Brown Urges Action, Vision In State of the State

January 18, 2012 · Filed Under Ballot Measures, CA Budget, CA Politics, Elections, The Governor · 1 Comment 

"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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The Whip Snaps at High Speed Rail... and More

January 9, 2012 · Filed Under CA Budget, CA Politics, People, Transportation · 7 Comments 

"Numbers don't lie," said McCarthy in pointing out several recent analyses critical of California's plans for high speed rail. (Photo: KQED/John Myers)

For the man whose Central Valley hometown is supposed to be an anchor point in the first construction phase of high speed rail, Rep. Kevin McCarthy seems intent on doing everything he can do block the project.

And given McCarthy is the third highest ranking member of the GOP congressional leadership, he may be able to do a lot.

"I think it's a bad investment," the House majority whip on Monday afternoon during a wide-ranging interview in Sacramento with a group of Capitol reporters.
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Panel: High Speed Rail Plans Not Fully Cooked

January 3, 2012 · Filed Under CA Budget, CA Government, Transportation · 2 Comments 

Will this artist's depiction of high speed rail in California come to pass? A new report raises questions. (Image: CA High Speed Rail Authority)

A panel of independent reviewers says that without more certainty on funding and operations, any start to construction of a high speed rail system "represents an immense financial risk to the state of California."

The new report is further proof that 2012 will be the most important year yet in the debate over the ambitious but costly bullet train system.
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The 2012 Battle Over High Speed Rail

December 20, 2011 · Filed Under CA Government, CA Politics, Transportation · 8 Comments 

High speed rail, well established in places like China, may have to fight for its survival in California. (Getty Images)

It's hardly hyperbole to suggest that 2012 will be the make-or-break year for California's long standing plans to construct a high speed train system.

As supporters push forward on plans to break ground on construction by year's end, critics are demanding a second look and... perhaps... a scrapping of the project altogether. And both camps have the political firepower to wage an epic battle.
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Podcast: Money Brawl

November 4, 2011 · Filed Under Podcasts · Comments Off 

Some of the greatest political fights in California have been about taxpayer dollars -- who pays them, who spends them, who's spending too many of them. And two classic high price tag fights both made news this week.

Our Capital Notes Podcast first examines the launching of a Republican-backed initiative campaign to change the pensions of public employees. Then, Anthony York of the Los Angeles Times and I turn our attention to the newest cost and timeline projections for high-speed rail in California.

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November Ballot Could Be A Doozy

April 14, 2008 · Filed Under Ballot Measures · Comments Off 

It's still more than six months away, but there's a good chance the November statewide ballot could feature some of the most interesting ballot measure battles in recent memory -- perhaps not because of the deep pockets behind the campaigns, but because of the actual issues themselves.

At this point, only two proposals have nailed down a spot on the fall ballot. One is a long suffering bond offering to jump start California's long discussion over high-speed rail. I say "long suffering," because the bond measure has been moved from ballot to ballot in recent years by the Legislature... usually because they didn't want to risk voters feeling overwhelmed by all the new borrowing, and thus reject other bond proposals (most notably, the Governor Schwarzenegger-led infrastructure bonds of 2006).

The second currently qualified measure, as reported last week, is one to ban certain kinds of animal confinement on California farms. The ag industry is likely to fight this one with a big campaign warning of the economic costs, while animal rights advocates will no doubt make an impassioned ethics and morality argument.

Another argument of morality and ethics could be in store with a new chapter in the debate over same sex marriage. There's a reasonably good chance that an initiative to amend the state constitution banning same sex marriages could qualify. It's a much tougher stance on the issue than the still debated Proposition 22 from 2000. And its chances at being on the November ballot are real enough that Governor Schwarzenegger waded in to the issue last week, telling a gathering of gay Republicans that he's strongly opposed to the proposal. That, as you might imagine, didn't sit well with many of the conservative groups pushing the proposal. The timing of the ballot fight could be particularly combustible, as the California Supreme Court's ruling on the issue is expected by the summer.

What else? Well, a coalition described as environmentalists, labor leaders, and others have submitted what they say is enough signatures for an initiative requiring 50% of all California energy be from renewable sources by 2025. And elections officials are checking signatures on two health care initiatives: one that affirms that health care is a "fundamental human right," and one to sell bonds to pay for new hospitals for children.

And if that isn't enough, there seems to be a very good chance that the Schwarzenegger-endorsed initiative to change the process of political redistricting. The proposal was written by a handful of government reform groups, but is being bankrolled largely by the governor's political operation... a sign that its chances for getting on the November ballot are very good.

That's seven ballot measures right there... and many more are in circulation. Yes, we've had this many... and more... on the ballot before. But remember, voter turnout is likely to be huge on November 4 -- the most closely watched presidential campaign in a generation -- and it'll be fascinating to see who shows up at the polls for that race, and subsequently weighs in on these big issues, too.

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