Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Must Read: Nancy Skinner Proposes Tax-the-Rich Bill; OPD to Reduce Investigative Unit

By Robert Gammon
Mon, May 16, 2011 at 10:08 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Nancy Skinner gets it. A recent poll showed that a large majority of California voters would approve higher tax rates for the wealthy in order to save public education. Even Republican voters approve of the idea. Yet for some reason, Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders have resisted such a plan. It’s unclear why. Are they afraid of angering deep-pocketed donors? Possibly. Well, Skinner apparently isn’t. The assemblywoman from Berkeley will introduce a bill in Sacramento today that would tack a 1 percent additional tax on income above $500,000, AP reports. Skinner estimates it will generate an extra $2.3 billion in revenues a year.

2. Jerry Brown doesn’t get it. The governor, meanwhile, will continue to push for his tax measures, which include a regressive sales tax extension, when he releases his “May revise’ budget today, the LA Times reports. But Brown’s proposal also is expected to contain a twist. The governor plans to ask Republicans to approve his proposal before July 1 and enact the tax measures on the proviso that voters have an opportunity later to confirm the move. Good luck with that, Jerry.

3. We’re glad to see, however, that Brown has abandoned his ill-advised plan to eliminate tax enterprise zones, which help cities attract employers who hire workers from low-income areas. The LA Times reports that Brown plans to use a portion of the $2.5 billion in unexpected tax revenues that have poured into state coffers this year to keep the enterprise zones in place. Now let’s see if Brown will jettison his stalled proposal to kill redevelopment agencies, too.

4. Are state jobs so cushy that public employees don’t need to take vacation? That would seem to be the obvious question generated by a new LA Times report showing that California taxpayers are routinely making huge payouts to state employees who bank their vacation time. The newspaper analyzed state salary data and found that of the 14,000 state workers who got lump-sum payments last year when they left their jobs, 29 percent of them received checks for more than eighty days of pay. You read that right — nearly one-third had accumulated sixteen weeks of unused time off. It’s costing California a lot of money — and it’s something you’d never see in the private sector where vacation time is typically use-it-or-lose-it.

5. And put this one in the “we’re not sure if this is a good idea” file. Bay Citizen reports that the Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts is planning a major overhaul of the department’s criminal investigations unit, and will no longer have detectives solely investigating homicides. Instead, the investigators will be combined into a “major crimes” division in an apparent cost-cutting move. OPD says it’s following the lead of other major police departments that have done the same thing. But as we reported a few years ago, OPD already has a dismal record of solving violent crimes in the city, and this move could make it worse. Let’s hope Batts knows what he’s doing.

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