LAO: Ballot initiative would triple cigarette taxes

A cigarette smoker enjoying his habit. (Photo: Pe3k, via Shutterstock)

An initiative aimed at next year’s ballot to more than triple the tax on California cigarettes would raise at least $1.3 billion annually, with the money going to an array of health and other programs, according to the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal adviser. The Legislative Analyst’s Office reported Monday that the proposal to add $2 in taxes to a pack of cigarettes would increase the per-pack taxes to $2.87.

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Assemblyman Perea to step down

Assemblyman Henry Perea, a power among the Legislature’s business-friendly Democrats, will resign his seat effective Dec. 31, a year before he will be forced from office by term limits.


New rainy day fund — a change long overdue

Gov. Brown on Jan. 9 in the state Capitol as he unveiled his 2015-16 draft budget. Brown's budget includes the newly approved "rainy day fund."(Photo: AP/Rich Pedroncelli)

California’s economy may not be booming, but it is definitely on the mend. The Bay Area is churning out high-tech profits and high-wage jobs. In other parts of the state, unemployment is inching down toward full-employment levels. And as always when California’s economy improves, tax revenues are soaring. With an income tax system highly dependent on the wealthy and their investment income, the state treasury typically sees a windfall whenever times are good.


Drought emergency: The need for a biodiversity policy

Lake Oroville ravaged by drought. (Photo: State Department of Water Resources, 2014)

Analysis: California ecosystems are losing their resilience and their ability to sustain native plants and animals. In the past, even in droughts, there were natural refuges to sustain native species. Today, most of these ecosystems are changing rapidly from human impacts and many have deteriorated to critical condition. Refuges are scarce.


Daily fantasy sports: skill or luck?

An illustration of an online dashboard for a participant in daily fantasy sports, which is growing in popularity.(Illustration: Tim Foster, Capitol Weekly)

Daily fantasy sports: What started as a seasonal pastime in offices around America has morphed into a daily, multibillion-dollar business, fueled by national TV advertising and the internet. Unlike the traditional office pool, DFS offers same-day cash rewards to winners – a big incentive. And, in California as in most states, it’s not gambling.


CalSTRS, CalPERS okay risk reduction

The headquarters of CalSTRS, the teachers' pension fund, in West Sacramento. (Photo: Coolcaesar)

Calpensions: CalPERS and CalSTRS both adopted plans this month to reduce the risk of major pension investment losses, a small step back for pension systems once required to keep all of their money in stable and predictable bonds.


Forest health includes fighting fire with fire

The Lime Complex fire in Northern California's Trinity Mountains. (Photo: Paul Higley)

Analysis: California forests are threatened by a maelstrom of environmental drivers of change, which have intensified across four years of drought. Horrific recent events should inspire reform of not only wildfire management, but also of our overall forest-health stewardship and governance. We need a new vision for managing our wildlands with policies based on science and acting in the interest of the greatest public good.


Groundwater: The crucial challenge

A California Department of Water Resources geologist measures and records a pumping water level in a production well. (Photo: John Chacon,/DWR, 2013, via California Water Blog)

Analysis: California’s single most urgent water policy priority is preserving our groundwater supply. In normal years, groundwater provides one-third of our state’s urban and agricultural water. In dry years, it provides up to nearly two-thirds.


Putting ‘community’ into community colleges

Students attending class at Glendale Community College. (Photo: Wayne Thom)

The leaders of California’s vast community college system this week unanimously adopted a reform agenda with amazing ease – given how fundamentally hard the decision was to engineer. The Board of Governors decided to endorse comprehensive recommendations to better align career technical education (CTE) programs with the workforce needs of California’s employers. It could be the linchpin in a more strategic statewide effort to reduce poverty and reverse the growing opportunity and income gaps.

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