Kern County supervisors declared a fiscal emergency yesterday in response to plummeting oil prices. The lower value is expected to deflate tax revenues by $61 million over the next fiscal year, leaving a $27 million budget deficit. From James Burger at the Bakersfield Californian:
‘The fiscal emergency declaration gave supervisors the ability to spend reserves and get creative in staffing the Kern County Fire Department, which has to absorb $17 million of the $61 million oil tax drop...
“County departments were directed to reduce their annual general fund spending by 1 percent… Departments will also face increased pension costs.
"’We're going to start feeling the pain earlier than we have to,’ Supervisor David Couch said. ‘Doing nothing and hoping it all works out isn't really an option.’"
A new Census Bureau report finds that California has the largest manufacturing sector in the nation. Dan Walters reports at the Sacramento Bee:
“California had more manufacturing businesses (38,741) than any other state in 2012 and their 1.2 million employees were also the largest industrial workforce of any state, the report says. Those workers produced products valued at $512.3 billion, up 4.3 percent from the previous industrial census in 2007.
“That is the equivalent of nearly 25 percent of the state’s overall economic output, which would, were California a nation, rank its economy as the globe’s seventh largest.”
But, over at the Grizzly Bear Project, Anthony York paints a darker picture of California manufacturing:
“[We] have lost more than 260,000 manufacturing jobs in California since 2004. And they have not come back, even as our budget has come back into balance and overall job growth has returned to pre-recession levels.
“While there are national and global pressures on manufacturing, they are acute in California. We have cutting-edge safety and environmental regulations, high costs of living, and a large underclass that does not have the training to serve the demands that manufacturing requires.”
Billionaire industrialists Charles and David Koch have pledged to spend nearly $900 million on conservative candidates in the coming election cycle. How much of that money will land in solid blue California? Enough to make a difference.
From Carla Marinucci at SFGate: “’It will change the tenor, the narrative of the debate and what we talk about,” [Jessica Levinson, who teaches political ethics at Loyola Law School] said.
“One race certain to be affected by the Kochs’ money, she said, is the contest for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by California Democrat Barbara Boxer, even though no prominent Republican candidates are on the horizon…
“In a normal election, ‘when the Republican Party is forced to do triage, they’ll often skip California, because there are states where they can do more with fewer dollars,’ [Dan Newman of SCN Strategies] said.
“’But when you’re talking about a billion dollars, that’s enough to spend virtually everywhere,’ he said. ‘That’s more than was spent on every Senate race in the country in the last cycle.’”
Plans to raise Shasta Dam may be permanently shelved after federal biologists issued a report saying that they will not support the project. From Paul Rogers at Inside Bay Area:
“Biologists at the main federal agency that oversees the Endangered Species Act have concluded they cannot endorse a $1.1 billion plan to raise the height of the dam at California's largest reservoir, Shasta Lake, because of its impact on endangered salmon.
In a 349-page draft report completed in late November, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded that it is "unable to support" any of the project's five options being considered…
"’This is a huge setback. It shows they need to go back to the drawing board,’ said Tom Stokely, a spokesman for the California Water Impact Network, a nonprofit group based in Santa Barbara that obtained the documents.”
And, speaking of Salmon, U.S. Fish and Wildlife plans to triple the number of releases of Chinook Salmon after a massive die-off of about 95% of the fish and eggs released last year.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, who has water plans of her own, met behind closed doors with seven Democratic House members to discuss a California water bill. Participants called the meeting ‘constructive.’ Michael Doyle has the story in the Fresno Bee:
“Exactly how constructive, though, is a matter for speculation, as each of the House members exited the private meeting with their lips effectively sealed. One participant, Rep. Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, briefly explained the group no-comment by saying that ‘all of us are interested in building trust.’”
And finally, a story of a superhero gone bad: Mr. Incredible has been convicted of an assault on Batgirl. From KTLA5 in Los Angeles (with video!):
“The assault occurred Oct. 21 in front of the TCL Chinese Theatre and was captured on video that showed actors dressed as Chewbacca and Freddy Krueger helping to break up the fight as tourists and onlookers watched.
“Muhammet Bilik, who was dressed at Mr. Incredible, was accused of punching, kicking and body-slamming the woman dressed as Batgirl, according to the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office. He allegedly picked his victim up and flipped her, causing her to hit her head on the pavement, and then kicked her when she was on the ground.
“Bilik was convicted Monday of one count of battery. He was sentenced to 36 months of probation, one day in jail, 20 days of Caltrans work and 36 anger management sessions.
“He was also ordered to stay away from the city-designated Hollywood Entertainment District.”