Half empty? Half full?

Mar 18, 2011

Over two days, California lawmakers completed work on roughly half the state budget, approving billions of dollars in cuts. The remaining half, however, includes extending existing taxes and placing the package before voters in a special election -- politically, a daunting prospect.


From Dan Weintraub at HealthyCal: "You might say they’ve done the easy half — but cutting spending the way they’ve done was not easy. Democrats cut grants to the aged and disabled, and to welfare mothers, and voted to force low-income people to make co-payments when they go to an emergency room or spend the night in a hospital. They imposed cuts on University of California and Cal State University system that will likely mean more tuition hikes and fewer class offerings."


"But the even harder part, politically, will be winning approval for extending about $11 billion in temporary tax increases expiring this year. Republicans so far are not willing to cast the votes needed to place those measures on the ballot. And even if they do make it to a special election in June, there is no guarantee that voters will approve."


"The alternative would be another $11 to $12 billion in cuts, starting with K-12 education but extending to every level of state and local government."


With the world concerned about the safety of nuclear energy, the report of an emergency cooling glitch at PG&E's Diablo Canyon plant couldn't come at a worse time. The Chronicle's David Baker tells the tale.


"For 18 months, operators at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant near San Luis Obispo didn't realize that a system to pump water into one of their reactors during an emergency wasn't working."


"It had been accidentally disabled by the plant's own engineers, according to a report issued Thursday on the safety of nuclear reactors in the United States."


"The report, from the Union of Concerned Scientists watchdog group, lists 14 recent "near misses" - instances in which serious problems at a plant required federal regulators to respond."


As the fight over public pension benefits shifts into high gear, both Republicans and Democrats see political advantage in the dispute.


From the LA Times' Anthony York: "Some labor leaders have said they'd sooner see state budget negotiations unravel than give way on pensions for their members. GOP lawmakers, who are leading the charge for a pension overhaul in Sacramento, say they are prepared to let that happen."

"They concede, when pressed, that adjusting pensions now won't provide substantial savings to the state for years to come and would do little to ease the current budget crisis. It would, however, dilute the influence of labor in California politics…"


"State Republicans, who have demanded a benefits rollback as a condition for supporting Gov. Jerry Brown's budget plan, are emboldened by GOP headway on the issue in Illinois, Colorado and New Jersey, among other states. A nonprofit with ties to GOP strategist Karl Rove, Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, is running ads in California as part of a national campaign promoting the message that Democrats are "shutting down" capitals across the country to protect union wages and pensions."


And more on pensions: CalPERS is sticking to it's earning forecasts rather than lowering them, a move that affects the costs of public pensions. Ed Mendel at CalPensions tells the tale.


"Actuaries got another rebuff this week when the labor-friendly CalPERS board voted to leave its earnings forecast unchanged, much like a CalSTRS board action in December that did not lower its forecast as far as actuaries recommended."


"A lower earnings forecast raises pension costs for state and local governments struggling with budget cuts during a deep recession. But another rate increase also might fuel the drive for pension reforms that increase worker costs and cut their benefits."


“I was afraid we were going to throw gasoline on the fire in the public pension debate,” Neal Johnson of the Service Employees International Union told a CalPERS committee after a key vote."


As the Republican Party gathers at its convention this weekend in Sacramento, one item high on the agenda is coming up with a strategy to limit the impact of the "top-two" primary, a voter-approved device aimed at encouraging moderate candidates. 


From Mike Mishak at the LA Times: "At the party's convention, which opens Friday, a group of conservatives including the California party chairman wants to codify the power to crown their party's nominees with early endorsements — long before voters even cast their first ballots for statewide, congressional and legislative offices."

"Such a move would pit the activists against the GOP's leading congressional and state legislators, and help preserve the most conservative members' hold on the party machinery. Democrats will tackle the nomination issue at their convention next month."

"A reform designed to move California politics to the center may actually move it a bit more to the extremes," said Thad Kousser, a political scientist at UC San Diego."


And now, from our "Whote Lot of Shakin' Goin' On" file comes a prediction that an earthquake is imminent in California. Problem is, the guy who is making the prediction is a scientist who made a similar prediction before the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. Hmmmm.


"The month of October, March, and April are the three most devastating earthquakes in terms of damage in the San Francisco Bay Area in history. And we are having on the 19th of this month not only the full moon, but within an hour the closest approach of the moon to the earth until the year 2016. The next day is the equinoctial tides. So you're bringing together three of the maximum tide raising forces. We know about the ocean tides. But there is also an Earth tide. And there is a tide in the ground water. All of these help to release sudden, built up strain, and cause earthquakes."


"My -- what I call a seismic window, this top seismic window in years is developing between the 19th and 26th of this month. And this was 7.0 monster and it says geologist had warned about it. And a week earlier, the they were talking about the tides, not to worry about the really tides coming up. I think there is worry here too."


I'm not worried, not me, not really....






Get the daily Roundup
free in your e-mail

The Roundup is a daily look at the news from the editors of Capitol Weekly and AroundTheCapitol.com.
Privacy Policy