A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California shows that voters overwhelmingly approve of a major new infrastructure plan for California – precisely the kind of long-term investment plan that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Legislature just failed to deliver. At first, this seems to suggest an inexplicable failure of political leadership. But that’s too simple a conclusion. When asked about ways to pay for infrastructure spending, the bipartisan consensus supporting the basic idea disappears. In fact no method of payment draws a majority. Voters offer the easy answer – we want stuff — but don’t answer the harder question facing the politicians — how are we going to pay for it? On other topics, the poll finds Angelides and Westly in a dead heat, though both trailing Schwarzenegger; Feinstein sailing along; and Bush at his lowest point yet.
Some minimum-wage myths are busted by the California Budget Project, just as legislators and others are considering Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to raise the state’s benchmark pay by $1 an hour. It’s often said that raising the minimum won’t matter, because low-wage jobs are only held by teenagers and other part-time workers. It turns out that roughly one in 10 California workers earned within $1 of the minimum in 2004, and most of those were over 20 and worked at least 35 hours a week.
The California Budget Project sets out to determine how much California spends every year on young people, defined as 21 and under. The answer is more than $46 billion, almost 60 percent of General Fund spending. Most goes to K-12 education, of course, the rest to health and human service programs, juvenile corrections and higher education.
“Green chemistry” — the production of chemicals that are better for the environment — could become a hot topic in the next few years. A report from the California Policy Research Center argues that the state needs a comprehensive chemicals policy which will lay the groundwork for green chemistry. Given our high-tech, high-education industrial base, the state is positioned to become a major player in the development and production of enviro-friendly chemicals.
It’s been obvious for some time that America is, over the long haul, becoming substantially more accepting of gays and lesbians. California has often led the way in this regard, and a new Field Poll shows opinions migrating toward a more accepting position on a wide variety of issues. Favoring gay marriage remains a minority position, but barely, and it’s obvious which way the tide is running. Politically, Gavin Newsom has bet right on gay marriage, which will eventually be accepted everywhere, although he’ll have to wait a while for the bet to pay off. Those who oppose gay marriage are winning all the battles, but they will surely lose the war.
The Field Poll releases a series of new California political soundings. Among the findings: President Bush and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger remain unpopular; Sen. Dianne Feinstein is crushing a Republican opponent no one has ever heard of; Treasurer Phil Angelides leads Controller Steve Westly for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, although with a large and growing undecided; in mock match-ups, Angelides is tied with Schwarzenegger while Westly leads the governor slightly; plus issue surveys on the death penalty, illegal immigration, and doctor-assisted suicide.
The Pacific Research Institute looks at California’s system of public pensions, and declares it to be “unfair, unstable, unpredictable and outdated.” Other than that, everything is great.
CALFED – a collaboration of various water agencies — has become the new player in California’s age-old water wars. UC-Berkeley’s Institute of Urban and Regional Development and Sacramento State’s Center for Collaborative Policy examine CALFED’s record, and give it pretty good marks. Water policy is always a dry topic (sorry), but few things are more important to California’s history, economy and politics.
Two high-profile California mayors — Antonio Villaraigosa in Los Angeles and Jerry Brown in Oakland — have made a point in recent years of pushing for more control over their local school districts. The USC California Policy Institute looks at mayoral control and concludes that it is “not the magic bullet to solve the problems in many large, urban school districts.”
The California Budget Project looks at data from the IRS, and finds that the gap between rich people and poor people widened in California between 2002 and 2003. Adjusted gross income went down for low- and middle-income people, while it rose for people who were already well-off. Federal tax cuts only worsened the problem.