With better fiscal times looming, the Assembly Democrats put out their Christmas list looking to spend more money on schools and social programs, for starters. But with a penurious governor who already has counseled prudence in spending, the Democrats may be in for a surprise. In any event, the stage is set for the big policy debate of 2014.
From News10's John Myers: "Assembly Democrats want to spend some $3.5 billion of California's anticipated budget surplus on programs they say will help restore recent cuts -- from a full roll-out of transitional kindergarten to higher reimbursement rates for doctors who accept low-income patients."
"Those proposals are laid out in general form in a budget 'blueprint' the majority party quietly released on Wednesday. Budget staff says details would have to be worked out during public hearings following Gov. Jerry Brown's budget unveiling next month."
Speaking of the budget, the Democrats' plan eats up much of the emergency reserve. Seems like we've been down this road before.
From the Bee's Dan Walters: "Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez unveiled a "blueprint for a responsible budget" Wednesday that appears to spend most, if not all, of the state's projected surplus in the 2014-15 fiscal year and may conflict with Gov. Jerry Brown's priorities."
"Pérez didn't place a price tag on the new spending, which he termed "investment," but said he and his fellow Assembly Democrats want to boost state aid to colleges and expand safety net services to the poor, including a boost in welfare grants."
It hasn't exactly been smooth sailing for the bullet train lately -- now there's a mixed metaphor -- with the courts and regulators weighing in.
From Capitol Weekly's Summer ParkerPerry: "Two of those challenges happened within the past two weeks. First, a Superior Court judge ruled that the rail authority didn’t meet the legal rules to use billions of dollars of voter-approved bond funds."
"Then, the federal Surface Transportation Board, or STB, rejected the rail authority’s request to exempt from review a 29-mile stretch of line deep in the Central Valley. The board noted that it wanted to take a closer look at the $68 billion bullet train project and said the authority shouldn’t have told a contractor that it was ready to proceed. The board’s vice chair, Ann D. Begeman, called for a review of the financial fitness of the HSRA."
Speaking of high speed rail and the courts, the rivals in the battle over the bullet train are clashing again.
From the Fresno Bee's Tim Sheehan: "The combatants in a lawsuit over California's high-speed project head back to court Friday afternoon in Sacramento."
"Lawyers with the California Attorney General's Office and attorneys for high-speed rail opponents in Kings County will meet in a case management conference that is expected to set a spring trial date over allegations that current plans for the proposed bullet-train violate Proposition 1A, the 2008 ballot measure that provided $9.9 billion in bond funds to help build the system."
The San Diego soap opera continues: Ousted Mayor Bob Filner, sentenced in the courts for inappropriate sexual conduct with staffers, now faces another sexual harassment suit.
From the LAT's Tony Perry: "The allegations of Stacy McKenzie, 50, a manager in the Park and Recreation Department, are similar to those made by more than 20 women during the frenzied six weeks that led to Filner's Aug. 30 resignation."
"McKenzie accuses Filner of “placing her in a headlock, rubbing his body against hers, rubbing his elbow against her breasts, [and] rubbing her arm” after asking for a date."
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's husband, billionaire financier Richard Blum, is getting new scrutiny on his business dealings, this time in a new book.
From the Huffington Post: 'Feinstein's husband, Richard C. Blum, is chairman of C.B. Richard Ellis, or CBRE,the real estate firm hired in 2011 to serve as the exclusive agent to the Postal Service, selling facilities from post offices to plots of land worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Blum's investment firm, Blum Capital Partners, is the real estate company's fifth-largest institutional shareholder, according to Factcheck.org."
"Byrne, a California-based freelance writer with a special interest in uncovering government and corporate corruption, conducted a yearlong investigation into the real estate portfolio of CBRE for his book, "Going Postal." In the book, published in September, Byrne claimed the real estate company undersold Postal Service properties, shortchanging the Postal Service on tens of millions of dollars."
Just how happy are Californians in their state? Well, it depends on where you live -- and other factors.
From the Mercury News' Tracy Seipel: "If you're a Medicare-age Democrat lucky enough to live near the coast, life in the Golden State looks pretty good."
"But if you're younger, among California's dwindling number of registered Republicans or hail from an inland county, not so much."
"Those are the results of a new Field Poll that tracked how Californians view their state as a place to live. Forty-three percent of registered voters surveyed said it's one of the best places to live; 26 percent rated it "nice but not outstanding." Twenty-one percent said it's about average, with 8 percent calling it a poor place to live."