"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration Tuesday called a new universal health care proposal by Democrats a 'positive sign,' but took issue with the funding
, including a proposed $2-per-pack cigarette tax," writes Aurelio Rojas in the Bee.
"The tax would replace Schwarzenegger's plan to sell the rights to run the state's lottery to a private management company and use the proceeds to help finance his proposed $14 billion health plan.
"'We still think that's the most viable source of those revenues,' Daniel Zingale
, one of the Republican governor's top advisers on health care, told reporters a day after Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez
, D-Los Angeles, outlined the Democratic plan.
"That plan would raise the state's tobacco taxes, including an increase in the current 87-cents-a-pack cigarette tax to $2.87. A $2.60-a-pack increase, sponsored by California's hospital industry and health care advocates, was opposed by Schwarzenegger and rejected by voters last year.
"All the funding in the Democratic and governor's plans would be on the November 2008 ballot and require passage by voters."
Meanwhile, the California Nurses Association blasted the plan in a press release.
"'As more details continue to emerge, it is apparent that this proposal is riddled with flaws that could exacerbate the healthcare crisis for countless numbers of California families,' said CNA/NNOC Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro
The author's name, for one...
"For proponents of a ballot measure to change how California tallies its electoral votes in presidential elections, hope came Tuesday in the form of more than $538,000 in campaign contributions
," reports Shane Goldmacher in the Bee.
"The cash infusion is critical as backers of the controversial measure race to gather signatures to place the measure before voters on the June 2008 ballot. They are paying signature-gatherers as much as $3 per name.
"The proposed initiative would assign California's 55 electoral votes by congressional district rather than awarding all to the presidential candidate who wins statewide.
"Republicans dominated the list of donors
, including elected officials and top donors to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, fueling the fire of Democratic opponents who have charged that the measure is a GOP attempt to rig the 2008 presidential election."
Meanwhile, "Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner committed his personal wealth Tuesday to defeating a Feb. 5 term limits ballot initiative
that would allow current legislators to stick around a few more years," reports Nancy Vogel in the Times.
"Poizner called the initiative a 'naked power grab' by sitting Democratic legislators and said he would spend at least $1.5 million to educate voters against it."
That's in contrast to the partially nude power grab trying to the change the state's electoral vote process.
"A national group called U.S. Term Limits also donated $1.5 million Tuesday, suddenly enriching an opposition movement that until now had struggled, gathering less than $200,000 in contributions."
CW's Malcolm Maclachlan looks at some of the other donors for and against Prop. 93
In the meantime, the son of billionaire investor Warren Buffet's longtime business partner donated $50,000 to the anti-93 effort. Charles T. Munger Jr., a theoretical physicist at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, made the donation on Oct. 29. He is the son of the vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Corp. With a net worth of $1.9 billion, the elder Munger was listed by Forbes magazine this year as the world's 538th richest person. He gave $43.5 million to Stanford University in 2004 to fund the construction of a dorm bearing his name.
"He's interested in the issue," Spillane said of the younger Munger. "I think you'll see a lot more people like that donating in the days ahead."
In the meantime, Spillane claimed many of the big donors to the pro-93 side were afraid not to give.
"It's a whose who of the Capitol's largest interest groups," Spillane said. "People who do business in the legislature who have a gun pointed at their heads by legislative leadership."
The California Teacher's Association and the Los Angeles Casino PAC each have given a quarter million dollars. Those giving $100,000 each include the California Correction Peace Officers Association, the SEIU United Healthcare Workers, and a pair of gaming tribes, the Pala Band of Mission Indians and the United Auburn Indian Community. At least four members of Núñez caucus have also made donations of at least $45,000.
Dan Walters looks at the benefits Steve Poizner gets for taking the lead on the campaign against extending term limits
"Poizner made a rare three-fer political maneuver by taking command of the cash-strapped campaign against Proposition 93, to wit:
"By designating himself as the opposition campaign's chief spokesman, he will raise his public profile and bolster whatever ambitions he may harbor for 2010 (for the record, he sidesteps that aspect).
"By pumping $1.5 million of his own money – pocket change, relatively speaking – and pledging to raise millions more from himself and others to "do whatever it takes ... to educate voters" about Proposition 93, he ensures that the opposition campaign will be competitive.
"By denouncing Proposition 93 as 'a naked power grab' by Democratic legislative leaders, he will undercut the measure's support among Republican voters, who, polls indicate, believe that it would punish the Legislature."
Meanwhile, will the governorship be something desirable, or will it be a sea of red ink?
The LAT's Evan Halper writes "[T]he governor finds himself in a predicament similar to that of his predecessor
, Democrat Gray Davis: staring at a crippling budget shortfall that threatens to overshadow all other business in the Capitol and tarnish his political legacy.
"On Monday, Schwarzenegger ordered all state agencies to prepare plans to cut spending across the board by 10% next year. Education, transportation and healthcare will all be affected. Some programs face elimination. Layoffs may loom. The state's budget shortfall, thanks largely to the troubled housing market, has ballooned from a few billion dollars projected at the beginning of the year to $10 billion.
"Experts are not surprised.
"'There has been lots of talk and lots of gimmicks, but none of the state's underlying budget problems have been dealt with,' said Ryan Ratcliff
, an economist at the UCLA Anderson Forecast. 'Even in the middle of a revenue boom, we kept spending more than we take in.'
"Candidate Schwarzenegger condemned such fiscal policy in 2003. He challenged voters frustrated with the state's mismanagement of the budget to oust Davis. Now, on his watch, the same problems are creeping back."
But a new health care plan would obviously fix all that...
"Watching anxiously as the state deals lucrative contracts to Indian gaming groups, a coalition of seven Los Angeles County casinos has anted up to increase its influence with legislative leaders
, donating $1.3 million to lawmakers' pet causes in the last 18 months," reports the LAT's Patrick McGreevy.
"The contributions were made to committees with ties to state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata
(D-Oakland) and others. Legislative leaders have passed a batch of bills this year that relax rules on the casinos.
"At least one of the contributions by the Los Angeles Casinos Political Action Committee has raised eyebrows.
"The casinos gave $250,000 to a Perata-supported political group that is paying petition circulators to gather signatures for a recall of state Sen. Jeff Denham
(R-Merced), who has clashed with the Democratic leader over the budget and other issues."
Orange County Sheriff Mike Corona is taking a paid, two-month leave
while his legal issues are worked out, reports the LAT.
"Although Carona's decision was designed to quiet criticism, which has built steadily since he was indicted last week in a federal corruption case, it also stoked anger from some who viewed the move as little more than a paid vacation.
"Carona's decision to step away from his job was a quick turnaround from the defiant stance he took last week.
"I will be taking a 60-day leave of absence in order to devote my full time and energy towards battling the untrue and baseless charges made against my wife, Debbie, and me," Carona said in a prepared statement Tuesday."
"The state auditor Tuesday criticized the 23-campus Cal State University system for the way it has raised pay and benefits for top executives
, provided them moving expenses and given some post-retirement pay without requiring work," reports Larry Gordon in the Times.
"In a report requested by legislators, the Bureau of State Audits urged the Cal State system to abandon a method that compares salaries of top administrators to those at 20 other schools nationwide but does not figure in such items as housing and car allowances that can add $60,000 a year to a campus president's package.
"Such a flawed survey, supposedly showing a large lag in pay, was behind a controversial move by the Cal State Board of Trustees in September to hike average salaries for 26 top administrators and campus presidents about 12%, in some cases amounting to more than $44,000 a year, the audit noted.
"As a result of that decision, system Chancellor Charles B. Reed
now is paid $421,500 a year and campus presidents average $292,000, plus housing and car allowances."
And finally from our It's a Bird, It's a Plane...Files, an Oregon "fire chief says a couple were lucky they weren't killed by a cow that fell off a 200-foot cliff and smashed their minivan
. District 5 Chief Arnold Baker says they missed being killed by a matter of inches Sunday as they drove on Highway 150 near Manson.
"The 600-pound cow fell about 200 feet and landed on the hood of the minivan carrying Charles Everson Jr. and his wife Linda of Westland, Mich., who were in the area celebrating their one-year wedding anniversary. They were checked at Lake Chelan Community Hospital as a precaution."