Is the Food & Farm Bill a Lens on Politics Everywhere?

I guess it’s been awhile since blogging here made sense within the context of my work.  At the moment, I’m conducting research and contributing to advocacy related to the food system and the politics of the Farm Bill, so I’m blogging over at my sister-blog, Food is Politics. (Check it out in my blogroll!) There’s plenty of intrigue related to how current political struggles within the federal government touch down at the local and regional levels. And when the Farm Bill finally winds up, I’ll move on to topics like land grabs, international food aid, and California regional issues such as water, composting, labor, conservation, education and more!

For now, check out the bills to watch, as flagged by the California Food Policy Council. Representative of the CAFPC’s guiding principles to support policies and practices that promote health, equity, and food as a basic human right, these bills support a vibrant and diverse food and agriculture economy, while upholding the dignity, safety, and quality of life for all who work to feed us.

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Best, Annie Lorrie (July 2013)

Budgets & Other Bits

Summer 2010 has us all quite busy it seems.  As you have probably noted, passing the California budget is still a pressing issue and the stakes are rising, the final results of the primaries are still unofficial, and blogging here has been spare.  But here’s a link to an article about a panel where I spoke recently about the budget with a few fresh tidbits.  And below is an excerpt from my talk highlighting some of the options proposed by legislators looking to offset the “terrible” cuts and better make use of corporate tax revenues. 

We’ll be sure to post links to the election results when the Statement of Vote appears on July 9th and the budget just as soon as it is signed. 

Excerpt from talk given at the Democracy Forum V, July 1, 2010 

“The governor insists that cuts to the safety net are the only option, and that taxing corporations sacrifices jobs, but few voters know that corporate tax rates have declined steadily since 1981, despite the fact that between the years 2000 and 2007, corporate incomes increased, on average, by 154%.  In 2006, this meant that corporations paid $8 billion dollars less in taxes than in previous years.  So, what can be done?

Well, California could:

–          First, repeal several corporate tax giveaways passed behind closed doors and without public input in Feb 2009.  Asm De Leon has proposed two bills.  AB1935 could bring back over $600 million of annual revenues by repealing the option allowing corporations to elect the most advantageous tax formula.  AB 1936 would repeal the corporateloss carry-back” also known as the “claw back.” By disallowing large corporations to claim losses and tax refunds up to two years back, the state could count on and keep 1 billion dollars. 

–          Two, we the people of California could separate corporate entities from homeowners and require reassessment of commercial property when ownership changes hands by more than 50%.  Asm. Ammiano’s Split Roll Tax Bill, or AB2492, would generate at least $1 billion.

–          Three, California could treat oil companies the same as every other government in the world does and tax their extraction of oil.  The states of Louisiana and Nevada tax oil companies, and even under Governor Bush’s watch, Texas taxes oil!  AB 1604, the Nava bill, would generate between $1.2 and $1.5 billion for the General Fund by imposing a 10% oil severance tax.

–          Four, California could temporarily reinstate Governor Pete Wilson’s tax bracket for the highest earners.  AB 1386, the Furutani bill, would reinstate the 10% / 11% upper-income tax brackets for 5 years generating approximately $2 billion.

–          Furthermore, three additional proposed bills could suspend business licenses for tax delinquents; capture online sales tax from California located businesses; and increase taxes on alcohol by ten cents per drink.

ANY of  these targeted bills would generate enough money to prevent deep cuts to jobs and preserve services, including eye doctors and glasses for kids ($22 million); essential medical devices, like wheelchairs and diabetic test strips ($52 million); food for families ($56 million); child care ($123 million); adult day care for seniors and people with disabilities ($104 million); basic needs grants for seniors and people with disabilities ($366 million); and basic needs grants for kids ($600 million). 

You may be thinking that all of these revenue measures go a long way toward resolving the budget problems, but they don’t add up to $19 billion, and you’re right!  Two alternatives to the Governor’s budget have been introduced, one by Democrats in the Assembly and the other by Democrats in the Senate.  Each includes revenue options that would save the most essential health and human services, but today [July 1st] was the constitutional deadline for passing the budget and it’s still not done.  What can we do to enable our legislature to pass a budget on time that works for California’s families?  As you know one of the underlying structural problems is the combined requirement of a two-thirds legislative majority to pass the budget as well as to raise taxes, which makes us unique in the country and also means that a minority of state legislators pass the budget.  

These [minority] decision-makers and, consequently our democracy, are especially vulnerable to corporate influence. . . .I suggest that understanding corporate influence is an important step toward recovering our democracy and repairing the budget process. “

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Both the Senate and Assembly plans reject most of the major cuts proposed in the Governor’s May Revise, and assume $3.4 billion in additional federal funds. The Assembly plan relies on borrowing against future revenues from the Beverage Container Recycling Fund, and the Senate plan includes larger tax increases and assumes deeper cuts than the plan proposed by the Assembly.  Both plans assume that 2009-10 and 2010-11 revenues will be $1.4 billion above the Governor’s estimate based on the Legislative Analyst’s forecast (see note 1.)

One would hope that the cutting of workers’ wages, legal or not, would be the final straw in the pressure-and-power play.  We need a budget, and even once that’s through, voters will be faced with new propositions in November to decide on revisions to Prop 13 and requiring an on-time budget.  However, again we will have to be vigilant, while many voters feel that legislators should be held to their obligations at any cost, the on-time budget requirement might be just as slippery as Prop 13, adding legal pressure to the pressure exerted by the strongest (i.e., wealthiest) lobbyists and the governor.  Perhaps voters have more incentive than ever to establish a direct relationship with those representing us.

Notes and References

  1. Compare the budget plans at the California Budget Project, and check out this.
  2. Consult the Western Center for Law & Poverty’s “Conference Committee Watch.” 
  3. Worried about business leaving California?  See Public Policy Institute of California’s new report.
  4. Chiang is holding out, but the courts support the governor’s wage decreases, http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_15429519

About Today, Vote!

If you are still looking for voting information, check yesterday’s entry, and the Progressive Democrats of Los Angeles has a list of endorsements that is useful for the state races.

Also Common Cause on Prop 15.

About Tomorrow. . .

 I’ll start with two assumptions.  If you are reading this blog today, you are probably doing your homework to inform your ballot choices tomorrow, and you are probably a progressive voter.  On the off chance that these assumptions misconstrue your visit, you may, nevertheless, find the information that follows useful. 

Below I have put together the links to 1) voter guides–statewide and local, and 2) sites that highlight the various positions taken by local organizations and parties, on city and county measures, with more attention paid to information about the issues that fail to break down along the historical Democrat/Republican lines.  (For instance, there are some notable silences and abstentions.)

Lost your Personal Ballot/Official Voter Information Guide? 

VOTER GUIDES

Courage Campaign – A very useful, statewide progressive voter guide showing how various left organizations align and disagree.

Progressive San Diego – Endorsements by a local progressive political action committee.

Democratic Party

Republican Party

Green Party

San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council

LOCAL MEASURES

Prop A-  While the UT says it’s an easy choice, are landfills the sustainable future?  Also, if you want to know about the developers and the history of the site, check out this article in the Reader.   

Prop B – TERM LIMITS for COUNTY SUPERVISORS

While many partisans, both left and right, argue that term limits can cause more problems down the line, Labor has certainly raised awareness among voters about these elected positions.  In particular, unions representing thousands of county workers have shown the Board’s lack of responsiveness to duties such as distributing food stamps, the lack of transparency in discretionary spending, and the inaccessibility of these seats to non-incumbent, non-Republican candidates.   While term limits would not come into effect immediately, the Labor Council has argued that Prop B eventually will get these races to follow the broader, county trend toward the Blue end of the political spectrum.  In recent debates, they also remind other left organizations that no previous campaign has managed to change the composition of the Board.  The Dems have been persuaded.    

YES – Labor, Democrats.

NO – The Republican Party opposes, stating that “Term limits made the state legislature dysfunctional.” Of course, Republicans have held the County Board of Supervisors, quite literally forever, so why would they support change?

ABSTENTIONS:  Notably, PSD abstained.  The Green Party did not offer local endorsements.       

Proposition C

YES – Democrats call this the Veterans Hiring Initiative.  Labor says, “San Diego Vote for Veterans.”

ABSTAINED – The Republican Voter Guide doesn’t mention Prop C. 

Proposition D City of San Diego- The “Strong Mayor” Form of Government

NO – The nonpartisan League of Women Voters strongly opposes changing the city charter and weakening the city council to empower the mayor.  (The proposition imposes a 2/3 majority vote on the council to override a mayoral veto.) They also argue that the during the 5-year trial period, political accountability, responsiveness to citizen concerns, efficient management of the city, checks and balances, access, and openness have deteriorated.  They also argue that adding a 9th district is too costly during a deficit year.  The Dems and PSD also oppose.

YES – The Republicans say “Don’t go back to the system that created the City’s financial problems.”  See the list of supporters here

City of Chula Vista: Proposition G

The City Attorney’s Impartial Analysis, states that Prop G “prevents the City from signing any agreements directly with labor organizations from public works construction projects.” And that a “yes” vote “means that the City is prohibited from funding or entering into public works contracts that require agreements with labor organizations…”

NO – Labor calls this measure “a ban on Union Jobs.”  The no list is long, but includes the Dems, and organizations, such as Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, and the Environmental Health Coalition. 

YES – Republicans say “Fair and open competition for all qualified firms in public construction saves your tax dollars!”

City of Del Mar: Proposition J

YES – Labor calls this a “Time-Share Tax.” Dems say, yes, to a “Tax on Short‐Term Rentals.”

NO – Republicans “say No to bailouts of politicians!”  (That is, no new taxes.)

City of Oceanside: Proposition K

NO Labor says no.  Dems say, “No to Charter.”

YES Republicans say, “Pass the Oceanside Charter – More Local Control.” (Endorsed by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.)

City of Solana Beach: Proposition L

NO Republicans say this is “a Business Tax to bail out politicians’ overspending.”

YES – Dems say yes to Business Tax.

Prop. H (Coronado Tunnel)

NO Labor says no.  (Party voter guides don’t mention it.) 

 

The Statewide Direct Primary Election Is NOT Just for Partisans

Today is the last day to request a VOTE BY MAIL APPLICATION  !!

And the primaries are exactly one week away.  The numbers show that even pretty civic-minded folks hardly notice the June primaries.   This disinterest among voters is often attributed to the absence of a presidential candidate, but it also signals a lack of understanding about how, where and when key decisions about local government get made.  While the primary is how political parties select candidates for the upcoming November election, the decisions voters make on the initiatives are for keeps!

In my personal quest to be more locally engaged this year—to know the people and understand the issues—I’ve been interviewing local community leaders, political directors, decision makers, and activists, collecting information about the measures and propositions, and tracking who supports them.  Over the last several months, I’ve blogged about the increasing number of initiatives and measures that aim at changing how governance work—whether that’s changing the legislative/executive balance of power, imposing term limitations, or instituting public funding for elections—some attempts claim to make government more accountable, transparent and equitable, others promise to keep taxes low, but the best way I’ve found to determine what’s in it for the people of California is to look at how special interests, like big business, respond to the issue.  Perhaps it won’t surprise the attentive San Diego-based observer to find that support for the propositions at the city and county levels often breaks down to Labor protecting wages and working families versus developers, but it should also be noted that some of these propositions have long histories and in a few notable cases, the interest groups have switched sides!

Over the next few days, I’ll post some of the best links I’ve found for concise information and (relatively) balanced coverage about local props and issues.  (I’ll probably stay out of the individual candidate races, unless they touch on the governance issues directly.)

See you soon.

Notes, References & Links:

1.  It bears repeating that now is the time to support your candidates for November.  In 2010, State Senators representing the even-numbered Senatorial Districts are up for election to 4-year terms. (Senators from the remaining 20 Senatorial Districts were elected in 2008.)  The entire 80-member Assembly is elected every two years and, thus, all 80 Assembly members are up for election in 2010.

2.  Listen to the KPBS report (or read the transcript) on city and county level propositions in San Diego.  All the key players get a brief comment!

Take a Stand Week!

The statewide organization, Parent’s Voices, has named May 12th, Stand for Children Day, but we might as well call it, Take A Stand Week!

On Friday, Governor Schwarzenegger will release his final May Revision. His spokesperson announced earlier today that the document will include “terrible cuts,” such as the elimination of CalWORKs and IHSS, as proposed by the Governor in January.

Stand for Children:  600 parents from all over the state are marching and rallying in Sacramento and meeting with legislators to ask that they vow to preserve Child Welfare Services and other programs that directly impact children.  

Stand for k-12 Education/Teachers in San Diego:  Last week, in an ironic celebration of San Diego Educator’s day, four of the five San Diego Unified School Board Members (John de Beck, John Lee Evans, Shelia Jackson and Katherine Nakamura) voted to layoff more than 100 educators.  According to the Voice, the school board faces an $87 million deficit, because of State budget cuts over the last three years.  Teachers union President Camille Zombro and SDEA members protest that the layoffs could be avoided through retirement and releasing temporary workers.  Is the School Board pulling an Arnie, and ransoming jobs and education and children and the future to pressure the state?  (I’ve been wondering aloud lately whether the Governor is bluffing–that is, threatening the federal government and the legislature with cuts that sacrifice the vulnerable or else–but according to today’s news, his Revise hasn’t changed.  When is he going to take a stand for the people who need him?)  (Visit www.cause4education.org to learn about the statewide action on March 19.)

Stand for Women & Families:  CPB released some numbers today showing how the combined budget crisis and the “Great Recession” are affecting women.  Clearly, “cuts to key safety-net programs and Medi-Cal have disproportionately affected low-income women and their families.”  In addition to the obvious impacts on single women who are heads-of-household, “the number of married-couple families with children relying solely on the earnings of wives increased by an astounding 77.7 percent between 2006 and 2009.”   Think about it:

 “Because women live longer and have lower incomes, they are more likely to rely on SSI/SSP for support in their old age.  And because women are more likely to outlive a spouse and work in caregiving professions, they account for nearly two-thirds of IHSS recipients and nearly eight out of 10 IHSS providers. Even the silver lining has a cloud – the one population group that saw its employment rate rise in . . . the recent downturn was women between the ages of 55 and 69 – a fact that no doubt reflects women who might have otherwise retired remaining in the workforce due to the declining value of their retirement savings, or a spouse’s loss of work.”

In sum, if you care about children, low- to moderate- income families, women, workers, teachers, education, jobs, immigrants, seniors, people with disabilities, prisoners, the homeless, or even transparency in government, it’s time to take a stand!

Upcoming Post:  Revenue Alternatives on the Table

References & Notes:

  1.  See the Voice regarding Teacher Layoffs.
  2. See Imperfect StormCalifornia Budget Project, 5/12/2010.
  3. If you wonder whether the Governor’s proposed cuts that sacrifice benefits for recent immigrants are justified, check out the ACLU’s immigrant fact sheet.  Immigrants, even the undocumented, pay taxes that far surpass any services they require!

Van Jones is Coming to Town! Green Jobs. . .

Free Public Lecture: “The Green Collar Solution Can Fix Our Two Biggest Problems”

by Van Jones – New York Times Best Selling Author, Winner of NAACP’s 2010 President’s Award, and father of the green jobs movement  (See my brief summary at Food is Politics, too!)

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Tuesday, May 11th

7:00 PM

UCSD Price Center

Ballroom West

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free and open to the public / no tickets or reservations required

Please enter campus at Gilman Drive

Parking is $4.00 after 4:30 p.m.