Day of reckoning

May 15, 2012

The governor unveiled a slash-and-burn state budget that he says is necessary to get the state back on a sound fiscal footing, but the critical piece remains getting voters to approve new tax increases on the November ballot. That won't be an easy sell -- polls say voters narrowly approve of Brown's plan now, but as election day nears and the opposition campaign intensifies, anything can happen.


From the LAT's Chris Megerian and Anthony York: "Gov. Jerry Brown released a plan to close California's rapidly growing deficit by switching state offices to a four-day week, slashing welfare benefits and healthcare for the poor and relying on a variety of short-term fixes — all in the hopes that voters will give the state some breathing room by raising taxes in November.

"The governor, who unveiled his revised budget proposal in the Capitol on Monday, is facing a nearly $16-billion budget gap, far larger than the $9.2 billion he predicted in January. He warned that the deficit could grow significantly if voters reject his proposed ballot measure to raise the state sales tax and income levies on the wealthy ... "


"His $91.4-billion spending plan sets up confrontations with interests that are supporting his tax campaign. To save $400 million, he's negotiating with public labor unions to reduce the state workweek to 38 hours, worked over four days — a 5% cut in payroll costs. And he's pushing fellow Democrats in the Legislature to accept steep cuts in social services, which they have so far resisted. Brown acknowledged that budget negotiations will be especially challenging."


In the deep-cuts budget, there's something for just about everyone to dislilke, including Brown's fellow Democrats.


From the Chronicle's Wyatt Buchanan: "The bulk of the cuts, nearly $2.5 billion, come from health services and welfare, which Democrats in the Legislature have opposed. The federal government and courts also have already blocked similar reductions in services, but it appears the governor is going to try again to get approval on those, including In-Home Supportive Services and co-payments for Medi-Cal."


"The proposal seeks to make reductions in what the state pays to hospitals and nursing homes for treating the poor, along with adding limits on who qualifies for welfare. The $879 million proposed cut to CalWORKS, the state's welfare to work program, is actually smaller than what the governor first proposed in January, but Democrats have said the reduction would lead to homelessness and that they oppose it."


"There is of course a balance between making necessary cuts, which we will do, and maintaining and preserving essential services for people, especially people most in need," said state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento."


At the end of the day, lawmakers will approve the cuts, Steinberg noted.


From Julie Small at KPCC: "In general, Steinberg predicted the democratically-controlled Legislature will pass a budget that adopts most of the governor’s proposals, including those trigger cuts to public education. Steinberg said that’s the best way to protect schools for as long as possible."


"The governor’s basic approach to how he constructs the trigger is the correct one — I just, I hate the cuts," said Steinberg. "The only way to avert the cuts is to win the election in November.”


“That’s nonsense!” said Senator Bob Huff. “You start with your priorities, you build a budget from there.”


the Capitol's critics aren't the only ones taking shots at the governor's revised budget. Across the state, people protested the proposed cuts.


From  the Chronicle's Carolyn Jones: "Antipoverty groups organized rallies across California on Monday to coincide with Brown's unveiling of his revised spending plan for the fiscal year starting July 1. Brown is asking the Legislature to help close a $15.7 billion budget shortfall by cutting spending on programs including Medi-Cal, in-home help for the disabled and CalWORKS."


"Gonzales turned to CalWORKS five weeks ago when she needed help supporting her 5-year-old grandson. At 57, she was dubious about her job prospects. CalWORKS is helping her get by plus brush up on her computer and typing skills."


"That place has been amazing," she said, holding a picket sign amid the demonstrators. "It makes me sad, though, to think about all the people who need these services and won't get them. This whole system, it needs to turn around."


Public schools made it through the May Revision relatively whole, but just how long that will be true will depend on the electorate.


From Tom Chorneau in the Cabinet Report: "California’s public school emerged largely unscathed from Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised May budget released Monday, although any relief is contingent on voter approval of a tax hike in November."


"The governor drew headlines over the weekend that the budget shortfall had ballooned from $9 billion to almost $16 billion during recent months  – but because of the influence of Proposition 98, schools can expect to receive almost the same money that the governor proposed in January while virtually all other state departments and services are looking at deep cuts."


"But that’s only if taxes are approved in November."


"If not, schools face the lion’s share of the cuts, some $5.5 billion coming as a result of the administration saving $2.8 billion by not paying back deferrals owed and the remaining $2.7 billion would come as a program cut to K-14 schools."


Meanwhile,. the fight over the death penalty hasn't even gone before voters yet, but the battle is joined: A group has gone to a state court to kick the measure off the ballot.


From Howard Mintz in the Contra Costa Times: "A law-and-order group on Monday asked a state appeals court to bump a measure off the November ballot that would repeal California's death penalty, arguing that it violates a state rule against proposing multiple reforms."


"The ballot language is "deceptive" and conflicts with the state's limit of voter initiatives to a single subject, the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation argues in a petition filed with the Sacramento-based 3rd District Court of Appeal."


"The foundation brought the lawsuit on behalf of Phyllis Loya, the mother of a Pittsburg police officer fatally shot in 2005 whose killer was sent to death row by a Contra Costa County jury."


"The SAFE California Act would abolish the death penalty, clear the state's death row and replace capital punishment with life in prison without the possibility of parole. But the measure also provides for shifting as much as $100 million used for death penalty costs to a fund that would pay for solving murder and rape cases."


Facebook, that social networking behemoth, poised to launch an initial public offering and its value exceeds $100 billion -- a domestic record by far.


From Jeremy C. Owens and Brandon Bailey in the Mercury News: "A source told the Mercury News on Monday that Facebook will increase the range of possible prices for the Menlo Park company's initial shares, raising the maximum price to $38. At that price, Facebook would be valued at more than $104 billion and bring in $12.8 billion. The largest U.S. IPO valuation on record is shipping company UPS at $60 billion, according to Dealogic records."


"Facebook is expected to sell 337 million shares to investors Thursday night, after the final price -- which could still be higher -- is set. After initially saying in Securities and Exchange Commission documents that it expected to charge $28 to $35 per share, Facebook's new range will be $34 to $38, a person with knowledge of the move said, verifying earlier reports."


"The company will receive about 53 percent of the total, before expenses, and the rest will go to existing shareholders such as CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg, who will sell 30.2 million shares to cover taxes on other Facebook stock rewards. After the sale, a total of 2.74 billion shares will be held in Facebook, according to Bloomberg News calculations that include restricted stock units and other shares Facebook does not yet include in its statements."


And now we turn to our "Cold Case" file to learn that the Zodiac killer may be alive and well and living in Northern California. I knew it all along.


"In "The Zodiac Killer Cover Up," Lafferty claims the killer is now a 91-year-old man living in Solano County. The book uses aliases and does not identify the alleged killer by name. Lafferty claims he and other lawmen investigated the suspect in the early 1970s but were stymied by "power brokers" in Solano County."


"According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the book has stirred new debate among those who have followed the famous killings."


"The San Francisco police formally closed the case in 2004."


The Zodiac killer got his name by taunting newspapers and the police with letters and puzzles. "The police shall never catch me, because I have been too clever for them," he wrote in a letter sent to the San Francisco Chronicle."


Good movie, by the way....









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