Rolling the dice

Dec 21, 2011

Jerry Brown's $35 billion plan to tax the wealthy and boost sales taxes got its first big political contribution -- from California gaming tribes.


From Kevin Yamamura in the Sacramento Bee: "California gambling tribes have given $275,000 toward Gov. Jerry Brown's new 2012 ballot initiative to raise taxes on sales and the wealthy, the first known major contribution to his effort."


"The California Tribal Business Alliance and two of its member tribes have written checks to help Brown's cause, said the group's political director, David Quintana. The Alliance gave $75,000, while the Lytton Band of Pomo Indians and Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians each gave $100,000."


"Brown's initiative would raise the sales tax by a half-cent and increase income taxes starting at $250,000 for individuals to raise an estimated $7 billion in the first fiscal year. Both would expire at the end of 2016."

Speaking of gambling, the feds are standing pat on efforts in California to legalize online poker and other forms of gambling. But in the background, major forces are brewing.


From the Press-Enterprise's Jim Miller: "If there was a response, the Department of Justice isn’t saying. It declined to comment on the letter last week. Planned congressional hearings could delve into the issue in the coming months."


"By then, however, California could be well on its way to authorizing one or more online games. State legislation is expected to be introduced early next year, with the main goal of generating money to help offset an estimated $13 billion deficit through June 2013."


"Tribes, horse tracks, card clubs and other interests have been at odds about how to allow online gambling in California, or even whether the state should allow it. Underlying three-plus years of discussions, however, is the assumption that the federal Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 allows California and other states to permit online gambling within their borders."


"Former California lawmaker Lloyd Levine carried the first online gambling bill in 2008. He said legislative attorneys and others have consistently concluded that the proposals comply with the federal law."


State Attorney General Kamala Harris has sued Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, saying the mortgage giants did not respond to subpoenas earlier in the year that were part of a state investigation.


From the LAT's Alejandro Lazo: "The suits, filed Tuesday in San Francisco County Superior Court, comes after investigators with the state attorney general's office presented the two firms with questions regarding their foreclosure, lending and mortgage-related practices in the state."


"The subpoenas ask the government-controlled finance companies to answer questions about their activities in California, including their roles as landlords that own thousands of foreclosed properties, The Times previously reported. The attorney general's office is also seeking details of Fannie and Freddie's mortgage-servicing and home-repossession practices. 

"In addition, investigators want to learn more about the companies' purchases and sponsorship of mortgage-backed securities in the Golden State. According to separate suits filed by Harris against Fannie and Freddie, the two companies refused to answer the questions."


"The filing of the suits was reported earlier by the Wall Street Journal."


House Republicans are demanding an inquiry into California's high-speed rail program, and want the General Accounting Office -- which has a reputation for even-handededness  -- to conduct it.


From the Bee's Michael Doyle: "The GAO seems likely to heed the request, whose backers include Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Atwater, Calif., and two House committee chairmen in addition to McCarthy."


"Separately, McCarthy and other Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation to mandate a GAO study. One of the chairmen urging the GAO audit, Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., already used his House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee position last week to convene a hearing designed to showcase criticism of California's ambitious plan.

"The California project is turning out to be an additional disaster in a long list of projects touted for high speed rail," Mica declared at the start of last week's four-hour hearing. The latest business plan prepared by the California High-Speed Rail Authority anticipates a $98.5 billion price tag over the next 20 years, more than twice the original cost. "


"Planners anticipate connecting Los Angeles to San Francisco with trains traveling through the San Joaquin Valley at speeds of up to 220 miles per hour."


Finally, our "Friendly Skies" file offers us the next new thing in air travel -- nude airlines. Better than three out of four of those surveyed said they'd like to fly on airplanes where everybody takes their clothes off. 


"Americans are clearly ahead of the pack here, with 79 per cent of them saying they'd fly on a nudist airline, were one known to be operational. (Those who think Richard Branson is the obvious man for the job here clearly haven't countenanced the thought of Sir Dick in his birthday suit grinning insanely from Naked Virgin billboards)."


"In an entirely unscientific survey conducted by Trip Advisor, nearly four in five of the 22,091respondents said they were willing to get their gear off when high in the sky, if it meant that other people on the flight would also be under-dressed."


"The upsides include reduced plane weight, no-fuss body scans and plenty of good visual amusement when your flight is delayed. On the downside, you'd want to hope there's no turbulence while the hostie is waving a pot of piping hot coffee above your jewels."

Flaps down....

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