Friday, November 2, 2012

The Continued Economic Woes of Colleges in California

Education reform issues are something many San Diego Politico readers are passionate about, and the feature that follows builds on this topic by looking at the soaring tuition rates throughout the UC and CSU systems. Writer Rachel Higgins takes a by-the-numbers look at what is happening in California higher ed, and examines what politicians are aiming to do about it. Rachel writes full-time for an educational website that markets itself as a place to search for accredited degrees online and a general resource for anyone interested in learning more about college options.

The Continued Economic Woes of Colleges in California

While college students nationwide have contended with skyrocketing tuition prices in recent years, the growth of these costs has been particularly substantial in California. The increases have been primarily attributed to the state budget, and in response, many California congressmen have enacted various prescriptions intended to control costs more effectively.

In January 2010, California Gov. Jerry Brown proposed an annual state budget that made significant cuts to various state services, including $500 million slashed from the University of California. This reduction – 16.4 percent from the previous year – led to a dubious historical watermark: for the first time ever, student tuition contributions ($2.7 billion) were higher than state fund support ($2.5 billion). The cuts also dropped the state’s per-student funding even further. Between 1990 and 2011, this rate fell 57 percent, though the largest decline occurred in 2008-09 when the higher education budget was slashed 20 percent. In addition, Gov. Brown cut funding to both the California State University system by $500 million and the state’s community college programs by $400 million.

Higher education was not the only area targeted by Gov. Brown’s budget cuts. The 2011-12 plan implemented a rainy day fund of $1 billion, put measures in place to eliminate a budget gap of $25.4 billion, and cut spending by $12.5 billion. To offset these costs, state employees saw their wages decline by 8 to 10 percent, while Medi-Cal, welfare-to-work and programs benefiting children and low-income families were dramatically reduced. Brown was apologetic, but steadfast in his resolve when he unveiled the 2011-12 budget. “For 10 years, we've had budget gimmicks and tricks that pushed us deep into debt,” he said. “We must now return California to fiscal responsibility and get our state on the road to economic recovery and job growth.”

For the following year’s budgetary proposal, Gov. Brown included several prescriptions aimed at reducing the burden on California’s college students. Most notable was his “free online textbook library,” included in SB 1052, which would provide complementary course materials for the most popular lower-level courses in the state’s collegiate system. The library will be overseen by the California Open Education Resources Council, a group comprised of faculty from all three of the state’s academic divisions. He also implemented SB 1053, a “companion bill” that created a digital library of open source textbooks and course materials. Both libraries are licensed for creative commons, allowing students free access to materials while enabling instructors to create customized, web-based curricula. In addition, Brown signed SB 1028, which allocates $5 million for the library measures from the ScholarShare Trust. The absent funds will be matched by private donors and philanthropic organizations.

The 2012-13 budget also targeted students’ tuition woes. For both the UC and CSU systems, the General Fund will increase by $125 million provided that the schools retain annual tuition fees from the previous academic year (of $12,192 and $5,472, respectively); however, this measure depends on voter approval of Gov. Brown’s tax initiative in the November 2012 election. The budget also increased community college apportionment funding by $159.9 million (thereby retiring apportionment referrals) and added $23.8 million to the Proposition 98 General Fund, which will provide $28 to participating schools for each enrolled student. In order to access the General Fund, participating institutions must record graduation rates of at least 30 percent and lower the student loan cohort default rate (the number of students who default on their loan payments within three years of graduation) to 15.5 percent.

However, student tuition still stands to rise in the coming year. College costs are likely to rise by 6 percent pending passage of Gov. Brown’s Proposition 30, which increases California sales tax by 0.25 percent for the next four years and increases income tax rates for those who earn more than $250,000. If the proposition does not pass, then tuition will rise by as much as 20 percent – and the UC system will lose as much as $250 million in state funding.

Convincing the public to approve a measure that raises taxes is always a tricky sell for politicians, but the measures created by Gov. Brown that will appear on the ballot next month could enable California to effectively control tuition costs in the long term. Though Gov. Brown and other state politicos ultimately control how much money is allocated to different programs, California voters have the power to influence tuition costs in the upcoming election.

Rachel Higgins is a writer and researcher for Feel free to check out more of her writing!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Scott Supports Greater Campaign Transparency

Day 3: 11 Reasons in 7 Days to Support Scott Peters for Congress

San Diego -- The Scott Peters for Congress campaign today continued its 11 Reasons in 7 Days to support Peters over Tea Party candidate and 12-year incumbent Brian Bilbray in the California’s new 52nd Congressional District.

Reason #8: Scott will support greater transparency in election spending.

When Scott was elected to the City Council, several conflicts of interest were interfering with the City Council’s ability to get things done. That’s why he pushed to create San Diego’s first Ethics Commission. Scott was instrumental in drafting this legislation, which brought about one of the toughest and most effective ethics commissions in the state, and the first in our county. The Commission’s work has resulted in greater public scrutiny of political disclosures, greater transparency, and increased public confidence in local government.

Scott supports greater transparency in election-related spending
, such as the campaign finance disclosure rules proposed in the DISCLOSE Act, which was opposed by Tea Party candidate Brian Bilbray.

It’s no wonder Mr. Bilbray voted against the bill; he’s been the beneficiary of millions of dollars of spending by Super PACs that currently are not required to report who funds them, such as the Grover Norquist group, Americans for Tax Reform. Mr. Bilbray pledged allegiance to Grover Norquist. He pledged to never compromise at any time with anyone outside of the Tea Party.  In return, Norquist has invested $1.4 million to support Bilbray’s candidacy.

It’s time for a change. For more information about Scott Peters’ campaign to change Congress, go to

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Former President Clinton endorses Filner for Mayor

The Bob Filner for Mayor campaign today announced the endorsement of President Bill Clinton.  In a recorded statement, President Clinton said:

“This is President Bill Clinton asking you to join me in supporting Bob Filner for Mayor.  As President, I worked with Bob to save San Diego taxpayers over three billion dollars and secured funding for construction of the Veteran’s Home.  Bob has the experience to move San Diego forward – to create good-paying 21st Century jobs, to support quality public education,  and to put neighborhoods first, not special interests.  As a Freedom Rider in the 1960s, Bob showed he had the courage to do what’s right, and that’s exactly what he will do as mayor of San Diego.”

Filner expressed appreciation for President Clinton’s endorsement:  “I was proud to work with President Clinton to secure funding for major local infrastructure projects, to save ratepayers over $3 billion, and to strengthen our relations with Mexico, among other things.  He represents the kind of bi-partisan cooperation that puts problem-solving ahead of politics, and that’s the kind of mayor I will be for San Diego.”

Day 2: Scott Will Push for Investments in Transit, an End to Oil Company Subsidies

San Diego -- The Scott Peters for Congress campaign today continues its 11 Reasons in 7 Days to support Peters over Tea Party candidate Brian Bilbray in California’s new 52nd Congressional District.

Reason #9:  Scott will push for investments in alternative transportation and for an end to oil company subsidies.

When Scott was elected to the City Council, he helped turn a dilapidated area with failing businesses and dangerous speeding traffic into a thriving retail district.  He empowered the community of Bird Rock to create its own traffic plan, with the help of a nationally known walkability expert. It’s now home to dozens of businesses that support hundreds of jobs.  And it’s considered a national model for how to make a neighborhood friendlier for pedestrians and bicycles.

In Congress, Scott will push to end subsidies to profitable oil companies so these revenues can be used to support investments in alternative and public transit. Last year, the five largest oil companies posted record profits of $137 billion. That’s a 75% increase over 2010. The transportation bill supported by House Republicans, and Brian Bilbray, ends funds for bike lanes and Safe Routes to School, cuts funds for public transit and provides more money for freeways when gas prices are skyrocketing. And it doesn’t get us any closer to a practical energy policy that reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil.

It’s time for a change. For more information about Scott Peters’ campaign to change Congress, go to

The Ryan-Bilbray Budget Drastically Reduces Disaster Preparedness and Relief

Congressman Brian Bilbray (CA-52) backed his Washington Republicans in voting for the Ryan budget that not only ends the Medicare guarantee but deeply and drastically reduces emergency response and preparedness. In fact, an analysis from Third Way says that the Ryan-Bilbray budget “would set the clock back on disaster preparation to the days before Hurricane Katrina.”

Read more about the Ryan-Bilbray budget and the damage it would do to disaster response and relief for yourself.

Ryan budget could hammer storm aid, critics say
By: Andrew Restuccia
October 30, 2012

Mitt Romney says he wants to give states more power to deal with disasters like Sandy. But his running mate’s budget plan would threaten states’ ability to respond to massive storms, some experts say.

Paul Ryan’s House-passed budget would cut non-defense discretionary funding by 22 percent starting in 2014, according to the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which said in an August report that about one-third of that money goes to state aid for a range of needs including disaster response.

“These are very deep cuts to a part of the budget that’s already been cut a lot,” Michael Leachman, the lead author of the report, told POLITICO. “I think that it’s pretty clear that the part of the budget that includes disaster relief and other forms of state and local aid would have a pretty big target on its back.”

Leachman, director of state fiscal research at the center, said it’s possible that appropriators would shield state aid from major cuts under the Ryan budget. “But it seems more likely to us that the state aid portion would get most of the cuts,” he said.

The cuts would compound the fiscal troubles already burdening many states.

“These kind of cuts would come at a time when states and localities are already hobbled by the recession and the sluggish economy,” Leachman said. He estimates that states and local governments could lose $28 billion in 2014 under Ryan’s plan if funding for state aid is indeed cut by 22 percent.

To be sure, it’s unclear what Romney’s approach to major disasters would be. The Romney campaign stressed Monday that there is a place for agencies like FEMA, although the GOP candidate has been critical of the federal government’s role in the past.

“Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions,” Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said in a statement Monday. “As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.”

The Romney campaign did not respond to requests from POLITICO for more details about how his response to major storms might differ from President Barack Obama’s. And Romney declined to answer at least five questions from reporters in Ohio about what he would do with FEMA.

But if Ryan’s budget is any indication of Romney’s plans, FEMA and other agencies that play major roles in predicting and responding to storms could see cuts.

David Kendall, a senior fellow for health and fiscal policy at the think tank Third Way, said Ryan’s budget cuts “community and regional development,” which includes FEMA, by 62 percent below the Office of Management and Budget’s baseline.

“Four of every 10 dollars from [community and regional development] goes to disaster relief, so it would be virtually impossible for FEMA to avoid major cuts if the Republicans implemented their budget proposal,” Kendall said.
Kendall also said cuts under Ryan’s budget would prevent the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration from launching a replacement polar satellite on time.

“The result would be devastating,” Kendall said. “Weather forecasts would be only half as accurate. Without this satellite, hurricane forecasters would not have been able to give Americans on the Eastern seaboard an accurate warning about Sandy.”

Forecasters have relied on satellites polar satellites since 1960 to get accurate weather data on extreme weather events, and NOAA is working to replace an existing satellite by 2016, Kendall said.

In the aftermath of Sandy, governors from states hard hit by the storm, including Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, praised the federal government’s response to far. And he touted FEMA’s role in the state’s recovery.
“I expect FEMA to be a major force here over the next couple of months. And that’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about months,” Christie said during a Tuesday morning briefing.

Romney’s stance on FEMA was propelled into the spotlight this week after the Huffington Post dug up a transcript from a from a June 2011 CNN primary debate in which Romney raised questions about the federal government’s role in responding to disasters.

“FEMA is about to run out of money,” debate moderator John King said to Romney during the debate pointing to the May 2011 tornado that killed more than 150 people in Joplin, Mo. “And there are some people who say, ‘Do it on a case-by-case basis.’ And there are some people who say, ‘You know what, maybe we’re learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role.’ How do you deal with something like that?”

Romney responded that “every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.

“Instead of thinking in the federal budget, ‘What we should cut?’ we should ask ourselves the opposite question, ‘What should we keep?’” Romney added. “We should take all of what we’re doing at the federal level and say, ‘What are the things we’re doing that we don’t have to do?’ And those things we’ve got to stop doing.”

King pressed Romney again. “Including disaster relief, though?” he asked.

“We cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids,” Romney responded. “It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.”

While exactly what Romney meant to say in the exchange is unclear, the comments came as Republicans in Congress were insisting that money allocated for hurricane relief be offset by spending reductions elsewhere.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

7/11 Count Down to Election Day!  11 Reasons to Support Scott Peters in 7 Days

San Diego -- With just one week left until Election Day, the Scott Peters for Congress campaign is reminding voters of eleven reasons in seven days to support Peters over Tea Party candidate and 12-year incumbent Brian Bilbray. (Everyone does a Top 10, but ours goes to 11. Hat tip to Nigel Tufnel.)

Reason #11: Scott Will Fight for Small Businesses

While on the San Diego Port Commission, Scott championed a“Rent Relief” program for Port Tenants. During the economic downturn, a number of the region’s small businesses faced ruin, including some Port tenants. Scott supported a partnership with them in which tenants were allowed to defer their rent payments in 2009 so they would have enough cash flow to stay in business.  As a result, ALL these business stayed afloat and re-paid their debts in full.

To support small businesses at the federal level, when Scott goes to Congress, he will push for legislation that requires financial institutions that received (Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP) bailout money to make more small business loans available. Scott knows that more than 90 percent of the jobs in San Diego are generated by small businesses, and he’ll make sure entrepreneurs get the support they need.

Reason #10: Scott Will Make Government More Accountable

While on the City Council, Scott led the City through its transition to a Strong Mayor-Strong Council form of government, to make City Hall more accountable to the public. He hired the City’s first Independent Budget Analyst,led the creation of the City’s first-ever Audit Committee, and established an Independent Auditor function, so the auditor would report to the City Council, not to the management it audits. He also formed the City’s first-ever Ethics Commission.
When Scott goes to Congress, he’ll push for a “No Budget No Pay Law” as a way to hold representatives accountable for doing their jobs
. This includes working together to pass a federal budget. Congress’s inability to reach agreement on a federal budget caused America’s credit rating to be downgraded for the first time in our history. It led us to this fiscal cliff that threatens jobs, our economy and even national security. Congressman Bilbray counts the draconian cuts forced by sequestration as a hallmark example of bipartisan work. We can do better.
For more information about Scott Peters campaign to fix Congress, go to

Monday, October 29, 2012

November 2012 Election Night Watch Party co-hosted by San Diego County Democratic Party and San Diego Labor Council

For the first time, San Diego’s Democratic Party and Labor Council will host all endorsed candidates for Election Night Watch Party celebration

Join the San Diego County Democratic Party and San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council for an Election Night watch party in downtown San Diego. Candidates, office holders and community leaders will join members of the public to watch election returns come in. 2012’s historic general election features the crucial Obama vs Romney presidential race, landmark San Diego races for Congress, Mayor, and State Legislature, and critical ballot measures at the state and local levels.

For the first time, all major endorsed candidates of the San Diego County Democratic Party and San Diego Labor Council will be headquartered in the same location on Election Night. Candidates, elected officials and campaign representatives will join activists and community members to mark the end of campaign season and watch election results come in on giant 50-inch screens throughout the evening.

Guests to include: Congressman Bob Filner, candidate San Diego Mayor; Port Commissioner Scott Peters, Candidate 52nd Congressional District; State Senator Juan Vargas, Candidate 51st Congressional District; State Senator Christine Kehoe, Assemblymember Marty Block, Candidate 39th State Senate District; San Diego Councilmember Todd Gloria, San Diego Councilmember David Alvarez; Jess Durfee, Chair, San Diego County Democratic Party; Lorena Gonzalez, Secretary-Treasurer/CEO, San Diego Labor Council.  All will be available to speak with media.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012
8:01 p.m.

The Westin Gaslamp Quarter, 910 Broadway Circle, San Diego, CA 92101
Reception: Garden Terrace Ballroom, 4th Floor
Lucas O’Connor, San Diego Labor Council
703-864-4619 Cell

San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council
3737 Camino del Rio South, #403, San Diego, CA 92108
619-228-8101 Office

National Nurses Group Backs Peters for Congress Over Bilbray

San Diego – National Nurses United, the nation’s largest professional association of registered nurses, and their state affiliate the California Nurses Association, have endorsed Scott Peters for Congress over Tea Party incumbent Brian Bilbray, the Peters campaign announced today.

“We believe you will do an excellent job in representing your district on health, women’s issues, and civil rights, which are important to Registered Nurses,” wrote NNU Political Action Committee Chair Carolyn Hietamaki, R.N., in a letter to Peters.

“Nurses are on the front lines of patient care,” Peters said. “They are compassionate, highly skilled men and women who play a critical role in our health care system. I applaud them for the valuable work they do,” he added.

Hietmaki said they are backing Peters also because they believe he will be a stronger advocate for preserving and protecting Medicare than Mr. Bilbray, based on Bilbray’s record. Bilbray has voted 10 times throughout his career in Congress to cut Medicare benefits for seniors, and twice to essentially end it as part of the Ryan/Brian budget.

NNU is a national advocate for comprehensive patient safety reforms, and very active in the national health care debate, pushing for affordable care and high patient-safety standards. Recently, the California Nurses Association was behind the law in California that requires a minimum nurse-to-patient ratio in hospitals to improve patient care.

For more information about Scott Peters campaign to change Congress, go to

San Diego Tea Party Endorses Bilbray for Congress (And other endorsements he isn’t touting…)

San Diego – Incumbent Congressman and former lobbyist Brian Bilbray, faced with a tough re-election in a new, more moderate district, has spent the entire campaign for the new 52nd District sprinting toward the middle. But, as the Scott Peters for Congress campaign pointed out today, that’s tough to do when you’ve been endorsed by the Tea Party and other right-wing extremist groups as Bilbray has been.

A new voter guide shows Bilbray endorsed by the San Diego Tea Party, presumably because he agrees with them on their priority issues, which include:
·      Privatizing Social Security;
·      Turning Medicare into a voucher program;
·      Raising the eligibility age for recipients of Social Security and Medicare;
·      Draconian cuts to federal funds for education and scientific research; and
·      Reducing “social safety net” programs for the elderly, ill and disabled who rely on them to avoid a life of poverty.

“Mr. Bilbray can run, but he can’t hide from his extreme record,” said Peters Communications Director MaryAnne Pintar. “He’s voted repeatedly against protecting the rights of women, and women’s access to birth control and reproductive health care. And he’s taken some of harshest positions on immigration of anyone in Congress, and even against adequate health care funds for our veterans.

“One can presume these groups back Bilbray for his anti-choice, anti-equality, and harsh immigration stances,” she added.

At a recent debate, Bilbray refused to deny that the immigration policies recommended by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are too liberal for him. And he’s been criticized for a 2010 appearance on Hardball with Chris Mathews in which he suggested undocumented immigrants could be spotted by the type of shoes they wear.

According to the Family Voter Info Guide, where the Tea Party endorsement is listed, Bilbray is also endorsed by theSouthern California Patriots, which boasts membership from several local Tea Party chapters and “citizen brigades.” And the sample ballot from the San Diego County Registrar of Voters shows Bilbray endorsed by the American Independent Party, the political party formed in 1967 to support the presidential nomination of Alabama Governor George Wallace who ran on a segregationist platform.

In sharp contrast, Peters is endorsed by community and business leaders, and organizations, from across the political spectrum. The coalition of supporters backing Peters closely matches the new 52nd Congressional District, as well as Peters’ record of reaching across the aisle to solve problems, and his bi-partisan appeal. For more information about Scott Peters’ campaign to change Congress, go to


Sunday, October 28, 2012

ICYMI: Sandra Fluke Endorsed Scott Peters This Week! 

San Diego – In case you missed it, nationally recognized women’s rights advocate Sandra Fluke endorsed Scott Peters for Congress this week. She was in San Diego to headline a Planned Parenthood rally where she introduced Peters as “a man who will stand up for women every day” to an energetic crowd.

At the rally attended by 150-200 people, Fluke also took the incumbent, Brian Bilbray, to task for his long, dismal list of anti-women, anti-choice votes.

“We deserve better than a Representative who has made it a priority to defund Planned Parenthood….to take away women’s access to breast cancer screenings and cervical cancer screenings, and birth control,” she said, as the crowd booed.  She also warned voters not to be fooled by Bilbray’s claim that he is pro-choice.

“Voting to defund Planned Parenthood as Brian Bilbray has done is not only anti-choice, it's anti-women's health and anti-women. I endorse Scott Peters for Congress because he is steadfast in his support for women's choice and women's rights,” she said.

Fluke also headlined a fundraising event for Peters earlier in the week. Her endorsement came within days of Peters being endorsed by former President Bill Clinton, and California Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson, adding to the tremendous momentum Peters has going into the final days of the campaign.

For more information about Scott Peters campaign to change Congress, go to