Tag Archives: Prop 1A

Monday Open Thread

Let’s get down to it:

• Asm. Mike Davis has released a get to know you video in his race for the 26th Senate seat, the seat vacated by Mark Ridley-Thomas when he won the LA County Supervisor’s race over Bernard Parks. His main opponent is Asm. Curren Price.  The election is tomorrow.

• Local governments who took losses during the dissolution of Lehman Brothers want a bailout of their own.  Apparently caveat emptor no longer applies as we head toward a slippery slope of bailouts for everyone.  Yes, multiple investors lost their shirts on Lehman, through no fault of their own, but I fail to see how that demands a cash transfer from the Treasury.

• A new study links student obesity and proximity between schools and fast-food restaurants.  I hope that study didn’t cost too much, because it’s completely intuitive.  And I have no problem with urban planners who take this information into account when zoning areas around schools.  There’s a public health responsibility for government here.

• California is going to try to sell about $4 billion of bonds this week. It’s not a particularly huge sale, but the response should be telling. Joel Fox notes that if we have problems selling these, don’t hold your breath on the lottery securitization.  With the recent bond rating decrease, they won’t be an easy sell.  Although, first-day sales yielded about $2.4 billion, almost half of the overall goal.  John Myers examines why.  I’d guess that investors know they’ll get a great yield because they’re demanding a high interest rate because of the state’s fiscal troubles.  With interest rates near zero, these are some of the best deals out there.  But more bonds sold means more future payouts that hit taxpayers’ bottom line.

• Arnold is very sad about raising taxes. Poor Arnold, can I get you a tissue?

• Finally, our condolences go out to the families of the Oakland Police officers gunned down this weekend.  The incident is a profound tragedy for the City of Oakland and the entire state.

Arnold’s May Special Election: Just Say No!

This morning, New York Times columnist David Brooks criticized his GOP allies on Capitol Hill for pushing a federal spending cap, calling it “insane.”  But here in California, the discredited theory of Reaganomics lives on …

I’ve been on record supporting a special election to get the budget reform California desperately needs – such as scrapping the “two-thirds rule” in the legislature, or helping local governments raise revenue.  But now that a statewide election is set for May 19th, no such measures will be on the ballot.  Instead, the six propositions we will get to vote on are Schwarzenegger gimmicks that would cripple the state’s ability to function, throw us further into debt, and roll back a small handful of fiscal victories.  A campaign must start now to urge a “no on everything” vote, repeating the success that progressives had in 2005 by defeating Arnold’s special election.  The Governor, however, is a lot savvier this time.  Prop 1B (which deals with school funding) is a naked ploy to keep teachers from opposing Prop 1A (an awful spending cap), and there’s a dangerous possibility that organized labor will sit out this whole election.  Democrats are not unified in their opposition, as State Senate President Darrell Steinberg even gave Schwarzenegger cover last week at a press conference when he promoted the “budget reform” package.  Only by exposing this election as another Arnold scam can the state come out winning, helping to map a sane fiscal future for California.

Many observers noted the “parallel universe” that California – a very blue state – experienced when it passed Proposition 8 on the same night we elected Barack Obama.  Today, it’s déjà vu all over again.  Nationally, President Obama’s budget proposal is a sharp repudiation of the Reagan Era – with progressives on the offensive, and optimistic about the future.  But at the state level, right-wing ideologues still dictate our budget policy.  Progressives are on the defensive, allowing a Republican Governor to pit constituencies against each other – while some Democrats reluctantly believe our choices are the bad and the worse.

After a grueling process where Republicans (once again!) abused the state’s two-thirds vote requirement, Arnold and the legislature finally passed the budget by cutting a deal.  In exchange for the necessary GOP votes and the Governor’s signature, a special election was called for May 19th to pass some budget “reform.”  It was a Faustian bargain that cries out the need to scrap the two-thirds rule, and I don’t fault Democrats for using any means necessary to pass a state budget.  But now that Propositions 1A-1F are on the ballot, voters don’t have to approve them – and the Democrats shouldn’t encourage them.

Proposition 1A: Spending Cap to Disaster

As I’ve written before, a spending cap would cripple the state’s ability to provide essential services.  It’s been tried in Colorado, and the results were disastrous.  A spending cap would give California a permanent fiscal straitjacket – which is precisely what the right-wing extremists in the legislature have always wanted.  All of them signed the infamous Grover Norquist pledge – from the same guy who wants to “shrink the size of government so we can drown it in a bathtub.”

Prop 1A creates a spending cap by nearly tripling the amount of revenue that gets locked into the state’s Rainy Day Fund – and bars the flexibility to use that money in times of need.  It also strictly regulates how the state can spend “unanticipated” revenues.  It gives the Governor more power to unilaterally cut certain spending without legislative approval – such as blocking cost-of-living adjustments.  Given that Arnold already killed the renters’ tax credit for seniors and the disabled, why give him the power to terminate more programs?

A spending cap was the only way Republicans in the legislature would support any tax increases to pass a budget.  And it’s true that Prop 1A includes several revenue measures: (a) raise the sales tax from 8 to 9%, (b) up the vehicle license fee that Arnold slashed on his first day in office, and (c) raise the income tax on every bracket by 0.25%.  But a vote against Prop 1A doesn’t stop those tax increases from going into effect; it just means they expire in two years, and there would then be a fight in the legislature to extend them.  What is the “upside” if Prop 1A passes?  Those taxes would instead sunset in four years – 2013.

Selling out the state’s flexibility in exchange for these (mostly regressive) tax increases to stay on the books for an extra two years?  Sounds like an awful deal to me.  As the Legislative Analyst’s Report says, a lot of what Democrats got in Prop 1A is temporary – while the spending cap parts are permanent.  “Once these effects have run their course,” it said, “Prop 1A could continue to have a substantial effect on the state’s budgeting practices.”

Proposition 1B: Attempting to Bribe the Teachers’ Union

It will take resources to defeat Prop 1A, and getting organized labor (the one progressive institution who can deliver) to oppose it will be essential.  Arnold suffered a humiliating blow in 2005 because unions went all out to defeat his special election, but they had good reason to do so: each ballot measure that year was a direct assault on working people.  

Schwarzenegger clearly learned from that mistake, which is why Prop 1B was designed to throw a bone at the California Teachers’ Association – hoping to keep most unions out of defeating Prop 1A.  Prop 1B would guarantee school funding through $9.3 billion in “supplemental payments” – but it only goes into effect if Prop 1A passes.

I’m all for school funding – but at the cost of passing Prop 1A?  So far, Arnold’s ploy is working.  The CTA has offered “interim support” for Prop 1B, while no union has taken a position on Prop 1A.  Given the expense of defeating statewide ballot measures, unions are being understandably cautious about entering the fray – unless there’s a consensus in the labor movement to defeat Prop 1A.  Education advocates should consider that the $9.3 billion in Prop 1B is not an annual appropriation, but doled out over a five to six-year period.

Education is a high budget priority – but so are housing, health care and public transit.  Even if Prop 1B guaranteed additional funds for public schools, the straitjacket of Prop 1A means all other issues we hold dear will be sacrificed.  It’s the classic “divide-and-conquer” strategy Republicans use all the time to keep progressives fighting with each other.  While every group is protecting its budget during these tough times, now is not the moment to take the bait.  Despite the attractive “sweetener” of 1B, Prop 1A must fail.

Proposition 1C: Arnold’s Awful Lottery Idea

This is just the latest in a series of reckless Hollywood gimmicks the Governor has proposed – sinking our state deeper into debt, and strangling our ability to get anything done.  Prop 1C would let the state borrow $5 billion against future lottery sales.  What will Arnold propose next year – borrow against future tax revenues?  Is there any end to our credit card Governor’s nerve when it comes to raiding our fiscal future?

Propositions 1D and 1E: Turning Back the Clock

It’s rare when California voters approve fiscal measures that both (a) create more revenue and (b) fund good projects.  In 1998, voters passed Proposition 10 – a cigarette tax that created a Childrens’ Health Fund.  In 2004, voters passed Proposition 63 – a 1% tax on millionaires to fund mental health programs.  Props 1D and 1E would re-direct these tax revenues – slashing programs voters created for a purpose.  Arnold tried to cut funding for mental health before, but Prop 63 prevented him from doing so.  We can’t let this happen.

Proposition 1F: Do-Nothing Reform

The last measure on the May ballot – Proposition 1F – sounds like a good idea.  It would ban statewide elected officials from receiving pay raises if the budget has a deficit.  But does anyone honestly believe this is the kind of “structural budget reform” the state needs that would justify an expensive, statewide, off-year special election?  Even if it’s good public policy, the budget savings are miniscule.  This is more about Arnold trying to score political points against the legislature than proposing a sensible long-term solution.

Democrats Have to Stop Being Scared

All too often, liberals get spooked by the state’s dire financial situation – agreeing to go along with an awful Republican budget “solution” at the ballot to prevent cuts that affect poor people.  In 2004, for example, Arnold proposed two ballot measures – Propositions 58 and 59 – sold as necessary to solving the state’s $15 billion deficit.  I’m embarrassed to admit I voted for both of them, because I feared what would happen if they failed.

Prop 58 was a $15 billion bond to pay off just one year’s budget deficit – which we are now stuck paying interest on.  Prop 59 was a state “balanced budget amendment” that has placed California in a permanent fiscal straitjacket.  In the long run, was it a good idea to support such a reckless solution?  Conventional wisdom at the time was that a “yes” vote would prevent devastating budget cuts.  But what if we stood up as a matter of principle?

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) has sent signals that she won’t support the special election measures, and State Senator Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) has publicly opposed Prop 1A.  Democrats are unified about wanting to scrap the “two-thirds rule,” but that won’t be on the May 19th ballot.  And when Arnold  had a press conference last week to promote his special election measures, one of the leaders who flanked him was State Senate President Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento.)

I like Darrell Steinberg.  He’s been a champion for mental health funding, and is a vast improvement over his predecessor, Don Perata.  But standing next to Schwarzenegger to promote a reckless special election with no budget solutions to vote for was disgraceful.  Props 1A-1F must be defeated, because they would wreak long-term havoc on the state.  They are awful Republican solutions, and Schwarzenegger should be left alone to defend them.

Because if Democrats unify to sink these ballot measures (with substantial help from labor), Arnold will have to own these defeats – just like he did in 2005.  And when we have to go back to the drawing board, progressives will have the upper hand.  Unless, of course, too many Democrats went along to support these failed proposals.

Paul Hogarth is the Managing Editor of Beyond Chron, San Francisco’s Alternative Online Daily, where this piece was first published.

California flunks Budget 101

WHAT’S THE BEST REASON to not cut our state education funding? In the future we’ll need sharp minds to get us out of these budget messes.

I’ve been hunkered down for the past few days looking over documents and trying to make some sense of the budget package the governor just signed and how it will affect the bottom line of our schools. It’s a precarious hodgepodge of $8.4 billion in cuts offset by reforms and accounting tricks. And all of this hinges on a package of ballot measures up in May, some designed to reshuffle prior ballot measures.

This labyrinthine budget reduces Prop. 98 guaranteed school funding from now through 2010 and then adds in another ballot measure to help to help restore the lost funds in 2011. Yet another tinkers with Prop. 98 formulas because the state now needs to borrow from future lottery earnings that would’ve gone to our schools.

Several of the seven ballot measures coming up on May 19 are so complicated that one could safely predict most voters probably won’t do anything but vote no in protest, if they bother to cast a ballot at all.

AND THERE’S MORE: Categorical funding for many important programs is being slashed 20 percent between now and 2010. Included in this are programs for gifted students, college preparation, middle and high school counseling, deferred maintenance, technology, English language acquisition, summer school, ROP programs, and, of course, arts and music. In return, school districts are being given the “flexibility” to move these pots of funding around, but it’s sort of like figuring out which child doesn’t get dinner that night.

Upcoming federal money, which would help reduce state taxes, would have no effect on K-12 classroom funding this budget year, according to the California Department of Education. In the longer term, “these resources will have a minimal impact on reducing the size and magnitude of the state reductions in education funding,” according to the California Association of School Business Officials.

AS YOU CAN SURMISE, budgeting for the next school year is like playing pin the tail on the weasel. It’s a moving target which the dedicated folks who can actually figure this stuff out HAVE to wrestle with because the deadline for letting teachers know whether or not they will have jobs next year is March 13. Yet, they won’t have any answers until June. Maybe.

Here in the City of Ventura, school officials are looking at a mighty big gap. “… It will not look like business as usual here,” said Superintendent Trudy Arriaga. “We should not be celebrating a state budget that is cutting $10 million out of a little budget like the Ventura Unified School District has.

“We should be outraged.”

Most people just pay attention to all this by how it affects them personally. If you have a child in the public schools in California, expect bigger class sizes, no new textbooks, fewer supplies and technology, less remedial help, reduced maintenance and less emphasis on programs such as arts, music and physical education. Some familiar faces in teaching, staff and administration will be gone.

“About the only thing schools won’t have less of is testing,” said Ventura Unified Educators Association President Steve Blum.  “The more-and-more testing crowd made sure state testing will be untouched.

“All this together is not good. This generation’s shortsighted approach to preparing the next generation for the future is sad.”

Marie Lakin is a community activist and and writes the Making Waves blog for the Ventura County Star

Surf Putah Election Endorsements

Elected Officials – straight party line this time, all good candidates.

Barack Obama for President of the United States of America

Mike Thompson for US Congress, first district

Lois Wolk for California State Senate, fifth district

Mariko Yamada for State Assembly, eighth district

California Propositions and Initiatives on the flip…

California Propositions and Initiatives

YES on Prop 1A

High speed rail is good for Yolo County, good for California, a good investment for the future. Click the link for the detailed argument.

YES on Prop 2

While I have friends who are moved to support 2 by the whole cruelty to animals aspect of this bill, the bottom line for me is the issue of safe food production. Right now, the crowded conditions in factory farms lead to stressed animal immune systems, a disease-prone environment, massive pollution problems because of the waste issues with that densely packed cage farm environment, higher use of antibiotics to try and control resulting diseases, and thus a much higher risk to the general human population of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Bills similar to prop 2 have been passed in several Western states, and their ag economies have not collapsed as some of the no on 2 ads have claimed. While this would have been a stronger bill had it also held imported eggs and meat to the same standards so as to avoid a race to the bottom undercutting CA farms, as well as some funding to ease the cost of transition, the fact of the matter is that the status quo is a health risk, and giving the animals enough room in their cages to turn around should make things better, both for the animals and (most importantly IMO) the people of California who eat them.

And if you haven’t read any of Michael Pollan’s books on the subject (Omnivore’s Dillemma for the in-depth take, In Defense of Food for the Cliff’s Notes version), I strongly recommend them. This is not like the sentimental “don’t eat horses” prop a few years back (which I opposed on grounds of absurdity – meat is meat), this has implications for the quality of the food we eat, and ultimately of whether we want to further the evolution of antibiotic-resistant bacteria by giving them a perfect environment in our crowded factory farms. When those antibiotics stop working because we bred superbugs in those cramped cages, the cages will have to get a lot bigger anyway (if not outright abandoned), and it’ll hurt our ag economy a hell of a lot more.

Meh on Prop 3 – no recommendation

I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, it’s a vote for local pork, as one of the children’s hospitals the funds would be used for is the UCD med center hospital. And who could vote against sick children? On the other hand, I’m edgy about bonds, given how bad the credit situation is right now, and am less than pleased that public bond money would be used – 80% – to finance private children’s hospitals. Taxpayer money ought to be used for public goods.

NO on Prop 4

I am so sick and tired of having to beat back this stupid anti-abortion trojan horse every other election. Once again, this prop would force teenaged girls to ask their parents for permission to have an abortion, unless they ran through an intimidating and no doubt complex bureaucratic gauntlet by going to a judge and pleading their case. As with the last several times the fundamentalists threw this one up against the wall, the problem here is that the teens who are afraid to tell their parents about being pregnant in the first place often have reason to be, whether it’s because they were victims of incest, or are afraid of being physically beaten by their parents, are afraid of being thrown out on the street in punishment for their “sin,” or are just afraid of their parents forbidding the abortion and forcing the teenager to carry their child to term. Life is not perfect, and while many of us have happy families and adequate communication between parents and children, one does not write laws based on the best case scenario.

Rather, the law needs to be written with an awareness of the complexity of life and difficult situations that people – and yes, even minors – find themselves in. Prop 4, like its predecessors, is so fixated on the questionable “right” of parental authority over their children that it completely ignores the cruel way that this bill would heap suffering on vulnerable people in an already painfully difficult situation. Do we really want to be forcing pregnant teenagers in abusive or disfunctional families, possibly in an incest case, to be reporting their choice to have an abortion to those same people, being forced against their will to carry a fetus to term in their own body?

Prop 4 plays upon the anxieties of parents with teenage daughters, but gives little concern for the well being of those daughters themselves. It is wrong headed and cruel, and should be rejected just as the past two tries were.

YES on Prop 5

The drug war has been a colossal failure on all fronts. We have thrown so many people in prison that the courts have found California to be in violation of basic constitutional standards. Many of those prisoners committed no violent crime, but are in there as part of the “warehouse ’em all and forget about ’em” mentality that has sadly been a part of the fabric of California politics since at least the “law and order” Reagan Governorship. We pay more for prisons than universities in Calfiornia, even though it is far cheaper to send a kid to college than lock them away. Rates of drug use have not fallen, and drug use is common throughout all racial and economic classes, but rates of prosecution are highly racially biased all the same. Locking up nonviolent drug users is a failed solution to what was never a legal problem in the first place. Countries where drugs are not dealt with in this ham-fisted and draconian manner have far lower rates of drug use, ironically enough. Notably, those countries also have far better treatment options than California.

It isn’t working.

Prop 5 seeks to reverse that trend by diverting nonviolent drug offenders into treatment programs instead of prisons. The law and order industry, from police unions to prison workers unions to Yolo County’s very own ignore-state-law-when-he-disagrees-with-it DA Jeff Reisig is adamantly opposed to this because it cuts at their source of funding. That is to be expected, everyone fights for their meal ticket after all, and a lot of people make a lot of money off this costly and counterproductive war against the citizens of California.

But as a taxpayer and a human being, anything that dials back the use of incarceration as a dumb hammer to deal with complex social problems (and some that aren’t problems at all; in my opinion, drug use without antisocial behavior should not even be a crime, although prop 5 does not push things that far) is a good thing, and long overdue. No people that believe that they are, at heart, their brother’s and sister’s keeper have any business locking people away for petty offenses and leaving them to rot in prison.

The “law and order” incarceration-mad approach of the drug war has incontrovertibly failed, in California and nationwide. Prop 5 is a step away from a fiscal and moral abyss. Take it.

NO on Prop 6

The converse of prop 5, prop 6 is yet another in a long line of “tough on crime” initiatives locking in ever-expanding public funds for an ever-more draconian war against the poor and the nonwhite in this state under the guise of fighting crime. This time it’s gangs, with prop 6 increasing the penalty for any crime if the person who did it has been labeled as a gang member (which, as we saw in West Sac not too long ago, can be abused by ambitious DAs to label whole communities as “gangs” and then persecute them collectively for whatever crimes are committed in their midst). This whole “tough” mentality does not work, and is wrecking our budget while producing nothing of value to the state except fat payrolls for the prison workers union. Enough, no more money thrown down that hole, let’s try something different.

YES on Prop 7

Prop 7 would require that all utilities – public as well as private – get a large and expanding % of their power generated by big renewable power projects in the decades to come. The only problem with this proposition is that they stepped on some environmental groups’ toes by not consulting them before they put it on the ballot, so the Sierra Club and others decided to fight against it out of pique. We desperately need big solar and wind projects in this state ASAP, if we are going to turn ourselves around on global warming and insulate us from what looks to be a rise in the price of natural gas in the decades to come. This will not solve all problems – there needs to be a place for small projects, especially solar roofs, in any comprehensive solution – and is not intended as such, but what it does do is serve as one big silver BB that can be used to get us closer to where we need to be with big power projects.

I have read all the criticisms, and they strike me as not particularly valid. We need to think big, and prop 7 does that by gibving us both needed regulation and funding to make it happen.

NO on Prop 8

My marriage and family have been a bedrock in my life. I cannot imagine trying to weather life’s storms alone, without that companionship, trust, and love. How could I ever tell two people in love that they aren’t as good as me, that they should not be treated equally under the law, that their marriage, their companionship, trust and love are inferior to my own, and that they should either divorce or not marry?

Please do the right thing and vote no on 8. Marriage is too precious, too important to be used as a cynical pawn in the culture wars. If you want to protect marriage, work on your own, Lord knows none of ours are perfect anyways.

No on Hate. No on 8. (Click the link for the full argument)

NO on Prop 9

This is yet another of these “law and order” bills, this time sold as a “victim’s rights” initiative. It would give the families of crime victims more grounds to object at parole hearings, make parole harder to get, and generally keep more people in jail for longer period of time.

It’s an effective emotional argument, but it cloaks the very dire financial consequences of continuing to put more and more people in jail for longer and longer periods of time. Something has got to give. If it had a tax hike connected to pay for the damn thing, at least it would be honest, but it doesn’t even go that far. Just another unfunded mandate that doesn’t make anything better for the money spent, except if you’re a prison guard.

NO on Prop 10

This is something that sounds pretty good until you read the fine print. Texas oil zillionaire T. Boone PIckens has funded this one in hopes of making a mint off of the natural gas market by subsidizing a fleet of natural gas-burning cars. This does nothing for global warming or carbon emissions, plays into our unsustainable suburban low density development model, will create a competitor with power plants for natural gas (thus bidding the price up and making electricity and heating more expensive), does little for the common good, and makes a rich Texan oilman even richer. While I have some grudging respect for T. Boone’s efforts to give visibility to the huge issue of Peak OIl, this prop is a total non-starter.

NO on Prop 11

It’s a scam to protect the Republican party and conservative democrats cloaked in good government nonpartisan “reform” language. While there might be a better way to draw districts, prop 11 isn’t it. Don’t fall for it. (Click the link for the extended argument)

YES on Prop 12

CalVet has been around forever, it works, it costs the state next to nothing, and it has helped out generations of Calfiornia veterans. Given the huge number of vets that Bush’s little imperial adventures have produced, and the economic strains the Bush administration’s VA cutbacks, miserly pay, stoploss backdoor draft, and extended tours of duty has posed to veterans and their families, we owe it to them to make it easier for them and their families to buy houses, farms and start businesses. It’s good for California, and it’s the right thing to do. The only way this could be improved as a bill is if it was expanded to the population at large, but even as is, it’s a no-brainer.

Local Ballot Measures

YES on Measure N

Measure N would give Davis an essentially blank city charter that could be amended in the future to adapt city law to whatever sorts of thing we as a community wanted to do. Right now, Davis is a common law city, which means that what we can do on a variety of issues is constrained by whatever the state legislature says we can. Personally, I think the Davis electorate is intelligent, educated and engaged enough to make a charter work, and have not found any of the arguments against a charter to be compelling at all. Besides, just think of all the fun letters to the editor battles in the Enterprise a charter could create!

Seriously, though, from choice voting to district elections to financing solar panels on roofs like Berkeley did to creating a Davis Public Utility to broadening our tax base beyond just property and sales tax, to all other sorts of stuff, the freedom this would give Davis to choose its own path and experiment without asking permission from the utterly useless state government (thanks in no small part to prop 13) makes it a good idea in my opinion.

YES on Measure W

In short, as I say with with every election with a school bond on the ballot, you’re a bad person if you vote against a school bond. This bond would fund a whole bunch of teachers in the Davis Joint Unified School District that will otherwise be cut for a pittance, given the kind of money that flies aroiund this town. If you have the money to buy a house, if you have the money to drive a nice car, if you have a kid in Davis schools, if you plan on getting old and want talented educated doctors and nurses taking care of you, or a thriving knowledge economy keeping those tax coffers full so that you can retire in security with Social Security or your 401K, you have no excuse not to vote for W.

It reality is that simple. If you vote against this thing, your neighbors will be justifiably mad at you for wrecking their kids’ education and property values. Do the right thing, public schools are at the very foundation of modern society, and deliver tremendous value at a very low taxpayer cost.

originally at surf putah

Field Poll Shows Narrow Lead for Prop 1A

Crossposted from the California High Speed Rail Blog

The Field Poll finally got around to polling Prop 1A and the results are about what I’d expected after six weeks of the Reason Foundation and the Howard Jarvis Association flooding the state’s media with lies. We have a 47-42 lead with 11% undecided. The common rule of thumb in California politics is that a proposition under 50% before election day is in serious trouble, but I’m not convinced that conventional wisdom will hold true this year. There are a number of propositions – such as 4 and 8 – that are also very closely split, and voters are showing a better understanding of the issues, with a reduced inclination to vote no as a knee-jerk reaction.

Still, the poll shows that we have a LOT of work to do between now and Tuesday. Especially when you look at the crosstabs.

Prop 1A will be decided on election day. Those who have already voted oppose it 39-51. That is very close to the number of McCain voters opposing Prop 1A, 35-56. Here in California absentee voters have traditionally leaned Republican and conservative. Those groups oppose Prop 1A – Republicans by a margin of 35-58 and conservatives by a margin of 30-64. Voters over age 65, those most likely to cast an absentee ballot, oppose it 38-53.

However, if California gets an Obama surge on election day, the outcome may be much different (preferences are listed in order of yes, no, and undecided):

Democrats: 53-30-17

Independents: 54-40-6

Moderates: 49-40-11

Liberals: 61-25-14

Obama: 56-33-11

Age 18-34: 50-38-12

If young voters in particular hit the polls in large numbers than we can win this on election day.

The Field Poll also breaks the numbers down by region, showing us where we need to focus our energies over the next three days:

LA County: 55-37-8

Other SoCal: 32-54-14

Central Valley: 49-46-5

Bay Area: 59-28-13

Other NorCal: 46-46-8

Looking at this I would write off “Other SoCal” and pour as many resources as possible into the Central Valley. Fresno, Bakersfield, and Sacramento among others ought to be pro-HSR given how much they will benefit from the system. Over the next few days local political leaders and respected state leaders – I’m looking at you, Dianne Feinstein and Arnold Schwarzenegger – need to get into the Central Valley, get themselves on local news, and promote the hell out of Prop 1A.

There is a large number of undecided voters in the Bay Area as well. They can and should be brought over to our side, likely with a strong push from environmental and transit groups. I don’t know if the Sierra Club has any money to put an ad up, or can do something to attract earned media, but that would be very helpful.

I know this site gets a lot of readers from around the pro-HSR community. So here is what I suggest our plans be for the next crucial three days:

Link Obama to HSR. Run some ads or print up some flyers or just plain talk about how Obama and Biden are strong HSR advocates. The purpose here is to ensure that Democrats and Obama voters are going to cast their ballots for Prop 1A as well.

The Central Valley is where we will win or lose. Get thee to Fresno (or Bakersfield or Sacramento) and explain to voters why this will be a godsend for the Valley. It will bring jobs and cheaper, more reliable transportation. Fresno will be under two hours from SF and LA. And it will reverse a long history of California neglecting the Valley’s infrastructure needs.

Emphasize the economic stimulus benefits of HSR. This message would play well in the Central Valley, the Bay Area, and perhaps even LA County and some other parts of SoCal. Prop 1A is a smart investment in jobs and growth. Leading economists like Paul Krugman are calling for deficit spending on infrastructure to rescue our economy. That message needs to get through.

Continue targeting young voters. CALPIRG has done excellent work here over the last few weeks but they need to be joined by other groups – Young Democrats and other groups. At San Diego State an environmentally-minded group of fraternities and sororities has been promoting Prop 1A.

Speak more about the environmental benefits in the Bay Area. Voters there are the most likely to be motivated by the considerable environmental and global warming-fighting benefits of HSR. If the Sierra Club has any last-minute resources to deploy, that would be very useful.

We can win this thing if we drive a big Obama turnout on Tuesday, ensure that people vote their entire ballot (or at least as far as the first proposition!) and that they vote YES on Prop 1A. The internals of the Field Poll look good for us, IF we can accomplish the turnout task. Let’s get to it!

Monday Open Thread

Photobucket• After watching the SNL Thursday episodes for the last few weeks, this picture struck me as kind of funny. Fix it!

• Speaking of tools you can use, for you San Franciscans here is a Google map with embedded videos of the candidates for Supervisor.

• George Skelton, California’s High Broder Priest of Seriousness, engages in some more neo-Hooverism over Prop 1A. People, have you ever even taken an American history class? You know, FDR didn’t skulk away from public works projects, he built.  Yes, we need to do work on water storage and other important projects. But we also need High Speed Rail. Yes on 1A!

• Wow, I’ve never heard this before: Vote by mail is getting really popular. Wait, I think I have, when was it? Oh yes, before every single election for teh past 3 years. This has basically become the California story you write a few months out of the election when you have some free time so you can call in sick one day. Get well soon Jennifer Oldham.

• Here’s an interesting op-ed from Ken Jacobs at the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research in the SacBee regarding the role of health care in the financial crisis.  Apparently health care is at least a partial cause to almost half of all foreclosures.  We can’t be fooled into thinking that health care should be a medium to long term goal because of the economy. We need to deal with this mess now, just as much as we need to bail out all the banks.

• Redstate sez that Obama’s going to lose California because of the early absentee numbers.  Oh noes!!!  Except early absentees historically favor the GOP in a big way, and this clown’s results show Democrats and Republicans dead even.  Nice try.  Just as a reference, Rasmussen has a poll out today with Obama up 61-34 in the state.  Yes, that’s a 27-point lead.

They Broke The Budget – Now They Want To Break Our Future

Crossposted from the California High Speed Rail Blog

The latest canard that high speed rail opponents are trying to use to defeat Prop 1A is that the Authority failed to deliver a legislatively-mandated, updated business plan. Dan Walters made this the centerpiece of his HSR denial column today.

On the surface it sounds bad. But as the facts demonstrate this is a case where Republicans – and Democratic Senator Alan Lowenthal, who oughta know better – have set up high speed rail and Prop 1A to fail.

On August 26th AB 3034, after a weeks-long delay, was finally signed by Arnold Schwarzenegger. That bill directed the California High Speed Rail Authority to create a new business plan…by September 1. Giving the Authority merely five days to come up with the new plan.

Why the delay? The bill was passed out of the Assembly on May 29. From there it languished in the State Senate. Alan Lowenthal put out a nonsense study trying to cast doubt on the plan, but it was Sen. Roy Ashburn who played the central role in delaying AB 3034 into early August. By the time the Senate passed AB 3034, however, Arnold Schwarzenegger had started in on his temper tantrum, refusing to sign any new bills until we got a new budget. Arnold relented on AB 3034 – but had the bill bent sent to Arnold sooner, it would not have been subject to Arnold’s tantrum, and there would have been time to produce it.

But it gets worse. As you know, the state budget delay this year was the worst on record – three months long. The state Constitution mandates that a budget be approved by June 15 and implemented on July 1 – the beginning of the new fiscal year.

The Authority’s staff consists of 6.5 employees. Not a huge amount of staff to put together a business plan, actually, especially when you give them five days and then withhold a budget from them.

HSR deniers have now tried to use the delayed business plan to claim that Prop 1A and HSR are flawed. Today the State Senate held a hearing about the business plan, likely designed and timed to hurt Prop 1A’s chances. You can see the complete video here and the YouTube of the key exchange above. At the hearing Quentin Kopp explained that the plan will be ready around November 8, after proper work goes into its production and review by Goldman Sachs.

Roy Ashburn tried to attack Kopp over the delay, asking “You and your Authority are in violation of California law as we sit here today. If you were in my chair, what would you say?”

Kopp’s reply:

If I were sitting in your chair I would use temperate language. Did you ever read the state Constitution? Did you ever read Article 4, Section 12? Do you know what it says? It says…the Legislature shall pass the budget bill by midnight on June 15 of each year. You’re in violation of the law. Consider the outcome should a taxpayer bring a suit to recover the money that you eventually drew between June 15 and September 23 of this year. Consider the fact that people don’t work without being paid. Consider the fact that my executive director hasn’t been paid since January of this year. Consider the fact that when you finally appropriated the money the contractors who expect to be paid can finally begin work on the business plan. I’ll tell you why people should believe me. Because I have an impeccable reputation for honesty, integrity, and independence.

Ashburn could not reply to that point. He avoided it and tried to repeat his same points. But the smackdown was delivered, and Ashburn is exposed as a fraud. The state legislature, led by Republicans like Ashburn who held this state hostage for three months, refusing to do their Constitutional duty to pass a budget because they were demanding unspecified cuts, have absolutely NO place to be criticizing ANYONE else in the state government for not following the law. Ashburn is full of it and kudos to Kopp for calling him out on it.

Kopp drank Roy Ashburn’s milkshake. I think we’re done with this whole “business plan” nonsense, aren’t we?


Note: I will be on KRXA 540 AM this morning at 8 to discuss this and other topics in California politics

The dominant theme of the 2008 campaign – from the presidential race on down – has been lies. Republicans and conservatives have resorted to an unprecedented amount of outright lies to try and defeat progressive campaigns and policies. There has been a marked uptick lately in the amount of false advertising especially on the propositions, so I thought I’d collect some of them here.

  • Prop 1A: The Reason Foundation, swimming in oil money, has been flooding the state’s newspapers with misleading claims against high speed rail. The worst example was in a recent issue of the LA Times when Adrian Moore of the Reason Foundation made totally false claims, including that global HSR lines are subsidized (all turn a profit and France’s TGV subsidizes other rail lines) and that HSR doesn’t take passengers from airlines (in fact, they all do – to the point that Air France is going to enter the HSR market itself). More on these lies at the California High Speed Rail Blog.
  • Prop 4: Planned Parenthood is facing a malicious attack from Prop 4 proponents. From an email sent out to the No on 4 list yesterday:

    A new ad from the proponents of Proposition 4 twists a tragic case of a teen trapped in an incestuous situation, and falsely claims that Prop 4 would have helped. What is most outrageous is that Prop 4 would have put that teen in an even worse and more desperate situation. It would not have helped this teen in any way yet the anti-choice extremists behind Prop 4 continue to use tragic events to lie to California voters.

    Visit No on Prop 4 to donate and find volunteer opportunities to help defeat this attack on teen safety and abortion rights.

  • Prop 8: Brian explained yesterday the most recent falsehood being peddled by the Yes on 8 folks. Even though Mormon legal expert Morris Thurston exposed these claims as lies and demanded the church stop spreading them, the Mormon Church is still helping pay for these ads. Visit the No on 8 campaign to volunteer your time or your money to defeat these liars and protect marriage rights.

Why all the lies? Partly because if we had a discussion on the actual merits of the issues, Prop 1A would pass and Props 4 and 8 would fail by large margins. The media plays a role here as well, letting groups like the Reason Foundation or the Mormon Church spread false claims without pushing back for the truth. Stenography has replaced journalism, as media outlets just report what “both sides” have to say regardless of whether or not there’s any truth to the claims. And the op-ed pages and TV ads exist in a zone of truthiness, where nobody holds the liars accountable.

Except us. California progressives, the blogs, the grassroots. All the more reason for us to Stay For Change and save California from the liars on the right who wish to set this state back decades instead of help us embrace a better future.

Every time you close your eyes…lies, lies.

Fighting Back Against the New Hoovers

Crossposted from the California High Speed Rail Blog

Not content with denying to Californians the numerous tangible benefits of high speed rail, Prop 1A opponents have retreated into a revival of Herbert Hoover’s economic policy in order to try and defeat the most important project Californians have considered in nearly 50 years. Their argument is that in an economic crisis, we should turn to austerity instead of following the tried and true path of deficit spending on infrastructure that provides short-term job relief and long-term economic value.

Today we have numerous articles and media outlets starting to push back against the New Hoovers. From newspaper editorial pages to leading economists there is a growing consensus that we must use deficit spending – in our case, bonds – to spur economic growth through infrastructure projects.

Speaker Karen Bass is calling for infrastructure projects to be part of a California economic stimulus that she hopes to offer later this year to deal with the worsening economic crisis.

Even conservative observers and federal deficit hawks are seeing the need for deficit spending, as the conservative Washington Times reports:

Conservative Financial Times columnist Samuel Brittan said the fears that short-term stimulus spending by governments will raise deficits miss the point. Even the $700 billion Wall Street rescue plan approved by the U.S. government – part of a more than $2 trillion international bailout of banks by governments around the world – does not change the equation.

“Maxims about debt that might be prudent for families can be the height of folly for government,” he wrote.

British economist John Maynard Keynes is credited with the basic insight, arguing that the Great Depression was prolonged because Western governments insisted on balancing budgets, raising taxes and cutting spending at a time when private economic activity had ground to a halt.

Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan research group, said both candidates must put together a credible long-term plan to deal with the exploding deficit, but that the government should be priming the pump in the short term.

These conservatives are joined by Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who writes in today’s column:

And to provide that help, we’re going to have to put some prejudices aside. It’s politically fashionable to rant against government spending and demand fiscal responsibility. But right now, increased government spending is just what the doctor ordered, and concerns about the budget deficit should be put on hold….

All signs point to an economic slump that will be nasty, brutish – and long….

And this is also a good time to engage in some serious infrastructure spending, which the country badly needs in any case. The usual argument against public works as economic stimulus is that they take too long: by the time you get around to repairing that bridge and upgrading that rail line, the slump is over and the stimulus isn’t needed. Well, that argument has no force now, since the chances that this slump will be over anytime soon are virtually nil. So let’s get those projects rolling.

The growing unanimity of opinion on the need for deficit spending for infrastructure projects is striking. Krugman, MacGuineas and Brittan join leading economic figures like Nouriel Roubini and Lawrence Summers in calling for bold action to mitigate the deepening economic crisis.

They are joined today by the Fresno Bee editorial in favor of Prop 1A which clearly understands the need for infrastructure stimulus, and directly refutes some of the fiscal arguments against HSR:

Sadly, much opposition has come from people who say they like the idea of 220-mph trains zipping up and down the state, but don’t think we can afford it right now, in a time of budget disaster and economic crisis.

That sounds prudent, even reasonable, but it ignores an important fact of American history: Many of our most important public works projects have come in times of deep economic distress — and they have been crucial elements in our recovery in those times.

Recall the Great Depression, when voters in the Bay Area passed bonds to build the Golden Gate and Bay bridges — projects that lightened the impact of the Depression on that region and were critical to the postwar economic boom. Shasta Dam was built during the Depression, and remains a linchpin of the state’s water system.

The closing paragraph of the editorial is a powerful, stirring statement that deserves to be quoted in full:

The high-speed rail project is immense, and that can be daunting. The current economic situation is likely to get worse before it gets better. In the past, Californians have risen to such challenges with vision and determination. Voting “yes” on Proposition 1A is a declaration that we still possess those qualities, and have not surrendered them to a timid faith in a status quo that is no longer sustainable.

I’ve never seen it put so well. The Fresno Bee clearly understands that our state’s very future is at stake and that Californians should be able to meet that challenge just as we have done in the past.

And what about the arguments that the financial crisis makes this a bad time to float bonds? The Sacramento Bee reports “unprecedented demand” for California’s short-term bonds:

California has secured commitments for nearly $4 billion in short-term loans thanks to unprecedented demand from individual investors Wednesday, averting a need for federal assistance and allaying fears of a cash shortage….

California secured orders for $3.92 billion in short-term bonds from individual investors Tuesday and Wednesday, 98 percent of its original $4 billion goal, according to state Treasurer Bill Lockyer….

This week’s bond sale reassured state officials that traditional lending markets would suffice.

Translation: capital markets WANT state bonds. If we float Prop 1A bonds they will be quickly gobbled up by a hungry market desperate for a safe investment.

All the HSR deniers have left is what was at the core of their belief all along – opposition to passenger rail:

“This is like losing your job and then using your credit card to put in a new swimming pool to help provide work for others,” said [Kris] Vosburgh [of the Howard Jarvis Association] of the jobs argument.

Have fun with that ridiculous “swimming pool” analogy in the comments…

Sacrificing the Future to the Failure of the Present

Or, why the Sac Bee and Modesto Bee are wrong to oppose Prop 1A.

California is staring into the abyss. 30 years of conservative economic policy, including tax cuts, have brought the national and the state economy to the worst economic crisis we have faced since 1933. The state budget is in perennial deficit – caused by those same conservative policies. Since Prop 13 in 1978 the state’s revenue levels have been set artificially and deliberately too low to maintain our core services. The purpose was to force crises like this and tell Californians “either we raise your taxes or we destroy government.”

The budget deficit is a difficult problem. But it can be closed fairly easily by returning to the income tax levels on the wealthy that Ronald Reagan supported, that were in place from 1991 to 1998.  It is a question of political will – our budget deficit is not a force of nature but a deliberate creation of man. What we make, we can unmake.

More importantly, how exactly are we going to close that budget deficit, provide short-term relief and long-term economic growth without infrastructure projects? Many economists argue that government spending on infrastructure must be part of not just an economic stimulus right now but also of any financial rescue plan. These economists understand what we at this blog have understood – that we need stimulus to revive our economy.

Banks aren’t lending just because of the bad assets on their books – they’re not lending because the economy is sliding into recession. To stop that we need government spending on new stimulus. That was conventional wisdom during the Depression and it eventually brought us out of the depths – while also setting up the prosperity of the postwar era.

Unfortunately California newspaper editorial boards remain trapped in the failed conventional wisdom that brought us to this point of crisis. Instead of returning to tried-and-true economic principles of infrastructure stimulus, they argue we should sacrifice the future to the failure of the present. That because we are in crisis now, we cannot act to rescue ourselves from that crisis, and cannot act to provide a more stable future.

Such is the position of the Modesto Bee in its editorial against Prop 1A and of the Sac Bee. They both claim it is “too costly for the state.” In doing so they merely demonstrate their lack of knowledge about high speed rail and their unwillingness to act to reverse the slide into severe recession.

Details over the flip.

From the Modesto Bee:

The annual cost to operate the high-speed rail network would exceed $1 billion. Backers believe they can operate in the black. We’re skeptical. Passenger rail systems throughout the United States require subsidies.

The Modesto Bee should NOT be skeptical. Every single HSR system around the world functions without operational subsidies. In France HSR is so profitable it subsidizes the other systems! Even Taiwan HSR has achieved profitability after just 18 months in operation. Of course we should remind the Modesto Bee that every other form of transportation in America is subsidized – but HSR stands on its merits. Ongoing subsidies are just not likely. The Modesto Bee misleads its readers in not mentioning that.

That aside, our main concern is the price. A review by the independent legislative analyst’s office says that if the bonds are sold at an average interest rate of 5 percent and paid off over 30 years, the cost to the state general fund would be about $19.4 billion. That works out to about $647 million per year.

State legislators struggle to produce a budget year after year, and the current budget, just signed, is expected to be nearly $5 billion in the red unless drastic action is taken. As we noted in opposing Proposition 3, California can ill afford to encumber the general fund with more debt, especially the staggering cost for high-speed rail.

The Modesto Bee and the Sac Bee, which used almost the same argument, would do well to read Pete Stahl’s “semi-biennial lecture on bonds”. Pete reminds us that bonds are a fixed cost over time that become much easier to pay off as general fund revenues increase. Further, HSR construction will actually BOOST the general fund by providing increased income tax and sales tax revenue. Combined with the green dividend from HSR it is likely that it will pay for itself – the benefits to the general fund will equal or outweigh the ongoing bond service costs.

Newspapers like the Modesto and Sacramento Bee are suggesting that we were wrong to build Shasta Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge during the Great Depression. Both required public bond financing to be constructed. Modesto and Sacramento STILL benefits from Shasta Dam water. Instead, according to papers like the Sac and Modesto Bee, we should have waited until the 1950s. Of course that would come at the cost of not only higher unemployment during the Depression – which is the last thing you need – but it would have limited our ability to have postwar growth.

The equation is very simple, people. Prop 1A = jobs now + long-term economic growth. California would be engaging in an act of extreme recklessness if it sacrificed the future because of the failures of the present. The best way to ensure that we continue to have unemployment and a budget deficit is to reject Prop 1A.