel tax on the ballot to fund anti-gang programs. No question the gang problem is serious and must be met. But city officials are just now trying to coordinate better oversight on current gang program funds. Many programs will be brought under the Mayor’s office. Some observers claim the reorganization of current gang programs should be given a chance to work before new funding is called for.

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California Must Modernize Its System of “Direct Democracy” To Bring It into the 21st Century

Authors of Democracy by Initiative: Shaping California's Fourth Branch of Government

Ballot initiatives have reshaped the lives of California citizens for almost 100 years, but the initiative process is now outmoded, complex, difficult for citizens to use and excessively dominated by money. In a new report by our organization, the Center for Governmental Studies (CGS), Democracy by Initiative: Shaping California’s Fourth Branch of Government, we conclude that California must update its system of “direct democracy” to bring it into the 21st Century. Reforms are needed to help citizens draft, circulate and vote more effectively and responsibly on initiatives that can dramatically affect the future of the state.

Initiatives have touched nearly all aspects of California life, from law enforcement to taxation to education. However, the process is almost the same as it was when Hiram Johnson proposed it in 1911.
Initiatives have appeared on the ballot in great numbers in the last few decades and initiatives continue to be a popular mode of policymaking in the state. In the 1990s, for example, 61 initiatives qualified for the ballot. Voters approved 39 percent of those measures. The number of ballot initiatives continues to climb. From 2000–2008, 63 initiatives qualified for the ballot. Voters approved 30 percent of those measures.

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Name That State

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The state budget hole is huge but familiar ideas have been put forward to deal with the problem:

  • lease the state lottery
  • cut Medicaid aid
  • possible layoff of state workers
  • sell state assets
  • public/private partnerships
  • hiring freeze
  • across-the-board agency cuts

And, oh, by the way, it’s not California.

Name that state.

Click here for the answer

(A tip of the hat to Jack Dean for pointing this out.)

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Obama Muslim Rumor, by the numbers…

Author and Public Relations Consultant

Rumors that Barack Obama was a secret Muslim whose patriotism was questionable first appeared on blogs and in e-mail messages. In March, the rumors began to show up in the press, though only minimally.

According to PEJ’s News Coverage Index, the media narrative about these rumors consumed 0.4% of the campaign news hole from March 13 – April 12. Since then, however, coverage of this storyline has steadily increased—and in June it gained momentum.

With the general election underway, stories about rumors that Obama was not patriotic and had ties to Islam jumped from 0.9% of the campaign news hole studied a month earlier to 3.8% from June 13 – July 12—nearly ten times as much attention as the narrative received in March.

And that was before The New Yorker’s controversial front cover ran. The early evidence, at least, suggests, this story line is not going away.

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Lack of a budget means Governor Schwarzenegger must conserve state funds

David Crane
Lecturer and Research Scholar at Stanford University and President of Govern for California

California still doesn’t have a budget for the current fiscal year, which commenced on July 1. Without a budget now for nearly a month, California faces additional pressure to conserve cash. The following explains why.

Though often (and perhaps conveniently) forgotten, as a general rule our state Constitution prohibits expenditures in the absence of a budget. Because of that limitation, a great deal of spending – for childcare centers, health care providers, centers for the developmentally disabled, many county services, contractors, and more — was already suspended as of July 1.

However, notwithstanding that general rule, the Constitution as well as federal law and public safety require some spending whether or not there’s a budget. Examples of such mandated or essential service spending include certain funds for public schools, debt service, child welfare programs, public safety, disaster relief and more. Those activities require cash and therefore the state must always have ready access to cash sufficient to meet those essential or mandated requirements.

Moreover, if we run out of cash, we will be forced to access the Revenue Anticipation Warrant (RAW) market for that cash. To understand the nature of the RAW market, one must first understand its cousin, the Revenue Anticipation Note (RAN) market.

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