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SACRAMENTO: Report, "no more free food" for California state senators; also, report, California legislators head to Hawaii for five-day retreat....

***Interesting timing to see both of these articles this evening on the Los Angeles Times website....

* Los Angeles Times:  "No more free food for California's state senators" - "Lawmakers decide to stop hitting up taxpayers for food when sessions run long. Instead they'll pay $2,000 a year to keep themselevs fueled."

* Los Angeles Times:  "California legislators head to Maui for retreat funded by special interests" - "About 15 lawmakers are scheduled to attend the five-day event on the tab of the Independent Voter Project, a nonprofit policy group largely funded by business and labor interests."


L.A. CITY HALL: 2013 mayor's race, report, analysis, early private poll....

***LA Weekly's Gene Maddaus breaks down figures from results of a private poll regarding the 2013 mayor's race. Lots of caveats, lots of "if's", but still interesting....

* LA Weekly:  "Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel Lead in Mayor's Race, Zev Yaroslavsky Trails Slightly, Per Private Poll"


   As always with private polls, there are plenty of caveats to consider. For one thing, we don't know the methodology. Is this registered voters, likely voters, or what? In a mayoral election, which will have low turnout, there's a big difference. Also: We're still 16 months from the primary election. A poll at this stage doesn't predict anything.

   "Early surveys are interesting, but most of the insiders don't take 'em too seriously," said Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book. "It's a name-ID thing at this point."

   That said, this is still better than relying solely on fundraising totals to figure out who's up and who's down. So with all the grains of salt accounted for, let's dig in. We've got four scenarios to consider. Let's start with what seems most likely at the moment -- Yaroslavsky runs for mayor, but mall magnate Rick Caruso opts out..........................


POLITICS (State, National): Report, pension reform, Jerry Brown plan, "praise, doubt" from Legislative Analyst's Office, "no way around" increased pension costs; editorial, CalSTRS, controller audit, "detecting and preventing pension spiking"; Illinois, pension spiking, one day teaching equals a lifetime teacher's pension........

* Los Angeles Times:  "Brown's pension plan draws praise, doubt from analyst" - "Legislative office lauds the bid to combine the existing system and 401(k)-type savings for future state workers but says altering benefits for current employees will be hard, 'perhaps impossible.'" - From the LAT:

   Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal to alter public pension benefits is courageous but legally dicey, and key pieces of it have not been fully developed, according to a new report from California's nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office.

   The report praised the governor for offering "a bold starting point for legislative deliberations" on pensions. And it lauded Brown's call to combine a 401(k)-style savings plan with the existing guaranteed-benefit system and raise the retirement age for most future public employees from 55 to 67. Those proposals would save the state millions of dollars down the road.

   Brown, who announced his plan last month, also wants to require current workers to pay a larger share of their retirement costs. That, the report says, "is a legal and collective-bargaining minefield.… It will be very difficult, perhaps impossible, for the Legislature, local governments or voters to mandate such changes." Existing law protects current workers' benefits, the report says.


   Lawmakers rely on the analyst's office for unbiased fiscal advice. Deputy Legislative Analyst Jason Sisney, author of the report, said that according to his office's reading of state law, Sacramento and local governments are virtually powerless to make some of the changes Brown wants to save money in the short term. "Pension costs for the state and many local governments are going to have to increase, in some cases by quite a lot," Sisney said. "There's just no way around that."

   That notion was challenged by Republican activists who have proposed two possible ballot initiatives to curtail public retirement benefits. Both would go further than the governor's plan, asking current workers to pay much more toward their own retirement costs.............

* Sacramento Bee (editorial):  "Gov. Jerry Brown needs to right the ship of CalSTRS" - From the Bee:

   California state Controller John Chiang announced last week he will conduct an audit "to test the California State Teachers' Retirement System's efforts at detecting and preventing pension spiking." Good – such an audit is long overdue.

   In addition, the CalSTRS board will soon have five vacancies. Gov. Jerry Brown has been interviewing candidates. In unveiling his pension reform package two weeks ago, Brown said he wanted public pension board members with "real independence and financial sophistication" to be able to protect retirees and taxpayers. Now is his chance. A more sophisticated and independent board and an outside audit of pension spiking are just what the teachers retirement fund needs at this difficult juncture in its history...................

***AND ALSO on the subject of pension reform, a couple items out of Illinois:

* WGN-TV:  "1 day teaching equals a lifetime teacher's pension" - "Sub for a day, teacher pension for life"

* WGN-TV:  "Pension overhaul advances in Springfield"


LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Resignation of Los Angeles County Counsel Andrea Ordin, departure date planned for February 1....

* Daily News:  "L.A. County Counsel stepping down" - From the DN:

   The Board of Supervisors announced today that County Counsel Andrea Ordin will step down after barely two years on the job. Ordin, the first woman appointed as the county's lead attorney, was sworn in Jan. 29, 2010. Her departure date is Feb. 1.

   In a letter she sent to her staff, Ordin said she had mixed feelings about leaving, but revealed little about the reasons for her apparent resignation or where she is headed.


   She added that an announcement would be made later this week as to who would lead her department, at least temporarily, once her tenure was up.....


L.A. CITY HALL: New report, CAO Miguel Santana and CLA Gerry Miller, elimination of city business tax "would be bad public policy"....

* Los Angeles Times:  "Eliminating business tax would be bad public policy, report says" - From the LAT:

   Two top Los Angeles officials warn the City Council in a new report that eliminating the business tax without cutting services or finding new revenues would amount to faith-based budgeting, advising against it at a time when the city faces a deficit that could be as much as $250 million.


   "Complete elimination of the business tax would be poor public policy," conclude City Administrative Officer Miguel Santana and Chief Legislative Analyst Gerry Miller in a nine-page analysis released Tuesday. "This would increase the tax burden on residents or result in decreased city services which would make Los Angeles a less desirable place to do business."


   The city's tax on gross receipts is projected to raise $439 million this fiscal year, making up about 10% of the general fund and 6% of the total budget. Santana and Miller note that it has grown more steadily than other revenues and provided a "stable source of revenue." "The crux of our recommendation," Santana said, "is that the elimination of this revenue source should be treated no different than any other budgetary priority."

   In their report, Santana and Miller note that the city's Business Tax Advisory Committee has recommended cutting the business tax by 25% each year for four years. That proposal was based in part on a report from Charles Swenson, a USC business professor who concluded that the plan might bring in substantial additional revenue by encouraging new economic activity.

   Christopher Thornberg with Beacon Economics, a research and consulting firm in Los Angeles, reviewed Swenson's study and concluded it was "so flawed as to really provide no guidance on this issue," according to the report. The assessment that eliminating the business tax would increase overall tax revenues was "improbable at best," he said. The possibility of a future increase is not enough to "bet the budget on," Santana said..................