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May 23 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: May 23, 2012

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Mission San Carlos Borroméo del río Carmelo, Carmel, California

Good Tuesday morning!

The California Legislature is in session.  Today’s schedule is here.

The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.

President Obama and Republican Speaker Boehner are in California today hitting up donors for campaign cash.

President Barack Obama is back in California for the second time this month, scheduled for two campaign fundraisers this evening in the Bay Area.

First up, dinner in Atherton where tickets cost $38,500 a pop, then a reception at the Fox Theater in Redwood City, where tickets start at $250 and Ben Harper is scheduled to play. Obama won’t be venturing any farther east than that before Air Force One heads out on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Republican House Speaker John Boehner will be in the Bay Area himself tonight at a fundraiser co-hosted by California Reps. Jeff Denham, Dan Lungren, Wally Herger and David Dreier. Tickets top out at $35,800 for the reception at Stacey and Tom Siebel’s Woodside home.

On to today’s California headlines:

Brown makes pitch to business leaders for tax hikes

Gov. Jerry Brown hopes that if he can convince business leaders to support his tax-hike initiative, otherwise skeptical voters might just go along with it.

But, he acknowledged Tuesday, it won’t be easy for business groups to go against their philosophy of resisting taxes, so he called on them to “think of something larger than just your small place, wherever you are” to help the state get out from underneath a $15.7 billion deficit.

“This is a bigger challenge than usual, but California is the biggest state and certainly the most creative and most dynamic,” he said in a 25-minute address to the state Chamber of Commerce’s 87th annual Host Breakfast. “But along with innovation, we have to have another virtue — and that’s called courage.”

Since he released his revised budget last week, the governor has been fending off criticism within the state and outside. Conservatives derided his budget, saying California is going the way of Greece, a nation forced to take drastic action to avoid default.

Dan Walters: Jerry Brown struggles on three fronts on state budget

As the state budget’s deficit widens, Gov. Jerry Brown is being thrust into a three-front political battle.

He must not only persuade voters to pass his sales and income tax package, but, implicitly, persuade them to reject a rival tax measure just for schools.

Meanwhile, Brown is pressing liberal Democratic legislators to ignore their political DNA by making deeper cuts in health and welfare programs, not only to close the deficit but to bolster appeals to voters for new taxes.

“It’s not easy,” Brown told hundreds of business and civic figures gathered Tuesday in Sacramento for the annual Host Breakfast.

“We’re getting there,” Brown continued. “We’re making the cuts. But we also need the revenues.”

Brown had been cultivating business groups to support his original tax plan, but they cooled when he shifted gears to satisfy rivals on the left, reducing the sales tax element and sharply boosting income taxes on high-income taxpayers, including many attendees at Tuesday’s event.

California Legislative Analyst OKs mortgage settlement cash shift

Part of California’s share of a national legal settlement with five big mortgage banks can be used to help fill a $15.7-billion hole in the governor’s proposed budget, the state Legislature’s non-partisan policy advisor recommended.

The Legislative Analyst’s Office on Tuesday reported that the $411 million should be used for a variety of general purposes in the current spending year and the one that begins July 1.

Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris, who reached the settlement with other state chief law officers, wanted to use about one-tenth of the $411 million to defray her department’s legal costs and the balance on mortgage-related financial counseling and education.

The bulk of California’s share of the settlement money, $17.6 billion, is not being sought by Gov. Jerry Brown. The funds are earmarked to provide direct benefits to homeowners trying to lower payments on their mortgages. It also will cover damages for borrowers who were unfairly or illegally foreclosed upon during the recession of 2007-09 and its aftermath.

But Brown announced that he wants to use the $411 million to pay interest on housing bonds and to fund housing anti-discrimination programs.

In a report to lawmakers, the analyst’s office report stressed that grabbing the settlement money “makes sense given the state’s fiscal situation” because “the settlement provides damages that were awarded directly to the state that are not being held in trust for particular individuals.”

Howard Berman, Brad Sherman jockey over credit for 405 Freeway expansion

Congressmen Howard Berman and Brad Sherman – locked in a heated congressional race – tussled Tuesday over which politician is responsible for the recent expansion of the 405 Freeway.

Both politicians helped secure funds for the 405 widening near the Ventura (101) Freeway, but it’s unclear which did more of the heavy lifting to make the expansion a reality.

Berman appeared Tuesday at a press event overlooking the traffic-clogged 405 to argue he was responsible for securing $130 million in federal funds that kick-started the project.

“It was a great victory,” Berman said, looking down at the 405 from atop the Sherman Oaks Galleria. “(Valley residents) might not feel that victory now, but when this project is completed, they will see the wisdom.”

The highway widening, planned decades ago, has become an unexpected campaign issue between Berman and Sherman.

The two longtime incumbent Democrats are pitted against each other in the June 5 primary after the redistricting process put them both in the same 30th Congressional District. The race also includes Republican candidates Mark Reed and Susan Shelley. The top two vote-getters will move on to the general election in November.

Enjoy your morning and Dan Walters’ Daily video:Prop. 29 would raise over $700 million a year

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