Jun 15, 2012

The Ides of June are here, the temperature is nearing triple digits and a gimmick-laden state budget is in play -- just another consitutional deadline day in the city they call Sacramento. It will be a hurry-up-and-wait day in both houses, with mind-numbing floor speeches punctuated by closed-door caucuses that bring public activity to a crashing halt.


From the Bee's Dan Walters: "It's "balanced" only with some very shaky income and outgo assumptions, it's "honest" only if one ignores dozens of bookkeeping tricks, fund shifts and other gimmicks, and its reserve is half of what Gov. Jerry Brown wants and a fraction of what it should be."


"It is, in brief, a budget much like all recent budgets – quite likely to fall apart when its suppositions meet reality."


"The biggest of the shaky assumptions, of course, is about $8 billion in new sales and income taxes that require voters' approval in November. Polls indicate that passage is no better than a 50-50 bet, and even if they do pass, they are likely to generate something less than the amount plugged into the budget."

But this is the document on the table -- rather, on the floor -- and lawmakers are poised to consider it.

From the Mercury News' Steve Harmon: "Democrats are largely in agreement with Brown's $91.4 billion spending plan, but a difference of about $300 million in proposed cuts separates the two as they seek to close a $15.7 billion gap between revenues and spending."


"We're coming very, very close," said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. "It remains a very small differential."


"Legislators, set to take up the budget in both the Senate and the Assembly at 11 a.m., would start losing their pay if they don't approve a balanced budget by midnight Friday. But the likelihood of getting their paychecks docked is low: Under an initiative passed by California voters two years ago, lawmakers only need to send the governor what they deem to be a balanced document."


Meanwhile, the state's political watchdog, the Fair Political Practices Commission, is taking a look at Sen. Mimi Walters, the Orange County lawmaker who called state prison officials in connection with a claim filed by her husband's company.


From the LAT's Patrick McGreevy: "The inquiry was disclosed in a written notice to Walters' attorney by Gary Winuk, chief of enforcement for the state Fair Political Practices Commission. He wrote that his office "will be pursuing an investigation regarding whether or not Sen. Walters violated the Political Reform Act's conflict-of-interest prohibitions."

"The Times reported last month that the state had paid $74,400 to a company co-owned by Walters' husband after her office made repeated calls to at least four officials to check on the claim."

"David Walters' company provides pharmacists to the California corrections system. The firm filed a claim with the state last year, contending that it had been underpaid for its services."

Speaking of Orange County, some sheriff's department employees down there are making a lot of overtime.

From the Register's Andrew Galvin: "In fact, 65 deputy sheriffs, investigators, and sergeants earned $50,000 or more each in overtime last year."


"OT is routinely used at the Sheriff's Department, but the trend had been downward. The county's performance auditor, in a follow-up report last year, showed that the department's overtime cost peaked at $47.5 million in fiscal 2007-2008, then dropped to $21.6 million two years later."


"The reduction was attributable in part to more rigorous control and monitoring of deputies' overtime under Sheriff Sandra Hutchens than under her predecessor, convicted witness-tamperer Mike Carona. Also, the closure of some jail facilities due to budget cuts and the introduction of civilian jail workers to some jobs previously filled by sworn deputies contributed to the drop in overtime costs."


California's two major public pension funds will keep investing with a major Wall Street bank, despite a number of developing probloems.


From California Watch's Corey G. Johnson: "The agencies that manage retirement benefits for California teachers and governmental employees are standing by JPMorgan Chase for now despite a recent $2 billion trading loss that has sparked two federal investigations and reignited calls for tougher bank oversight."

"Representatives of the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS) told California Watch that they are monitoring the controversy at JPMorgan but had no immediate plans to stop investing with the bank over its recent trading woes. That controversy swirled in Washington on Wednesday, with the Senate Banking Committee grilling JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon."


"JPMorgan is an international banking conglomerate and one of the four biggest banks in the United States. It was formed in 2000 with the merger of J.P Morgan & Co. and Chase Manhattan banks. JPMorgan has been reeling since disclosures in April that its London-based investment office lost at least $2 billion over risky trades of exotic financial instruments.

Source: The Bay Citizen.


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