Reformers Team Up for November Ballot

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Coming to the November ballot: government reform? (Photo: Getty/Eric Tahyer)

Advocates for major government reform have long lamented that if only they could find the financial backing for a political campaign, the voters would ratify changes to help end California's dysfunction.

Now, it looks as though the white knight has ridden in... on his own jet.

The reform group assembled and underwritten by billionaire Nicolas Berggruen, the Think Long Committee for California, today endorsed and pledged its support to the wide-ranging initiative drafted by another reform group, California Forward.

Wonder Twin powers, activate!
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If Not For Schools, Would Brown's Tax Hike Be A Dud?

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A new survey finds voters disapprove of more education cuts. Is that driving support for Brown's tax hike?

Governor Jerry Brown will no doubt love the headline out of the brand new statewide public poll: 68% of likely voters say they support his November initiative to raise taxes and earmark the money for public schools.

But dig deeper into the poll and it's pretty clear that were it not for the linkage to schools, the Brown proposal would either be less popular... or fail to break the 50-percent barrier altogether.
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Brown's Early Tax Initiative Donors: Hospitals, Oil, Tribes

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Gov. Jerry Brown's tax initiative campaign reports more than $1.45 million in contributions. (Photo:Getty/Justin Sullivan)

Governor Jerry Brown looks to be off to a strong start in collecting cash for his November tax initiative, with cash coming from some of the same groups his predecessor argued were the problem in California politics.

Campaign finance records show as of this weekend, Brown had reported more than $1.45 million in contributions. Those dollars were raised in the first month of the governor's efforts, and will no doubt help pay for signature gathering now that his tax increase initiative has hit the streets.
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Dems Pre-Endorsements Presage Tough 2012

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The Democratic faithful cast early, early votes. (Photo via Twitter by Jason Moore)

For casual political watchers, it may be hard to believe that small gatherings of diehard Democrats in January will decide who wins races for the Legislature or Congress come November.

And yet, in some cases, that's exactly what could happen after this weekend. Welcome to the world of intraparty competition under California's new primary election rules.
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November's Ground Zero Initiative

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The November election could feature a slugfest over an initiative focused on money in politics. (Photo: Getty/David McNew)

While talk about California's November ballot has focused largely on tax proposals or possible social and criminal justice measures, watch for the real political slugfest to be over an issue near and dear to the hearts of organized labor: union dues deducted from members' paychecks.

And the size of that slugfest may play a large role in determining the fate of other measures -- including Governor Jerry Brown's pitch for higher taxes.
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Podcast: State Your Case, Mr. Brown

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Governor Jerry Brown has now performed his two expected duties of the month of January: a budget and, as we saw this week, the State of the State address.

Now, the tough work begins.

This week's Capital Notes Podcast mulls Brown's big mid-week speech and how it frames his agenda for the year to come. Joining me in the chat, and fresh off the first legs of the Guv's statewide campaign, are Anthony York of the Los Angeles Times and Marisa Lagos of the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Brown Urges Action, Vision In State of the State

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"California is on the mend," said Gov. Jerry Brown in his State of the State speech. (Photo: Justin Short/Governor's Office)

If there's one takeaway from Governor Jerry Brown's 2012 State of the State address, it may be this: Brown faces the unique task this year of preaching both boldness and austerity... all at the same time.

The governor's roughly 20 minute speech before a joint session of the Legislature was a creative cocktail that blended a defense of his tax plan, the state's need for big thinking, and -- at times, it seemed -- the very reputation of his native California.

"Contrary to those declinists, who sing of Texas and bemoan our woes, California is still the land of dreams," said Brown before rattling off a list of what makes the Golden State one of a kind.
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Think Long Opts to Think Longer. Advantage Brown?

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Gov. Jerry Brown's competition for a 2012 tax initiative gets a little smaller. (Photo: Getty/Justin Sullivan)

It seems safe to say that Governor Jerry Brown and billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen are unlikely to have much in common. One lives on a private jet and is the scion of an international art collector, the other favors spartan surroundings and heir to California's most mythologized political legacy.

But we now that they have one big thing in common: they both believe now is not the time for a ballot initiative on major tax reform. And if Brown is lucky, they may have something else in common in the days to come: a use for some of Berggruen's millions.
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Podcast: Rock the (Budget) Vote

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We've talked in years past about the state budget essentially being placed on the ballot, but rarely have the stakes been as high as they will be in 2012 -- for either the state or the state's chief executive.

This week's Capital Notes Podcast looks at the ever sharpening budget debate of 2012... or is, instead, the rapidly entangling policy issues and political narratives?

I'm joined by Anthony York of the Los Angeles Times and Marisa Lagos of the San Francisco Chronicle. We also check in on the week's big court fight over redistricting, and a new chapter in the long debate over whether initiative titles and summaries are truly apolitical.

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Capitol Ponders Post-Redevelopment World

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Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told reporters this morning that he's not closing the door on pleas to postpone the dissolution of local redevelopment agencies.

But let's admit it: the door is on one of those automatic arms that closes by itself, and Steinberg isn't jumping up to prop it open.

As such, the conversation inside the state Capitol is likely soon to turn to what California's post-redevelopment world will look like... and Steinberg is cooking up an interesting idea.
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