Investing in Education – Our 21st Century Challenge

By Assemblywoman Julia Brownley, D-Santa Monica, Chair of the Assembly Education CommitteeBrownley_Official_Photo_Color _July 07.jpg
Businesses know that smart investments are the key to future growth. Governments also make smart investments such as the one California made in higher education after adopting a master plan in 1960. Many today credit California universities for its ranking as the eighth largest economy in the world and as an incubator for high technology, biotechnology and agricultural advances.
California’s leadership in education and the economy, however, is in danger of slipping. State education spending fell by $17 billion over the last three years, forcing schools to shorten the school year, increase class size, close school libraries and eliminate summer school among other actions.
In higher education, the loss of funding has pushed up fees at community colleges, California State Universities and the University of California, while the state is offering 15,000 fewer Cal Grants this year for students in need. Not as many students are getting into the colleges as more of them save seats for higher-paying, out-of-state students. Meanwhile, those who can afford the higher fees are struggling to get the courses they need to graduate as classes are cut. Students trying to transfer from community colleges into CSUs and UCs are hitting a wall. All of this is causing a bottleneck, delaying students’ entry into the work force.
The spending cuts also hurt industry. Economists estimate education’s contribution to labor productivity growth ranges between 13 percent and 30 percent. California employers are worried they won’t find employees with the education and skills they need.
Our state has set some of the nation’s highest academic standards for its youth, yet it is failing to provide sufficient resources for them to succeed. Only a few Californians know our per-pupil spending ranks far below the national average – near the bottom when compared with other states. California now faces two lawsuits, Robles-Wong v. California and Campaign for Quality Education v. California, over the lack of adequate funding for public education. In 2009, the Legislature adopted a resolution I carried stating its intention to bring per-pupil spending up to or beyond the national average and to cover the costs of educating California’s diverse student population. This is imperative and we must immediately start figuring out how we are going to fulfill this promise.
One way we can tackle our deficient education funding is by overhauling our overly complex, irrational and inequitable school finance system. Plenty of studies have concluded financial reforms are necessary before we can make significant improvements to our schools, including the Getting Down to Facts studies at Stanford University, the Governor’s Committee on Education Excellence and the Public Policy Institute of California. In our current system, an English Learner in one school gets a different level of resources than a similar English Learner in another school. If we create a new school finance structure that is simple, transparent and allocates funds in a more effective way, Californians will be willing to invest more in education.
With this goal in mind, I have introduced several bills over the last five years to develop a new structure. While the measures have received bipartisan support, they were either blocked by a fiscal committee or vetoed by a governor unwilling to commit to accomplishing such a challenging task. This year, I introduced Assembly Bill 18, which sets forth a detailed plan for a simplified school funding system based on the aforementioned studies. It passed the Assembly last month and is now pending in the Senate. Major reforms like these require thoughtful analysis and collaboration. I recently amended my bill based on suggestions I have received from stakeholders and anticipate more amendments as I move forward in the coming year.
AB 18 narrows hundreds of funding streams to three tributaries, leaving just a couple dozen in their existing form. The bill would first establish a base level of funding for all students and would ensure no school loses funds in the base year. Another stream would be devoted and weighted to English Learners and low-income students who need more resources to be successful, while the last would be devoted to quality classroom instruction giving local school districts several options to meet the varied needs of its students.
It doesn’t make sense to distribute more money through a broken system, but it makes perfect sense to fix our school funding “engine” now, while the tank is unfortunately empty, so when we are able to fill it in the future, we will get better mileage out of it.
Making a smart investment in education now will bring substantial returns in the future by fueling our industries with the skilled workers they need to maintain the state’s competitive edge in a global market, and by assuring every Californian has the opportunity to make a sustainable living wage. Everyone benefits.

A Thought for Progressives

Guest post by Edward Bear

a former U.S. president said, “
Government is
not a solution to our problem, government is the problem,” he trampled
on the idea that government had the ability and the duty to be a source
of some very profound solutions as well. 
Child Labor Laws, Food and Drug Standards, and on and on.

With that statement, Reagan elevated
division and selfishness to new heights and, perhaps unknowingly, declared war
on what the essence of America is.

To begin with, government can be as
sound and as solid as the Constitution it is built upon.  Until the time of Reagan, the United States
was a nation that kept improving itself, and the lives of its citizens,
as it went along. 

When Governor Reagan left the state
of California behind to seek national office, he left one of the best public
school systems in the world, from kindergarten through graduate schools,
on a path of diminished support that lead to a deeply diminished and
deteriorating system. It is now below the national average in per-pupil
expenditure. The National Education Association ranks California 29th in the
nation in support of its students, and some estimates tell us that it is even
lower than that.  (Some legacy!)

By starving and shrinking
government, as Reagan supporters like to proselytize, we are starving ourselves
and the health of our nation. 

We need a new transformation,
where free citizens determine the policies and future of the nation, not
representatives within government who are bought and paid for by lobbyists to
do the bidding of business. There are sometimes as many as six to eight
lobbyists for every member of Congress.

Government should NOT be run like a
business!  Business should be run
like a business.  Business is only
concerned with maximizing market share and profits. 

Government should be run with the view that it is the servant of the
people and there to do good. 
These days, that almost sounds quaint, doesn’t it?

Government isn’t innately flawed
as Mr. Reagan liked to infer when he made fun of it.  Government is as honest and as
as the people who inhabit it.

For starters, LIARS should be banned
from all government jobs, elected and otherwise.  How many representatives and senators do you
think that would still leave in office? 
30%?  40%?  50%? 
When you give up on government, you give up on yourself!  It’s not a complicated equation: Government
is as good as the people in it!! Since when has honesty been “optional” for
government work?

Ask yourself: Do you believe that most
people are dishonest and incompetent? 
What kind of ‘view of existence’ is that?  Sad and cynical, I’d say.  I believe that it’s just a projection of the
person saying it, and I sure don’t want those people in government, much
less running it at the top!

The United States was born as a
place of Hope and Opportunity.  It
started out giving that hope and opportunity only to white males with European
background.  But it/we have kept amending
ourselves and improving this nation in an ongoing quest to provide “Liberty and
Justice for All.”  Those are the key
concepts: Liberty and Justice for All. 

If you agree with that notion, I
recommend you transform yourself into a Proud Progressive and carry these
thoughts proudly.  Government isn’t “a
beast that should be starved!”  It is Our
Resource and the basis of our “Commons” and it should be nourished and guided
into being an instrument for good and for justice.

You probably know that the current
disparity between the richest and poorest Americans is greater now than it has
ever been in our history
. Some economic observers call what our financial
system has become “Casino Capitalism.” 
The results of the policies of the last 30 years is that the American
Middle Class is being drained dry. That is counter to Hope and Opportunity, and
directly undermines Liberty and Justice for All.

So be a Proud Progressive!  Take Part. 
GOVERNMENT.  Transform our Nation and our
Future while we still can.  

Edward Bear is a long-time progressive activist, radio personality and talk-show producer.
He currently produces the progressive radio show Hannah-Beth On-The-Air.

Getting Solar Energy Stimulus Spending Right In California

This guest post is by Natasha Chart of Campaign for America’s Future.  The post first appeared at the Blog For OurFuture.

Thanks to $24 million in stimulus funding, Solar Power, Inc., a company that manufactures solar panels in China to install in the US is exploring opening a solar panel manufacturing plant in Sacramento, CA, to go along with a 10 megawatt solar power installation in the area.

There are no timelines for the projects, but Solar Power chairman and CEO, Steve Kircher seems optimistic. In a press release, he said, “Expanding our manufacturing base to California will significantly enhance our ability to meet growing demand for our solar system development expertise and our top-ranked solar panels across the U.S.”

While it’s great to get results like this from the stimulus, passing a clean energy bill at the federal level, for all the inherent problems, would create a lot more of the same. I expect that in the long run, the expansion of investments in clean energy will be more useful for reducing carbon emissions than many other, more direct attempts to regulate carbon. The reason I think that is because it will begin creating positive incentives that tie people’s livelihoods to the clean energy economy, which is a much-needed shift in the political dynamic that will ease the way towards necessary future reforms.

As David Roberts continues to point out so lucidly, shifting behavior and understanding incentives is probably the most important task of building a clean energy economy.

Fortunately, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), chairman of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, seems to be of a roughly overlapping opinion about the importance of the job incentive:

… Similarly, in the energy sector we need to retool the existing generation and distribution networks with cleaner forms of generation, open markets to innovators who will build power lines that lose fewer electrons and connect new sources of clean power to users, and reward investors for installing more efficient ways of using electricity. Creating the right framework for our communications networks led investors to commit about $850 billion to rebuild those networks. With the right set of policies, it is reasonable expect a similar explosion of private sector investment in the energy sector. This will result in consumers paying less for heating, cooling and lighting, and America’s energy sector will be firmly based on abundant, cheap and clean fuels. Nothing will pull innovation into the energy sector more than wind farms demanding better storage technology, solar farms demanding better ways of capturing and converting sunlight into electricity, and appliances and electric vehicles that can talk to the grid if it is smart enough.

There are other areas of the economy where Americans can and should find new jobs. In the energy sector we not only will need millions of employees, but we also know that those millions will help us achieve independence from foreign oil and an end to the pollution of the environment from carbon emissions. The trifecta of huge employment, national security, and protection of the environment is a winning ticket for America. …

And by “America”, Markey thankfully seems to mean all the Americans who need jobs, and a lot more jobs, quickly, because young and older, most people have to work for a living and don’t care how the stock market is doing.

So, more like this, please.

Ted Lieu: The Blackwater Solution to California Prisons is Unacceptable

One of the key right-wing priorities is to outsource government functions and privatize whatever they can. We’ve seen the trend from the early ’80’s with allowing the healtcare industry to become a for-profit based industry (and how they have profited!), to deregulation of the airlines, charter schools, water systems, war (hence the title Blackwater for the infamous private army that has wreacked havoc on the people of Iraq and elsewhere) to establishment of private prisons to house our criminal population.
There are reasons that we have government-run services and programs. Those reasons have been glossed-over or forgotten, but shouldn’t be. First, the government, unlike the private sector, is answerable and responsible to the people. Second, there is accountability and “sunshine” or transparency with how these government run entities operate.
With none of the above, and with private profit the singular purpose, we lose our ability to control how these programs are run and the impact they have on us as a society. Plain and simple, this is bad for democracy and bad for our communities.
Regardless of how it’s couched, privatizing our prisons as an excuse to improve our public universities is dishonest at best, and destructive to the fabric of our nation at worst. Assemblyman Ted Lieu provides a look at this as our guest blogger of the day. — HBJ

The Blackwater Solution to California Prisons is Unacceptable
By Ted Lieu


I agree
with the Governor that we need to increase higher education spending so that California
spends more on higher education than prisons. However, there are smart ways to
reform our prison system, shortsighted ways, and
outright dangerous reforms. The Governor’s proposal to hand over our
corrections system to for-profit corporations is dangerous. We should reform
our prison system by better rehabilitating prisoners and reducing California‘s sky-high recidivism rate. Contracting out government’s core
responsibility of public safety will not reform our prisons; instead we will
endanger the public and cause inhumane consequences.

institutions across the board condemn private prisons
as both inhumane and ineffective. The Presbyterian
Church USA
stated, “Since the goal of for-profit private prisons is
earning a profit for their shareholders, there is a basic and fundamental
conflict with the concept of rehabilitation as the ultimate goal of the prison
system…for-profit private prisons should be abolished.” The Catholic Bishops in a resolution stated, “We bishops
question whether private, for-profit corporations can effectively run prisons. The
profit motive may lead to reduced efforts to change behavior, treat substance abuse, and offer skills necessary for
reintegration into the community.”

prisons are also dangerous, both to prisoners and to the public. In 2003 a
report by Grassroots Leadership detailed a range of failures by CCA, a
for-profit private prison company, including: failure
to provide adequate medical care to prisoners; failure to control violence in
its prisons; and escapes.

I voted
no last year on the corrections budget bill because it was cutting
rehabilitation programs and parole supervision, both of which will result in
increased recidivism. The Governor’s current proposal is even worse. Abandoning
government’s core responsibility of public safety by contracting out
and injecting a profit motive will result in disastrous consequences. Our
nation has already been burned by our experience with Blackwater. California cannot afford
to have its own Blackwater problem.

Assemblymember Ted W. Lieu, candidate for Attorney General, represents the 53rd Assembly District, which stretches from Venice and parts of Los Angeles to Torrance and Lomita along the coast. He was elected in September 2005, re-elected in November 2006, and re-elected again in November 2008.

Assemblymember Lieu has led the fight in California against Wall Street’s excesses and fought to reform the subprime mortgage system and reduce home foreclosures. As an activist legislator, he has taken on special interests and successfully authored laws in the areas of public safety, child sex offenders, domestic violence, the environment, education, health care, veterans issues, and transportation. Numerous law enforcement, civic, and community groups have recognized Ted for his accomplishments.

Fixing State Government Requires Fixing Term Limits

As part
of our on-going look at the reasons for California’s dysfunctional government,
we have asked a number of current and former legislators for their views on just
what is causing the problem.

Long-time SOCa supporter and State Senator,
Loni Hancock has written recently about her take on what are the structural
problems in our system of governance and what reforms we need to undertake to
return our system to its former visionary glory.
She has submitted the following observations
based upon her service on the newly created Joint Select Committee on Improving
State Government which was formed by the legislature to consider how to reform
and fix this terribly and unquestionably broken system. — HBJ
Here are her latest thoughts:
Senator Hancock.jpg
From the desk of Senator Loni Hancock:

cry for reform of California’s governance system continues to grow. As
of November 5, there were no less than twenty-two initiatives either
already in circulation or awaiting a title and summary from the
Attorney General that deal solely with California’s governance

The proposals range from lowering the vote threshold
to pass the state budget to the establishment of a constitutional
convention to changing the way local government is funded to a
part-time legislature.  The ideas are from all across the political
spectrum – conservative to liberal. 

One thing is clear, Californians want reform. The challenge will be finding consensus on which reforms should be advanced.

Two weeks ago, the Legislature began its own effort to look at reforms.  The Joint Select Committee on Improving State Government
held its first of five scheduled hearings.  The witnesses ranged from
Bill Hauck, the former Chairman of the California Constitutional
Revision Commission to former Republican Assembly Leader Robert Naylor
to the current Democratic State Treasurer Bill Lockyer.  Surprisingly,
there was agreement in all the testimony – the deterioration of
professionalism in the state legislature has had a dramatic impact on
its ability to solve California’s problems. 

According to research provided to my committee earlier this year, the Senate Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments Committee,
the National Conference on State Legislatures concluded that California
is one of three states with the nation’s strictest term-limits law –
limiting Senators to two four-year terms (up to a total of 8 years) and
Assemblymembers to three two-year terms (up to a total of 6 years). 
Since California’s term-limits remain relatively popular with voters,
completely eliminating term-limits is not politically feasible. 
However, amending the law to allow legislators to serve all their time
in one house would allow them to develop policy expertise without
eroding the intent of the law.

Last year’s effort to amend the
law to allow legislators to serve a total of 12 years in either house,
Proposition 93, did just that.  However, it included a provision that
would have allowed sitting legislators to remain in office. This
provision sank the initiative; the public voted it down 53.5% to

After listening to the testimony at the Senate
Committee hearing, I am convinced more than ever that we must make
another attempt at “softening” the term limits law.  To that end, I
have authored SCA 24, which would, like Proposition 93, change the
total number of years an individual can serve in the Legislature from
14 years to 12 years.  The measure will allow an individual first
elected to office in November 2010 to serve three four-year terms in
the Senate or six two-year terms in the Assembly or a combination of
the two. 

However, unlike Proposition 93, individuals who have
served or are currently serving in either house will not be able to
extend their terms – they will be bound by the existing law.
24 will allow Legislators to develop policy expertise, reduce the
number of legislators looking for “the next office to run for” and
reinstill confidence in the legislative process.  I believe that this
change to term-limits can find consensus and is an important piece in
our effort to reforming California.

Working to Fix the Structural Mess Destroying California’s State Government

This is a guest post by Senator Loni Hancock. 
Senator Hancock.jpg

Editor’s note:  Senator Loni Hancock, who represents the 9th State Senate District, has long been an advocate for good government and transparency. As chair of the Senate Committee on Elections, Reapportionment and Constitutional Amendments, she has worked tirelessly to bring accountability and governance reform to assure California meets the challenges of the 21st century.

She is passionate about campaign finance reform and getting corporate money out of the electoral process to ensure candidates and legislative leaders represent their constituents and not the big campaign contributors who buy far too much of their own self-interest at the expense of the public.

So it was a natural for Senator Hancock to be selected to serve on this newly established Assembly and Senate “Select Committee on Improving State Government” and she’s a natural to comment on her thoughts, priorities and observations about the need to fix and reform several critical aspects of how state government should be operating to meet the needs of the people of California:

These days, just about everyone agrees that change is needed
in Sacramento.

This year’s state budget set the record for being the
latest, and probably the worst, in California’s history.  It has created severe strains on local governments
and school districts, and threatens to cut the heart out of education and
undermine programs that help  those most
in need.  It’s time for change and that
change needs to happen now.

The good news is that we are finally seeing movement for
change in Sacramento.  Today, the
newly-created “Assembly and Senate Select Committee on Improving State Government,”
will hold the first in a series of open, public hearings throughout the state. The
Committee is charged with developing specific proposals to reform state
government.  It will investigate
obstacles that stand in the way of government that meets the needs of the
people of California, and recommend action to remove those obstacles.

I believe there are three major reforms needed to get
California back on track:

(1) We must remove the 2/3rds requirement to pass a state
California is one of only three states with a 2/3 budget rule
requirement.  This has allowed a few legislators
to hold the entire state budget hostage. 
The U.S. Congress and 47 states require a simple majority to pass a
budget.  We need to give the majority
party, Republican or Democratic, the ability to do its job and then hold them
accountable.  That’s what democracy is
all about.

(2) We need to reform term limits. Legislators with a lack of experience or institutional
memory are dealing with increasingly complex challenges and a dysfunctional
governance system.
  More than one-third
of the Assembly is brand-new every two years,

(3)  We need to
reduce the influence of money in politics.
Public financing of campaigns in California would change the playing
field considerably.  Candidates would no
longer have to raise campaign funds from special interests with legislation
pending before the Legislature; they would owe their election only to
the people they represent.

The Joint Committee on Improving State Government will hold
four hearings throughout the state.  In
addition to today’s hearing in Sacramento, the Committee will hold open, pubic
hearings in the Bay Area on November 12th; in Los Angeles on
December 3rd; and in the Central Valley on December 15th.  Specific details of time and location are
still being worked out.

I highly encourage you to attend one of these hearings – your
voices and your concerns must be part of the process if we are to truly restore
democracy and ensure a brighter future for our state.

BNRT–Not a European Vacation

Assemblymember and Budget Chair Noreen Evans has been commenting
on the “work” of the COTCE Commission which was created to try to deal
with California’s revenue creation issues that have been blamed for the
annual budget problems here in California.
While there is
clearly room for improvement in how we collect the revenues necessary
to invest in our state and its future, the suggestions by Gerald Parsky
and the Governor who appointed him to head this work are really a
subterfuge for giving more tax relief to the wealthiest Californians at
the expense of the rest of us.

We know that
the real answers call for closing billions in tax loopholes for the
rich and large corporations, correcting a split roll for real estate
taxes so that big commercial properties don’t short=change our
communities and realizing that as a 21st century economy,we’re
primarily a service-based and technology-based economy where revenues
should be coming from services and internet sales. 

Here are
Assemblymember Evans observations on the half-baked proposal by Parsky
and his crew to misdirect our attention away from what we should be
considering and lessening the responsibilities on those who have
benefited the most and stand to gain the most from this ill-conceived
and transparent attempt to give the rich even more.” — HBJ

BNRT–Not a European Vacation

by Assemblymember and Budget Chair Noreen Evans

The proposal by the Commission on the 21st Century Economy (COTCE–rhymes with “gotcha”) to scrap the California tax system and replace it with the Business Net Receipts Tax (BNRT) is riddled with problems and full of questions without answers. It begs
the question–how stupid do they think we really are?

Few people understand how the BNRT works and no one knows how it will impact 
California. Some compare the BNRT with the European Union’s Value Added Tax (VAT). That’s like saying the Oakland Raiders and Manchester United both play football.

the surface, both tax systems sound similar. The proposed BNRT would be
imposed as a percentage of a business’ gross receipts from the sale of
goods and services, minus the business’ purchases of goods and services
from other businesses (which have already been taxed). A VAT is a tax
on manufacturers at each stage of production on the amount of value an
additional producer adds to a product. This cost is typically passed on
to the consumer in the end.

A key distinction between the VAT and BNRT lies in the fact that California is a state, not a sovereign nation. So, the BNRT lacks a critical element of Europe‘s VAT–the border adjustment. The United States Constitution prevents California from
implementing a border adjustment because that interferes with
interstate commerce, which can only be regulated by the federal

This creates an enormous problem for California businesses. Europe‘s VAT system ensures that products made in Europe are taxed at the same rate as products made abroad by placing the VAT on products entering Europe and rebating the tax for those products leaving Europe. However, under the United States Constitution, businesses without a nexus to California cannot be taxed by California. Thus, California products will be subject to the BNRT while products made elsewhere will enjoy a competitive tax advantage.

The BNRT’s problems don’t end there. Most importantly, the BNRT reduces incentives to create jobs in California. 

Commission’s proposal provides a tax deduction for payments to
independent contractors, but not for employee wages. It’s almost as if
the Commission was trying to find a way to punish 
California workers. Under this proposal, California businesses would be taxed for keeping employees on their payroll. The logical result is that Californiabusinesses will turn to out-of-state labor contractors who hire workers in California and then contract them out to California businesses. Thus, Californians will have even less stable employment and we would see fewer jobs created here.

Adopting the untested BNRT proposal requires blind faith in the Commission’s promises that it will somehow benefit California,
despite all the evidence to the contrary. It’s like quitting your dull,
but reliable job because a late night commercial promises you can make
$100,000 working from home.

Who benefits from this proposal? California workers don’t benefit. California‘s small businesses don’t benefit. California corporations don’t benefit. Any benefit to California‘s
taxpayers is entirely speculative. The only certain beneficiaries from
this proposal are out-of-state businesses, large, multi-state or
multi-national businesses, and out-of-state labor contractors. Was this
really the purpose of the Commission on the 21st Century Economy?

Many economists love Europe‘s
VAT and extol its benefits to the European economy. But don’t be
tricked into believing that the proposed BNRT will bring these or
similar benefits to 
California. The greatest lessons Californians can learn from Europe regarding the BNRT are the lessons learned the hard way in the casinos of Monte Carlo.

Who is Roman Polanski?

Here in California, we take our celebrities very seriously. We
love it when they become immersed in controversy perhaps because it
provides a diversion from some of the other more complex and difficult
issues of the day. Here we have a controversy that does both. Although
it has been decades since the crime and acknowledgement of it by Roman
Polanski, he used his money and fame to skirt any consequence until
now. His predicament has brought out many of Hollywood’s top
celebrities to his defense. At the same time, the issue of violence
against women, and sexual violence in particular continues to be a
serious concern in our society. 

We at Speak
Out California are committed to women’s equality and dignity. It is one
of the fundamental principles of a just and equal society. Women’s
rights advocate and friend of Speak
Out California, Janice Rocco, has today’s guest
column on the subject.

Who is Roman Polanski?

A guest post by Janice Rocco of California National Organization for Women.
Who is Roman Polanski and what should the
consequences of his actions be? That question seems to have a
surprisingly different answer depending on one’s vantage point. To more
than 100 in the international film community who signed a petition
demanding his “immediate release”, he is apparently first and foremost
“one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers” whose freedom should not
be taken away. To me, a women who was a child growing up in Los Angeles
when Roman Polanski pled guilty to a sex crime against a child, he is a
rapist who fled justice and has yet to take responsibility for a crime
that harmed a 13 year old girl, her family and the rest of us who have
watched him evade justice and thumb his nose at the legal system for
more than three decades.

The fact that violence against women is commonplace in this
country and around the globe does not make it acceptable or mean that
when a talented celebrity is the perpetrator that we should ignore that
a serious crime took place. The fact that in popular culture, including
many films, women are often portrayed in demeaning ways and violence is
often sexualized does not mean that women and their families and
friends aren’t devastated by the crime of rape each and every day.

How many women in this country and others, especially women
who have survived a sexual assault, watched the Academy Awards the year
that Polanski won the best director award and felt anger, pain or
disgust as an audience full of his colleagues in the film industry
cheered for this man who still doesn’t have the decency to turn himself

a lot of people have been educated about rape since 1977 when Polanski
pled guilty to raping a 13 year old girl, some still want to believe
that rape is something that only takes place in a dark alley and is
committed by a stranger. Reality is that the majority of rapes are
committed by someone known to the victim. That
doesn’t make the crime any less traumatic or mean that anything less
than a prison sentence is appropriate for those who commit this violent

One shouldn’t have to read the grand jury testimony
of a 13 year old girl to understand the seriousness of what occurred
back in 1977. Polanski was charged with giving a drug to a minor,
committing a lewd act upon a person less than 14, rape of a minor, rape
by use of a drug, oral copulation and sodomy. All the charges were
felonies. He was allowed to plead guilty to the charge of unlawful
sexual intercourse with a minor in order to spare the young woman the
difficulty of having to testify publicly when her identity was not yet
known to the public.

Thirty-two years have passed since Polanski’s guilty plea and
he hadn’t spent a
day in jail since fleeing this country until authorities in Switzerland
took Polanski into custody last weekend. The number of years that a
rich and powerful man has successfully evaded justice, should be
considered when he is sentenced for his crime, but only from the
standpoint that his evasion of justice should bring a more severe
penalty than he would have received three decades ago for what already
was a very serious crime.

There are those who say that since the woman who survived this
rape over thirty years ago has forgiven Polanski and wants to put this
behind her, he should not be punished by the legal system. Those people
forget that this is a case of The People of the State of California vs.
Roman Polanski and that justice has yet to be served. If
Roman Polanski wants to help put this behind the woman who he harmed so
many years ago, he should stop fighting extradition and return to
California for his sentencing hearing for the crime to which he pled

Justice is rarely done when celebrities commit crimes. The
victims are generally re-victimized by the media coverage and often the
perpetrators receive little in the way of punishment for their crimes.
It is long past time that Roman Polanski faces the consequences for his
crimes. Justice should not be delayed even one more day.

– Janice Rocco, Southwest Regional Director of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Tax Reform For Billionaires — Guest Post from Assemblymember Noreen Evans

One need go no further than Assembly Budget Chair Noreen
Evans comments on the Parsky report. She likens this to a Leona Helmsley coup.
For those who remember this delightful billionaire, she was America’s version of
Marie Antoinette who say famously stated that those who couldn’t afford to eat
bread should simply “eat cake”
. – HBJ

Here are Assemblymember Evans

Tax Reform For Billionaires

The Commission on the 21st Century Economy, tasked with crafting
proposals to modernize California’s tax policy and ease the volatility
of its revenues, released its final report today. Leona Helmsley would be proud.

– a billionaire New York City hotel operator and real estate developer
sentenced to prison for tax evasion – famously said, “Only the little
people pay taxes.” With all the tax cuts being proposed by the
Commission for big business and the wealthy, her observation will be
true in California.

If adopted, the report’s recommendations – available here
– would dramatically reshape tax policy in California and place the
burden squarely on our already over-burdened, underpaid, and
under-employed working families. These recommendations include:

Reducing the number of tax brackets from six to two. The new tax rate
would be 2.75 percent for taxable income up to $56,000 for joint filers
($28,000 for single) and 6.5 percent for taxable income above that
• Eliminating the 8.84 percent corporate tax and the $800 minimum franchise tax;

Eliminating the current 5 percent state sales tax, with the exception
of the sales tax on gas and diesel fuels which would continue to be
dedicated to transportation;
• Establishing a new tax, not to exceed
4 percent, applied to the net receipts of businesses. Small businesses
with less than $500,000 in gross annual receipts would be exempt from
this tax;
• Creating an independent tax dispute forum – This forum
would provide taxpayers with a forum for resolving disputes with the
state; and
• Increasing the state’s Rainy Day Reserve Fund from 5
percent of revenues to 12.5 percent and restricting the government’s
ability to use the reserves.

By flattening
our tax policy, these recommendations coddle CEOs and billionaires
while kicking California families to the curb. No wonder the Commission
shut the public out of the process to complete its work in secret.

is equally important to note what is not recommended by the report, but
would have contributed to increasing and stabilizing the state’s tax
base: a new carbon tax, an oil severance tax, extending the sales tax
to certain services, and requiring corporate-owned real estate to be
reassessed at market value on a regular basis.

families are struggling to make ends meet. This recession has produced
record unemployment, fueled massive wage reductions, and resulted in
huge sales declines. Increasing the tax burden on hard-working families
cannot fairly and reliably fill the huge revenue gap created by
reducing income taxes on the wealthy and eliminating corporate taxes.

reform decisions are too important for experimental guesswork. But this
is exactly what the Commission’s report is urging. While the Commission
asserts that its proposals will create a tax structure that will more
reliably support state services, that assertion is unsupported by the
available evidence. In fact, the Commission has thus far refused to
make available to the public studies and information that form the
basis of its proposals. Adopting the Commission’s proposals would be
playing Russian roulette with California’s future.

Originally posted at Assemblymember Noreen Evans’ Budget Blog

New Budget Essay One: the “Meaning” of the Prop 1A Vote

This is a guest post from former State Senator Sheila Kuehl.  This is a more accurate analysis of the real reasons the initiatives failed than the spin you are probably hearing on the radio or word-of-mouth.  As we discussed the other day, polls show a number fo reasons the voters rejected the proposals, few of them related to taxes.

The Problem With the Rhetoric

after the election, the Governor announced that the “voters had spoken”
and that the defeat of Prop 1A “clearly” meant that Californians stood
adamantly against any new taxes or fees.  He must have been reading the
leaves in the bottom of his tea cup in order to come to a favored
conclusion, however, because there was no evidence to support his
assertion.  Quite the opposite, as a poll taken between May 16 and May
20 showed.  (see below)

The Governor didn’t stop there. 
Building on his unsubstantiated assertion, he went on to maintain, that
he, therefore, had no choice but to propose a budget that would put the
wrecking ball to California’s safety net for healthcare, children, the
elderly and schools.  As shown below, his conclusion as to the meaning
of the “No” vote on Prop 1A is not true, and, therefore, these proposed
cuts, and a budget with no new revenues, is not the most acceptable
answer for California’s voters.

What Would Prop 1A Have Done Again?

voters indicated they were confused by Prop 1A and with some good
reason.  Like every one of the Propositions on the May 19th ballot,
Prop 1A was originally constructed to satisfy Republican demands in
exchange for a minimal number of “aye” votes on the February budget. 
As such, Prop 1A would have placed a spending cap on future budget
expenditures.  Then, in order to placate Democrats who did not agree
with the spending cap as drafted, an extension to the new sales tax was
added to the Proposition, giving virtually everyone something to hate.
An Interesting Irony

seems sadly ironic that, just as the rest of the United States is
rejecting the right wing’s long stranglehold on our rhetoric,
California, the long hold-out, is embracing it.  Years ago, Grover
Nordquist, one of the right’s mouthpieces, said that his goal was to
shrink government down to where it could be drowned in a bathtub.  By
patiently denigrating government, valorizing private enterprise,
establishing inflexible term limits to guarantee an inexperienced
legislature, setting up a 2/3 vote requirement to raise a tax, but only
a majority to lower one, government in California was set up for the

But California proved stubborn.  Support of schools
and the safety net continued.  Since, by definition, these are jobs
only the government can perform, government continued to be an
important part of all solutions to poverty, education and healthcare. 

now.  This month, even our moderate Republican Governor, along with a
seemingly cowed Democratic majority in both houses, contemplates
throwing in the towel and balancing the budget with nothing but cuts,
cuts, cuts, thus fulfilling Grover Nordquist’s desire. 

the call for these cuts is predicated on misreading the tea leaves of
the defeat of Prop 1A, in an election in which only 23% of registered
voters voted (4 million out of 17.1 million, or about 10.5% of

What Did The Voters (and the Non-Voters) “mean” by the Defeat of Prop 1A

only real information we have about voters’ intentions is a poll
conducted between May 16th and May 20th of 603 people who voted in the
election and 405 who did not.  According to several sections of the

1) 3 out of 4 voters and non-voters simply thought these propositions should never have been put to them for a vote.
7 out of 10 did not like that the Governor and the Legislature keep
balancing the budget “on the backs of average Californians” instead of
requiring special interests to pay their fair share.  Only 20% thought
all Californians were being asked to share the pain equally.

How About the “No on 1A” voters specifically?

is the result that puts the lie to the Governor’s interpretation.  Of
voters who voted “no” on Prop 1A, less than half said the government
should rely entirely on spending cuts and not increase taxes.

of all voters agreed that shared responsibility should be part of the
solution and not simply reliance on spending cuts to balance the budget.

Do “No” Voters on Prop 1A Support Any Taxes?

to the poll, 62% of “no” voters supported increased taxes on alcohol
(75% of “yes” and “no” combined supported this tax), 62% supported
increased taxes on tobacco (74% of all voters), 60% supported an oil
extraction tax on oil companies drawing oil and gas in California (73%
of all voters), 58% supported not allowing corporations buying property
to be protected by Prop 13 (63% of all voters), 55% supported not
allowing tax credits for companies to go over 50% of what they owe in
taxes (59% of all voters).

Conclusion:  Voters Would Support a Balanced Approach

so, the budget will have to incorporate deep cuts no matter what the
solution.  The only question is how much, and whether some of the cuts
can be made less deeply because revenue solutions are part of the

Next:  A Possible, Though Still Painful, Way to Balance the Budget