On politics in the Golden State

Category: taxes

Gov. Jerry Brown: 'Texas, come on over'


Gov. Jerry Brown said Monday that he was hardly alarmed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s latest effort to poach California businesses.

“Of course they’re coming here,” Brown said. “So are the British coming here, so are the French, so are the Russians, so are the Chinese — everybody with half a brain is coming to California. So Texas, come on over.”

Brown spoke Monday in Hollywood at Founders Forum 2013, a conference on innovation for entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. During his brief speech, he urged business leaders to be creative and invest in online education. He cited companies such as Apple, Google and Facebook as a sign of California’s modern successes.

After his speech, Brown responded to a new survey of California business leaders, released Monday by the California Business Roundtable. The survey found that 69% of business leaders said it was harder to do business in California than in other states. Nearly the same number, 62%, rate California’s economy worse than the rest of the country.

“It’s nonsense,” Brown said. “Some things are hard to do. If you want to open some kind of tannery on Wilshire Boulevard, you’re going to get a lot of opposition. If you want to open a creative enterprise, you’re going to get open arms.”

He said that between his two terms as governor, California’s gross domestic product rose from $150 billion a year to nearly $2 trillion, a testament to the success of California businesses. Although California doesn’t allow everything, he said, the ideas and opportunity on the Pacific Rim make it an ideal place to do business.

“That’s life — life is obstacles,” Brown said. “I didn’t get to be governor 37 years later by not overcoming obstacles. Yes, there are problems. But that’s the stimulus for our current creativity.” 


Brown commits to major Medi-Cal expansion

Texas Gov. Rick Perry launches ads to lure California businesses

State of the State: 'California did the impossible,' Brown says

— Laura Nelson in Los Angeles

Follow her on Twitter: @laura_nelson

Photo:  Google+ logo is seen at annual developer conference at Moscone Center in San Francisco last year. Credit: AFP Photo / Kimihiro Hoshino  


Texas Gov. Rick Perry launches ads to lure California businesses

APphoto_Texas State of the State

“Building a business is tough, but I hear building a business in California is next to impossible.”

So says Texas Gov. Rick Perry in a new advertising campaign targeted at California companies.

The Lone Star governor plans to broadcast the radio ads throughout the Golden State in an effort to lure companies here to move east. Such poaching is familiar to Californians.

The economy here dwarfs that of any state, but its tax rates are higher and regulations more onerous. Other states are constantly sending their economic development teams to California to try to lure firms away.

Perry likes to joke that he goes on “hunting trips” here, in which the game he is after is dissatisfied California firms. His latest move may be as much political as it is economic. The 2012 presidential campaign was not kind to the Texas governor’s image. He entered the GOP primaries a clear favorite, with a high approval rating and an impressive fundraising operation. He exited after a series of gaffes and missteps and has had a limited national profile since.

Taking aim at California has always been a favorite sport of Republicans seeking to bolster their national standing. On the website that Perry launched to accompany Texas' advertising campaign, the he goes after the latest round of tax hikes passed in California, which increased the marginal rates on the income of the superwealthy to more than 13%, among the highest in the nation. “Now with the passage of Prop. 30, which increases California’s already excessive income and sales tax … businesses are moving to Texas,” Perry writes in an open letter posted on the website.

Experts differ on how successful these campaigns are. Corporate executives are constantly grumbling about conditions here. Some have, indeed, left. More could go now that taxes have been hiked. But the collapse of the state economy that antitax advocates and others have warned about for decades has yet to take shape. Despite a badly battered budget exacerbated by years of political dysfunction, the state’s economy is showing strong signs of growth, with some California sectors helping lead the national recovery.


California escapes the ratings cellar

California taxes surge in January, report says

Jerry Brown, lawmakers get higher marks in new poll

-- Evan Halper in Sacramento


Photo: Gov. Rick Perry delivers his state of the state address to lawmakers in the Capitol in Austin, Texas, last week. Credit: Eric Gay / Associated Press


Brown looks to fee hikes to fund courts

California residents who want to fight a traffic ticket from home or get copies of legal paperwork would have to shell out more money under Gov. Jerry Brown's "austerity" budget plan for state courts next year.

The governor's spending plan adopts 11 recommendations for increased costs or reduced services that were recommended last month to the state Judicial Council. They help offset some $200 million in cuts Brown warns the state's trial court system will have to make starting the 2014-15 fiscal year. Brown proposes borrowing $200 million from courthouse construction accounts to get the system through the next year.

The fee to oppose a traffic ticket by mail in your home county would go to $50, bringing in $3.2 million more to the state. 

The cost for clerks to search and retrieve multiple case files would go to $10 for every record searched. Clerks blame "data mining" companies for the need to charge more, but the bill would be footed by everyone.

The price for a paper copy of a court record would double, to $1 per page.

Courts would cut costs by eliminating some procedures, such as not collecting Social Security numbers on court orders for debt collection, not destroying records relating to marijuana possession, and providing transcripts of preliminary hearings only in homicide cases. 

The Judicial Council notes that as of October, six out of 10 counties in California have had to reduce hours, close offices or courtrooms, even as it calculates the state needs 264 more judges to handle the state's growing caseload. 


Debt still clouds state's future

Analyst calls Brown's budget 'reasonable'

Brown shifts schedule for repaying budget loans

--Paige St. John in Sacramento

Jerry Brown predicts California budget surplus by end of next year

California Governor Jerry Brown at a press conference Wednesday. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

After years of red ink, Gov. Jerry Brown said on Thursday that California’s $96.7-billion general fund is now poised to end next year with a surplus, thanks to years of deep budget cuts and billions in new taxes approved by voters last year.

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed California budget, 2013-14

"We achieved the position we're in because of tough cuts ... and then the people voted for taxes," he said. "We broke the logjam by going to the people."

READ THE SUMMARY: Gov. Brown's proposed 2013-2014 budget

Schools will be the big winner in the governor's new spending plan, receiving $56.2 billion in state funds, an increase by $2.7 billion over the last year. That funding is set to jump to more than $66 billion by 2016.

The budget also dedicated an additional $350 million to the state’s public insurance program, Medi-Cal, to help implement President Obama’s healthcare law.

Brown’s budget predicts only the second budget surplus in the last decade, with an $851-million surplus projected at the end of the 2013-14 fiscal year -- if all his proposals are approved by lawmakers.

With Democrats firmly in control of both legislative houses and the governor’s office, and without what had become familiar multibillion-dollar deficits, this year’s announcement lacked the anxiety and urgency that had surrounded past budget unveilings.

Instead of railing against proposed reductions in popular programs, activists are now girding for long policy battles based on the ideas put forward by the governor on Thursday.

Those fights will play out in the Legislature over the coming months. While they include sweeping changes in how Sacramento spends its money, those skirmishes, too, will lack the drama over cuts to schools and health services that have dominated Capitol discourse for the better part of the last decade.


Gov. Jerry Brown details budget numbers at Capitol

California conservation chief faces grilling over fracking

Skelton: Brown correct to target federal control of prisons

-- Anthony York in Sacramento

Photo: California Governor Jerry Brown at a press conference Tuesday. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

California lawmaker proposes tax breaks for commercial space firms

With California the focus of a growing private spaceflight industry, state Sen. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) has proposed revising tax laws to make the state more attractive to employers.   

Knight, whose father was a test pilot, has introduced legislation to provide an exemption from  sales and use taxes for equipment or materials used to renovate or reconstruct properties used as space launch sites.

“We need to level the playing field before we irretrievably lose business to our competitors,” Knight said. “Without Senate Bill 19 we risk losing California’s vital aerospace industry to other states and countries that are more business-friendly to this and other industries.”

California’s Mojave Desert is home to several commercial space ventures that hope to offer space flights to paying customers, including  Scaled Composites and XCOR Aerospace Inc.

But Stuart Witt, chief executive of the Mojave Air & Space Port, warned in February that California risks losing aerospace firms to other states  if it doesn't become more business friendly.

In October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed another Knight bill that limited the legal liability of commercial space operators for death or injuries resulting from flights, provided that passengers have been informed of the risks and given written consent.


Lawmakers want to change Proposition 13

Rural counties seek bigger share of prison money

New Assembly members already eyeing seats in Senate

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo:  Photographers snap pictures of WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo outside the hangar at Mojave Air and Space Port IN 2011. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Lawmaker wants to change Proposition 13

TomAmmianoA California lawmaker wants to change Proposition 13 to boost funding for public education and other programs.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) said Thursday that he plans to introduce legislation that would remove business property owners from some provisions of the groundbreaking 1978 law, which placed limits on residential and commercial property taxes.

A "split roll" would allow commercial properties to be taxed based on their current market value. Currently, corporations can avoid reassessments when property changes hands, Ammiano said.

“Prop. 13 is not the untouchable third-rail anymore,” Ammiano said in a statement. “It’s more like the bad guy with the mustache who has tied California to the rails with the fiscal train wreck coming.”

The lawmaker said revenue was needed to help government programs that have been slashed in recent years.

While Proposition 13 remains popular with California voters, a new poll found 58% of them favor the "split roll" idea. According to the survey, released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California, most Democrats and independents supported the proposal while Republicans were divided.

The change would have to be approved by voters, and with new supermajorities in both legislative houses, Democrats now have the power to place measures on the ballot without GOP backing.

State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) has also proposed changing Proposition 13. He introduced a constitutional amendment that would allow local parcel taxes for schools to pass with 55% of the vote, instead of the two-thirds currently required.


Brown found path to Prop 30. victory in a divided California

Senate leader hails new era for California, plans for surpluses

Lawmakers make plans to spend $2.5 billion in new energy funds

--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento


Photo: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) speaks on a measure before the Assembly in Sacramento on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

California sees strong month for tax revenue

In a positive sign for California's finances, state officials said tax revenue exceeded expectations by $208 million in October

In a positive sign for California's finances, state officials said Wednesday that tax revenue exceeded expectations by $208 million in October.

The surge allows the state to inch closer to its overall goal for the fiscal year. The gap between actual tax revenue and state estimates narrowed to .7% from 2.1%.

Gov. Jerry Brown is hoping that for the first time in five years, the state ends the fiscal year without a deficit.

The current budget includes a nearly $1-billion reserve to help cushion the state against shortfalls in tax revenue or higher-than-expected spending. In addition, voters approved Brown's tax-hike plan, Proposition 30, providing an estimated $6 billion in annual revenue.

The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office will release its own annual forecast on California finances on Wednesday afternoon.

There are still warning signs for the state budget. Administration officials counted on saving $3.1 billion in the current fiscal year from the dissolution of redevelopment agencies, but so far those savings have fallen far below expectations.

The Legislative Analyst's Office has previously said the state could end up almost $1 billion short.


Proposition 30 win gives Brown a major boost

Jon Stewart impressed that California passed tax hikes

Proposition 30 win no guarantee of fiscal safety for California

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown's finance director, Ana Matosantos, discusses the state budget during a Capitol news conference in January. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

After election, what's next in California? [Google+ hangout]

Times reporter Evan Halper will join city editor Shelby Grad in a Google+ hangout at 2 p.m. to discuss the passage of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure and the likely Democratic supermajorities in the Assembly and Senate.

From Halper and The Times' Anthony York's story Thursday:

The supermajorities would mark a dramatic shift in Sacramento's balance of power, where GOP legislators have aggressively used their ability to block state budget plans and prevent revenue increases to scale back the scope of state government.

Coupled with the approval of Brown's tax plan, Proposition 30, the Democrats now have not only the power but also the money to break free of the deficit that has paralyzed state government for years.

The pressure on Democrats to restore funding for the many services slashed to balance the budget in recent years will be intense.

Already, activists are pressing lawmakers to pump new money into such programs as college scholarships, dental care for the needy and, of course, public schools.

But the first move Brown and legislative leaders made Wednesday was to reassure voters that they would show restraint.

They promised there would be no frenzy of tax hikes.

"Voters have trusted the elected representatives, maybe even trusted me to some extent, and now we've got to meet that trust," Brown said at a Wednesday news conference in the Capitol. "We've got to make sure over the next few years that we pay our bills, we invest in the right programs, but we don't go on any spending binges."

Still, lawmakers can appear to hold the line on revenue generation without actually doing so.


Secret Arizona donation failed to dent Democrats and unions

California 'moved further to the left,' state GOP chairman says

More than 792,000 ballots uncounted in L.A. County, registrar says

Brown found path to Prop 30. victory in a divided California

Brown election night

On Tuesday night, a triumphant Gov. Jerry Brown told supporters in Sacramento that his tax-hike measure was a “unifying force.” Californians were coming together, he said, to support schools and patch the state budget.  

But Brown’s victory may not have been possible without the deepening divisions that have characterized American politics. Even as support for his ballot measure slipped, the governor was able to rely on a firewall of hard-core allies that eventually carried Proposition 30 to victory.

The measure will increase the state sales tax by a quarter of a cent for four years and raise income tax rates on the wealthy by 1 to 3 percentage points for seven years. Without the new taxes, Brown said, the state would have had to make nearly $6 billion in budget cuts, mostly to public schools.

In October, while Brown was largely absent from the campaign trail, public opinion polls showed Proposition 30 leading with a shrinking margin, then dropping below 50% support for the first time.

The slide led to a round of hand-wringing among some of the Proposition 30 resultsgovernor’s allies, since Sacramento operatives have long cautioned that it’s very difficult to pass a tax increase with less than 60% support.

But members of Brown’s team said they were not concerned. They said such benchmarks were relics of a time where the political landscape was populated with Reagan Democrats and Rockefeller Republicans -– moderate voters who could swing either way on an issue like taxes.

Ace Smith, the campaign manager, said that “conventional wisdom has become stale.”

Today, ideological schisms have hardened both sides of the political spectrum, and Brown's team said it didn’t need such a wide margin because its base had become more reliable.

Polls showed that voters who were undecided on Brown’s tax plan were more likely to be Democrats than Republicans, and campaign operatives said they eventually lined up behind the governor’s measure.

Brown began a series of rapid-fire campaign events in the final weeks before the election, and Kevin Gordon, a lobbyist for schools, said the strategy paid off.

"People were really doubtful about its ability to pass," he said. "The governor gets incredibly high marks for his political genius, no doubt about it."


California Democrats emerge more powerful after election

Bond-rating agency sees a fork in the road for California finances

Voters approve Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure, Proposition 30, AP says

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to reporters about Proposition 30 during an election night party in Sacramento on Tuesday. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Jerry Brown, California Democrats appear to be big winners in election

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

Gov. Jerry Brown’s $6-billion-a-year tax initiative to rescue California schools and the state's finances appeared to squeak by with a victory early Wednesday, and Democrats' grip on Sacramento tightened as the party crept toward winning a super-majority in both houses of the Legislature.

Tuesday's election also brought an end to the three-decade-long congressional career of Rep. Howard Berman, who early Wednesday morning conceded defeat in his political slugfest against fellow Democrat Brad Sherman in the San Fernando Valley.

The bitter contest between Sherman and Berman, awash in more than $13 million in campaign spending by the candidates and independent political groups, was triggered when California's newly drawn political boundaries put the two incumbents in the same district.

"I congratulate Brad. ... I will do whatever I can to ensure a cooperative and orderly transition," Berman said in a concise concession statement early Wednesday.

FULL RESULTS: California races

In a similar high-profile mash-up between Democrats, Rep. Janice Hahn of San Pedro was cruising to an easy win against Rep. Laura Richardson of Long Beach in a newly drawn district that includes many minority, working-class communities, election results showed.

Among other closely watched races for California House seats, Assemblywoman Julia Brownley (D-Oak Park) narrowly defeated state Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Moorpark) in Ventura County, and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) bested former Republican Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, according to results with all voter precincts reporting in those districts.

California's senior U.S. senator, Democrat Dianne Feinstein, won an easy reelection victory over nonprofit executive Elizabeth Emken, her underfunded, little-known Republican challenger.

PHOTOS: California voters head to polls

The governor woke up Wednesday as one of the biggest apparent victors in Tuesday’s election, however.

Facing well-funded opposition, Brown campaigned heavily for Proposition 30 as a way to restore fiscal sanity to Sacramento and to stave off deep cuts to public schools and universities. The initiative calls for a quarter-cent increase to sales taxes for four years and a seven-year tax hike on California’s highest earners.

Californians have not approved a statewide tax increase since 2004.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected a competing measure bankrolled by millionaire civil rights lawyer Molly Munger -- Proposition 38 – which would have increased income taxes for most Californians to raise funds primarily for schools and early childhood education.

In one of the highest-profile state ballot measures, labor unions appeared to defeat Proposition 32, which would have reduced their political influence by barring unions from using paycheck deductions for political purposes.

Californians also soured on a measure to abolish the death penalty -– Proposition 34 -- which was trailing badly with most of the voter precincts reporting Wednesday morning.

Other law-and-order measures were greeting more warmly. Voters favored Proposition 36, which would change the three-strikes sentencing law so offenders whose third strikes were minor, nonviolent crimes could no longer be given 25 years to life in prison.

Voters also supported Proposition 35, which promoted increased punishment for sex trafficking of a minor. Both led by wide margins with most ballots counted.

With most ballots tallied across California, initiatives to label genetically engineered foods and change state law to create a new car insurance discount appeared headed for defeat.

One of the biggest surprises of the election was the Democrats' strong showing in legislative races. Democrats appear on the verge of winning a two-thirds majority in the state Senate and Assembly, enough to approve tax measures without Republican support.

In Los Angeles County, veteran prosecutor Jackie Lacey became the county's first female and first African American district attorney after defeating Deputy Dist. Atty. Alan Jackson. Jackson conceded early Wednesday morning.

Lacey, 55, touted herself as the only candidate with the experience to run the office. She had the support of her boss, Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley, who is retiring after three terms.

Los Angeles County voters also approved a local measure requiring adult film actors to wear condoms. With most precincts reporting, a measure to fund transportation projects by extending a countywide sales-tax increase for an additional 30 years remained just shy of the two-thirds vote required for approval.

Some races remained too close to call, including the San Diego congressional race between Rep. Brian P. Bilbray (R-Carlsbad) and Democrat Scott Peters, a San Diego environmental attorney. In the Coachella Valley, Democratic emergency room doctor Raul Ruiz was leading Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-Palm Springs) with just under two-thirds of precincts reporting early Wednesday morning.


Munger’s Proposition 38 fails, according to AP

Prop. 40, on state Senate districts, passes, per AP

Proposition 36 on three-strikes law passes, AP says

-- Phil Willon

Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown addresses supporters of Proposition 30 and 32 at the Sheraton Hotel in Sacramento Tuesday. Source: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times


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