Playing the fear card

Feb 25, 2011

Gov. Brown, who has been meeting for weeks behind closed doors with the caucuses of both parties, took his pitch public Thursday as he urged the two-house conference committee to approve his budget plan that includes extending taxes. Otherwise, he said, he'll cut $25 billion from the state budget.


From the Bee's Kevin Yamamura: "And it's going to be turbulent," the governor added. "Because I don't want to be here four years and play games or evasion, and everything just erodes. I think we've got to meet the moment of truth now. And it's either the tax extensions and the $12 billion. Or it's $25 billion or as close to that as we're going to get. And if we can't do that, then maybe we don't get a budget."


"Legislative aides believe it was the first time a sitting governor had testified before a budget committee since at least the 1960s. The novelty of the act drew scores of reporters and cameras, few of whom typically show up for budget committee hearings. It also won praise from legislators in both parties. Brown's appearance went over well, but his budget still had a ways to go."


Across the street from the Capitol, in the basement of the Ellis building, the Little Hoover Commission adopted a scathing report detailing the ills of the public pension system. One recommendation: Cut the benefits of current government employees.


From Capitol Weekly: "California’s public pension system is abused, bloated and based on faulty math, and state lawmakers should take immediate steps to reduce the retirement benefits of current employees, not just new hires, the Little Hoover Commission says.


“The situation is dire,” the study said, adding that public employers should be permitted to make the same sorts of cuts that those in the private sector have done. The commission’s report, which reflects proposals already floated by some Republican lawmakers and even the governor, is all but certain to intensify the political debate over California’s $25.4 billion budget shortage."


Voter-approved mandates such as Proposition 98 restrict the state's budgeting process, but their signficance sometimes is used as a scapegoat for lack of legislative action, notes Michael Gardner in HealthyCal.


"It does make the whole fiscal landscape more complicated, but it’s not as serious as many people would argue,” Taylor said. “I still think we have a lot of flexibility over our budget.”

Others are even more critical. “This is a scapegoat issue that distracts attention from the real problem, which is the government’s inability to balance the competing interest groups. We just haven’t figured out a way to say no,” said John Matsusaka, professor of business and law at USC."

"It is true that the biggest constraint – Proposition 98, which controls education spending – can be set aside with a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, the same super-majority that was required for approving the budget until this year. But even if lawmakers vote to suspend Proposition 98, they still are obligated to “re-pay” the schools in the future, when the economy improves."

Former Congressman Tom Campbell, a frequent candidate for statewide office, has been named the new dean of Chapman University School of Law in Orange County.

From the LAT's Larry Gordon: "Campbell, who was an unsuccessful candidate in last year’s California Republican primary for U.S. Senate, represented Silicon Valley for five terms in Congress, served two years in the state Legislature and was budget chief for former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has a law degree from Harvard University and a doctorate in economics from the University of Chicago. Campbell was business school dean at UC Berkeley and taught law at Stanford."

“Tom Campbell brings a wealth of experience as a teacher, educator and public servant,” Chapman University President James L. Doti said in a statement about the hiring, which takes effect immediately."


Farmers always want more water and they may actually get it, under a new agreement on Delta pumping, reports the Frfesno Bee's John Ellis.

"The deal, which runs through June 30, still allows pumping to be restricted if smelt are in danger of being sucked into the pumps, but the cutbacks wouldn't be as deep as before. Tom Birmingham, general manager of the Westlands Water District, said the new pumping levels are "significantly better ... I think it is a positive development."

"Environmentalists who also signed on to the agreement, however, said the new, less restrictive pumping levels are only an experiment and are not guaranteed, especially if the pumping harms the smelt."

From the "Art for Art's Sake File" comes the tale of the chilly Venus in Minnesota. Somebody tried to give her some clothes.

"A billboard for a Minneapolis museum has been replaced after someone spray-painted clothing and the word "Brrr!" in red over its depiction of nudity from a 16th-century Venus painting."

"The advertisement is for the Minneapolis Institute of Arts' exhibition of works by the Italian master Titian. The museum chose to feature the famous "Venus Rising from the Sea" painting on the billboard because "it's very typical of paintings in the show," said MIA spokeswoman Anne-Marie Wagener…"

"We said 'We think it's funny, just leave it, don't bother replacing it,'" Wagener said Thursday. But she said Clear Channel Outdoor, the company that owns the billboard, has a policy that ads with graffiti must be taken down so as not to encourage vandalism"


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