It was really little more than symbolic, given the state's grave financial condition, but the public commission that sets pay levels for state elected officials approved a 5 percent pay cut to take effect at the end of the year. But symbolism, spin, suggestion and signal-sending play as well as reality in the state Capitol, so let's take a look.
From Mercury News' Steve Harmon: "The California Citizens Compensation Commission cut the pay of lawmakers and the governor by 5 percent Thursday, on top of the 18 percent pay cut they received in 2009."
"That leaves legislators with a base pay of $90,526 -- down from $95,291 now and $116,000 three years ago."
"The governor's salary will be set at $165,288, down from $173,987. It was $212,179 three years ago, though then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger settled for $1 a year. he governor wants to impose "on public employees the same salary reduction," said Charles Murray, the commission member who proposed the cuts. "This may not make a dent in the deficit, but we have to send a message."
The agency at the heart of federal health care reform in California, the Health Benefit Exchange, is poised to award a major technology contract.
From HealthyCal's Dan Weintraub: "The Exchange announced its intent to award a $360 million contract to Accenture LLC to design and maintain a web site that will allow consumers to shop for insurance, choose their plan and enroll."
“We want this experience to be as easy as buying a book on Amazon.com or buying a ticket on StubHub or buying shoes on Zappos,” said Peter V. Lee, the Exchange’s executive director. “It needs to be as simple and as seamless as we can possibly make it.”
"The online enrollment system will be backed up by staff available to help consumers by phone and in person, and by tens of thousands of “navigators” in community organizations, churches and hospitals who will be trained to guide people through the system. Multiple health insurers are expected to offer varying levels of coverage, and the state’s goal is to make comparison shopping among them easy for the average person."
Speaking of health care, the Brown administration's budget proposal includes heavy hits on public hospitals.
From Jim Steinberg in the San Bernardino Sun: "The hits to California's health care safety net comes on three fronts, according to the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems:"
"In the fiscal year, which begins July 1, the state is proposing to take $100 million in federal funding that would have in some cases reimbursed the state's public hospitals for services already provided."
"It eliminates more than $60 million in fiscal year 2013-14 funding to public hospitals that was agreed to under a fee designed to maximize federal funding available to California for the Medi-Cal program. And it would cut an additional $9 million in fiscal 2013-14 safety net pool funding used to help cover expenses incurred for care to the uninsured."
Community colleges face dire financial times, and a prime example can be found in San Francisco, where campuses may be closed.
From the Chronicle's Nanette Asimov: "City College of San Francisco may be forced to close or combine some campuses - it has 12 of them - to help stave off a financial crisis and retain full accreditation, The Chronicle has learned."
"More immediately, college trustees voted 4-1 Thursday evening to seek an independent, top-to-bottom financial evaluation even as they prepare to restore nearly 100 summer school classes that were cut to save money. That move shut out thousands of students and put about $1 million in future state funds at risk. It all comes as the college faces a $14 million budget shortfall that interim Chancellor Pamila Fisher said could lead to layoffs."
"Everything is on the table," said Fisher, who took over May 1 when Chancellor Don Griffin retired early for medical reasons. As for campus closures, "it's a very legitimate question for us to be considering."
And speaking of education cuts, the LAO is suspicious of the governor's proposal to move education mondey around as part of the 2012-13 budget state proposal.
From Tom Chorneau at the Cabinet Report: "The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst called into question Thursday Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan for paying back next year some of the billions owed schools as the result of previous cuts made to the Proposition 98 funding guarantee."
"In a new report to lawmakers, the LAO suggested that under the governor’s plan, schools would soak up a disproportionate share of overall state revenue in 2012-13 and beyond.
LAO Mac Taylor recommended that legislative leaders reject the proposal and instead use an alternative funding method for paying back the state debt – known as the ‘maintenance factor’ – which he argues would produce a more balanced plan going forward."
"School officials have argued that the LAO’s plan would cut education funding next year by $1.7 billion."