Jerry Brown’s Challenging Narrative

Give him credit.  He could be traveling the country giving meandering lectures to college students, but Edmund G. Brown chose instead a career-topper trying to govern the ungovernable state.

Brown bit down on a tough bullet yesterday, having to admit not only that his January budget proposal was loaded with overly optimistic revenue projections, but that the “kick the can down the road” budget he acquiesced to last year also assumed phony revenues that never materialized.

As the sinkhole gets larger, Brown missed his real opportunity last year to push broad-based taxes to the ballot.  He relied on trying to cut a deal with a few GOP legislators instead of doing what he opted for this year…raising money and qualifying a tax ballot measure with signatures

Whether it was miscalculation or dawdling, he’s paying a huge price now for not getting taxes to the ballot last year in a special election, as he promised voters soon after being inaugurated.

Now Brown has capitulated to the left and agreed on taxing upper income levels, even though a week before he cut the deal he was criticizing the policy.

So that gets us to May Revise.  For Brown to credibly ask voters to raise taxes on themselves, he must demonstrate that; a) he truly is an honest broker and b) that he’s providing reforms to voters weary of over a decade of chronically out of whack budgets.

He’s struggling to demonstrate either.

The dramatic expansion of the deficit hurts his chances for voters to perceive him as different than past governors.  Which is a shame.  Brown had a unique opportunity here because he’s a unique political figure and talent, but the chronic dysfunction of the budget process is defining him instead of vice versa.

Secondly, it’s amazing that he’s demanding voters approve taxes from the bully pulpit while essentially abandoning any push for reform, like pension reform.  All GOP legislators have pledged votes for his middle of the road pension reform, but he has brushed aside their willingness to support his own proposal.

Additionally, Brown continues to be mute on job creation. Aside from a few events pushing green technology, Brown has offered no comprehensive vision for jump-starting job creation.  He sincerely wants to pursue reforms, especially to overhaul environmental regs, but he never talks about them.  Unfortunately that means voters hear zip from their governor on jump-starting the economy.

Brown can succeed in getting his taxes passed in November (even if they pass we will still have a huge deficit) but he needs to sharpen his narrative.  He needs to expand his definition of a town crier wailing for taxes while the unemployed and dispirited stare at him with indifference.

Rhetorical optimism isn’t going to get it done.  There needs to be action on the reform and job creation front.

–Rob Stutzman

Getting Cozy

Following up on the apparent cozy relationship between Harvey Rosenfield and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, we are hearing that there’s more going on between the two than just Jones’ granting Harvey a monopoly on intervener fees.

A couple sources have told us that Jones is making fundraising calls for Harvey’s insurance rate regulation initiative that he’s trying to qualify for the November ballot.

What could be Jones’ motivation for dialing for dollars for Harvey?  Several things come to mind. For starters, the initiative shifts power away from the governor to Jones’ office, so there’s good old-fashioned empire building.  And of course Jones is a liberal true believer when it comes to regulation. But one can’t help but wonder if Jones has been promised the opportunity to appear in ads this November, paid for by Harvey’s initiative committee.

Again, this relationship (or is it a partnership?) between Jones and Harvey is screaming for legislative oversight let alone some journalistic oversight.

What a Racket

Since January of 2007 Consumer Watchdog pocketed 100% of the state insurance intervener fees and since 2003 they’ve pocketed a cool $6.2 million. What exactly have consumers gotten for $6.2 million? That’s unclear.  In fact, it’s reasonable to assume they’re getting fleeced.

After all, Harvey Rosenfield set himself up for this sweet gig by creating the intervener business in the first place when he inserted this self-serving provision in to a ballot measure several years ago ensuring an indefinite source of income.

Our friend Steve Maviglio put together this great video explaining a little more:

So where’s the accountability? Where’s the audit? Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones enjoys a cozy relationship with Harvey and crew. Is anyone watching him as he hands over millions in intervener fees to Consumer Watchdog?

This might be one of the most suspicious rackets in government.  This relationship between Jones and Harvey and the commissioner’s ability to keep granting huge fees to Harvey et al is ripe for legislative inquiry.

Any why exactly does Jones need to keep granting intervener fees to Team Harvey and no one else? Is he protecting Harvey’s filthy monopoly?  Or better yet, why are interveners always needed?  Can’t Jones do his job without them?

This whole scenario screams for oversight.  We know from history that if no one is keeping an eye on the Department of Insurance the commissioners can get themselves into some shady situations with the money they control.

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