"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday the state budget deficit will be 'probably more than $10 billion'
in the next fiscal year as the state takes in lower than expected revenues in a flagging economy," report Judy Lin and Kevin Yamamura in the Bee.
"A $10 billion gap would be at least $1 billion more than previously predicted for the fiscal year that begins July 1.
"The Republican governor, addressing a district attorneys' conference in Sacramento, blamed budget formulas that lock in spending increases and a downturn in the economy related to problems in the housing market.
"'This is why we have to make all kinds of cuts across the board, if it is in education, law enforcement, health care, all those different things, because we cannot spend what we don't have,' Schwarzenegger said.
"At the same time, Republican lawmakers unveiled a plan that would restore about half of the $4.8 billion reduction the governor proposed for education
. The GOP plan, outlined by Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines
and the Senate's new GOP leader, Dave Cogdill
, would give schools more than they're getting this year but less than they're entitled to under the state's constitutional school funding guarantee.
"'Oftentimes Republicans seem to get labeled as if they're not pro-education, and we have been,' Villines said.
Not everyone was delighted by the proposal...
"The Republican plan would delay funding new education programs, use unspent cash from existing school accounts, shift more money from public transit and cut other state programs -- a move that drew sharp criticism from Democrats.
"Assemblyman John Laird
, the Assembly Budget Committee chairman, said the GOP plan proposed further cuts to social and welfare programs -- even more than the governor intended.
"'To say we'll cut things the governor has already slated for a 10 percent cut on a deeper basis doesn't really work,' Laird said.
"California's Republican governor said Thursday he's confident he can land a job after he leaves the Sacramento statehouse
in 2010, but the former Hollywood star is being evasive about what that line of work might be," reports the AP.
"'You want to be senator?' Jay Leno
asked him on NBC's 'The Tonight Show.'
"Schwarzenegger first said he was not interested in a political career, leading Leno to jab, "You should have told that us before we elected you."
"'I see myself as a public servant, not as a politician
,' the one-time bodybuilder explained.
"'I want to finish my term, and I'm absolutely convinced that if I do a good job, and a great job ... we always will get a job after that,' Schwarzenegger added.
"State Sen. Jeff Denham
's campaign filed criminal complaints Thursday with state and local prosecutors
, accusing Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata of illegally pressuring Senate aides into working to recall Denham
," writes the Bee's Aurelio Rojas.
"Perata, D-Oakland, is trying to unseat Denham, R-Atwater, who angered Perata during last year's 53-day state budget stalemate when he joined his GOP colleagues in voting against the spending plan.
"Thursday's complaints, filed with the California Attorney General's Office and Sacramento County District Attorney's Office, stem from a letter and an e-mail sent to Senate aides last week by Perata and a firm owned by his political consultant.
"In the letter, sent by Perata to a handful of Democratic senators whose chiefs of staff did not attend a planning meeting for the June 3 legislative races, Perata made clear he expected the aides to work on political campaigns.
"In the e-mail, sent a day later, an employee of Polka Consulting, owned by Sandi Polka
, asked an interpreter for the Senate to translate an anti-Denham political message into Spanish.
"Perata spokesman Jason Kinney
called the complaints 'unsubstantiated and a waste of taxpayer resources.'"
"Water and flood-control projects across California could be jeopardized if voters approve a ballot measure to greatly restrict the ability of local governments to take private property
, warns a state Department of Water Resources legal analysis," reports the U-T's Michael Gardner.
"Proposition 98 'could seriously hamstring or thwart future water projects,' state attorney Dave Anderson
wrote in a confidential memo to superiors.
"The five-page opinion surfaced just as the parties dueling over competing eminent-domain measures on the June 3 ballot wait for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to weigh in.
"The governor has not taken a position on Proposition 98, but the review by one of his own attorneys could persuade Schwarzenegger that the measure would stand in the way of his pursuit of new reservoirs and an improved north-to-south water delivery system.
"'It is clear that this report raises serious concerns,' said Aaron McLear, a spokesman for the governor.
"Supporters of Proposition 98 contend that it provides exemptions to allow government to take land for public-works projects, such as reservoirs and canals."
"The battle over same-sex marriage in California heated up Thursday, when supporters of an initiative to ban it in the state's Constitution submitted more than 1.1 million signatures
in an effort to qualify the measure for the November ballot," reports Matthew Yi in the Chron.
"Representatives of a conservative coalition called Protect Marriage delivered boxes of signed petitions in each of the state's 58 counties. Opponents immediately pledged to wage what is expected to be a costly campaign to defeat the measure if it goes to voters.
"In the next several weeks, county and state officials will make sure the signatures are valid. To qualify for the ballot, the measure needs at least 694,354 signatures, or 8 percent of the votes cast in the last governor's race. A spokeswoman for Secretary of State Debra Bowen
said the verification process could last until the middle of June.
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said two weeks ago that he would fight such an initiative, and the state Supreme Court is weighing whether to overturn or leave intact Proposition 22, an initiative approved by California voters in 2000 that barred recognition of same-sex marriage in the state. Justices are expected to rule in June."
"On the same day a new study dubbed California the nation's leader in holding the line on auto insurance rates, a judge in San Francisco denied Allstate's bid to delay cutting its rates an average of 15.9 percent
as the insurer appeals state action ordering the reduction," reports Mark Glover in the Bee.
"Allstate said Thursday that it will continue to appeal the auto insurance rate-reduction order issued last month by an administrative law judge.
"The rate reductions amount to an average of $124 per vehicle each year, according to the state Department of Insurance, which disagreed with Allstate's proposed rate revision filed in 2006."
"The worst spring cold snap in more than 30 years is threatening to wreak havoc on the wine industry
as three recent days of frost have killed grapevine buds up and down the crucial North Coast vineyard region," reports the Chron's Kevin Fagan.
"So far, grape growers estimate that as much as 10 percent of their crops could be lost, an unusual occurrence in an industry that hasn't seen a significant spring frost since the early 1970s. But the real impact won't be known until June, when the first grapes start to actually show and farmers can take a count of what they expect to harvest.
"For now, all they can do is hope no more freezes occur so their vines can recover by pushing out new shoots to replace the ones that were killed.
"'This is the worst frost season I've seen since I started in this business in 1971,' said grape grower David Steiner
, who also is a soil conservationist with the Napa County Resource Conservation District. 'It's kind of hard to tell exactly what's going to happen. It's a little worrisome.'"
In more bad news for agriculture, "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday delayed plans to conduct aerial spraying against the light brown apple moth
over 12 Northern California counties until safety tests are completed.
"In a separate decision, a Santa Cruz County judge ordered that spraying for the agricultural pest be stopped there pending a full environmental review.
"The decisions pose additional obstacles for state and federal farm officials, who have cast the battle against the voracious bug as an emergency, allowing them to sidestep normal review procedures."
And the LAT's Hector Becerra and Richard Winton bring us the tale of the Gypsy Fortune-Teller Feud
"Frank Siganoff is suspected of killing a Sunset Boulevard fortune-teller because her family went to police about a burglary, investigators say.
"Many disputes occur when someone opens a fortune-telling business too close to someone else's business.
"'The most common rule of thumb is no closer than three blocks in any direction,' LAPD investigator Greg Ovanessian said. 'The three-block rule is pretty standard. Fortune-telling is probably the main income-generating function within the Gypsy community.'"
From fire-bombing fortune-tellers to penguin wetsuits
. "biologists at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, who had a wetsuit created for an African penguin to help him get back in the swim of things.
"Pierre, a venerable 25 years old, was going bald, which left him with an embarrassingly exposed, pale pink behind.
"Unlike marine mammals, which have a layer of blubber to keep them warm, penguins rely on their waterproof feathers.
"Pierre was outfitted with the suit about six weeks ago. Since then, he has gained weight, grown back feathers on his hind parts and is again acting like his feisty, alpha-male self
This wetsuit seems to have the same effect as football season does on most American males...