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Nickels and dimes add up to billions for the state

June 6, 2011

By MICHAEL GARDNER of the San Diego Union Tribune

As the Sacramento budget stalemate over extending temporary taxes continues, will lawmakers turn to fees instead as a way to raise money for the cash-short state?

Previously the answer might have been an emphatic yes. But this year, thanks to new restrictions imposed by voters in November, legislators will find it harder to use fees as a substitute for taxes.

Fees added on to consumer bills already bring in billions of dollars to the treasury.

Californians pay extra fees on top of the normal price when they register their cars, go duck hunting, buy a big-screen television, pay the phone bill or even when they break the law, among dozens of other activities.

It may be just nickel-and-diming the consumer in many cases. But the charges add up, translating into real money for the state to keep many vital services rolling, from the CHP to the disposal of hazardous waste.

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Retailers back tax increase extensions

June 6, 2011

Gov. Jerry Brown just picked up an important ally in his drive to extend several temporary tax increases, including a penny increase in the sales tax. The California Retailers Assn. announced its support:

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Poll: voters support shift to local government

June 1, 2011

By Daniel Weintraub

The good news for Gov. Jerry Brown is that Californians overwhelmingly agree with his proposal for a special election on his plan to extend temporary taxes to help erase the state’s budget shortfall.

The bad news for Brown, however, is that those same voters are not nearly as enthusiastic about the plan itself. Many apparently want a chance to vote on it so they can vote it down.

Those are among the findings from a new, independent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The survey of more than 2,000 adults also unearthed new evidence suggesting that the safest route for Brown, politically, might be to repackage his plan into one that simply shifts services, and taxes, from the state to local governments, which are much more popular with the voters.

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Ruling could shake up prison policy

May 27, 2011

By Daniel Weintraub

The U.S. Supreme Court decision requiring California to reduce overcrowding in its prisons has triggered an outcry from legislators and the criminal justice community about the possibility of thousands of dangerous felons being released to the streets before the end of their terms.

That’s not likely to happen.

But the decision has shone a spotlight on one of the fastest growing parts of the state budget at a time when Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers are trying to cut anywhere they can. And the opinion has the potential to reignite a decades-long debate over whether California can and should do more to reduce crime by ensuring that felons who leave prison are as prepared as possible to start new, law-abiding lives on the outside.

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Government payrolls shrinking. Really.

May 24, 2011

In this time of crushing budget deficits and guaranteed public pension plans, one sentiment seems widespread among voters: government always grows. Even with cutbacks and a floundering economy, many Americans clearly believe that government only gets bigger.

But in California, government has indeed shrunk by one metric: the number of employees on the payroll. Employment numbers independently collected by the state Employment Development Department show that since the housing market collapsed in 2008 more than 100,000 federal, state and local government jobs have been eliminated in California, creating the worst job market in that sector since at least 1990.

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Locals could get more power to tax

May 19, 2011

A pot tax for police? How about sin taxes for schools?

California lawmakers are tip-toeing toward giving cities and schools broad new authority to ask voters those questions.

But whether Democrats are truly serious or merely feinting during intense negotiations to place taxes on a future state ballot will probably not be answered until later this summer.

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Revised budget doesn’t revise vote count

May 17, 2011

The revised budget Gov. Jerry Brown released Monday does not seem any more likely to win Republican votes than the governor’s original plan, which stalled in the Legislature over the question of whether to extend billions of dollars in expiring taxes.

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Brown sticks to tax plan in new budget

May 16, 2011

Despite an unexpected surge in tax collections, Gov. Jerry Brown is sticking to his proposal to renew nearly $10 billion in temporary taxes that have expired or are expiring this year.

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Brown backs away from Prop. 10 shift

May 16, 2011

Gov. Jerry Brown has set aside, for now, his plan to shift more than $1 billion to the Medi-Cal program from a special fund for children’s services.

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Assembly Republicans offer budget outline

May 12, 2011

Days before Gov. Jerry Brown releases his revised budget proposal for the coming year, Republicans in the state Assembly have offered their own outline they say would balance the budget without renewing temporary taxes that have expired or about to do so.

The plan would protect Kindergarten through community college education, giving the schools the same amount Brown has already proposed, and avoid any more cuts in the state’s four-year public universities.

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