Less than a month before Election Day, the simmering rivalry between two tax initiatives that would provide money for schools is boiling over. The confrontation may sink them both.
From the LAT's Anthony York: "Backers of Proposition 30, Brown’s plan to temporarily hike levies on upper incomes and state sales, sent a letter to Molly Munger on Monday urging her to reconsider her plans to draw sharp comparisons between her tax plan, Proposition 38, and the one pushed by Brown."
“If you launch these Prop. 30 comparison attack ads, you will be the second Munger spending millions against our students and schools,” the letter states. “In the end, the Munger family could be known as the millionaires who destroyed California’s schools and university.”
Munger has invested $31 million of her own money for the Yes on 38 campaign. Her brother, Charles Munger Jr., has dumped $22 million into a committee aimed directly at taking down the governor’s tax-hike plan. The Yes on 38 campaign dismissed the letter Monday. "As much as we appreciate the strategic advice given here, we reserve the right to draw a comparison between Prop. 30 and Prop. 38 because we believe Prop. 38 is much better for schools," said spokesman Nathan Ballard."
Meanwhile, spiraling gasoline prices are starting to ease, although they still remain at painful levels.
From the Chronicles's David R. Baker: "The state's average price hit a new high of $4.67 for a gallon of regular Monday, according to the AAA auto club's daily survey. Isolated stations charged more than $5 after a series of problems with the state's oil refineries and pipelines cut supplies."
"But the rate of increase in gas prices has slowed to a crawl, usually a sign that the market is nearing its peak. The statewide average rose only 1 cent on Sunday. Late last week, it jumped as much as 17 cents in one day."
"We're peaking, plateauing, whatever you want to call it," said Denton Cinquegrana, senior editor for West Coast fuel markets at the Oil Price Information Service. He expects to see a noticeable decline in prices at the pump by the end of the week."
Mercury Insurance titan George Joseph is putting yet more money into his November ballot initiative to rewrite California's insurance laws.
From Marc Lifsher in the LAT: " Insurance billionaire George Joseph has poured another $8 million into his self-funded campaign to pass Proposition 33, a change in California insurance law he's been trying to get for a dozen years."
"Joseph's latest contribution was posted on the secretary of state's website Monday. In all, he has given 99.5% of the $16.2 million that the Yes on 33 campaign has raised for the contest on the Nov. 6 California ballot."
"Joseph said he is personally bankrolling the campaign and its television advertising because he believes that passage of Proposition 33 would create a more competitive insurance market that would boost the prospects of his Mercury General Corp. The Los Angeles company is the state's fourth-largest private passenger automobile insurer."
The newly approved pension-reform law targets "spiking," in which inflated compensation is used to calculate benefits.
From Calpensions' Ed Mendel: "A public pension reform bill signed by Gov. Brown last month attempts to curb abuses such as two Contra Costa fire chiefs retiring, at ages 50 and 51, with lifetime pensions far above their final salary."
"One chief with a final annual salary of $185,000 received a $241,000 annual pension, and the other had a final salary of $221,000 and received a $284,000 pension, the Contra Costa Times revealed."
“People point to me as a poster child for pension spiking, but I did not make these rules,” Moraga Orinda fire chief, Peter Nowicki, told the Wall Street Journal in 2009. He stayed on as a consultant, receiving $176,000 in pay on top of his $241,000 pension."
"The reform bill takes several steps to curb “spiking” by boosting the pay on which pensions are based: a Social Security-linked cap on pensionable pay, a ban on unused vacation and sick time and other add-ons, and a three-year average instead of one year."
The hunt for good biofuels goes on, and one of the possibilities is the sinister castor bean, which is both useful and deadly.
From Harry Cline in the Western Farm Press: "The latest entry into the California derby to find a profitable biofuel crop is one that can kill you, cure all that ails you and get you tossed into jail as a terrorist, if found in your possession..."
"He is field testing a passel of potential biofuel crops: canola, camelina, meadowfoam, sugar beets, sweet sorghum, sugar cane, switchgrass among others. Castor is the latest. It is the only one where there is "Do Not Cross" yellow tape circling the experimental plots."
"The seed of a castor bean plant, Ricinus communis, contains two toxins that are poisonous to people, animals, and insects. The main toxic protein, ricin, is so potent that a single milligram is sufficient to kill an adult. Ricin is considered both a chemical and biological weapon and is explicitly prohibited by the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BTWC). It is a slow-acting poison, with death occurring after 1-3 days."