"California's budget shortfall has swollen from $14.5 billion to $16 billion, according to the Legislature's chief fiscal analyst, who said the governor's proposal for closing the deficit is so inadequate that her office took the rare step of drafting an alternate plan for lawmakers to consider
," reports Evan Halper in the Times.
"The proposal by Legislative Analyst Elizabeth G. Hill
, to whom lawmakers of both parties look for advice on fiscal matters, called on lawmakers to raise taxes by at least $2.7 billion. It urged them to reject Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plans for a 10% across-the-board reduction in spending, saying his approach is short-sighted.
"In a report issued Wednesday Hill identified a dozen tax breaks she said are ripe for modification or elimination. They include tax credits that individuals can claim for dependent children and seniors, and that companies can claim for research and development as well as for hiring low-income workers.
"She also suggested eliminating a loophole that allows yacht buyers to avoid sales tax by keeping their newly purchased boats out of California for 90 days. Democrats call it the "sloophole."
"Hill took issue with some of the governor's ideas for saving money. His bid to close 48 state parks can be avoided by increasing fees, she said. And he should scale back his plan to save $471 million with welfare cuts, she said, because too many needy children would be cut off from aid.
"Democrats embraced Hill's ideas. But the governor and GOP lawmakers said they would continue to block any tax increases.
George Skelton goes out on a limb
: "The Budget Nun has pointed the way. But the politicians probably won't have the courage to follow.
As for the governor's "hiring freeze" reported in papers earlier this week, CW writes that the headlines weren't exactly right
"What the governor did do was require agency directors and department heads to 'reduce the General Fund operations budgets for the agencies and departments under their control by 1.5 percent on an annualized basis for the remainder of fiscal year 2007–08.'
"Administration officials say a hiring freeze is a likely way for many state agencies to realize those additional savings — but not the only way.
"'That term 'freeze' seems to suggest something that it isn’t,' said Lynelle Jolley
, spokeswoman for the Department of Personnel Administration. 'It is a move we can take now to make it less likely we’ll need to resort to layoffs in the future.'"
While the state may be "reducing...on an annualized basis," schools are using the L- word. No, not that
"School districts across California have begun trimming services
and preparing to lay off teachers
in response to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposed budget, which could cut about $4.8 billion in education funding this year and next year. Educators say it's the worst financial crisis they can remember," reports Jason Song in the Times.
"In previous budget cycles, school district and union officials have cried foul when the governor's budget was announced early in the year, only to have funding levels return to normal -- or near normal -- before school started in the fall.
"In addition, officials say they have trimmed their budgets in recent years without having to lay off teachers or increase class sizes. But many don't see a light at the end of this budget tunnel.
"The Los Angeles Unified School District, the state's largest, could have a $560-million deficit next year
, an amount that would affect classroom programs. The district already had agreed to trim almost $100 million from next year's budget to comply with county guidelines before Schwarzenegger's announcement in January of his fiscal plan, which includes $460 million more in potential reductions."
Meanwhile, the city of Vallejo is on the verge of bankruptcy
The Bee's E.J. Schultz reports: "State Senate Republicans on Wednesday elected Modesto's Dave Cogdill as their next leader
, giving the San Joaquin Valley a monopoly on GOP power in the Legislature.
"Cogdill will take over April 15 from Irvine's Dick Ackerman
, who is termed out at the end of the year.
"GOP leadership of the Assembly already is in the hands of Clovis' Mike Villines
, who has held the post for more than a year. As members of the minority party, Villines and Cogdill have less power than leading Democrats, but they will take on a key role in the ongoing fight over the budget, which requires some GOP votes.
"Like Villines, Cogdill is strongly conservative, especially on fiscal matters. He vowed to resist pressure to raise taxes to close the state's growing budget hole.
"'We have a spending problem, not a revenue problem
,' Cogdill said at a Capitol news conference. The budget debate is 'about figuring out how we can better use the state resources to meet the needs of the people of this state and do it without increasing taxes.'"
CW's Malcolm Maclachlan reports: "The 'Big 4' gaming tribes footed much of the bill for a GOP slate mailer that went out ahead of the Feb. 5 election
. While the gaming tribes have been more associated with working with Democrats and California’s 'post-partisan' governor, some say cooperation with the GOP could be a sign of things to come.
"The four tribes with compacts before voters in that election poured in $1.2 million to the California Republican Party in January. Half a million dollars came in one Jan. 29 donation from the main pro-compacts committee, the Coalition to Protect California’s Budget.
"California GOP spokesman Hector Barajas and Patrick Dorinson
, a consultant to the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, confirmed that this money went for slate mailers sent to 5 million Republican voters leading up to the election. The two-sided mailers were marked 'Paid for by the California Republican Party' and urged voters to approve four gaming compacts, Proposition 94 through 97.
"They also urged them to reject Proposition 92, the community college funding, and Proposition 93, the term limits change. The text of one mailer called 93 'a Democrat-sponsored sham' and included allegations about improper spending and investigations of the two Democratic leaders who would have been able to stay longer in office, Speaker Fabian Núñez
(Los Angeles) and Senate leader Don Perata
Capitol Weekly's John Howard takes a look at the battle over the renewal of California's redevelopment law
"Facing a January 2009 deadline, a fight is under way in the Capitol over extending California’s decades-old redevelopment projects, which take an estimated $4 billion annually from local government tax funds and use the money instead to finance projects that remove blight. Critics, mostly local government officials, say they’re being squeezed to finance developers and retail expansion, not just blight, at the expense of vital public services.
"'You’re going to hear cries and requests to remove the blight requirement. We urge you to weigh those needs with the needs of the state
,' said Peter Kutras
, the executive officer of Santa Clara County. 'The basic promise is to fix blight and use a tax increment to do it, then return the area with a higher increment. … That basic promise has never been kept.'
"Orange County Supervisor Chris Norby
is even more blunt. 'They (redevelopment projects) have in fact become a drain on local services
,' he told the Senate Local Government Committee. “Whether they are an NFL stadium or Costco or Wal-Mart or a big box store, this money is going to subsidize private development. It's being siphoned away. The sunsets have been well-known for a long time, and they should be enforced.'"
"A former California Republican Party official who resigned last year in a controversy over his immigration status had no valid visa or work permit during his high-profile career
as a Washington lobbyist for conservative icon Grover Norquist
, newly filed court records show," write Lance Williams and Carla Marinucci in the Chronicle.
, an Australian citizen who served briefly as chief operating officer of the state GOP, worked from 1995 to 2000 as a vice president of Americans for Tax Reform in Washington, D.C., an organization headed by Norquist - an architect of modern conservatism who has advised President Bush and top GOP political leaders.
"For Norquist, Kamburowski lobbied Congress on dozens of issues, including immigration reform, according to his resume. He also directed the Norquist organization's Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, an effort to rename public buildings to honor the former president.
"But when he went to work for Norquist, Kamburowski had no legal right to live or work in the U.S., according to documents filed recently in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., in connection with a wrongful-arrest lawsuit he filed against U.S. immigration officials."
"Defense lawyers and prosecutors agreed Wednesday that California's death penalty system was deeply troubled
but split over the causes and solutions," writes Henry Weinstein in the Times.
"During a hearing in Los Angeles before a state reform commission, prosecutors called for quicker appeals and amending the state Constitution to permit the California state Supreme Court to transfer some of the initial review of cases to state appeals courts.
"Defense attorneys opposed the proposal, saying it would make the process more cumbersome.
"Instead, they asked that the state pare the list of crimes that qualify for the death penalty and provide more funding for lawyers who represent accused killers."
"Two and a half years after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hosted a highly publicized obesity prevention summit, his administration has failed to follow through on most of its own recommendations
, the chairman of a state Senate panel charged Wednesday," writes the Bee's Aurelio Rojas.
"During a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Obesity and Diabetes, Sen. Alex Padilla
noted the governor even vetoed a bill he introduced last year that would have implemented one of those recommendations.
"Senate Bill 120 – which Padilla plans to reintroduce today – would have required restaurants to list calorie information on menus.
"In his veto message, the governor said Californians' health has been a priority for him, but added the legislation would have increased costs for restaurants."
...not to mention ruin that fettucini alfredo dinner.
Finally, today, sad news from our international bureau: "Parliamentary punch-ups in Taiwan have led to a loss of face, the island's ruling political party has conceded
"Warring factions of parliament have put Taiwan on the global news map, with brawls at times involving up to 50 people jumping onto tables and hurling shoes, microphones and punches, causing minor injuries.
"But the Democratic Progressive Party, blamed for starting many of the fights when the opposition Nationalist Party (KMT) majority would not budge on an issue, is calling a ceasefire for its legislative contingent
, the party whip said this week.
"'The brawls are worse and worse for Taiwan's image,' Ker Chien-ming
told Reuters ahead of a legislative session that opens next week. "We will avoid conflicts."
"A ceasefire would end a 20-year Taiwan tradition."
Before we say goodbye to the tradition forever, we bring you the best Taiwanese Parliament fights of all time