Flap’s California Morning Collection: August 18, 2011

Posted 1 CommentPosted in California Citizens Redistricting Commission, California State Senate, David Cruz Thayne, Elton Gallegly, Flap's California Morning Collection, Jerry Brown

A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.

Westlake Village man announces plans to run for new 26th Congressional District

David Cruz Thayne, a former professional tennis player from Westlake Village, on Wednesday became the second Democrat to announce plans to run in the newly drawn 26th Congressional District, which covers most of Ventura County.

Thayne, 40, is a tennis coach and the producer of two tennis-themed documentary films. He joins Moorpark City Councilman David Pollock as the only announced candidates in a district that is expected to attract considerable national attention. It is home to no incumbent and the partisan leanings of its voters are such that the candidates in last fall’s governor’s race were separated by only 1 percentage point.

The district includes all of Ventura County except for most of the city of Simi Valley and a small slice of the city of Ventura. The city of Westlake Village is the only area of Los Angeles County in the district.

It is likely the district in which incumbent Rep. Elton Gallegly, R-Simi Valley, will run if he chooses to seek re-election. Although his home is a few blocks outside the district boundary, Gallegly has represented much of the area for the last two decades.

The incumbent congressman has made no announcement about his plans for 2012.

California governor not interested in Prop 13 reforms

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday turned down a challenge from the mayor of Los Angeles to reform Proposition 13, saying he would prefer to focus his attention on bringing financial stability to California.

Brown was responding to comments by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who called on the governor and state lawmakers to think big in solving California’s ongoing fiscal problems. The mayor suggested the Prop 13 property tax cap be lifted for businesses and left in place for homeowners.

Prop 13, however, is seen as untouchable by many politicians in the state because it is so popular with the electorate.

During a speech Tuesday before the Sacramento Press Club, Villaraigosa urged the governor to convene a commission on tax reform and estimated that gradually lifting the Prop 13 cap for businesses could raise between $2.1 billion and $8 billion a year money the state could invest in education and lower property taxes for homeowners.

Brown rejected the idea after making a luncheon address at Maddy Institute in Fresno.

“I’m not planning to join (Villaraigosa), but I certainly welcome the debate,” Brown said. “I will focus my attention on ensuring financial stability and making the state more efficient.”

Brown did not offer specifics beyond saying he plans to support a ballot initiative next year for new revenue. He also said jobs would come by generating confidence that California is on stable footing.

One way he might do that is through infrastructure investment.

Republicans take first step toward overturning new Senate districts

A group of Republicans has taken the first step toward putting a referendum on the ballot that they hope will lead to the overturning of new Senate districts drawn by a state panel.

Republican attorney Charles Bell asked the state attorney general in writing to prepare the title and summary of the referendum so that a petition drive can begin to qualify the measure for the ballot. The campaign needs to collect more than 504,000 signatures in 90 days.

“The belief is that at least a number of the districts were not drawn in accordance with the [federal] Voting Rights Act and some provisions of the state Constitution concerning compactness and avoiding county splits,” said Bell, who is an attorney for the California Republican Party and the new campaign committee Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting.

Bell said Wednesday he submitted the request on behalf of the campaign committee, which includes Orange County businesswoman Julie Vandermost. The referendum drive is being supported by the state party as well as the Senate Republican Caucus.

Common Cause blasts referendum targeting new Senate districts

The head of California Common Cause said Wednesday that a Republican-backed referendum drive to overturn new Senate districts is the work of “partisan insiders” and is attacking a plan that reflects the will of voters who approved an independent redistricting process.

“This referendum is motivated by pure party politics, funded by incumbents who did not get the safe districts that they wanted,” said Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause.

Her organization was one of several that supported a 2008 ballot measure that created the 14-member Citizens Redistricting Commission, taking the job of redrawing legislative districts away from lawmakers.

A referendum drive supported by the California Republican Party and Senate Republican Caucus has filed papers required before groups can begin collecting signatures to put the new districts before the voters.

Enjoy your morning!

Flap’s California Morning Collection: August 17, 2011

Posted Posted in California, Elton Gallegly, Flap's California Morning Collection, Poker, Tony Strickland

A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.

Internet poker battle waged in Sacramento

A group of casino operators has taken to radio and television with ads urging state lawmakers to legalize Internet poker in California, prompting opponents to step up pressure for legislators to table the proposal for the year.

The ads by the California Online Poker Assn. say legalizing web-based poker could help the state avoid deep budget cuts. The spots started airing in the Sacramento area this week. Legislators are less than a month away from the deadline to act on bills this year.

“Online poker will provide California with $250 million dollars immediately and billions more in the future,’’ said Ryan Hightower, a spokesman for the association.

The group includes Commerce Casino, Bicycle Club, Hollywood Park Casino and operators of American Indian gaming facilities, including the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians.

Other American Indian tribes have joined the California Tribal Business Alliance, which Tuesday sent a letter to legislators asking them to drop two pending pieces of legislation for the year.

The alliance includes the Pala Band of Mission Indians, which operates a casino near Temecula. The alliance argues that Internet poker could take customers away from brick-and-mortar casinos.

Dan Walters: A corporate tax break Democrats adore – The Film Industry

Democratic politicians and liberal groups, including unions, often rail against corporate tax loopholes as unjustified raids on the public treasury – as they should.

Loopholes are particularly troublesome during periods, such as this one, when state and local budgets are leaking red ink and basic public services are being slashed.

But one multimillion-dollar loophole draws vocal support from those who usually oppose corporate tax breaks – one that happens to benefit a heavily unionized industry whose top executives are overwhelmingly Democrats and contribute lavishly to the party’s candidates and causes.

That would be Southern California’s movie and television production community.

California revenues down, Department of Finance confirms

Gov. Jerry Brown’s Department of Finance said Tuesday that California was $541 million shy of its July revenue forecast, a total similar to one released last week by state Controller John Chiang.

School officials grew nervous last week because the state budget signed by Brown requires K-12 districts to absorb cuts if the state falls $4 billion shy of revenue expectations for the fiscal year. The budget also would impose cuts to higher education, social services and public safety programs.

State legislators and Brown tacked on that $4 billion expectation of higher revenues to finish closing the state deficit in June.

Finance officials, in a department bulletin, cautioned against early concern. They suggested that most of the higher revenues would come on the back end of the fiscal year, from December through June. And they said forecasts by the Legislative Analyst’s Office and Department of Finance in November and December would determine whether the “trigger” cuts are necessary.

The $541 million in missed revenues represents 9.2 percent of the $5.867 billion that Finance expected the state to receive in July.

November 2012 Targets – Part Three: The State Senate

Last week, I made my early picks a to where the action may be for Congress and the state Assembly in November 2012. Now, lets look at the state Senate.

First, only the 20 odd-numbered districts are up for election in 2012, and, barring a successful court challenge or referendum, the candidates will run in one of the newly drawn districts that the Citizens Redistricting Commission, in their final vote, are expected to approve today, August 15.

Senators elected in 2010 in one of the 20 even-numbered districts were elected to a four-year term and will represent those districts as drawn until the end of their current term in 2014. Should any of these senators resign his/her seat, a special election would be held to fill the unexpired term, but the election would be held under the old lines. The newly drawn even-numbered districts do not become legal until the 2014 election cycle.

Here are the odd-numbered senate districts that I pick as possibly being competitive, with the more likely targets being listed first.

27th Senate District: Republican Sen. Tony Strickland and Democratic Sen. Fran Pavley are gearing up to battle each other for this highly competitive district that encompasses Ventura County’s Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks, and the L.A. County city of Malibu, stretching north through the west San Fernando Valley and ending in Santa Clarita. Forty percent of the voters in this new district reside in the current 19th District represented by Strickland, while thirty-six percent reside in Pavley’s current 23rd District.  It’s also interesting to note that half of the new Senate district overlaps Assembly districts currently represented by Republicans Jeff Gorell and Cameron Smyth, while the other half overlaps Assembly districts currently represented by Democrats Robert Blumenfield and Julia Brownley.

Jerry Brown and Meg Whitman tied here, 47% -47%, while Carly Fiorina squeaked by Barbara Boxer 47% – 46%.

Side Note: Should Cong. Elton Gallegly (R) decide to not seek reelection to Congress next year, Strickland could decide to run for the Gallegly congressional seat. That would open the door for Asm. Cameron Smyth (R-Santa Clarita) to run in this district.

I look for Tony Strickland to run for the Congressional seat of a retiring Elton Gallegly

Enjoy your morning!

Flap’s California Morning Collection: August 3, 2011

Posted Posted in Amazon Tax, California, California Citizens Redistricting Commission, Flap's California Morning Collection, Internet Sales Taxes, Tea Party

A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.

For Central Coast Democrats, a prize and a problem

Democrats on California’s Central Coast were handed a rare prize last week when the Citizens Redistricting Commission created a Senate district with no incumbent and a 12-percentage point Democratic voter registration edge.

The race is already on to see who gets to claim the prize of becoming the party’s candidate, and it could be run on a track that is crowded, uncertain and potentially dangerous.

Three contestants have either reached or are approaching the starting line:

– Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, a former assemblywoman who lost a Senate race in 2008 by fewer than 900 votes in a district that was much less friendly to a Democrat. She says she’s “seriously considering” becoming a candidate. “I’m very much leaning in that direction.”

– Jason Hodge of Oxnard, a Ventura County firefighter and an elected commissioner of the Oxnard Harbor District. Hodge has been planning a run for the Legislature for months, has formed a campaign committee and begun raising money. He says he’s definitely running and has “a full expectation to raise $1 million for this primary.”

– Pedro Nava of Santa Barbara, a former assemblyman and onetime member of the California Coastal Commission. He says he hasn’t made up his mind, but muses that the Senate district “almost looks like someone drew it for me.” Nava says that by Labor Day, “Everybody should have a sense of what’s real and what’s possible.”

None says he or she would shy away from a primary race in which there are multiple Democratic candidates.

Tea Party picks up steam, demands further cuts

National Tea Party leaders in California were thrilled about one by-product of the political bloodbath over raising the federal debt ceiling: The fight showed that after two years of rabble-rousing from outside the Capitol, the Tea Party has real power to shape the debate in Washington.

Their challenge now that President Obama has signed the debt limit law: Can the Tea Party transform its government-shrinking mantra into long-term power, or will it be a one-hit wonder?

They’re not stopping to think about it. This month, Tea Partiers will storm town hall meetings of Republican and Democratic members of Congress and demand even more cuts. It’s the same strategy Tea Party groups used two years ago to protest – and ultimately water down – the health care reform law when they burst on the national scene.

“You’re going to see a lot of heat at those meetings,” said Mark Meckler, a Grass Valley (Nevada County) resident and co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, a national organization that called House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to lift the ceiling “an embarrassment.”

Tea Partiers say the debt deal didn’t cut enough federal spending, was crafted behind closed doors, and assigned responsibility for further cuts to a small, joint committee of Congress.

That heat will be stoked further on Aug. 27 in Napa, when thousands of supporters and at least two GOP presidential candidates are expected to attend a rally to start a Tea Party Express bus trip across the country. It will end in Tampa, where the group will co-host a Republican presidential debate with CNN.

Two years ago, the idea of the Tea Party co-hosting a debate with the self-proclaimed “most trusted name in news” was unimaginable.

Dan Walters: Remapping of California districts still on a rocky road

So the state’s new redistricting commission, after countless hours of hearings, discussions and mind-numbing exercises in specific line-drawing, has produced its almost-final maps of 177 legislative, congressional and Board of Equalization districts.

What now?

Partisan and independent analysts have cranked up their computers, and their scenarios generally agree that the proposed districts, which need one more commission vote this month, would result in a Democratic gain of congressional seats and give Democrats a strong chance to claim two-thirds majorities in both legislative houses.

Whether those conclusions become reality, however, would depend on what happens in “swing” districts – those potentially winnable by either party – in the 2012 and 2014 election cycles. And their dynamics would be affected by the new and untested “top two” primary system.

It’s “would” rather than “will” because it’s uncertain whether the Citizens Redistricting Commission’s maps will actually go into effect, since they are subject to attack by those – Republicans, mostly – who believe they got the shaft.

Critics could challenge the maps by referendum – collecting signatures to put them on the 2012 ballot – and if a referendum qualifies, the state Supreme Court would adopt temporary maps for the 2012 elections.

It could simply decree that the commission’s maps be used for 2012 while voters decide their permanent fate.

That’s what the court, headed by Chief Justice Rose Bird, decided when a Republican referendum challenged the 1981 maps adopted by a Democratic Legislature and then-Gov. Jerry Brown – a ruling that fueled a drive to oust Bird in the 1986 election.

Or the Supreme Court could draw its own maps, as it did to break redistricting stalemates after the 1970 and 1990 censuses.

Attorney general, FPPC asked to investigate identity theft ads

The state attorney general and California’s campaign watchdog agency have been asked to investigate a new labor-backed group telling voters that signing initiative petitions increases risk of identity fraud.

Carl DeMaio, a San Diego councilman supporting an effort to qualify a local pension reform measure, filed a complaint over the weekend with the Fair Political Practices Commission alleging that Californians Against Identity Theft is running afoul of state disclosure laws and “knowingly using false information to alarm voters and stifle the constitutionally protected rights of individuals” in the radio spots and website it launched last week.

In a separate letter, DeMaio asked state Attorney General Kamala Harris to investigate the ad and other activities he said are “undermining the initiative process” for San Diego voters.

As The Bee reported Friday, the organization behind the ads has received funding from the California Building and Construction Trades Council. The secretary-treasurer of the group, a retired attorney who formerly represented the union, declined to identify other contributors Friday. He said Californians Against Identity Theft, which has not filed a campaign committee, has been incorporated as a 501(c)4 nonprofit.

Californians Against Identity Theft’s 60-second radio ad, which is airing on stations in Sacramento and Southern California, urges listeners not to sign initiative petitions.Organizers say the effort is intended to educate the public about a need for more regulation of the initiative system, particularly the paid-signature gathering industry. But the ad came under fire Friday from good government and consumer advocates who said its claims were largely unsubstantiated and the timing sparked questions about whether the real goal of the campaign is to derail efforts to qualify measures circulating for local or statewide elections.

Attorneys for a statewide proposal to overturn a new online sales tax collection law have also taken aim at the effort, asking radio stations to stop airing the ad amid concerns that it is “filled with false and misleading statements.” The “Amazon Tax” referendum is one of several high-profile measures currently collecting petition signatures to qualify for the 2012 ballot.

Enjoy your morning!

Flap’s California Morning Collection: August 1, 2011

Posted 1 CommentPosted in California Citizens Redistricting Commission, Flap's California Morning Collection

A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.

As everyone, especially the POLS and their consultants in Sacramento wait for the final Legislative and Congressional Maps, the California Legislature continues its summer recess. Later today I will post the tentative maps for Ventura County’s new State Assembly and State Senate districts which are both less GOP dominated. I had the latest Ventura County Congressional District map here.

On to the links…..

Redistricting: The Line Dancing Ends

There are two, and only two, options left at this point for the political districts in which Californians will reside for the next decade: the current maps from the state’s citizens redistricting panel or as-yet-to-exist maps drawn by judges.

And that second option — judicial intervention — only will happen if opponents prevail in court, the voters step in, or a subset of the 14 commissioners change their vote on August 15.

On Friday morning, the California Citizens Redistricting Commission ended months of debate, discussion, and drawing with conditional approval of district lines for the Legislature, Congress, and the state Board of Equalization.

In 17 days, the commission will reconvene to formally certify the maps, the final step of the process laid out by voter-approved initiatives in 2008 and 2010.

“The commission is confident that these maps will prevail will against any and all legal challenges,” said commissioner Connie Galambos Malloy. “We also believe that the new districts will be upheld in the court of public opinion.”

Those two tests are, of course, huge. Already, political and interest group forces are mulling over challenges to the independently drawn maps — the first redistricting process in California history to be conducted largely in public with statewide hearings and thousands of citizen suggestions.

You’ve got a few different options for viewing the maps. The commission’s own web-based map system allows you to see your own state and congressional district by typing in an address; it also uses Google’s satellite maps to allow you to zoom in to see how the lines cross streets, bridges, and beaches.

For political junkies, there are two very good sites that offer partisan, ethnic, and incumbent information: the Democratic consulting firm of Redistricting Partners and the GOP firm Meridian Pacific. These are the guys most reporters have turned to for help in understanding the political implications, given that the commission did not use incumbent and political party information.

There’s also the website of the Rose Institute at Claremont McKenna College, whose map allows you to toggle between draft maps, the existing political maps (drawn in 2001), and the maps submitted by several interest groups.

Calif. poised to OK political donations via text

Donors with fat checkbooks have long been the A-listers in political campaigns.

But the 2012 election cycle may extend membership in that gilded group to small donors – and their cell phones.

California is poised to become the first state to allow residents to donate to a state or local political campaign on their cell phones, an idea that election officials say could bring millions of voters of all economic levels into the campaign donor club.

The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission, which enforces political campaign laws, is backing the idea, which is on track to be approved by October and could be in force by the 2012 elections.

“Sounds like a good idea to me,” said Gov. Jerry Brown, adding his support to the proposal.

The plan would make donating any amount to a state or local campaign as easy as texting a donation to a disaster relief fund or a charity, said FPPC Chair Ann Ravel.

“The goal is democratizing the campaign process – making sure that people at every level are more involved in politics,” Ravel said.

FPPC Executive Director Roman Porter agrees: “If we can get more people to engage in political campaigns – even if they’re giving just $5 – they’re more likely to want to learn about what’s happening with their candidate. And they’re more likely to go out and vote.”

Get your 4G enabled phones, ready – along with your e-Starbucks card!


Dan Walters: New report disparages legislative term limits

A new report by the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies typifies the genre, saying that the term limit ballot measure adopted by voters in 1990 “has failed to achieve its original purposes, and has triggered additional problems as well.”

The report found that term limits has brought more men and women with local government experience to the Capitol, that most of them pursue their political careers elsewhere after being “termed-out,” and that legislators are more dependent on lobbyists and staff than they used to be.

The report presents what one might term the intellectual case against term limits and clearly touts a pending ballot measure that would exchange the current limits, six years in the Assembly and eight in the Senate, for a single 12-year limit on all legislative service.

That would not be an unreasonable modification, but if term limits are as terrible as their critics contend, why not ask voters to scrap them altogether? Because voters still like term limits, seeing them as a bulwark against self-dealing professional politicians.

Indeed, given the chance, voters probably would de-professionalize the Capitol even more. A recent USC/Los Angeles Times poll found that two-thirds would favor reducing the Legislature to a part-time body.

The question, however, remains: Have term limits improved or damaged the Legislature’s effectiveness? And it’s truly impossible to answer definitively because other concurrent factors, such as gerrymandered legislative districts, have played roles.

Enjoy your morning!

Flap’s California Morning Collection: July 25, 2011

Posted 1 CommentPosted in Amazon Tax, California, California Citizens Redistricting Commission

A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.

However we vote, Amazon loses

A Times-USC poll last week showed a close contest. After registered voters were read some arguments on both sides, the so-called Amazon tax was supported by 46% and opposed by 49%.

Looking inside the numbers, two factors stood out, neither shocking.

A majority of Democrats (52%) favored collecting the tax online; the majority of Republicans (59%) opposed it. Independents were almost evenly split.

There was a generational divide: The younger the voters, the more opposed they were to online tax collections. The older, the more supportive. Specifically, 55% of people under 50 were opposed, 52% of the over-50 crowd supported it.

The conflicting political dynamic is this: The best bet is there’ll be a low turnout for the election. A low turnout normally benefits Republicans. Score one for Amazon. But younger people usually don’t bother to show up; older voters do. Score that for Wal-Mart.

Regardless of the outcome on election day, Amazon looks like a loser. First, it’s going to spend tens of millions — and probably scores of millions if it persists in fighting this tax issue in states all over the country.

More important for Amazon, its corporate brand will be smeared from one end of the state to the other. Get used to “tax cheat.”

Ask Pacific Gas & Electric Co., Mercury Insurance Group and Valero oil whether they’d again try to enrich themselves in California voting booths.

But at least this new ballot brawl should benefit one sector of the California economy.

Dan Walters: Higher California fees are the epitome of fairness

The fire fee is conceptually similar to a new requirement that local redevelopment agencies must share their revenue to remain in business. Those agencies have been skimming about $5 billion a year off the top of the property tax pool before funds are distributed among schools and local governments.

The state must make up about $2 billion of that diversion to schools. So in effect, all state taxpayers have been subsidizing local redevelopment projects.

And then there are those college fees. One commentator went so far as to claim that when Republicans refused to go along with Brown’s pitch for additional tax revenue, they were indirectly imposing a tax on college students.

Balderdash.

A fee is a fee, not a tax. Taxes are involuntary but fees pay for specific non-mandatory services, such as college educations.

Roughly a third of California’s adults have four-year college degrees, so they have enjoyed low-cost educations at the expense of everyone else.

One could argue, with great validity, that everyone has a stake in having a well-educated workforce, but even with the fee increases, college in California is still highly subsidized and still a very good deal.

California State University fees will still be among the lowest in the nation vis-à-vis comparable institutions, according to data from the California Postsecondary Education Commission. University of California fees will be about average. And our community college fees are still rock-bottom.

Fair is fair, and the new fees that are causing such angst are very fair.

Will ballot measures test vested pension rights?

A local ballot measure in San Jose and a statewide initiative, both only proposals at this point, would attempt to cut the cost of public pensions promised current workers, believed by many to be “vested rights” protected by court decisions.

The watchdog Little Hoover Commission, warning in February that soaring pension costs could “crush” government, said cuts to new hires would not yield enough savings and recommended legislation allowing pension cuts for current workers.

A key point: The commission and the proposed ballot measures would not cut pension amounts already earned by current workers through years of service. The cuts (in benefits or employer contributions) only apply to pensions earned after the change.

The Little Hoover Commission said the courts have held that public employees have a vested right under contract law to the pension benefits offered on their first day on the job, even if it takes five years of work to qualify for them.

But the commission said the rulings, which differ from private-sector pensions that can be cut for future work, have provided openings to modify benefits for current workers that must be clarified.

“Government agencies cannot generate the needed large-scale savings by reducing benefits only for new hires,” said the commission. “It will take years if not decades to turn over the workforce, and the government is hardly in hiring mode today.”

The backers of the proposed ballot measures are already hearing from defenders of the vested rights of current workers.

A paper on vested rights issued by the California Public Employees Retirement System this month suggests the giant system, which covers half the non-federal government workers in the state, would go to court to protect the rights of its members.

Independent commission finishes drawing new districts

California’s fiest-ever independent redistricting commission finished drawing 177 new congressional, legislative and Board of Equalization maps late Sunday after a rare conflict over racial issues.

The new maps, which will be released to the public on Friday, are expected to generate a flurry of lawsuits and at least one referendum drive, all of which would, if successful, shift redistricting to the courts for final resolution before the 2012 elections.

Created by two ballot measures, the commission is doing a job that in the past had been done either by the Legislature or the courts. Overall, its districts – if finally adopted – are expected to give the state’s dominant Democratic Party opportunities to gain two-thirds majorities in the Legislature and increase its control of the state’s congressional delegation.

The 14-member commission – five Republicans, five Democrats and four independents – spent the entire weekend on final district-by-district reviews, making dozens of mostly minor changes that sometimes involved just a few people.

Enjoy your morning!

Flap’s California Morning Collection: July 1, 2011

Posted Posted in California, California Budget, Flap's California Morning Collection, Jerry Brown, Rick Perry

A morning collection of links and comments about my home, California.

Happy New Fiscal Year, California!

It is a happy day for most California taxpayers as the California Sales Tax has decreased one percentage point and motor vehicle registration fees have decreased, as interim tax increases expire.

It is not a happy day for hybrid automobile drivers since they will no longer have free rein driving in HOV – car poll lanes on California freeways.

But, oh well, I don’t drive a hybrid but do buy products subject to the sales tax.

California starts the new fiscal new year with a state budget which is unusual. But, alas, the budget is really a sham, full of gimmicks and slight of hand. But, hey, it passed California Democratic Controller John Chiang’s review and California Legislators will receive their paychecks. Just for your information, floor sessions are scheduled today so that our fair members of the California Assembly and State Senate can get their per diem for today and, of course, holiday pay for Monday.

It is all about the money.

With those happy thoughts it is onto the links:

Jerry Brown signs budget after making more cuts

California has a balanced budget for the fiscal year that begins today, after Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed the spending plan to close what had been a $26.6 billion deficit when he took office in January.

The governor used his line-item veto to cut an additional $23.8 million from the state’s $86 billion general fund. He also cut another $234 million of spending from bond funds, largely the high-speed rail fund, in a move that could jeopardize BART’s plan to replace aging rail cars. Money also will be blocked from reaching Muni and Caltrain projects.

The governor also signed a bill, which is part of the budget package, that will take $130 million from cities across the state and could force some of those cities to disband.

At a low-key bill-signing ceremony that was closed to all but a photographer, a TV cameraman and a radio reporter, Brown praised lawmakers for doing “an extraordinary job with a budget nobody really liked anyway.” He went on to say, “It really does put our fiscal house in much better shape, but we’re not finished.”

Among the line-item vetoes the governor made in the general fund are a $22.8 million cut to courts. That money would have funded a part of the governor’s realignment plan to shift some inmates to county jails. The implementation has been delayed, and so court officials were expecting the cut.

The governor saved nearly $2 million by eliminating the California Postsecondary Education Commission, which he called “ineffective,” and cut $200,000 from the budget for the Commission on the Status of Women. Because of complicated accounting, some of the money doesn’t fall under the veto total.

Assembly Republicans celebrate ‘death’ of higher tax rates

Your wallets will start feeling heavier tomorrow.

That was the message from a handful of Republican Assembly members this morning as they applauded their resistance during budget talks to approving temporary tax extensions. The budget plan passed by the Legislature this week assures that those taxes will expire at midnight, which the legislators say will save the average Californian about $260 each year.

“This is a great day for California,” said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks. “The death of these taxes is the rebirth of our economy.”

As the legislators gathered in front of a pair of SUVs at Downtown Ford in Sacramento, Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway said that someone buying a $20,000 car this weekend would pay $300 less in taxes and fees than if they bought the car today.

“We’ve held the line. We’ve not negotiated. We’re very happy that July 1st is coming,” said Assemblyman Steve Knight, R-Palmdale.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s original budget plan required at least two Republican votes each from the Assembly and the Senate. It would have held steady the rates for income and sales taxes and vehicle license fees. Instead, all of those rates will drop under the spending plan that Brown is expected to sign into law today.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry wows conservatives in the OC: “Heavy on candor, light on pander”

Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry was a whirlwind in the Golden State Thursday, racking up the miles, talking up his record — and meeting with potential supporters and donors.

And he’s not even running for President — yet.

Perry held a breakfast with San Diego insiders yesterday, and today hit Los Angeles, two events in Orange County and then flew to Sacramento.

We checked in with Jon Fleischman, publisher of the popular GOP website FlashReport, who co-hosted a grassroots meeting of 60 Republicans in Newport Beach for Perry with OC GOP chair Scott Baugh. He said the Lonestar State gov’s initial reviews from party activists and conservative stalwarts were strong.

“He was really, really impressive. He comes off as a very genuine — heavy on candor and light on pander,” said Fleischman. “Part of what we’re looking for is someone who has authenticity….who resonates, and has an ability to connect.”

“He’s got a very strong record of accomplishment that will appeal to GOP voters,” Fleischman said. “This is someone who isn’t going to have any problem going into meetings with major donors and blowing people away.”

So is he running? Bet on it, says The Flash.

UC Berkeley out-of-state student enrollment soars

The number of out-of-state students is soaring at UC Berkeley, with new figures showing more than a quarter of newcomers on campus – freshmen and transfer students – won’t be from California this year. That’s up from 23 percent last year, and 15 percent two years ago.

More important for the campus, the nonresidents pay nearly three times the tuition of in-state students, and will bring in $80 million this year, up from $54 million last year, spokeswoman Janet Gilmore said.

The trend is similar throughout the University of California, although Berkeley far outpaces other campuses in its zeal to bring in the lucrative outsiders.

Across UC’s nine undergraduate campuses, 14 percent of the freshmen and transfer students who plan to enroll this fall are from out of state, up from 11 percent last year, and 9 percent the year before, according to figures released Thursday.

Enjoy your morning!