Balancing the checkbook

May 8, 2019


Newsom's $209B budget calls for new taxes, but are they feasable?


Sac Bee's SOPHIA BOLLAG: "Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed new taxes and fees to fund health care subsidies, clean drinking water and tax credits for low-income families. But state revenue outpacing even his most optimistic predictions could present a challenge for him as he attempts to raise taxes."


"Last month, corporate taxes came in at $3.4 billion, much higher than the Newsom administration’s estimated $2.6 billion. Income taxes also came in ahead of projections, making up for a shortfall earlier in the year, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office."


"If the trend continues, the state is looking at another big surplus this year."


READ MORE related to Death & Taxes: More parental leave, tax breaks for tampons and diapers backed by Newsom -- The Chronicle's ALEXEI KOSEFF


A war is brewing over lithium mining at the edge of Death Valley


LA Times's LOUIS SAHAGUN: "A small Cessna soared high above the Mojave Desert recently, its engine growling in the choppy morning air. As the aircraft skirted the mountains on the edge of Death Valley National Park, a clutch of passengers and environmentalists peered intently at a broiling salt flat thousands of feet below."


"The desolate beauty of the Panamint Valley has long drawn all manner of naturalists, adventurers and social outcasts — including Charles Manson — off-road vehicle riders and top gun fighter pilots who blast overhead in simulated dogfights."


"Now this prehistoric lake bed is shaping up to be an unlikely battleground between environmentalists and battery technologists who believe the area might hold the key to a carbon-free future."


READ MORE related to Energy, Environment & Climate Change: As UN warns of widespread extinction, California is already losing species -- LA Times's ANNA M PHILLIPS; In Trump versus California, the state is winning nearly all its environmental cases -- LA Times's ANNA M PHILLIPS

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Death Valley, the 'Star Wars Canyon,' fighter jet aficionados have a good feeling


LA Times's RUBEN VIVES: "The fighter jet was flying low over the desert valley when it banked and dove into a ravine. Between the ancient walls, it rumbled like a giant marble careening around a wooden floor. The noise, a stark contrast with the quietude of the desert, is part of the lure for the military veterans, aviation enthusiasts and photographers who gather at the top of “Star Wars Canyon” on the western edge of Death Valley National Park."


"But what they really come for is to catch a glimpse of mechanical birds tearing the sky apart — and the U.S. Air Force and Navy pilots who maneuver them like fictional X-Wing Starfighters."


"Hearing the rumble, Evert Van Koningsveld grabbed his camera and rushed over to a railing on the edge of the canyon. He followed the jet with his Canon 80D, snapping 14 photos in as many seconds. He stopped, lowered his camera and watched the jet disappear in a band of clouds stretched out like a string of cotton balls. The sky grumbled."


AG Becerra cracks down on toxic jewelry


Sac Bee's ANDREW SHEELER: "California’s efforts to crack down on lead and cadmium in jewelry resulted in a victory for the state’s top law enforcer but a state senate bill to toughen the amount of toxic materials in trinkets like earrings and bracelets also faced a set back this week."


"Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Tuesday that five jewelry purveyors reached a settlement with the Department of Justice worth $83,362, agreeing to stop selling accessories that contained high levels of the toxic metals."


"Becerra said the Southern California-based companies – Peer JS, Sun’s Trading, Andrea Bijoux, Seven Star and Le Belle – knowingly sold toxic jewelry."


How Ted Lieu became Trump's top Twitter critic


The Chronicle's TAL KOPAN: "Rep. Ted Lieu didn’t come to Congress in 2015 intending to be a social media star or go viral for his questioning of witnesses in congressional hearings. In fact, the Southern California Democrat thought he could make a difference on cybersecurity and the environment."


"Then the 2016 election happened."


"I wrote a public statement (afterward) that said something like, one of the great things about America is our peaceful transfer of power, we’re an exceptional nation, it’s one of the reasons I served in active duty in the military and Donald Trump won the electoral college. We should give him a chance to govern,” Lieu said. “A few months later I concluded I was wrong."


Second daughter testifies in Assemblyman Arambula's trial


Sac Bee's RORY APPLETON: "The trial of Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula continued Tuesday with testimony from witnesses for the prosecution, including the Fresno police detective in charge of investigating Arambula and the assemblyman’s 6-year-old middle daughter."


"Arambula is accused of misdemeanor child abuse stemming from a bruise on the head of his eldest daughter, who is 7 and testified over the past few days. He was cited for the allegation in December and charged in March."


"The Fresno County District Attorney’s office has accused Arambula of slapping his daughter, but he has denied the allegation."


This Chinese billionaire's 'gift' got his daughter into Stanford. She says it was 'hard work'


LA Times's MAX LU/MATTHEW ORMSETH: "A former Stanford University student whose parents paid $6.5 million to secure her admission to the prestigious school has not been charged with a crime in the college admissions scandal."


"But Yusi Zhao became a key figure in the scandal after The Times revealed last week that her wealthy parents paid William “Rick” Singer, the admitted mastermind of the far-reaching scheme, the seven-figure sum shortly after she was accepted to Stanford in 2017."


"The Zhaos’ payment far eclipsed the amounts allegedly paid by parents who have been implicated by prosecutors in Singer’s audacious scheme to get their children into elite universities through fraud, bribes and lies."


How SF's HIV/AIDS warriors paved the way for today's cannabis gold rush


The Chronicle's JEREMY MANN: "Throughout the 1970s, Michael Koehn had occasionally smoked marijuana. But in 1985, after his partner, George Manierre, fell sick and Koehn was diagnosed with HIV, he began using it regularly for his health."


"I went on a program of drugs and learned that (cannabis) would help my symptoms,” he says 34 years later. “It allowed me to go to work in the morning, and work during the day, and not barf up all my breakfast at home."


"At the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s, thousands of people like Koehn discovered cannabis was one of the few remedies that could counteract nausea and AIDS-related wasting syndrome, which would cause them to rapidly shed body weight and lose appetite, putting them at increased risk for opportunistic infections."


Avoid raw oysters from this part of Mexico, state officials say


Sac Bee's JARED GILMOUR: "California health officials are warning diners to steer clear of raw oysters from a specific part of Mexico after a dozen people who ate the shellfish came down with stomach illnesses."


"The oysters that have been linked to the string of gastrointestinal problemswere harvested from Estero El Cardon in Mexico’s Baja California Sur, the California Department of Public Health said in a news releasethis month."


"Health officials said 12 people reported stomach illnesses after eating the raw shellfish from retailers or restaurants in Los Angeles, Orange, Santa Barbara and San Diego counties. Cases were reported in February, March and April."


CFPB rules would let debt collectors send unlimited texts, with a caveat


Bloomberg: "A U.S. regulator unveiled proposed rules for debt collectors on Tuesday that would restrict how often they can call borrowers, while making clear that firms can send unlimited text messages and emails as long as consumers don’t opt out of such communications."


"The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau regulations — the result of a process started under former Director Richard Cordray — would mark some of the first major rule changes for the industry in four decades if they are adopted."


"The proposal is likely to trigger fresh claims from Democratic lawmakers that the CFPB is being gutted under President Trump, because the rules would fall far short of what consumer advocates have called for. Trying to rein in debt collectors was a signature effort for Cordray, an appointee of former President Obama who left the CFPB in 2017. The proposal is one of the first significant actions taken by Director Kathy Kraningersince she took over the regulator in December."


California prison manager watched thousands of YouTube videos at work


Sacramento Bee's ANDREW SHEELER: "An administrator at the Valley State Prison in Chowchilla watched thousands of YouTube videos while on the clock, according to a new report from the California State Auditor."


"Though the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation normally blocks access to sites like YouTube, the administrator — whose name wasn’t given but who worked in the prison’s education program — had the ability to bypass that restriction “because his duties sometimes required him to access certain sites,” according to the auditor’s report."


"The employee misused that privilege, according to the report, to watch more than 2,200 YouTube videos from September 2017 to June 2018."


READ MORE related to Prisons & Public Safety: LA County Sheriff plans to revive highway drug team that stopped Latino drivers on I-5 -- LA Times's BEN POSTON/MAYA LAU


Caltrans manager commuted from San Diego to Sacramento for 2 years. Taxpayers paid the bill


Sac Bee's WES VENTEICHER: "The state paid for a Caltrans manager to commute from San Diego to Sacramento for work for two years, according to a California State Auditor’s report published Tuesday."


"The manager, who isn’t named in the audit, was reimbursed for about $30,000 in airfare and car rentals plus $12,000 for meals, lodging and other costs from 2016 through 2018, according to the audit."


"The state pays for employees’ approved airline, train and car travel by paying vendors directly and it reimburses employees when they spend money on food and lodging more than 50 miles from their headquarters."


READ MORE related to Transportation: Muni officials say railcar-linking issue on new fleet is bigger than they thought -- The Chronicle's RACHEL SWANUber protest planned Wednesday -- and drivers are hoping you'll notice -- The Chronicle's CAROLYN SAID


NYT: Trump's tax records show he lost over $1B in a decade


AP: "The New York Times reported Tuesday that Donald Trump’s businesses lost more than $1 billion from 1985 to 1994, based on tax information the newspaper acquired."


"The Times said it had acquired printouts from the future president’s official IRS tax transcripts, including figures from his federal tax forms."


"The newspaper said Trump reported business losses of $46.1 million in 1985, and a total of $1.17 billion in losses for the 10-year period."


READ MORE related to POTUS45: WH escalates fight with Congress over McGahn documents -- AP


Reeps want to move on from Russia investigation even as they reopen probe


LA Times's CHRIS MEGERIAN/JENNIFER HABERKORN: "Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell offered a definitive verdict Tuesday on special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report on whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia in 2016 — “case closed."


"Two years of exhaustive investigation, and nothing to establish the fanciful conspiracy theory that Democratic politicians and TV talking heads had treated like a foregone conclusion,” McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor."


"It was time, he said, for the country to move on."


READ MORE related to KremlinGate: FBI chief says there is no evidence the agency spied on Trump's 2016 campaign -- AP


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