Friday, April 1, 2011

Friday Must Read: Tax the Rich!; Brown’s Wife Screams at Republican Leader

By Robert Gammon
Fri, Apr 1, 2011 at 7:05 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. A new poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Californians would support a ballot measure to raise taxes on the state’s wealthiest residents as a way to help balance the budget, the Chron reports. The poll, commissioned by a state teacher’s union, found that a whopping 78 percent of likely voters support an income tax increase of 1 percent on Californians who make more than $500,000 a year, easily eclipsing the two-thirds vote needed to pass. Support for such a measure, which has not been considered by Governor Jerry Brown and state lawmakers, also appears to cross party lines. The teacher’s union may sponsor such a measure in November as a “sweetener” for Brown’s other tax proposals.

2. State Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton complained yesterday that Brown’s wife, Anne Gust Brown, screamed at him during budget meetings last week before the talks broke down, the CoCo Times reports. Brown’s spokesman Gil Duran did not deny that Gust Brown screamed, but instead offered this retort: “Bob Dutton is becoming increasingly erratic and irrelevant. Next thing you know, he'll be saying Sutter (Brown's pet dog) barked at him. He seems on the sensitive side." The GOP also posted videos on YouTube, making fun of Brown for the breakdown in negotiations.

3. As the bickering continued, Brown released his plan for public-employee pension reform that he proposed during budget negotiations with Republicans. It calls for an end to so-called “pension spiking,” in which workers get big compensation boots in their last year of service in order to substantially raise their retirement benefits. It also would prohibit public agencies from paying for the normal cost of pension benefits. Organized labor immediately denounced the plan as an end-run around collective bargaining, while Republicans contended that it doesn’t go far enough.

4. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is being criticized for asking city councilmembers for their input on budget cuts before issuing her final budget proposal, the Chron reports. This week, Quan released a list of options for bridging the city’s $46 million budget deficit, and asked for the council for input by next week in advance of a budget summit scheduled for April 11. However, the firefighter’s union and Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente chastised Quan, saying she’s not showing leadership and is passing off tough decisions to the council. Quan has said that she plans to issue a final budget proposal after receiving feedback from councilmembers. Under city law, the council ultimately decides which cuts to make. Quan also has been criticized recently for not consulting the council on her choice for city administrator.

5. And the Oakland city official who threatened to fine West Oakland urban farmer Novella Carpenter, prompting her to shut down her business, told the Chron that he was merely following city law. City Planner Chris Candell said Carpenter must obtain a city use permit, which costs several thousand dollars, in order to sell food from her urban farm for profit. "We've had (these rules) for 50 years or so, but we're stuck with them until they're changed," he said. San Francisco is currently considering a law that would exempt urban farms from such zoning rules, and Oakland plans to review its regulations later this year.

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