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Analysis: It’s Yes on Prop 30 or School Cuts; ‘Everything’ at Stake for Unions in Prop 32

This past weekend marked the start of autumn — and the final sprint to the November 6 election. On The California Report Magazine, host Scott Shafer talked to Anthony York, who covers politics for the Los Angeles Times.

Here’s an edited transcript of their conversation:

Proposition 30 is backed by Governor Jerry Brown and would raise taxes to fund education.

Proposition 30 is backed by Governor Jerry Brown and would raise taxes to fund education. (Image: California Secretary of State)

SCOTT SHAFER: Let’s talk about the November election. Gov. Brown has a lot riding on the outcome, especially with Proposition 30, which would raise income taxes on the wealthy and sales taxes on all of us. The Governor got mixed news from two polls this week. Tell us what they said.

ANTHONY YORK: They said that just about half of voters are still in favor of the Governor’s plan, Proposition 30, and that there are increasing numbers of voters that are unsure. There’s still a lot of uncertainty in these last six to seven weeks of the campaign.

SHAFER: And at the same time, there’s Proposition 38, which would raise income taxes on everyone — mostly millionares — but everyone would take a little bit of a hit. Opinion polls show there is more of a split, a little bit less support, under 50 percent, for Proposition 38. But does that (Proposition 38) add to confusion for voters? Continue reading

Support For Guv’s Tax Measure Holds Steady, But Undecideds Could Spell Trouble

(Tina Barseghian/KQED)

(Tina Barseghian/KQED)

Gov. Jerry Brown has been emphatic that if Proposition 30 fails in November, billions of dollars in cuts to public education are coming. He’s made that linkage so hard, in fact, that KXTV political editor and longtime Sacto observer John Myers once likened his Yes on 30 efforts to the famous National Lampoon cover in which the magazine threatened to shoot a dog if you didn’t buy the issue.

So is the public buying it?

On that front, a poll released Thursday shows mixed results.

Support for the measure is roughly the same since the last poll in July — 51 percent of voters in favor, 36 percent opposed. Field Poll director Mark DiCamillo told KQED’s Scott Shafer this morning that “They’re treading water, but at a rate that is not all that comfortable. But still there’s not a lot of evidence that their ‘yes’ side vote is deteriorating over time.”

However, an increasing number of undecided voters could turn out to be bad news for the measure. In July, 8 percent of voters were undecided; today’s poll shows 13 percent unsure.

Support for the measure is roughly the same since the last poll in July …“They’re treading water.”

“It’s our experience that if you don’t convince undecided voters, especially in the late going, to whatever it is you’re trying to get them to do, they tend to vote no more often than yes,”  said DiCamillo.

The Field Poll also shows another tax initiative, Prop. 38 — which would also finance education — at 41 percent of voters in favor, 44 percent opposed and 15 percent undecided. That’s up 8 percent since July. Continue reading

Eroding Trust in Government Among Young Voters

Editor’s note: This story is part of an intermittent series. The Public Policy Institute of California is conducting small focus groups across the state to discuss the role of government, and KQED was invited to listen in. First names only were used to encourage candid conversation.

By Ana Tintocalis

(R. Michael Stuckey: Comstock Images)

20-somethings say they support November propositions that will fund education, but still lack confidence in government. (R. Michael Stuckey: Comstock Images)

A group of Millennials — young people aged 18 to 29 — are gathered around a conference table in a nondescript office building in Silicon Valley.

In just a few minutes, they will be answering some pointed political questions as part of a researched-based focus group organized by the Public Policy Institute of California – a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank. The PPIC conducts public opinion polling, but they’re also holding smaller conversations to gauge more detailed opinions from Californians this election year.

On this night participants come from all walks of life — from a teenage grocery store clerk to an engineer at Cisco. Some are Democrats, some are Republicans, and others don’t belong to any party.

But as a group, they are not excited about how the U.S. is doing. “Uneasy,” one person said. “Worried and scared,” was the take of somebody else.

‘Our taxes are going to jails for the inmates to live somewhat well versus [going to] education. When you turn around and graduate, you don’t have a job to go to.’

These 20-somethings are anxious about their prospects for the future and are especially worried about finding a good job in a still-struggling economy.

It’s a far cry from four years ago, when the promise of hope and change bolstered the expectations of young people across the country.

“Government is unproductive. They’re large, they’re bulky, and it’s top heavy. And it shouldn’t be that way,” said Yukata, a young Republican who received his master’s degree at U.C. Davis. “When you look at government, you think of greed. That’s not how our founders wanted the government to be. They wanted our government to be small.”

Some of the others at the table nod in agreement. While they don’t see eye-to-eye on many social issues, one thing is clear: They feel lawmakers have turned their backs on providing an affordable, quality higher education in the Golden State.

Ryan, a San Jose State kinesiology major, says the classes he needs have been slashed, yet his tuition continues to increase.

“I could have graduated in four years, but every semester it was a struggle,” Ryan said. “I’d get my registration date, and there’d be [no classes available]. It’s the most frustrating thing. … You have good grades; you’ve been at the school for four years … and tuition just keeps getting more and more expensive. It just doesn’t make sense.” Continue reading

Occupy One Year Later: Going Local

By Katrina Schwartz

Click below to listen to the radio story.

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Community College of San Francisco student Janice Suess has taken the organizing skills she learned during Occupy and put them to work advocating for student rights. (Katrina Schwartz/KQED)

Community College of San Francisco student Janice Suess has taken the organizing skills she learned during Occupy and put them to work advocating for student rights. (Katrina Schwartz/KQED)

A year ago the Occupy movement grabbed a national spotlight, shifting the political debate to focus on economic inequality. Those expecting the movement to translate into national electoral politics — as the Tea Party movement has done — have been disappointed. Many Bay Area Occupiers say their political awakening has driven them to fight for change in their own communities, instead.

Janice Suess, 19, moved to San Francisco a little over a year ago. Shortly after moving into her apartment, she heard the Blue Angels would be flying, and decided to head out to take some pictures. On her way back, she saw a crowd gathering in front of the San Francisco Federal Reserve. She was curious.

“I thought it was kind of peculiar so I went up and just asked someone what was going on. And they said it was the Occupy Movement and I was like, ‘Whoa, what is this?,’” explained Suess. Continue reading

Gov. Brown Makes a Case for Prop. 30

Gov. Jerry Brown addresses questions from the San Jose Mercury News editorial board. (Image: UStream)

Gov. Jerry Brown addresses questions from the San Jose Mercury News editorial board. (Image: UStream)

Gov. Jerry Brown sat down with the San Jose Mercury News editorial board today to discuss his ballot proposition to raise taxes for education. If the measure fails, automatic trigger cuts will mean billions cut from K-12, community colleges and public universities in California.

Brown started off with some political history — a little bit of ‘how did we get into this mess — for the assembled Mercury News reporters and editors.

“If you go back to Pete Wilson,” Brown began, “we had a big recession, he had to cut massively and raise taxes massively. And then Davis rode up the high tech bubble and rode it down. That created its own problems and then Arnold came in and he rode the mortgage bubble up and also rode it down. And so that we are caught in waves of prosperity and misfortune. And in that process, the problem has been compounded because the Democrats and Republicans as they try to negotiate a balance, the Democrats want to get some more benefits and the Republicans counter with tax breaks. That then compounds the problem, because you have more spending and less revenue.” Continue reading

Interview: Condi Rice Condones Voter-ID Laws, Disputes GOP ‘War on Women’

KQED’s Belva Davis sat down with Condoleezza Rice last week after the former secretary of state’s speech to the Republican National Convention. Rice shared her thoughts on a range of hot-button issues, including the spate of state voter-identification laws enacted by Republicans. Rice said she’s sympathetic to attempts to ensure there’s no voter fraud, and disputed the contention that minorities would be especially burdened.

Former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice. (Image: KQED "This Week in Northern California")

“I don’t like very much the argument that minorities can’t get an ID,” she said. “That seems to infantilize [them]. We can do this, but people have to be given time. We have to find a way to make it easy. The states are reacting because the federal government has not and we do need to solve this problem. But let’s give people time and doesn’t make it difficult for people to exercise their franchise.”

Davis also asked Rice about the so-called “war on women” that Democrats are claiming the GOP is waging. Rice promptly shot that down…

“There’s no war against women. This is hyperbole of the worst sort. We shouldn’t caricature each other this way. There are people who have strong beliefs about issues of abortion, about life, about choice, strong issues. Let’s respect each other. This is a party that has a lot of powerful and strong women within it, many of them who have views that may be different from my own, but let’s respect each other. I feel welcome in this party and I think it’s time to stop this caricature and hyperbole.” Continue reading

Analysis: Gov. Brown’s ‘Gun to the Head’ Campaign For Higher Taxes

Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown hopscotched around the state, making sure at each stop to make a pitch for Proposition 30 and threatening multibillion dollar cuts to education if voters don’t approve the initiative’s temporary taxes this November. I interviewed longtime state-government observer John Myers, political editor at KXTV in Sacramento, about Brown’s campaign.

Edited transcript:

RACHAEL MYROW: You recently blogged that the governor’s campaign reminds you of the infamous January 1973 cover of National Lampoon: “If you don’t buy this magazine, we’ll kill this dog.”

JOHN MYERS: Yeah, and I also wrote that it may be a little over the top to make the comparison. But the point is that when you look at the way the governor has rolled out this campaign in the early stages — and he’s now had an event in Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco — it’s very much a campaign geared towards what happens if Proposition 30 fails. He hasn’t talked a lot about all the great things that will happen if it passes. And that’s typically what you have in a ballot measure campaign. People say “Vote for us, because great things will happen.” This has been a campaign of saying, “If you don’t vote for us, doomsday comes.” And doomsday in this case, is the $5 billion to $6 billion in automatic spending cuts to schools that were written into the state budget if Prop 30 fails. That’s a very different kind of political campaign.

MYROW: This week USC released a poll that offers a couple of interesting insights. First, and this is probably the part Gov. Brown likes, a majority of those polled would vote for Proposition 30.

MYERS: They would. If you look at this poll, and if you look at all of the polls that we’ve seen in the last few weeks, the governor’s measure, which, again, would temporarily raise income taxes on the wealthiest and sales taxes on everyone, it has always polled in the low 50s, which of course is a majority of those being polled. But historically in California, if you’ve got a measure that polls below the 60 percent threshold in the early going, they don’t fare too well on election day, and so this is actually a low number.

MYROW: I was quite taken by another interesting tidbit from this poll: people ranked school funding fifth as a spending priority. This is after the economy, after jobs, after the state budget deficit and wasteful government spending.

Historically in California, if you’ve got a measure that polls below the 60 percent threshold in the early going, they don’t fare too well on election day.

MYERS: Yeah, it’s interesting, one of the folks from USC who were talking to reporters about this poll made the comment that they really feel as though voters are in a triage mode. The economy has been tough, unemployment has remained high, and voters’ historic priorities about spending and government may be shifting somewhat, or at least temporarily shifting. And clearly there’s an issue of wasteful government spending — they asked these folks in this poll about things like high-speed rail, the ongoing controversy about the hidden money in the state parks bank accounts, and the governor has tried to insist that these things have nothing to do with Proposition 30. But this poll does raise some questions about whether voters feel as though government is mismanaging the money it has, and maybe they don’t want to give any more money to government.

MYROW: This week the governor argued a state as big as California should be able to pursue more than one funding priority at the same time. “We have to be able to jump rope, chew gum and do five other things. Otherwise, we’re not going to make it,” Brown said.

Audio: Jerry Brown defends Prop 30 in a minute-and-a-half flat

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Now it appears that he sees himself in a fight to the political death with Pasadena attorney Molly Munger, who has spent millions pushing Proposition 38, which would raise taxes to fund K-12 and makes a point of saying, “This money doesn’t go to Sacramento. It goes to your local schools.” But I wonder, is this really an either-or situation, the way the governor seems to be presenting it. Why not presume voters could approve both propositions?

MYERS: People who I’ve talked to, election law experts, say, “Yes, the voters can approve both of these measures.” But, whichever one would get the most “yes” votes would probably be the only one that would go into effect. And, if in fact, Ms. Munger — the wealthy civil rights attorney — her measure went into effect, with tax revenues only for schools, then those schools could still suffer a $5 billion to $6 billion automatic trigger cut, because that’s what was drawn out in the budget if Prop. 30 fails. So, there’s a legal problem there.

But but there’s a political argument, too, that’s difficult. Which [is] if you’re the governor, are you telling people to vote for both? They don’t like taxes, but hey, here’s double taxes, in a way. And we should point out the polling is that Prop. 38, this Munger K-12 tax measure, does not have majority support in any poll I’ve seen. It is below the 50 percent threshold, and at this point it could just be a political argument. The voters really may not say ‘yes’ to that.

Not So Simple Math: Support for Silicon Valley K-8 Teachers in an Era of Budget Cuts

The Ten Commandments of Arithmetic: no place here for fuzzy math like you see in politics. (Credit: KQED/Rachael Myrow)

This November, California voters will be asked to weigh in on two ballot measures that affect education funding. Proposition 38 promises to raise money for K-12 schools with a broad-based income tax hike. Proposition 30, backed by Gov. Brown, would also raise taxes, but to a slightly different end: bolstering the state budget and avoiding massive education cuts.

Of course, lots and lots of funding has already been slashed. The distance between where we are and where we want to be in education is profoundly troubling to many voters in California – not just parents hoping to get their kids into a top university.

Continue reading

Central Valley Voters Speak Their Minds at Focus Groups

Editor’s note: This story is part of an intermittent series. The Public Policy Institute of California is conducting small focus groups across the state to discuss the role of government, and KQED was invited to listen in. First names only were used to encourage candid conversation.

By Alice Daniel

I’m sitting behind a two-way mirror in an air conditioned office in Fresno as ten voters enter a meeting room and sit around an oblong table.

Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, introduces himself. He’ll lead this focus group and one directly following it. Initially, people look uncertain — as if they’re not sure what to expect. Yet once these people — Democrats, Republicans and Independents — begin talking, the pain and anger they are feeling over the economic and political landscape soon spills out.

Luz, a single mother of a teenager and a one-year-old, said she just got laid off after 11 years as a supervisor for a produce refrigeration company. She’s scared she won’t have the money to raise her children.

“Probably go homeless,” she says. “Too sad. And I can’t relocate right now because of my family. And it just makes me mad also.”

Daniel, a Democrat, is voting for Mitt Romney because he thinks the country needs a change. He works at Lowes but is about to lose his house to foreclosure and he’s wondering whether he’ll have to move out of state. Continue reading

Spreading the Wealth: America’s Geography of Jobs

 

Opening speaker at Silicon Valley's DEMO Conference for new technology

Stephen Brashear/Flickr

KQED’s Forum host Michael Krasny held a provocative conversation Tuesday with UC Berkeley economics Professor Enrico Moretti about Moretti’s new book “The New Geography of Jobs.” The Italian-born economist describes the growing chasm between prosperous cities in the United States that are centers of education, innovation and technology – and struggling cities that were once powerhouses of manufacturing but are now losing ground.

In theory, the shift from an industrial economy to one driven by innovation was supposed to make geography matter less. In fact, Moretti says, we are witnessing a “great divergence” where the resource gap between places like San Francisco, Boston and Raleigh on the one hand, and Detroit, Cleveland and St. Louis on the other.

Moretti offers a case in point through the story of a young Silicon Valley engineer, David Breedlove:

The year is 1969 and Breedlove, just like many other professionals at the time, is thinking that urban areas were not good places to raise a family. He has a house, he has a good job in Silicon Valley, but he wants something quieter. At the time Visalia is not that all that different from a place like Menlo Park. Sure, wages are slightly higher in Menlo Park and there are slightly more professionals. But at the time, both cities have a mix of residents, both cities have decent schools and both cities have a variety of social classes.

If you look at the two cities today, 40 years after Breedlove made his choice, it’s almost like looking at two different continents. On the one hand, Menlo Park has become one of the most vital and prosperous innovation hubs of the world –Menlo Park including the communities around it, the entire Silicon Valley area. Visalia hasn’t grown in 40 years. It hasn’t added any college graduates to its population. Its wages are falling, schools are very problematic. Crime, that used to be higher in Menlo Park, is now twice as high in Visalia. Pollution is much worse there.

It exemplifies what has been going on with many American communities. They were very alike in the ‘60s and the ‘70s and they’ve been growing apart and now they’re almost different continents.

The key predictor of a community’s economic success today, Moretti says, is the education level of its workers — in particular the number of college graduates in the workforce.

“It didn’t use to be like that,” he adds. “Sixty or seventy years ago, infrastructure and physical capital were the key predictors of a community’s success. Workers in Detroit were well paid because they had access to great infrastructure and great physical machines.”

But in the information age, Moretti says: “new ideas and successful innovation are rarely born in isolation” and clustering educated, innovative people has a multiplier effect.

That’s bad news for a place like Flint.

So what are we to do to secure American prosperity? One solution, Moretti believes, is that the United States must put more resources into education and support for research and development:

It’s clear that there are two engines that are supporting U.S.prosperity right now. It’s human capital – meaning people and education – and innovation. And it’s clear that we’re not investing enough in either one. We all know about the problems of not investing in education. The U.S.used to be a leader in high school graduation and college graduation and for the past 30 years it has been surpassed by a number of countries.

The second under-investment we’re doing is in innovation.America does have some of the greatest innovation hubs of the globe. But at the same time we are grossly under-investing in R & D and that is costing us right now in jobs and it’s going to cost us jobs even more in the future. In the same way that there’s a market failure in the creation of human capital, there’s a market failure in the creation of innovation.

When a company, for example when Apple invents a new product like the iPad, it generates private profit in the form of its sales but it also generates an external benefit for all the other companies in the same industry that can see the new product, can learn from it and will copy the new product. Apple doesn’t get compensated for that part of innovation. That’s why the federal government provides R & D tax credits for innovation because there is a private benefit from investing in innovation but there is also a public benefit. The problem is this tax credits are not large enough and they are not permanent.

We really need to put more resources in investing in human capital and more resources in subsidizing innovation, because they both are activities that generate vast benefits for us as a society. It’s not a fairness argument; this is just a purely pragmatic self-interest argument.

 Another idea for revitalizing America’s Rust Belt (and beyond) in the post-industrial age, comes from journalist and historian Cathy Tumber, who’s new book, Small, Gritty and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World, argues that there’s hope for smaller American industrial cities to be revitalized through a green economy. Of course more investment in education and innovation may still be key.