Money misery

May 31, 2012

Although touted as a way of helping beleaguered, debt-ridden homeowners fend off foreclosure, a state program actually has assisted relatively few people and little of the money actually has been spent.


From the Bay Citizen's Aaron Glantz: "Fewer than 8,000 borrowers have received help out of 101,337 Californians the agency estimated would receive assistance in an agreement with the federal government 18 months ago."


"Keep Your Home California is designed to subsidize mortgage payments for unemployed borrowers and reduce debt for people whose homes significantly declined in value during the housing crisis."


"But the program’s success relies on the good will of the banking industry, and most are balking at rewriting mortgage agreements. At the same time, the program has eaten up an unusually large portion of its fund to create and promote the largely unsuccessful program. Of the nation’s five largest mortgage servicers, only one, Bank of America, is participating in the principal reduction program."


A member of the public commission that decides lawmakers' pay intends to offer a proposal today to cut their salaries -- as well as the salaries of the governor and other constitutional officers, by 5 percent.


From the Bee's Jim Sanders: "Murray's plan would reduce Brown's salary from $173,987 to $165,288. Lawmakers would see a nearly $5,000 cut – from $95,291 to $90,527. Attorney General Kamala Harris and state schools Superintendent Tom Torlakson would see their pay drop from $151,127 to $143,571."


"Other affected officeholders would include the state treasurer, controller and insurance commissioner, whose salaries would fall from $139,189 to $132,630; and the lieutenant governor, secretary of state and Board of Equalization members would see a pay cut from $130,490 to $123,966."



From the Bee's David Siders and Field Poll data:  "California voters still favor a ballot measure to raise the state's tobacco tax, but the margin is slipping, suggesting a potentially close finish in the election Tuesday..."

"Meanwhile, voters appear poised to approve changes to the state's 22-year-old term limits law. Proposition 28, leading 50 percent to 28 percent among likely voters, would let state lawmakers serve 12 years in either the Assembly or Senate, or divided between the two. Lawmakers are currently restricted to eight years in the Senate and six in the Assembly."

Veteran pol Howard Berman, who went to Congress decades ago after a bitter, protracted fight for the Assembly speakership, faces fellow Democratic Rep. Brad Sherman in a hotly contested battle prompted by California's new top-two primary law.


From Hillel Aron in the LA Weekly:  "Berman, 71, chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, who bears a faint resemblance to Senator Palpatine from the Star Wars series, has never in his life run in a competitive re-election race. Not once since his election to the state Assembly has his vote dipped below 60 percent."


"Managing such a feat has less to do with his track record — which is, by most accounts, impressive — than with the dark arts practiced by his brother, Michael."


"Michael Berman is known for his multiple-pack-daily smoking habit and his mastery of targeted mail, sending different kinds of pieces — such as glossy brochures or formal, typed letters — to different voters based on party leanings, ethnicity, race, wealth or other demographics."


How to spend the money collected from the state-sanctioned auctions of greenhouse-gas allowances wasn't at center stage in the debate over cutting carbon emissions until the state's budget went belly up. But now the issue is of major importance as the state scrambles for revenue.


From Jeremy Miller at KQED's Climate Watch: "On Friday, the California Air Resources Board held a public hearing to discuss where auction funds might be spent, as a panel of speakers from across the state and country — representing a broad array of industries and interests — sounded off on where this sizable stream of new funding might be best directed."



Jim Earp, executive director of the California Alliance for Jobs, said that the funds should be spent on improvement of transit networks and infrastructure. Ellen Hanak, a fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, suggested that a best fit is renewable energy and efficiency projects. Lester Snow, director of the California Water Foundation (and former head of Water Resources for the state), pointed to habitat restoration on the Delta and making California’s vast, energy-intensive water delivery systems more efficient..."


"And as Climate Watch senior editor Craig Miller reported earlier this month, no one can predict with any certainty at what price carbon will trade in the California market. Most estimates put the figure at between $15 and $30 per metric ton, which means that when the market is fully up to speed in 2015 it could pull in as much as $6 billion a year. (The governor’s budget stated the program could generate as much as $1 billion in its first year.)"


And from our "Fight Fat" file comes word that New York is poised to ban big, sugary drinks in the war on obesity.

"The proposed ban would affect virtually the entire menu of popular sugary drinks found in delis, fast-food franchises and even sports arenas, from energy drinks to pre-sweetened iced teas. The sale of any cup or bottle of sweetened drink larger than 16 fluid ounces — about the size of a medium coffee, and smaller than a common soda bottle — would be prohibited under the first-in-the-nation plan, which could take effect as soon as next March."


"The measure would not apply to diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy-based drinks like milkshakes, or alcoholic beverages; it would not extend to beverages sold in grocery or convenience stores."


“Obesity is a nationwide problem, and all over the United States, public health officials are wringing their hands saying, ‘Oh, this is terrible,’ ” Mr. Bloomberg said in an interview on Wednesday in the Governor’s Room at City Hall."


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