Tag Archives: Prop 1A

Efforts to Derail Bullet Train Driven by Politics as Usual

by Steve Smith, California Labor Federation

Among the big political news this week was the release of the Legislative Peer Review Group’s report on the California high-speed rail project. The report recommends that the state freezes the project “at this time” until further assessment is done on its long-term feasibility. Problem is, the report was completed with minimal consultation with the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and ignored many of the details on feasibility included in the Authority’s recent business plan.

Opponents seized on the erroneous report to further their campaign to derail the project. While it might make good politics for some conservatives to oppose a signature program of the Obama White House, it certainly doesn’t make for good policy. Halting the high-speed rail project at this critical stage would jeopardize the entire project. It would put billions in federal funding at risk, and sap the state of an important engine to create desperately needed jobs.

The debate on high-speed rail – like so many other issues these days — has become overly politicized and isn’t on the merits. A group of conservative Republicans wants to put the issue back on the ballot, even though voters have already approved $9 billion in state bonds for high-speed rail. Even the peer review group, which is balanced and supports the concept of high-speed rail, got many pertinent facts wrong in its report.

With respect to the project, it’s time we got back to basics. Many countries around the world, including China, are showing that high-speed rail is an important component to the future of transportation. It’s clean, environmentally friendly, efficient, convenient and affordable. It alleviates traffic and air congestion while giving passengers an important option to meet their travel needs. In California, the project also offers an enormous opportunity to give our struggling economy a boost, especially in areas hard hit by the recession like the Central Valley. Over the life of the project, as many as 750,000 jobs would be created.

The project is supported by Republicans, Democrats and Independents. On its merits, it makes perfect sense. And the California High-Speed Rail Authority (HSRA), after early missteps, now has its act together and has delivered a detailed and transparent plan to bring the project to fruition. Gov. Brown has infused the HSRA board with seasoned experts, like Dan Richard and Mike Rossi, who bring years of experience in transportation planning and finance.


California Labor Federation Executive Secretary Treasurer Art Pulaski:

With California facing a jobs crisis and an urgency to upgrade our failing transportation infrastructure, further delay in breaking ground on high-speed rail is neither prudent nor responsible. Any project that’s the size and scope of high-speed rail is bound to encounter difficulties along the way. But rather than working to implement the vision of high-speed rail, the peer review panel suggests derailing the project at a critical stage, which is not a viable solution for California. Under new leadership, the California High-Speed Rail Authority is headed in the right direction. The Authority’s business plan addresses the myriad issues facing high-speed rail in a thoughtful and thorough way.

The main hurdle for high-speed rail right now isn’t the project’s feasibility. It’s that the project has been enveloped in politics as usual. That’s why it’s critical that the legislature take all evidence into account, listen to the experts and carefully analyze the Authority’s business plan, which answers many of the questions raised by the peer review group.

One such expert is the new CEO of the California High-Speed Rail Authority Roelof van Ark:

It is unfortunate that the Peer Review Committee has delivered a report to the Legislature that is deeply flawed in its understanding of the Authority’s program and the experience around the world in successfully developing high speed rail.   As someone involved in many of the successful high speed rail programs internationally, I can say that the recommendations of this Committee simply do not reflect a real world view of what it takes to bring such projects to fruition.

That’s not to say that ongoing issues, including long-term funding of the project, shouldn’t be addressed. But bowing to political hype to scuttle the project instead of carefully considering issues and finding solutions to work through them, would be a huge mistake.

The California labor movement supports high-speed rail because it holds more promise to transform our state’s economy, protect our environment and create a better quality of life for our families than any public works project in generations.

California was built by visionaries. It’s a proud tradition and important part of our heritage that we, as Californians, collectively embrace. Despite the challenges facing our state, it isn’t the time to shrink from the vision of high-speed rail. The bullet train can and must be built.


In the short term, the project will create thousands of desperately needed jobs to help lift our state out of economic morass. In the long term, high-speed rail will deliver a world-class, environmentally friendly transportation system that will transform our state. An investment in high-speed rail is an investment in our state’s future. The Legislature must grant voter-approved bonds so that work can begin on the project this year.

Lakoff: Voters Set Democrats Free, Will They Act Like It?

David Dayen mentioned this earlier today, but it is worth reproducing here.

Hooray! The outrageous propositions 1 A-E have been crushed by voters who just can’t take any more.

California voters have rejected the nonfunctional minority-rule government that has bankrupted the state, along with the governor who led the state into bankruptcy.

The voters want a functional democracy, and that means majority rule. No more blackmail by a 1/3 plus 1 Republican minority.

In short, the voters have given the Democrats a new freedom – if they will only take it.

The Democratic leadership should listen to its grassroots. They should immediately stop negotiating with the governor and other Republicans on how to destroy even more of what makes our state human. The Democrats, as a whole body, not just the leadership, should assert their majority, decide for themselves how they want to deal with the shortfall, and then invite the defeated Republicans publicly to join them and take their proposals to the public, first organizing serious grassroots support.

What is the point of doing this if the Democrats still don’t have the 2/3 votes to pass a budget bill? The point is drama! Most Californians are not aware of the minority rule situation. This could dramatize it and place the blame where it belongs. Drama matters. There might still be a later compromise. But the drama would set the stage for a 2010 ballot initiative.

The Democratic leadership should immediately take the initiative on a 2010 ballot measure, a supremely simple one-sentence measure. It would go something like this:

All budgetary and revenue issues shall be decided by a majority vote in both houses of the legislature.

One sentence. Simple. Straightforward. Understandable. And democratic. It should be called the California Democracy Act. From grade school on, we associate democracy with majority rule. It will make sense to voters – at last!

The term “revenue” would cover taxes without waving a red flag.

Up to now, Democrats have been acting like sheep being herded by the Republican minority. They need to show courage and stand up for what they believe. That’s what the voters are waiting for.

On the 2010 ballot initiative:

Get rid of the 55% proposals. People understand that majority rule means democracy. 55% means nothing.

Even if you don’t address taxes and just address the budget process, the Republicans will still say you’re going to raise taxes. You may as well go for real democracy.

And finally, get a unified message that can be supported by the grassroots. Do grassroots organizing for 2010, starting now. Organize spokespeople to get that message out. Organize bookers to book your spokespeople in the media. You Democrats are a majority. Act like it. The public will respect you for it.

For example, if the Republicans claim that this vote showed a tax rebellion, point out that only Prop 1a was about taxes. The other propositions failed. And the voters rejected a spending cap. What are you waiting for, you Democrats.  You have been set free.

If it is claimed that the vote was meaningless because so few people went to the polls, reply that the refusal to vote on these propositions was itself a vote against having such an election and such a lame way of running the state.

The voters have spoken. You Democratic office-holders have chance to come out on the side of the voters. Take it!

George Lakoff is the author of The Political Mind, just out in paperback. He is Goldman Distinguished Professor of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley.


Are we going to break the record for lowest turnout?

The answer? Yes, or almost certainly yes.  The record, according to John Wildermuth, is 28%:

In the state’s nonpresidential primary last June, nearly 60 percent of the votes came in by mail but total turnout was only 28 percent, the lowest ever for a statewide vote.(SF Chronicle 5/17/09)

From early turnout results, the numbers have been shockingly low. The last numbers I’ve heard had LA at 6% turnout, even with some municipal elections going on. Those numbers will certainly climb with the post-work rush, but I’m not expecting anything huge.

So…Congratulations Arnold, I’m sure you are very proud of that record.

UPDATE: I meant to include a few resources. Here is the SoS results page. The mobile version here. And if the site goes down, you can check the results on Twitter.

And, more evidence of low turnout. From the LA Times:

By 4 p.m., voter turnout in Los Angeles County was 11.57%. In a comparable statewide election in 2005, turnout had reached 27% by the same time.(LA Times 5/19/09)

UPDATE 2: The thing about this extremely low turnout is that it says that the voters aren’t all “enraged” about tax revolution. They just want the politicians to do their job, and they want the Governor to show some real leadership. In other words, they want a functioning government.

Obama Must Stand Strong on Stimulus Rules

PhotobucketFollowing up on Robert’s post, there’s this from Arnold’s Twitter feed:

http://twitpic.com/5iew4 – Just met with Sen Boxer. Working hard to get CA the right to make the cuts we need.

about 2 hours ago from TwitPic

Sen. Boxer looks less than thrilled to meeting with the Governor. We need to be sure that the President stands up to the Governor’s pleas for cuts.  The stimulus was not intended to be for enabling the state to cut more jobs, more services, and create more pain for the state. We need a bailout, but not one that allows Republicans to Shock Doctrine the state.

Election Eve Update & Tweet-off

I am working for the No on 1A Campaign, however, I am not working for any other No campaign. My opinions should not be construed to be those of the campaign, especially when it comes to the remaining measures.

On Sunday, Arnold Schwarzenegger tried to find religion. No, not by opening his eyes to the reality surrounding him, but by “pleading” and “urging” for voters to pass his spending cap “rainy day fund”

The governor’s visits to three African American churches in Los Angeles came as proponents and opponents of the ballot measures marshaled the last of the millions of dollars they have collected for the special election. Schwarzenegger said Sunday he had been told that about 25% of voters are expected to show up, a paltry percentage that underscores the difficulty of the quest for reliable voters.


But even among the church crowds who listened to the official pitch there was skepticism about the proposals. Jo Evelyn Payne, 62, a retired loan servicing assistant who lives in Inglewood, said she was wavering over the package. She said she had little faith in California ballot measures and also mistrusts Schwarzenegger. (LAT 5/18/09)

“Governor” Schwarzenegger has been a disastrous leader, and people are now seeing right through his charade, even when he shows up in their churches. The Governor is spinning wildly to get his spending cap passed, but nobody is buying it.

Meanwhile, money has been flowing into the Yes on 1C lottery securitization, perhaps as some Yes campaign folks heed Robert’s advice to focus on Prop 1C. It has been getting terrible polling numbers, but as it is the one source of big money for this year’s budget it is finally getting some attention. The CDP has put some money into Prop 1C, as has SEIU Local 99. This is late money, but for the yes team, it’s better than no money I suppose.

The thing is, as OC Progressive pointed out, that it’s quite likely that a rather substantial percentage of the electorate for this election has already voted by mail. Estimates have vote by mail percentage at anywhere from 55-75%, and those votes have already been filled out. So, we’ll see the campaigning for the next 36 hours, but the bulk of the work should be done by now.

Finally, from the more humorous side, Steve Maviglio has planned a “tweet heard round the world” for Yes on 1A-F. The big plan is for all those enthusiastic Yes on 1A-F supporters on Twitter to simultaneously tweet something at 9:30 this morning. Normally these things are supposed to be something of a surprise, so people go “whoa, look at that.”  That didn’t happen here, so as long as we know about it, how about a tweet at 9:30 opposing the measures. Here’s a suggestion, but you can feel free to edit it:

Vote No on Prop 1A Tomorrow: It’s Already Raining. Courage Campaign Voter

Guide: http://tr.im/jXBC Poll locations: http://tr.im/lflA


The Tracy Press Makes the Progressive Case Against Prop 1A

I am working for the No on 1A Campaign, however, I am not working for any other No campaign. My opinions should not be construed to be those of the campaign, especially when it comes to the remaining measures.

I must admit that I was a bit surprised when I saw this editorial at the Tracy Press. It clearly lays out what can only be described as the progressive case against Proposition 1A:

This hastily drafted measure won’t work.

Why? Proposition 1A has such rigid provisions, it would lock in a reduced level of public services without taking into account California’s changing demographics, population growth and future policies. It would also give the future governors new power without legislative oversight.

1A isn’t even a short-term patch on a long-term problem. Most of this measure’s provisions wouldn’t take effect for two years. In that time, we could repeal the two-thirds legislative vote requirement for budgets and tax increases – and we could work on real budget reform, without the permanent changes that 1A would make to the state’s Constitution. (Tracy Press)

It’s like reading something straight out of the virtual pages of Calitics.

Arnold admits 1A-1E are going to down to defeat!

Intentional?  Or Freudian slip.  


Here’s his statement:

“No. 2, it is very clear that when the initiatives fail there will be $6 billion less that will be available, so therefore there will have to be additional cuts made, if it is in law enforcement, fire, education,” he added. “…But I will fight for every dollar, and will always make sure we have enough manpower and enough engines and helicopters ready to fight those fires.”

Did you get that?  “…WHEN the initiatives fail…”

Delicious.  What’s your spin on that sacguy/Maviglio?

Maybe Karen Bass and Darrell Steinberg will also see the writing on the wall and admit the 1A-1F turds can’t be polished to enough of a shine to make them palatable.


Shiela Kuehl: No on Props 1A, 1D, 1E

(A quick notice of an opportunity to have a conversation with Jean Ross of the California Budget Project at 11 AM today.  We will be focusing on Prop 1A and its impact on the general budget mess. The call will be recorded and aired as the next Calitics Podcast as well. It’s something of an experiment with the podcast. If you are interested in hopping on the call, shoot me an email (brian A T calitics dotcom) and I’ll get you the call-in info.   – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

I am working for the No on 1A Campaign, however, I am not working for any other No campaign. My opinions should not be construed to be those of the campaign, especially when it comes to the remaining measures.

Sen. Sheila Kuehl knows a thing or two about the legislative process. The long-time legislator and persistent advocate of single-payer health care has published an essay on the California Progress Report opposing Props 1A, 1D, & 1E. The first essay covers only the first half of the props, with the remaining coming soon.  She minces no words on Prop 1A, and the guarantee of money for schools in Prop 1B is not enough to change her mind:

I don’t like the idea of a spending cap [in Prop 1A], even calculated on the regression model. I would prefer the ability of the Legislature to spend one-time money on one-time expenditures and calculate ongoing expenditures separately, without an automatic cap, and a growing rainy day fund. With such a cap, there will never be enough monies for the schools, even with a small portion of the monies over the spending cap going into an education fund. In my experience, all programs get short-changed when a robo-cap like this is enacted.


I don’t think the education funding is a sufficient reason to enact the permanent spending cap proposed by Prop 1A in the state Constitution. Other teachers’ organizations oppose Prop 1A and have indicated, since they believe the state already owes the 9.3 billion, they will simply sue the state for it. Which would, of course, create even more of a hole in the budget. There needs to be a sure hand with authority to pass an adequate budget without gimmicks, which is why I support an end to the 2/3 requirement.

She’s a little more mixed on Prop 1C:

This is the one proposition I’m tempted to support. Of the six billion current dollars estimated to come from all the propositions combined (not counting increased tax revenue three and four years out), more than five billion is estimated to come from the sale of the lottery receipts. Although I do not support increased encouragement for gambling, this income could be the least damaging.

It’s also interesting that the casino-operating tribes made sure that the measure avoids any new games that could threaten their operations.

Read the full essay here.

Kickin’ the Can with Prop 1A [UPDATED]

PhotobucketI am working for the No on 1A Campaign, however, I am not working for any other No campaign. My opinions should not be construed to be those of the campaign, especially when it comes to the remaining measures.

Building off of Dave’s post earlier today, and Robert’s from yesterday, it is clear that the Yes on 1A campaign is doing its best to marginalize any opposition as “hyper-left.”  From our friend, Yes on Prop 1A consultant Steven Maviglio:

“The public screams, ‘Do your job! Govern!’ Steinberg calmly replies, ‘We are governing; we have made difficult choices.'”

Which apparently the hyper-left, along with the hyper-right, doesn’t seem to get. Neither side wants to compromise. With (sic) is what Steinberg and Bass have done, and is what leadership is all about, particularly when there’s a 2/3 budget requirement handcuffing their ability to push progressive values. (CMR)

Look, I understand what it means to compromise. I’m all for reasonable compromise where it makes sense.  But compromise for compromise sake, well let’s say it’s hardly guaranteed to ensure a winner.  (Two words: Missouri Compromise.)  But if we are going to complain about the constraints that 2/3 has shackled upon us, as Steve does, how are we going to add yet another constraint on top of the ones we have now? We are trading additional long-term dysfunction for the right to kick the can a few years down the road.

Furthermore, the “rainy day fund” won’t even be there to help us in our next bust cycle. Prop 1A’s requirement that money taken from the slush rainy day fund go only to one-time expenditures.  What made the San Francisco rainy day fund so successful was the flexibility to protect vital services, as in the case of the city granting SFUSD $11 million to save 130 teaching jobs.  But Prop 1A offers none of that protection for Californians and the services that we want to remain viable.

Despite everything else that has been or will be said, the fact is that Prop 1A still does not impact the budget for the next two fiscal years. Nothing, nada, zip, zero. While the Yes campaign is trying to make this all one big package, perhaps they should take Robert’s advice and focus on Prop 1C. That’s where the real money is, without quite the same level of dysfunction. While the Republicans wanted to slash through Prop 63 mental health funds (1E) and Prop 10 first five funds (1D), the real prize for them is the “spending cap” (Mike Villines words, not mine) contained in Prop 1A. That’s why they tied the additional out year taxes to the passage of 1A.

Compromise isn’t itself a governing principle, and the support of generally progressive legislative leaders doesn’t ipso facto make it “progressive.” As former Sup. of Pub. Instr. Delaine Easton pointed out, Prop 1A will leave us in a hole that we will not be able to dig out of. That’s hardly a compromise that progressives are clamoring for.

UPDATE: One more thing that I missed in Steve’s post, that we see in the latest Yes on Prop 1A ad, and that we see in Arnold’s rhetoric, the doomsday scenario.  At least they’ve taken off Arnold’s phony $50 Billion number, but the message is still the same. Vote for this or your children will be out on the streets, which will be falling apart and full of busted water mains because we can’t fix them, and they will be harassed by arsonists who can run free because we have no police or firefighters. Boogah-Boogah!

Dave pointed out the sheer ridiculousness of this fear mongering, but as it appears to be a central aspect of the campaign, it’s worth mentioning again. And as I mentioned above, Prop 1A, the gooey center of dysfunction in this tootsie pop, contributes not one dime in the next two years.  

Play doomsday all you want, but what does it have to do with Prop 1A? If they were so concerned about doomsday why didn’t their latest ad even mention the measures that actually bring in cash this year? Prop 1A has nothing to do with whether your teacher of firefighter has a job next week, or next month or next year. But the doomsday theme is an attempt to tie the lot of the propositions together, despite the fact that Prop 1A would do nothing to avert layoffs in the short-term, and over the long-term threatens to throw a wrench in how we provide services in California for decades.

Of course, it’s sheer cynicism, as Prop 1A has absolutely nothing to do with Props 1C, 1D, and 1E. Like the Governor calling George Skelton and asking him to dumb down the propositions for the people of California, this doomsday line demands that Californians cast an unquestioning eye upon these measures and take the Governor at his word. But given his track record, why should the people of California trust him or his fuzzy math?

At the heart of the matter: the broken system

I am working for the No on 1A Campaign, however, I am not working for any other No campaign. My opinions should not be construed to be those of the campaign, especially when it comes to the remaining measures.

One of the reasons that I oppose Prop 1A, and to a lesser extent the other measures, is the sense that it is one more thing that we’ll have to fix. It is one more layer of dysfunction on our staked seven layer dip of dysfunction. But as a practical matter, it is critical that Californians understand the structural dysfunction that is at the heart of the mess:

A defeat of six of the seven measures on the May 19 special election ballot – a good possibility, according to recent polls – could mean a return to the Capitol’s pattern of futile negotiations between Democrats, who hold large legislative majorities but little sway, and minority Republicans, who hold the last word on budgets.

If nothing else, political observers say, such a scenario could present an opening for Democrats to unmask what they believe to be the heart of the Legislature’s dysfunction: the two-thirds vote in both houses to pass a budget, as required by the state constitution since 1937.

*  *  *

California is one of only three states – alongside Rhode Island and Arkansas – to require a two-thirds vote on budgets. Only five states, including California, have a two-thirds requirement for taxes. (CoCo Times/MediaNews 5/3/09)

You know that, I know that, but at least according to the variety of polls we have seen since the marathon budget session, people forget quite quickly just exactly why we have this level of dysfunction.  They forget that the majority of California is getting mugged by an increasingly small minority that is doing its darndest just to maintain control of a third of the legislature.  Back in February we had majorities for overturning the budget 2/3 rule, and a close call for the tax rule. Now we’re looking at uphill slogs in both.

That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work to get both out of our Constitution. It was quite the subject at the CDP convention

Lowering that threshold to a simple majority is “the next big fight we need to win,” Treasurer Bill Lockyer said at the recent state Democratic Party convention, where delegates identified the two-thirds requirement as the most pressing issue among 117 they considered.

*   *   *

Strategists and party officials say that they expect to put the issue before voters on the November 2010 ballot, perhaps lending it extra profile during the gubernatorial campaign. (CoCo Times/MediaNews 5/3/09)

I think the 117 number comes from the number of resolutions, which was actually 119. (Trust me, I was there for the marathon meeting.) As for the most pressing, I’m guessing that came from the prioritization from the resolutions committee, but  that should be taken as the consensus of the convention. It is merely that all 20 voting members of the resolutions committee recognized that it should be prioritized. But the point is still well taken, it truly is the most pressing issue.

We’ve heard rumors of propositions to change the 2/3 majorities, but the only props on the Secretary of State’s website don’t appear to be from any institutional player and don’t go back to the simpler to explain majority vote, opting rather for the arbitrary 55% figure.  I don’t know who exactly will lead the charge against 2/3, but it needs to be a cohesive effort from the grassroots all the way to the top.

We simply cannot let this dysfunction continue.  And right along with that, we can’t add on to the dysfunction with Prop 1A. I understand the need to grab the $16 Billion that will come in two years from tax increases, however, make no mistake that the spending cap formulas contained in Prop 1A will haunt us for years, and will be with us far beyond the two years of the extended regressive taxes.

We need to repeal 2/3, and on May 19, we need to be careful that we don’t add one more item to our list of things we have to change.