Monthly Archives: March 2012

Uninsured–and Still Against the Health Law

Libertarian Paul Ruffino, 55, has been looking for an insurance plan since leaving his previous job. Several insurance companies refuse to cover him because he has pre-existing conditions.

Libertarian Paul Ruffino, 55, has been looking for an insurance plan since leaving his previous job. Several insurance companies refuse to cover him because he has pre-existing conditions. (Photo: Sarah Varney)

By Sarah Varney

Today marks the second anniversary of the federal health care law, and, unless you’ve been depriving yourself of news for the last several weeks, that same law will be front and center before the Supreme Court starting Monday. Here in California, uninsured Californians have a particular stake in the Court’s actions.

Madera County is a largely conservative and agricultural area where one in every three people lacks coverage. While many people say they want the Supreme Court to throw out the federal health law, I found that many there are struggling to reconcile their political views with the basic need for health insurance.

I started off in Oakhurst. Here, just a few miles from the entrance to Yosemite National Park, is the Sweetwater Steakhouse, a local watering hole where no one is shy about their opinions of President Obama’s signature initiative, including people like Joe Stern. “ObamaCare is absolutely horrible, horrible, horrible. It should struck down immediately.” Continue reading

“Whatever It Takes,” Says Munger on Campaign

Molly Munger addresses reporters.

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.

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What’s Keeping Obama From Embracing Same-Sex Marriage?

President Obama gives a speech on jobs.

Would President Obama embrace same-sex marriage were it not for the electoral college? Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Getty Images

Some marriage-equality supporters are calling for President Obama to make support of legalized same-sex marriage part of his platform. After all, Obama’s stance on the issue has “evolved” from saying marriage should be between a man and a woman in 2008 to last year’s repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and support of repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. This was the topic of today’s 9:00 a.m. episode of Forum.

Of note is the opening exchange between guests Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, and Ed Espinoza, Democratic political consultant:

Evan Wolfson: … A vast majority of Democrats support the freedom to marry, but so do a majority of Independents, so do a majority of Catholics, so do a younger voters across the spectrum, including even Republicans and conservatives. So the President, by getting in line with the majority of Americans and the vast majority of Democrats and Independents, will be really doing something that his supporters, the people who are reachable, the people who want to be with him, want to see.

Michael Krasny: Do you agree Ed Espinoza that the majority are in support of same sex marriage and that the president, really, if he goes for this on the campaign platform will be speaking to the majority of Americans?

Ed Espinoza: I agree with the part that support for marriage equality is growing. I haven’t seen numbers recently to know if it’s a majority, though I will take Evan at his word… I can certainly belief that it is. As far as whether or not it’s good politics… there’s one hurdle here… and it’s that we don’t have national elections in this country. We have state-by-state elections. So long as we’re using this old dinosaur of the Electoral College and we don’t have a popular vote, we have got to weigh the outcome, the potential outcomes, of elections a little bit differently because some states have greater impact than others. And in some of these particular swing states, we don’t have a majority support just yet…”

Makes you wonder just how different platforms would be — from both parties — if the U.S. opted for the popular vote.

Listen to the full half-hour segment here:

Tax Initiative Deal Struck, Gathering Signatures Will Be Pricey

Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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.

By all indications, there’s now a détente 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.

Neither leaders of the millionaires tax campaign nor Brown’s political team have confirmed any of the details, after the story was first reported this morning online by the Los Angeles Times. But conversations with several Democratic and Capitol sources reveal a tax proposal that feels much more like the governor’s than the one being promoted by a coalition including the California Federation of Teachers.

The signs of a negotiated truce between the two sides seems to be taking some in political circles by surprise, after weeks of increasing tensions between the two camps and Brown’s own prognostication on Monday that multiple tax measures appeared a done deal for November.

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