Find Out What Is Wrong With California?

My beef with the political process in California was put into a few perfect paragraphs in a newspaper that was thrown by accident onto my stoop this morning.  I do not get the Financial Times but found myself reading, and agreeing, with their story about the budget woes of California. I have long argued these points, and am glad to see I am not alone in my thinking.

One cause of the problem is the state’s dysfunctional political system. California is one of only three in the US that requires a two-thirds majority in its legislature to approve a budget. With the state’s upper and lower houses evenly split between Republicans and Democrats, securing a two-thirds majority on all but mundane matters is practically impossible. A two-thirds majority is also required to raise taxes, which limits the ability of the governor to balance the books.

California’s system of direct democracy, while laudable in aim, is another headache. “Ballot initiatives” were introduced in 1911 by Hiram Johnson, then governor, who wanted to curtail the influence of the mighty Southern Pacific Railroad and return power to the people. Since then, any issue can be put to a state-wide vote, provided half a million or so signatures are gathered to support a change in the law.

Ballot initiatives were intended to give a voice to voters. “It was supposed to be about mom and pop talking about something around the dinner table and then getting all their friends to sign a petition,” says Dan Mitchell, professor emeritus at the UCLA Anderson School of Management and the School of Public Affairs. “But most initiatives on the ballot don’t start that way.” Instead wealthy individuals and special interest groups “pay a couple of million dollars to employ people to collect signatures outside of supermarkets”.

Ballot initiatives have resulted in controversial laws being passed, such as the amendment to California’s constitution that outlawed gay marriage in California last November. The state’s constitution is bursting with such amendments, which can often impose huge constraints on financial planning, such as the 1998 proposition that committed the state to spending 40 per cent of its annual budget on education.

Mr Schwarzenegger admits the two-thirds majority rules and the ballot proposition process have been a hindrance. “It’s governing with your hands tied behind your back,” he says. The final link in California’s fiscal chain is its tax system. “It’s flawed,” he adds. “It has failed us over and over again when we have a downturn. We in California rely very heavily on rich people paying taxes – income taxes and capital gains.” This imbalance is partly because of legislation passed in 1978 – via a ballot initiative, naturally – that set strict limits on property taxes.

Senator Kennedy Health Care Plan Takes Shape

Senator Ted Kennedy is back in Washington, and determined that health care will be passed by the August recess of Congress.

Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), who has been more of a behind-the-curtains player on health care reform while he battles brain cancer, is reasserting his voice in the public debate as the Senate races to meet an August deadline.  

His committee is circulating a 12-page “policy overview” on a bill to guarantee universal access to health care, create a public insurance option, and require individuals and employers to buy coverage. Produced by Democrats on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which Kennedy chairs, the paper offers the first comprehensive description of where the committee is headed on an overhaul bill. 

“As we near the point of introducing legislation to achieve our vision, we issue this policy overview to lay out our priorities for the legislation,” according to the document obtained Friday by POLITICO. 

The paperemerged a day after Kennedy published an op-ed in the Boston Globe on his “five major elements” for a health reform bill, and as more specific examples of what Kennedy is considering for a bill leaked to health care advocates. The leaked details suggest Kennedy is laying down a marker to the left of Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), a moderate who is shepherding a separate bill through his committee. 

But the 12-page committee paper outlines broad concepts that generally align with the ideas Baucus is considering. It was dated May 21 and titled “A New Vision for American Health Care: Strengthening What Works and Fixing What Doesn’t.” 

“Over the last several months, HELP [Committee] Democrats have been working non-stop to develop a health reform bill that reduces cost, protects individual choices and assures affordable, high-quality healthcare for every American,” Kennedy spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement. “This internal document is a partial summary of their bipartisan efforts through that date, and does not represent final policy.” 

The details are where Kennedy may diverge from Baucus. Liberal health care advocates expect the Massachusetts Democrat to attempt to pull Baucus to the left as they wade deeper into negotiations, and Kennedy’s heightened presence this week suggested to some that he was beginning that public offensive. 

Indeed, in an email summary that began circulating this week, Kennedy was described as considering a public insurance option that would pay providers slightly more than Medicare rates – a structure that would draw fierce opposition from private insurers, Republicans and moderate Democrats

He would also expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover individuals up to 26-years old – up from 18 – and provide insurance subsidies on a sliding scale to families with incomes 500 percent above the poverty line. Both proposals provide more generous coverage than what is under consideration in the Finance Committee.

Saturday Song: Webb Pierce “Slowly I’m Falling”

Going back a few decades………this is classic country. 

How To Slow Down Wisconsin Budget Process

Some-days one needs the patience of Job……

Just prior to voting on a major part of the budget around 10 p.m.,( Republican Assembly State Representative)Vos attempted to read the names of every attorney listed in the phone book because he said they stood to benefit the most under the plan. He got through the As, and was starting on the Bs, before being cut off by Democratic leaders. He then started to read from the budget before being stopped again. Vos, the most loquacious member of the committee, reacted angrily saying he felt the budget was “screwing business and screwing taxpayers.”

The Republicans know all about screwing the people.

Video: Watch USS Vandenberg Being Sunk

This warship was used in WWII to ferry military troops and refugees from Europe.  Now it will be used for a more serene propose; creating an artificial reef in Florida.