Signing Off From KQED Sacramento

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Photo: Craig Miller/KQED

If you're like me, there are those days you always remember in your life... days where fate kindly turned you the right way. For me the list includes February 10, 2003 -- the day I signed on as the guy in Sacramento for KQED Public Radio and The California Report.

Within weeks, I was on the hottest political story in a generation -- the recall of a sitting governor -- and by my first anniversary, I was forever hooked on public radio.

Today, after more than nine years, I'm signing off.
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Podcast: The Road Ahead

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As the great Yogi Berra once said, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

There are some forks in the road ahead for Governor Jerry Brown and his backers of a budget balanced, in part, with a new temporary tax increase.

And a fork in the road right here and now for your weekly aural dish on California politics.

On this week's Capital Notes Podcast, I'm joined by Anthony York of the Los Angeles Times and Marisa Lagos of the San Francisco Chronicle to talk about the road ahead for the tax measure and the governor.

This is, as I'll describe in detail later today here on the blog, the final podcast for the time being. Consider it a pause, perhaps, for a personnel reboot. In any event, we hope it'll tide our loyal listeners (and your emails really make it clear, you're loyal) until the next chapter begins here on the blog.

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Republicans Urge Spot (Budget Bill) Removal

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Budget bills passed Thursday await the actual budget. (Photo: John Myers/KQED)

They are 18 words, repeated over and over in 80 pieces of legislation, ones that provoked a testy debate this morning under the Capitol dome: "It is the intent of the Legislature to enact statutory changes relating to the Budget Act of 2012."

Such a bill is referred to as a "spot bill," in that it's an empty bill holding a spot on the legislative calendar... so that once a budget deal is struck, the actual details can quickly be inserted into existing bills and enacted.
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Podcast: The Deal

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Things look different on California's political landscape as the new week begins, and it's not just because spring is around the corner. Change your scorecards from three tax increase initiatives... to two.

On a special Monday edition of the Capital Notes Podcast, Anthony York of the Los Angeles Times and I offer a recap of the very busy last few days -- the big deal struck between Governor Jerry Brown and liberal activists and the road ahead.

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Analyst Sees $2 Billion Less In Brown Tax 2.0

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Governor Jerry Brown is no doubt happy that his modified tax increase initiative has already received its fiscal vetting, less than 48 hours after being formally introduced.

But that vetting doesn't settle on an estimate of how much tax revenue the new initiative will bring in, thus repeating an ongoing disagreement between forecasters that could create some tough politics over how this year's state budget should be crafted.
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Tax Initiative Deal Struck, Gathering Signatures Will Be Pricey

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2:00 p.m. UPDATE: Governor Brown confirmed to reporters in southern California this afternoon that a deal has, in fact, been reached on a November tax initiative. As such, this posting includes updated information and has a slightly tweaked headline from its original form.

Is there time for a compromise tax initiative? (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty)

By all indications, there's now a d├ętente in the works that would head off the otherwise expected November ballot clash between Governor Jerry Brown and liberal activists over a tax increase.

Multiple sources confirm a compromise is being crafted that would adhere in some ways to Brown's existing initiative -- mainly, by still including a small sales tax increase -- but would boost the income tax increase on the wealthy above where the governor has proposed, while still making all of the taxes temporary.
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Podcast: From Poems to Polls

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Governor Jerry Brown sent out a favorite poem this week along with his official proclamation of Arbor Day in California. If only this complicated election season in which he will play a major role could be described as elegantly...

Instead, this week's Capital Notes Podcast focuses on a raft of public and private polling swirling around the upcoming election on the issue of new taxes.

I'm joined by Marisa Lagos of the San Francisco Chronicle and Anthony York of the Los Angeles Times in an examination of the data itself and the larger narrative both Brown and his rivals are trying to write about who's tax is the right one and why.

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Brown's Tax Is Ahead, But Why Not By More?

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52% in the new poll support Gov. Brown's tax plan. (Photo: Getty/Justin Sullivan)

A brand new statewide poll shows Governor Jerry Brown's temporary tax increase initiative slightly ahead with voters. And that's no doubt a good thing if you're the governor.

But a more interesting question, it seems, is why isn't it ahead by more?
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Some Initiatives Flush With Cash, Others Bare

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It's by no means a perfect way to measure the eventual outcome at the polls, but money often talks loudest in campaigns for or against ballot measures in California. And at this juncture, the money recorded in publicly filed fundraising reports has some interesting things to say.

In a nutshell: tobacco is king... and Governor Jerry Brown's dialing for dollars is paying off.
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"Whatever It Takes," Says Munger on Campaign

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Molly Munger, author of a proposed tax increase earmarked for K-12 schools. (Photo: Nicole Nguyen/KQED)

Attorney and education activist Molly Munger says she will spend as much of her personal fortune as needed to run a statewide campaign for her tax initiative to help K-12 schools.

"We are totally committed to spending whatever it takes to let the people of California know they have this opportunity this year," said Munger in an extended interview in Sacramento on Friday.

Munger later said when pressed that this could, in fact, mean her fully bankrolling a fall political campaign.

The interview was for a coming radio profile of the 63-year-old wealthy Pasadena attorney, a chat in which she talked about the roots of her passion for improving schools and why she thinks that her proposal -- a 12-year proportional income tax increase on the vast majority of the state's taxpayers -- can win.

But for the political insider world, there's likely to be some notice of Munger's newly firm promise to keep the dollars flowing beyond just the qualification stage of an initiative campaign.

The "we" in her answers, Munger said, refer to the resolve of both her and her husband, Stephen English. "We have the resources and we're going to spend them."

Just what resources she'll need to hand over is pretty hard to guess, given the increasing likelihood of multiple tax initiatives on the ballot and a very long list of other initiatives that will likely also have a spot in front of the voters. The last tax hike proposal was the failed 2009 effort by then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders for a temporary tax extension to help balance the state budget. That was admittedly a very different campaign, and state records show the effort cost just shy of $16 million. Private musings by political experts seem to suggest that a 2012 tax initiative, one coming in the midst of a crowded general election campaign (2009 was a special election) could cost close to double that amount. And even then, it may not win.

In public comments last month, Munger said that the effort would not be relying only "on our own resources," but that others would be relied on, too. But on Friday, she admitted that she may end up being asked to go it virtually alone when it comes to the millions needed to run the campaign ahead.

Asked why so many political insiders -- from Governor Jerry Brown's inner circle to others -- thought she'd step aside and not qualify her initiative for the November ballot, Munger said she didn't know.

"I do know," she then added, "they don't know me very well."