The locals

Jul 20, 2012

Amid all the talk of state vs. locals in budgeting, here's a notable fact: the California state budget is essentially a local document.


From the California Budget Project: "A little-known fact about the $91.3 billion state General Fund budget that took effect on July 1 is that it’s primarily a local budget, with the vast majority of state dollars flowing to local communities."


"More than 70 cents out of every state dollar goes toward “local assistance.” This includes support for public schools and community colleges, financial aid for low-income college students, and cash assistance and services for low-income seniors and people with disabilities. Local assistance funding also goes to doctors who provide health care through the Medi-Cal Program, which serves millions of low-income children, parents, and seniors."


"The other big category of state spending – accounting for more than 25 cents out of every state dollar – is known as “state operations.” Much of this funding also flows to local communities, including support for the 33 campuses of the California State University and the University of California, 33 state prisons, veterans services, state parks, and environmental protection."


Meanwhile, environmentalists want federal authorities to impose stricter anti-pollution requirements, and businesses say the move would hurt them in the pocketbook. This is a classic, recurring dispute.


From Jim Miller in the Press-Enterprise: "The hearing near the Capitol was the second of two day-long sessions on either side of the United States this week to get reaction to the Environmental Protection Agency's proposal last month to lower its annual fine-particle standard for the first time since 1997. An EPA panel also took testimony in Philadelphia on Tuesday."


"Fine-particle pollution in the Riverside-San Bernardino area is among the worst in the nation. In addition to diesel exhaust, the particles measuring less than one-thirtieth the width of a human hair -- include factory and vehicle pollution, dairy emissions, dust and other airborne materials."


"Experts have linked the soot to asthma, heart disease and other illnesses and blame the pollution for some 9,000 premature deaths in California annually. Under federal court pressure, the agency’s proposal would reduce the annual soot standard from 15 micrograms per cubic meter to 12-to-13 micrograms per cubic meter, and possibly as low as 11 micrograms."


Considering all the smarty pants in the Capitol, it's amazing how politically tone deaf lawmakers can be. The latest example: Giving raises to the politicians' staffs while cutting the pay of state workers. Actions like this draw the right-wing out of the woodwork and their complaints resonate.


From The LAT's Patrick McGreevy: "The decision of state lawmakers to provide hundreds of their staffers with raises before cutting the pay for most other state workers drew a rebuke Thursday from taxpayer advocates who said it undermines Gov. Jerry Brown’s argument that an $8 billion tax increase is desperately needed."


"The state Senate provided merit raises of up to 5% to 559 of its legislative employees in the last 12 months; the Assembly confirmed this week that it gave salary increases to 150 staffers this year."


"It’s an outrage that they did this when the governor is asking voters to approve a tax initiative because he says we can’t pay our bills," said Lew Uhler, head of the California-based National Tax Limitation Committee. "This shows an absolute lack of leadership at the top of the state."


An undocumented immigrant has graduated from law school and wants to become a lawyer. State Attorney General has sided with him in legal arguments over the issue. It is an intgriguing case and when that you'll be hearing more about in the future.


From Howard Mintz in the Mercury News: "California Attorney General Kamala Harris on Wednesday sided with an undocumented immigrant's bid to become a lawyer, telling the state Supreme Court that the law school graduate has a legal right to get his license to practice."


"In a brief filed in the Supreme Court, Harris backed the cause of Sergio Garcia, a 35-year-old Chico area man whose immigration status has clouded his right to be licensed by the State Bar. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the controversial case, and it invited Harris' legal views on whether state or federal laws forbid licensing an undocumented immigrant."


"No law or policy prevents this court from admitting Garcia to the State Bar," the attorney general's office wrote. "In fact, admitting Garcia to the Bar would be consistent with state and federal policy that encourages immigrants, both documented and undocumented, to contribute to society. The State Bar Board of Examiners also has recommended that the Supreme Court allow Garcia to be licensed."


In San Francisco, a civil grand jury report chides restaurants for padding their customers' bills and calling the extra charges necessary to meet the city's health care requirements.


From Barbara Grady in the SF Public Press: "In its report the grand jury recommended that restaurants no longer be allowed to add health care surcharges or allow them to offer health reimbursement accounts as a way to comply with a city law requiring businesses to help workers with health care expenses. The San Francisco Public Press reported on this problem last November as part of a team report on the city’s universal care program, Healthy San Francisco."


"In a summary of its investigation into compliance with the Health Care Security Ordinance, the civil grand jury said most of the restaurants adding surcharges made money off those charges. The ordinance requires most San Francisco businesses and nonprofit employers to spend some money on health coverage for employees."


“The Jury found that a growing segment of restaurant establishments are profiting from the practice of adding a surcharge to the bill of every customer,” the report said. “These same employers are legally able to reclaim funds intended for employee health care thus increasing their profits even more. This blatant capture of funds is at the expense of their employees, and their customers who believe they are paying surcharges for healthcare.”


And from our "So What's So Unusual About That?" file, comes word that people are fleeing the city of Des Moines, Iowa, in droves.


"No, the capital city wasn’t named to another list invented by a magazine shamelessly trying to boost circulation — you know, something like Top 100 Destinations for Shawarma."


"Des Moines made its fake news splash by headlining an item on the Onion Radio Network, an offshoot of the Onion."


"The Onion, in this case, is not a vegetable to be chopped atop a burger, but a collection of satirical media that includes a newspaper, several websites, a TV show and 30-second radio-style clips. The gag is that all their news looks, sounds and reads like real news but is, in fact, fact-free."


Just the facts, ma'am.....


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