Like the State, Gov’s Tax Plan could be Short Revenue

The Legislative Analyst says that Governor Jerry Brown’s tax increase proposal is not going to bring in as much money as advertised. The LAO says the personal income tax increase in the initiative can’t be trusted to produce – the income tax is too volatile. Wonder what the LAO is going to say about the Munger initiative or the California Federation of Teachers/Courage Campaign proposal, both of which completely rely on income tax increases?

The governor’s Department of Finance says the governor’s measure will raise $6.9 billion a year. LAO suggests the figure is closer to $4.8 billion. The disparity of over two billion dollars reflects a difference of opinion on how much the income tax portion of the governor’s package will raise. The plan also includes a half-cent sales tax increase.

The LAO explains: “Most of the income reported by California’s upper-income filers is related in some way to their capital investments, rather than wages and salary-type income. In 2008, for example, only about 37 percent of the income reported by PIT (Personal Income Tax) filers reporting over $500,000 of income consisted of wages and salaries. The rest consisted of capital gains (generated from sales of assets, such as stocks and homes), income from these filers’ interests in partnerships and “S” corporations, dividends, interest, rent, and other capital income.

The situation makes income tax collection “highly volatile” the LAO emphasizes. The LAO notes that the top 1% of tax filers pays 40% of state income taxes.

Another reason income tax revenues may not meet expectations is because of the dynamic nature of taxes. Some bureaucrat can do a static calculation figuring that if taxes were raised a percentage point or two or five, a simple multiplication will tell how much more money will be collected.

It is not that simple.

There are consequences to raising taxes. People have been known to alter financial activities in response to tax changes.

Taxpayers could make moves to protect their income through any number of legal maneuvers. Some high-end taxpayers might even move out of California.

Or economic conditions just might depress the collection of taxes. This would not be the first time that a tax increase produced less money than expected because the tax increases slowed economic activity.

Of course, there is another side to the volatility message. Revenue could increase better than expected. The state appears to slowly be coming out of the economic doldrums and rumors of blockbuster IPO sales of Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook could change the revenue picture, although perhaps not this year.

The LAO concerns should also reflect the office’s predictions on what the Munger and CFT/Courage Campaign initiatives purport to bring in if they pass. Munger increases income taxes on all but the lower end taxpayers with a particular emphasis on dinging the top earning taxpayers. CFT raises income taxes on millionaires.

(Joel Fox is Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee. This article first appeard on Fox & Hounds.)

CA Needs Better Budgeting, Not New Taxes

California government has grown too large, fueled by its endless appetite for increasing amounts of taxpayer dollars each year.  Once again, Governor Jerry Brown threatened Californians with nearly $5 billion in spending cuts, largely deducting from education at all levels, including K-12, community colleges, CSU, and UC budgets.  With the knowledge that people support and value learning, Brown targets education and essentially holds it hostage, reminiscent of a terrorist act designed to collect ransom in the form of higher taxes by holding a gun to the heads of hardworking taxpayers.  Such tactics amount to cowardice, as they aim at the maintenance of status quo under the overwhelming pressure of burgeoning unions that financially supported and elected him, and are standing in the wings to gain.  This is not leadership!

Gov. Brown and the Democratic legislators have threatened to make huge and visibly painful cuts in schools, safety, and other vital public services in order to force Californians to support higher taxes for the continuation of those services.  They punish Californians through Draconian cuts that will lead to dire consequences, even though we are already suffering as a result of past bad fiscal policies, in addition to a state unemployment rate of about 12% and one of the highest home foreclosure rates in the nation.  As if this wasn’t enough, California families are still reeling from rapidly rising gas and food prices.

What we need from our elected leaders in Sacramento is leadership.  Perhaps it’s asking for too much?  Leadership requires a change in paradigm, for an approach that addresses real budget problems through fundamental reforms.  We require improvements in the way tax money is collected, allocated, and spent.  Our leaders need to embrace the philosophy of small and streamlined government.

Our representatives ought to provide leadership in making tough decisions through analytical and thoughtful prioritization of functions and expenditures in every department of the state government, such that Californians will have access to the most essential and efficiently delivered programs and services, that will ensure future economic growth and prosperity, and do so with utmost commitment and self-discipline to live within our means.  We need real prioritization with compassion, without gimmickry, and recognition that prioritizing is an art.  This can be done and must be done, or citizens should unite and vote out inept leaders who don’t understand this concept, and thus, stand in the way of the common good.  Enough is enough!

When the governor and the Democratic legislators ask for tax increases, they assume that all state programs and services are equal in weight and importance, and therefore, lack priority.  This is neither proper planning, nor strategic in nature.  Certainly, such thinking reflects a tremendous lack in leadership, and a lack of respect for the intelligence of the taxpayers.  Anyone can balance the state budget, if given more and more taxpayer dollars.  The solution is not more money seized from hardworking constituents, nor severe cuts towards much needed services, but prioritization and analysis that will allow our leaders to fund essential programs, and cut back on spending where it is not necessary.

Taxpayers should not support any tax increases of any kind until our elected officials provide us compelling data on their most efficient use of all financial resources and their results.  Until we hold the feet of our elected officials to fire and hold them accountable, be assured that any tax increases will continue to be wasted.  So far, Governor Brown has provided us no such convincing data, arguments or results.  We should not and will not be fooled.

While taxpayers prioritize their living expenses on a daily basis, our state programs and services seem to enjoy eternal life and endless spending.  There is s something terribly wrong with this picture!

(Dr. Raghu P. Mathur is the former president of Irvine Valley College, chancellor of the South Orange County Community College District, and president, Board of Trustees of the Saddleback Valley Unified School District in Orange County, CA.  Currently he serves as the Chair, School of Education at Argosy University in Orange, CA.)

Hayashi spokesman Sam Singer, “The Fixer”, can’t fix her botched story

The strange news that a benign brain tumor is the real reason that Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi shoplifted at Neiman Marcus isn’t odd enough – today’s Sacramento Bee ran a front page, above-the-fold story again about Hayashi’s incident, but it was a kinder, gentler version.

“I accept responsibility and I offer apologies, not excuses,” the Bee reported that Hayashi said in a written statement. The title of their story, Mary Hayashi Apologizes For Unintentional Shoplifting, told the story.

The first reports after the shoplifting incident reported that Hayashi’s spokesman blamed the theft on her cell phone use at the time, which caused her to forget to pay. Now he says it might be a brain tumor.

Prosecutors said that Hayashi, who represents the 18th California Assembly District east of San Francisco, was caught on a security camera walking out of the store on Union Square with a shopping bag full of items she didn’t pay for.

Hayashi’s hired spokesman said she had been inside of Neiman Marcus in Union Square, and walked out of the store while using two cell phones. But she took three articles of clothing with her, dropped into a shopping bag that she brought with her into the store.

This is where details get a little fuzzy. I know that I’ve never unintentionally or intentionally put any articles of clothing into another shopping bag before walking out of a store, much less three pieces of clothing. And I have been known to talk on the phone while I shop.

“Hayashi was stopped by Neiman Marcus’ security detail shortly after leaving the store around 12:15 p.m. Tuesday with a shopping bag that included three items worth $2,450 that she hadn’t paid for when she checked out at the register, the district attorney’s office said,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported on Oct. 29. Hayashi allegedly stole leather pants, a black skirt and a white blouse worth $2,450.

Investigators say store security was tracking Hayashi after a saleswoman told security guards that she suspected the Assemblywoman of stealing a dress the week before.

The Bee reprinted Hayashi’s prepared statement:

“There were a number of personal factors that led to the situation where I made this absent-minded error,” she said. “My medical condition may have complicated the situation, however, I want to be clear that I take full personal responsibility for my actions.”

Hayashi said she is “taking steps to deal with my health” while continuing to serve as a legislator.

“After a lifetime of public service, this has been a painful experience — but one of my own making,” she said.

Who Is Sam Singer?

Hayashi’s hired spokesman, Sam Singer’s website states that he is “nationally known for handling some of most significant public affairs and crisis communications issues of the day.”

Ouch.

“Sam Singer has been dubbed ‘The Fixer’ by the San Jose Mercury News, a ‘Top Gun for Hire’ by the San Francisco Chronicle, and one of the most powerful people in San Francisco by 7X7 Magazine for his ability to turn the news around when things look dire for his clients,” his website said.

Several of the newspapers in Hayashi’s district have reported a surprising lack of sympathy from her constituents. ”My gut feeling, as a constituent, is that it’s a BS excuse in order to get out of her crime,” said Brian Morrison, who is president of the Castro Valley Chamber of Commerce but stressed that he is speaking only as an individual, the Bee reported in another story later in the day.

In Hayashi’s Brain Tumor Defense Gathers No Sympathy, reporter Steven Tavares from East Bay News, attended Hayashi’s court hearing Friday, and wrote:

If this woman who has quite assuredly ruined her political career with a deeply regrettable error one harmless day last October is now wrestling with her own mortality, don’t you think her husband would accompany her to face her fate in court? Instead, she was as alone as a public figure could possibly be. In addition, if Hayashi, whose reputation is in need of a significant overhaul, wanted to begin the healing by revealing the weight of brain tumor hovering over her life, she would have squared up to the cameras and told the world about the diagnosis herself. She didn’t. In fact, she squirreled away to pay her paltry $180 fine and later dodged the press.”

District Attorney George Gascon said his office would accept the judge’s decision, ABC news reported. ”She is a first-time offender. She has no criminal record. So while what she did is inexcusable and she needs to be held accountable for her actions, I think it’s appropriate to examine and explore all the different possibilities,” Gascon said.

I am not sure how Sam Singer is going to spin the District Attorney’s statement.

Remember that right after her arrest, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Singer called Hayashi’s arrest “a mistake,” and that “she had walked out of the store with the items unintentionally and intended to go back.”

But Singer also said Hayashi is “distraught by this misunderstanding … and she believes this will be cleared up in the near future.” He added, “She apologizes for any misunderstanding.”

(Katy Grimes is CalWatchdog’s news reporter. Grimes is a longtime political analyst, writer and journalist. This article was first posted on CalWatchdog.)

Taxpayers Held Hostage by Sham Budget

Like the villain in a cheesy hostage movie, Jerry Brown took to the stage last week to deliver his annual budget. His ransom demand to Californians was simple: Vote for more in taxes or I’ll cut $5 billion from education. Upon hearing the threat, citizens across the state yawned and then went about their business knowing that the gun pointed at their wallet wasn’t even loaded.

Brown’s proposed tax hike wasn’t really a surprise as just a few weeks ago he laid out the plan to increase income and sales taxes on Californians by $35 billion over five years. If this sounds familiar, it should. These are the very same taxes voters rejected less than three years ago by a two-to-one margin. Indeed, voters have rejected the last seven tax hikes dating back to 2006. But ignoring the admonition that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, the Governor not only assumes that voters will approve taxes, but he is so confident of this that he built the revenue into his budget. Brown envisions a seven percent hike in spending for 2012-13, the largest annual increase in six years.

Brown might want to rethink his role as a Tony Soprano wannabe. Quite frankly, the part doesn’t fit a former Jesuit. But more importantly, California shows nascent signs of economic recovery on its own (despite our policy leaders doing all in their power to strangle the state’s economy in its crib). Revenues have increased more than three percent and the unemployment rate has declined to 11.3 percent, the lowest level in nearly three years.

So why choke off this fledgling economic recovery with taxes? Simply, California politicians lack the intestinal fortitude to live within their means. Sure, the Governor talks a good game. He even referenced paying down the ‘wall of debt’ again in his speech last week. But he followed that up with asking for a $12 billion water bond, continued support for California’s High Speed Fail, er Rail, program and a cap-and-trade scheme that will drive Californians’ energy costs through the roof.

Whether the recovery is weak, robust or nonexistent, it is very unlikely voters will be persuaded to pay the ransom. Not because they don’t want good education, but because they’ve heard all these threats countless times before. What they know — whether they can cite the specifics or not — is that vast sums of their taxpayer dollars are being wasted.

In any campaign for higher taxes — either the governor’s plan, those from dilettante billionaires or from the almighty public employee labor bosses — voters will be reminded by taxpayer groups like HJTA that they are not undertaxed — but that our government leaders simply are not good stewards of their tax dollars. Like seven times before, tax hikes on the ballot will meet the fate they so richly deserve.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association -– California’s largest grass-roots taxpayer organization dedicated to the protection of Proposition 13 and the advancement of taxpayers’ rights. This story was originally posted on HJTA.org.)

Michelle Bachmann repeats female casualties of Presidential race

This past week, Michelle Bachmann suspended her campaign for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.  On August 13th of last year, Bachmann became the first woman to win the Iowa Straw Poll.  A short 143 days later, she came in last in the Iowa Caucuses.

Much will be written about Bachmann’s campaign – her 23 foster children, her standing as the founder of the Tea Party Caucus in the U.S. House, her Midwest accent (strikingly similar to Sarah Palin’s Alaska accent), her energy on the stump and her lack of funds to continue.

Like Hilary Clinton, Bachmann spent a great deal of time focusing on her achievements.  She didn’t avoid talking about her gender and was able to show that she was just as capable of competing as the men on the stage.

Bachmann was called “fun, feisty, and fabulous” by some who knew her in the media.  But others (Chris Matthews and Jimmy Fallon come to mind) criticized Bachmann’s intelligence and occasional factual misstatements more than they did the men in the race on either side.

Bachmann was the Republican Presidential sweepstakes most vocal opponent of Obamacare.  Her suspension of her campaign probably helps Mitt Romney who appears nothing less than invincible in this week between Iowa and New Hampshire.

TALES OF THE WOMEN WHO HAVE RUN FOR PRESIDENT

Thirty-four women received their party’s nomination since 1874 when Victoria Woodhull ran for President with Frederick Douglas as the nominee of the Equal Rights Party.

Surely, you think I’m joking, but I’m not.  Thirty four women representing parties as diverse as the American Woman’s Party, the Communist Party, the People’s Party, the Right to Life Party, and the Green Party World Worker’s Party have served as their party’s U.S. Presidential Nominees.

My all-time favorite is the late Gracie Allen, beloved comedian and wife of George Burns who ran as the nominee of the Surprise Party whose mascot was the kangaroo.  Gracie and George did a whistle stop train tour and as always, she was endearing in her remarks about every day life stating at one stop that “Everybody knows a woman is better than a man when it comes to introducing bills into the house.”

In major parties, a woman has never become her party’s nominee.  However, in 1964, Margaret Chase Smith lost the nomination to Republican Barry Goldwater.  Shirley Chisholm, Patsy Mink, and Bella Abzug ran in 1972, losing to George McGovern.  Chisholm received 152 votes at the Democrat National Convention.

In 1988, Colorado Congresswoman Pat Schroeder (a Democrat) lost to Mike Dukakis and in 1992; Patricia Schroeder (a Republican) received 152 votes to place 12th in the New Hampshire Primary.

The Republicans’ most accomplished and qualified woman, Elizabeth Dole received 231 write-in votes in the 2000 New Hampshire Primary and placed third in the Iowa Straw Poll after dropping out of the race for President.  If Dole had begun her campaign earlier and had the funding, she would have been a contender as she placed second in every poll to George W. Bush during the time she was a candidate for President.  Subsequently, she was elected to the United States Senate from North Carolina.

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton achieved more than any other women, reaching second place in 2008 Democratic Primaries, securing 1,726.5 Delegate votes and winning more primaries than any other women in history. Clinton won 21 states with more than 18 million votes.  The race between Clinton and Obama was among the closest in history with her winning 48.03% of the popular vote to his 47.43%.

While Michelle Bachmann made it farther than previous Republican women who have run for President, Clinton’s campaign for her party’s nomination appealed across the country and across the board for the longest period of time.

Clinton’s campaign and Dole’s had more commentary about sexism than the others but Bachmann was also was a victim of gender bias.

Whether you are a Republican, Democrat, or Independent or are affiliated with a minor party, the study of the campaigns and the media coverage of women who have stood for the Office of President of the United States is fascinating and in some ways startling.

Part II of this series will examine the media’s treatment of Bachmann, Clinton, Dole and other women candidates seeking to achieve the highest office.

Stay tuned….

(Judy Lloyd is a senior manager and strategist specializing in government affairs, community outreach, development and public relations.)

Is Mitt Romney John McCain version 2.0?

The endorsement of Mitt Romney’s presidential bid by John McCain, the 2008 Republican nominee, was the latest indication that Romney is the GOP establishment’s heir apparent.

As Romney, who picked up McCain’s endorsement last week, appears to be gliding to a comfortable victory in New Hampshire’s primary Tuesday, the next major campaign stop, and the GOP establishment begins to rally behind him, he has still yet to capture the trust, energy and esteem of many rank-and-file Republicans, let alone the Tea Party activists.

The prevailing wisdom among GOP establishmentarians and Romney backers may be: “Take it or leave it, it’s going to be Romney versus Barack Obama.” But if Romney is unable to energize his party’s base, he will suffer the same fate as McCain, a clear defeat.

McCain’s 2000 and 2008 bids for the Republican presidential nomination in many ways mirror the candidacy of Romney. In 2000 McCain was labeled the moderate or liberal candidate against George W. Bush. Some went so far to label him a RINO – Republican in Name Only.

In 2008, McCain had experience competing in early primary states and better understood the various constituencies. As such, he pivoted, campaigning as a conservative-ish choice for Republicans. But he still received backlash, especially by the most conservative primary voters who resisted the Arizona senator because they believed he was soft on issues of great importance to conservatives such as campaign finance reform. He suffered a dismal fourth-place finish in conservative Iowa but rebounded in New Hampshire and elsewhere.

McCain’s 2008 campaign pivot was not what won him the nomination though, He essentially prevailed through attrition, an attitude prevailed that McCain was the best of a lackluster lineup – the safe pick with the best chance of beating the Democrats. McCain perhaps also benefitted from a GOP loyalty factor, that is, the belief that he paid his dues and was next in line (a perception that benefitted the successful candidacies Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush).

Romney is still viewed as a RINO by many Republicans and is not popular among Tea Party activists. In fact, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley prompted blowback from Tea Partiers in her state because she endorsed Romney. Many Republican voters see Romney’s record on a plethora of issues as fluid, lacking conviction. And, of course, he has been most roundly criticized for his health care agenda when he was governor of Massachusetts from 2003-07.

This election cycle Romney is benefiting from experience and pre-existing relationships in key primary states such as Iowa (he finished second there in 2008) and in New Hampshire (he also finished second there behind McCain in 2008). Since then he has been a perennial candidate.

Romney’s position in the primary process this election cycle is not too dissimilar from McCain’s in 2008, but Romney is better off considering his photo-finish victory in Iowa. Romney has the potential to all but lock up the nomination by Super Tuesday, March 6, if not as early as the Florida primary Jan. 31.

Before then, South Carolina on Jan. 21 will be Romney’s major test and perhaps the last opportunity for anti-Romney Republicans to rally behind an alternative candidate. A Rasmussen poll released Friday showed Romney leading in South Carolina with 27 percent of likely GOP primary voters; former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum followed, with 24 percent.

Nationally, Romney is polling at 29 percent to Santorum’s 21 percent, according to the latest Rasmussen survey.

Another challenge outside South Carolina is that Romney must demonstrate he can “get a majority somewhere,” as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said. He has yet to do so. Gingrich believes conservatives will “gradually coalesce” around a candidate to defeat Romney. “[O]ne of us,” he told ABC’s “Good Morning America,” “will eventually emerge as the conservative alternative and will beat Romney.”

Santorum may be the anti-Romney conservatives are hoping for.

A nominee who does not excite the Republican base will not fare well against Barack Obama and his polished, aggressive and manicured campaign style. What may unite Republicans more than anything else is their desire to oust President Obama from the White House, and that may be enough to propel Romney or another Republican to a general election victory. But banking on that strategy is risky business.

(Brian Calle is an Opinion Columnist and Blogger for the Orange County Register. His blog is called Uncommon Ground.)

Gallegly retirement opens up new possibilities in GOP-leaning Congressional seat

California’s 2012 redistricting already is shaking up state and even federal politics. The candidates’ dogfight for the new 26th congressional district could determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the U.S. House of Representatives after the November election — or at least the degree of Republican control.

Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley, announced on Saturday that he’ll retire from Congress. He currently represents the old 24th Congressional District, which was drawn after the 2000 U.S. Census.

Gallegly would have had to run an uphill challenge against Rep. Buck McKeon in the new 25th District, based on the 2010 U.S. Census. McKeon has been in Congress since 1993 and is chairman of the powerful Armed Services Committee.

Gallegly’s other option was a tough general election fight in the 26th Congressional district. The new Ventura County-based district, which includes Oxnard, Thousand Oaks, Moorpark and Camarillo, gives Democrats a slight voter-registration advantage.

However, the district has conservative tendencies and voted in favor of Proposition 8, California’s anti-gay marriage initiative. According to Redistricting Partners’ analysis of the district, it went handily to Obama in 2008 and slightly favored Whitman in 2010.

Gallegly’s retirement creates the opportunity for several county politicians to make their moves on the long-coveted seat. The Democratic side already features five announced candidates: Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, Moorpark Councilman David Pollock, community activist Zeke Ruelas, businessman David Cruz Thayne and Oxnard Harbor District board member Jess Herrera.

On the Republican side, state Senator Tony Strickland, R-Santa Barbara, could be challenged by County Supervisor Linda Parks, a slow-growth environmental activist.

What to Watch for in CD 26

10. State Senator Tony Strickland Will Clear the Republican Field

Strickland will have the support of the Republican establishment, both in the county and on Capitol Hill. Ventura County’s field of top-tier Republican candidates has winnowed in the past five years. Bob Brooks, a popular Republican county sheriff and close Gallegly friend, passed on the chance to take over the seat in 2006, when Gallegly first flirted with retirement.Tom McClintock, another longtime county Republican stalwart, couldn’t wait for Gallegly’s retirement and moved to a Northern California congressional seat in 2008.

Other than Strickland, there’s only one Republican elected official in Ventura County with grassroots support, name ID and a strong fundraising prowess: County Supervisor Peter Foy. He told me Saturday night that he’s supporting Strickland. It’s perhaps Strickland’s most important local endorsement because it clears Strickland’s right flank.

Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, a registered Republican, won’t gain any traction with any of the county’s Republican establishment if she decides to enter the race. Ventura County Republican Chairman Mike Osborn, a close Strickland ally, led the county party’s independent expenditure campaign against Parks in 2010. Republican women proved to be the key voter demographic in that race. Expect the same in this match-up between Tony Strickland and Parks. If Parks is able to make the runoff, Republican women will be the most crucial voting bloc.

On Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., expect House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, to quickly lock down key endorsements and financial support for Strickland. The Strickland-McCarthy friendship dates back to McCarthy’s tenure as Assembly Republican leader.

Strickland served as an important member of McCarthy’s inner circle in Sacramento, and he’ll want to add Strickland as a loyal member of his team in Washington. (Fun fact: The pair overcame a one-time “young Republican” feud. McCarthy came up through the Bill Thomas machine; Strickland the more conservative crowd. The split was so bad it led to the creation of two separate young Republican organizations.)

9. Left-Wing Fight: Latino Democrat vs. Environmentalist Liberal

The CD 26 race could turn into a nasty fight between a Latino Democrat and a progressive environmentalist. Ruelas and Herrera will fight to be the consensus Latino candidate, while Bennett and Parks jockey to be the environmentalist candidate. (Yes, even though Parks is a registered Republican.) One quarter of the voting age population is Latino. Unless another Latino candidate enters the race, Herrera, a five-term commissioner on the Oxnard Harbor District, likely has the advantage over Ruelas.

The environmentalist battle might be avoided altogether. Bennett and Parks share the same base of anti-growth supporters. Both have served for decades as leaders in the SOAR movement (Save Open-Space and Agricultural Resource). SOAR opposes property rights in favor of protecting obscure wildlife.

In late December, the Ventura County Star reported that Bennett was having second thoughts about the race. If Bennett drops out, he’ll likely support Parks, despite her Republican registration. Bennett has endorsed Parks in the past and even contributed money to her supervisorial campaigns. Expect environmentalists to unite early in an “anyone but Strickland” coalition.

8. Regional Split: West County (Oxnard) vs. East County (Thousand Oaks)

Ventura County’s natural geographic divide is the Conejo Grade.  East County includes Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park and Moorpark. It’s wealthier, more Republican and increasingly moderate.

West County, which includes Port Hueneme, Oxnard and Ventura, is the major source of Democratic votes, due to its working class and primarily Latino population.

The first signs of a geographic split will be internally, between the environmentalists Bennett and Parks. Bennett represents West County; Parks East County. Parks should have the edge because she’ll have support from a broad base of community leaders in the East, while some of Bennett’s Democratic support will go to the Latino consensus candidate. Prior to her election to the county board, Parks served as a member of the Thousand Oaks City Council. Assuming the environmentalist crowd consolidates behind Parks, there’ll still be a geographic split with the Latino candidate from Oxnard.

Strickland has represented all of these areas in either the state Assembly or Senate, with most of his support coming from Camarillo, Moorpark and Thousand Oaks.

7. The Heretofore Unknown Wealthy Republican Who Wants to be Called “Congressman”

Strickland’s biggest competitor for traditional Republican votes could come from the heretofore unknown wealthy Republican who wants to be called “congressman.”

In 2006 and 2008, wealthy attorney and businessman Michael Tenenbaum ran to replace Gallegly. He seized on Gallegly’s “will-he-or-won’t-he” moment to fill that role.

Another wealthy Republican could follow the Tenenbaum model. Gallegly has held the seat for 24 years, so you can expect a few wealthy businessmen to think twice before passing on their chance at a congressional seat.

6. Big Labor Will Decide Who Makes the Runoff

Big Labor will play heavily in this race, but it’s unclear whom they’ll support. Both Parks and Bennett have strong, pro-union records on the Board of Supervisors. Herrera and Ruelas are former and current longshoremen.

Labor could stay out of the primary and keep its powder dry for a general election fight against Strickland. Or, it could decide to get behind the potentially stronger candidate, Parks.  There’s even the possibility that a few unions might consider supporting Strickland.

Whomever Big Labor gets behind will be the candidate to make the runoff.

5. Strickland’s  Pre-Primary GOP Endorsement Undermined by … Tony Strickland

Parks’s Republican registration, despite being in name only, complicates Strickland’s chances for a pre-primary endorsement from the California Republican Party. A party endorsement could provide crucial financial support. During last year’s internal party endorsement debate, party kingpins Jon Fleischman and Mike Schroeder proposed an easy pre-primary endorsement process that would favor conservative candidates. Their plan was defeated in favor of a complicated local convention system.

Under the current party rules, two-thirds of the county central committee members in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties must approve a pre-primary endorsement. Then, two-thirds of the California Republican Party Board of Directors must authorize the endorsement.

It’s a complicated but feasible hurdle for Strickland to overcome. Of course, Strickland has no one to blame but himself. He provided critical support for the more complicated plan. It was the brainchild of none other than McCarthy. The question will be if fringe, anti-Strickland Republicans can marshal enough votes to block an endorsement at the local level.

4. Outside Groups Will Play Heavily in the Race

Environmental groups, labor unions, Indian tribes and business interests will all play in this congressional race. Strickland, a former president of the California chapter of the influential Club for Growth, can expect major support from anti-tax, pro-growth advocates.

Parks is a quintessential RINO — Republican in Name Only. She’ll ignite the ire of anti-tax, anti-union activists throughout the country. Think Dede Scozzafava, the New York Republican politician just appointed to a post by liberal Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo; but Parks sports a record of quashing property rights to save squirrels. The Sierra Club and state public employee unions will play in the race in favor of the consensus liberal candidate.

3. The Most Expensive Congressional Race in California History

If you’re a Republican donor in California, chances are you’ve already received a fundraising pitch from Strickland. It’s been 24 hours since Gallegly announced his retirement. That’s enough time for Strickland to contact several hundred donors.

One of the best fundraisers in the state, I’d look for Strickland to post a massive fundraising number at the end of the first reporting period. (Yes, I just raised expectations.) The combination of Strickland’s fundraising and outside groups will make the 26th congressional district one of the most expensive races in California history.

2. Linda Parks Will Re-Register as a Democrat

A potential game changer in this race is when Parks re-registers as a Democrat. In a debate, I’d ask Parks to name the last Republican presidential candidate she has supported. (Not that anyone can blame her for abandoning the anti-freedom Sen. John McCain.)

If Parks re-registered as a Democrat, she’d have the formal support of her Democratic friends and allies. Check Parks’s past endorsement record and you’ll find a “Who’s Who” of Democratic activists. It’d be so much easier for her to campaign as a Democrat instead of as a moderate Republican.

If Parks fails to make the runoff, look for her to endorse the Latino Democrat, regardless of her party registration.

1. The Race Will Remain Undecided for Days, Possibly Weeks

Get the lawyers ready for a heated ballot review process in November. It is easier to list the races that “Landslide Tony” has won easily than identify the races he’s barely squeaked out. Most of his victories have been decided weeks after Election Day.

The only race Strickland has won by a comfortable margin was his final re-election to the State Assembly in 2002. In 1998 and 2000, Strickland beat schoolteacher Roz McGrath by a hair. The 2008 state Senate race against former Assemblywoman Hannah Beth Jackson took weeks of ballot checking before a winner was declared.

And then there’ll be the rematch for District 26 in 2014.

Bonus Prediction: Epic Ground War Between Strickland and Parks

The best ground campaign activists in California Republican politics will reunite to run the ground campaign in this race. Strickland has trained a network of activists and should be expected to reinstitute his flop-house walk program. That’s where poor college students are convinced to spend day and night walking for the cause. Look for the best political operatives in conservative politics to forgo their lucrative state salaries and temporarily take LWOP — leave without pay — to support Strickland’s bid.

The Strickland machine will face its toughest test yet in Parks’s environmental operation. Every activist who has chained himself to a tree to save the spotted owl will mobilize to support Parks. She is a serious and credible candidate with high name ID. If she doesn’t re-register as a Democrat, this may be the first and only race to feature a Republican versus Republican general election match-up.

(Full disclosure: The author previously worked for Tony Strickland, a candidate for District 26. This article was first posted on Cal Watchdog.)

Hayashi’s Shaky Claim That Brain Tumor Caused Shoplifting

The late Friday news reported that Castro Valley Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi  has a benign brain tumor, and that is what caused her to shoplift $2,500 in clothing from Neiman Marcus in San Francisco.

Interestingly, the judge assigned to her case reduced her felony grand theft charge to a misdemeanor. Hayashi’s husband is Alameda County Judge Dennis Hayashi.

But the tumor defense was not used in court yesterday, when Hayashi pleaded no contest to the reduced charges. The  court was given nothing indicating that Hayashi had or has a brain tumor.

The tumor defense, similar to the Twinkie defense,  only came up after she plead guilty to the charges. And it was after leaving the court room that her attorney mentioned it for the first time- late on Friday.

Prior to yesterday’s court appearance, Hayashi had been saying that she was innocent and her attorney  told everyone in the media that this was a “silly case.” Hayashi spokesman Sam Singer has called the incident “a mistake and a misunderstanding.”

Her attorney and spokesman have stated that she had intended to pay for the items but became distracted by a cellphone call and a snack at the cafe and inadvertently left the store without paying. “According to sources close to the case, a week before the Neiman bust, a store saleswoman noticed that a dress was missing after a woman matching Hayashi’s description tried it on. The saleswoman did not know who Hayashi was, but when Hayashi showed up Oct. 25, the clerk alerted store security and they began tracking her with surveillance cameras,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Drudging up the Carole Migden defense, Hayashi’s attorney, now says that a “brain tumor” is the real culprit. In 2007, Migden smashed her state-issued SUV off a concrete median on Interstate 80 and nearly ran other motorists off the freeway before slamming into the back of another vehicle. Former State Sen. Carol Migden, D-San Francisco, said she was reaching for her official cell phone when the wreck occurred. But many of the other motorists said that she had been driving erratically for miles. And 9-1-1 tapes proved it. Migden claimed she was under medical treatment for leukemia, and the medication she was on caused her to crash.

But amazingly, she was cured of the dreaded disease and back at work in no time. Midgen subsequently lost her reelection attempt.

A medical excuse is actually brilliant because no doctor will release medical records to prove or disprove it. It’s the same as running into a church for refuge.

However, Hayashi’s case of forgetfulness doesn’t remotely ring true. She doesn’t just casually stop by Union Square on her way somewhere. Hayashi had to make the 30 miles drive from her home in Castro Valley, cross a bridge, and find parking in Union Square, in order to shop at Neiman Marcus. She brought her own shopping bag with her into the store.  And it was reported that store employees said they were already on the look out for Hayashi because they suspected she had shoplifted from that store only weeks before.

Now, the “brain tumor” PR campaign is in full swing. But her attorney said she’s out of the woods and has a clean bill of health.

Several years ago, Hollywood actress Winona Ryder was caught shoplifting at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills. Ryder was ordered to pay restitution, and had to serve hundreds of hours of community service. The judge told her that if she was ever in his courtroom again, he’d send her to jail.

Many are questioning why Hayashi has not been asked to take a leave of absence from the Assembly.

But Hayashi’s charge was miraculously reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. She now only has to pay a $200 fine, and did not receive any community service time as a punishment. But the biggest gift to Hayashi with the misdemeanor charge is that she does not have to give up her Assembly seat. A felony would have required her resignation.

That’s too bad – if she had resigned, Gov. Jerry Brown could have provided her a soft landing and appointed her to the new state department he created to manage California’s mental hospitals – the Department of State Hospitals.

(Katy Grimes is CalWatchdog’s news reporter. Grimes is a longtime political analyst, writer and journalist. This article was first posted on CalWatchdog.)

Jerry Brown in Incomprehesible Denial on High-Speed Rail

Like many other observers, we have found the California High-Speed Rail Peer Review Group has made a convincing case for a fresh look at the feasibility of the California high-speed rail project. The Group’s report was issued as eleven House Democrats — eight from California– joined an earlier request from twelve Republican House members for an independent GAO investigation of the embattled project.

That is why we find Governor Brown’s reaction— that the Peer Reviewers’ report  ”does not appear to add any arguments that are new or compelling enough to suggest a change of course” —incomprehensible.  Either the Governor issued the statement without the benefit of having read the report, or he is so ideologically committed to the project that he refuses to look the facts in the face.

Precisely which conclusions of the report are not compelling enough, the Governor’ s spokesman has not made clear.  Is it the statement that “the Funding Plan fails to identify any long term funding commitments” and therefore “the project as it is currently planned is not financially feasible”?

Is it the Reviewers’ assertion that “the [travel] forecasts have not been subject to external and public review” and absent such an open examination, “they are simply unverifiable from our point of view”?

Could it be their statement that “the ICS [Initial Construction Section] has no independent utility other than as a possible temporary  re-routing of the Amtrak-operated San Joaquin service…before an IOS  [Initial Operating Segment] is opened”?

Or, is it the Panel’s conclusion that “…moving ahead on the HSR project without credible sources of funding, without a definitive  business model, without a strategy to maximize the independent utility and  value to the State, and without the appropriate management resources,  represents an immense financial risk on the part of thState of California?”

To us, the findings seem at least deserving of a respectful consideration.

But the California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) is not ready to concede anything. Here is the opening paragraph of its response: “While some of the recommendations in the Peer Review Group report merit consideration, by and large this report is deeply flawed, in some areas misleading and its conclusions are unfounded. …Although some high-speed rail experience exists among Peer Review Panel members, this report suffers from a lack of appreciation of how high-speed rail systems have been constructed throughout the world, makes unrealistic and unsubstantiated assumptions about private sector involvement in such systems and ignores or misconstrues the legal requirements that govern construction of the high speed rail program in California.”

It is not our intention to delve in detail into the Authority’s response and judge the soundness of its arguments. No doubt, the CHSRA response will come under a detailed examination by the Authority’s critics in the days ahead. Suffice it to say that, having carefully and with an open mind examined the Authority’s rambling nine-page response, we find that it did not satisfactorily rebut the Peer Group’s central point: that it is not prudent, nor “financially feasible,” to proceed with the $6 billion dollar rail project in the Central Valley (including $2.7 billion in Proposition 1A bonds) in the absence of any identifiable source of funding with which to complete even the Initial Operating Segment. To do so, would be to expose the State to the risk of being stuck, perhaps for many years, with a rail segment unconnected to major urban areas and unable to generate sufficient ridership to operate without a significant state subsidy.

The Authority’s lashing out at the Peer Group and the dismissive tone of its response suggest that it has already made up its mind to stay the course and circle the wagons. That is not a wise posture to assume in the face of an already skeptical state legislature.

(Ken Orski is a Public Policy Consultant and former Principal of the Urban Mobility Corporation. This article was first posted on Fox & Hounds.)

Wishful Thinking Already Pushes State Budget

There’s already plenty of wishful thinking surrounding the state budget rolled out Thursday and most of it doesn’t come from Jerry Brown.

Republicans and Democrats alike, each for reasons uniquely their own, see nothing but the bluest skies ahead for a California economy that’s featured little but storm clouds in recent years.

For Republican legislators, the growing economy means that the state can make out just fine without the $6.9 billion tax increase the governor wants to put on the November ballot.

“Revenues are up by 3.5 percent this year and are projected to grow at a fast pace in the years to come,” newly elected GOP Senate Leader Bob Huff said in a statement. “The anticipated growth in revenues will help us to bring spending in line with revenues without a $7 billion increase in taxes.”

Then there are the Democrats, who say that the new money spewed out by a growing economy is just the thing to avoid the $4 billion in program cuts the governor says are needed to balance the budget.

“I am wary of continuing down that path” of more budget cuts, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said in his own statement Thursday. Projected revenues increased $1.5 billion in the November-December round of state estimates, he said, and “if that trend continues even slightly, we may avoid the need to make the kinds of cuts and governor now suggests.”

Highlight the word “may.” Steinberg doesn’t mention that even with those projected increases, the state still fell about $1.9 million short of what last year’s optimistic budget forecast predicted. And while Huff and his Republican colleagues are quick to dismiss the need for any additional revenue – aka, taxes – they are a lot slower when it comes to saying what programs should be slashed to bring the budget into balance without that new money.

Brown, for his part, is working a hire-wire act. He’s proposing more that $4 billion in cuts in welfare, Medi-Cal, the Cal Grant college scholarship program, childcare and education, programs Democrats have fought to keep whole. But he’s also backing a tax initiative, which party leaders long have yearned for.

Both the cuts and the taxes are necessary, Brown warned Thursday.

“These are not nice cuts, but that’s what it takes to balance the budget,” the governor said.

The new budget “keeps the cuts made last year and adds new ones,” he said in his budget message. “The stark truth is that without some new taxes, damaging cuts to schools, universities, public safety and our courts will only increase.”

If that tax measure doesn’t pass in November, Brown’s backup plan calls for a mid-year slash of $4.8 billion in K-12 school spending, which is the cost of three weeks of classes. The UC and state college systems would lose $200 million each and court funding would be cut by $125 million, which could force three days of closure each month.

Republicans immediately complained that Brown is holding the state hostage, threatening to hamstring popular programs like education and public safety unless voters pass his tax increase. “A cynical, scare tactic budget strategy,” is how Republican Party Chairman Tom Del Beccaro described it.

He’s right, of course, but so what else is new with campaigns surrounding any money measure that hits the ballot. The Republicans and their anti-tax allies will have a chance to make their own case in November and anyone who thinks they won’t come up with a “cynical, scare tactic” strategy of their own hasn’t been paying much attention to California politics over the years.

But Brown’s more immediate problem is with his own party, since they have the votes needed to pass his budget – no Republicans need apply. Democrats didn’t like the cuts in last year’s budget and really won’t want to double down and make the ones Brown’s proposing this year. They’re likely to take any bit of positive economic news in the next few and declare that happy days are here again and no heavy lifting – or unpopular votes to cut state programs – will be required.

Steinberg already has said he doesn’t see any need to quickly make major cuts that will take effect in March, even though the delay could mean deeper cuts will be needed later in the year.

Brown warned that it’s impossible to guarantee that the budget numbers will hold up over the next year. The numbers could get better, but they also could get worse.

Based on the past few years, it’s not hard to guess which way to bet.

“It’s an honest budget, but it’s not a fortune-telling budget,” he said. “We don’t have clairvoyance at the Department of Finance.”

Brown described the budget as tough medicine and admitted that the plan “will be very hard to digest in this building.”

The “big if” behind the budget is the need “to hold the line on spending and make the tough cuts or the equivalent of what I’ve put in the budget,” he said.

The question now is whether anyone on the Democratic side of the aisle is willing to listen.

(John Wildermuth is a journalist and political commentator. This article was first posted on Fox & Hounds.)