"The budget deficit for the fiscal year beginning July 1, which was estimated two months ago to be at about $8 billion, is now expected to widen to as much as $14 billion
," reports Matthew Yi in the Chron.
"'Clearly, the revenue situation has deteriorated since January and February," said state Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny
, D-San Diego, chairwoman of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee. 'Every month we're seeing fewer sales. Retail sales taxes are down, corporate taxes are down.'
"For the upcoming fiscal year, the deficit is expected to be 'at least $11 billion; $12 billion to $14 billion is probably the right range,' Ducheny said
"With the fiscal crisis deepening, many legislators agree that cutting expenses may not be enough by itself to balance the budget, and that generating additional revenue through taxes and/or fees will probably have to be part of the equation.
"The official word on the magnitude of the budget gap will be revealed May 14, when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announces a revised version of his budget proposal, which he first announced in January.
, a spokesman for the Department of Finance, agrees that California's fiscal woes are worsening, but he refused to comment on how big the budget deficit is likely to be."
Meanwhile, we have new leadership to get us through this mess, and they're promising business as unusual. "As the Democrats' two incoming legislative leaders prepare to assume power, Assemblywoman Karen Bass
and Sen. Darrell Steinberg are vowing to avoid the temptations that flush campaign cash has offered to many who have preceded them
: living a life of luxury on their donors' dime," reports Steven Harmon in the Merc News.
"And government watchdog groups are optimistic the two could open the way to a new era of higher campaign finance ethics, saying their relatively mundane spending histories are a good sign.
"'They're the perfect duo to restore faith in the process
,' said Barbara O'Connor
, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at California State University-Sacramento. 'They don't have a record of using campaign funds to enhance their lifestyles, and that's what we need, people who'll do their business in a conscientious and ethical way.'
"Bass, a Los Angeles Democrat expected to assume her role as speaker as early as next month for what will be a two-year reign, said the withering criticism of Speaker Fabian Nunez
, D-Los Angeles, for foreign travel, and expensive meals and gifts, "will make me very cautious and conservative in my spending.' Bass said, 'I don't plan to do a lot of traveling," though she will make trips to Washington, D.C., to build ties with the Democratic delegation, and to New York for fundraising.'
"'I'll devote a fair amount of time to fundraising, but I do think we'll both be cautious about spending,' Bass said. 'I'll take people out to dinner, but I'm not a party girl.'
"Steinberg, a Sacramento Democrat who will take over as Senate president pro tem after the fall elections, said he tries "to do my job always with humility, and I'm very aware of public perception.'"
The Democratic legislative leaders may have more time for governing, as demographics and gerrymandered districts make it more difficult for Republicans to win swing seats.
"There are ominous signs that Republicans in the Bay Area are flirting with political irrelevance
as the region, one of the bluest in the nation, faces the possibility of having no GOP lawmakers in the state Legislature or Congress," writes the Chron's John Wildermuth.
"-- Of the 38 congressional, state Senate and Assembly seats that are either entirely or largely within the nine Bay Area counties, Republicans hold only the 15th Assembly District seat in Contra Costa and Alameda counties. And the GOP incumbent there, Guy Houston
of San Ramon, is termed out this year.
"-- In the 12 local congressional races in 2006, the only Democrat to get less than 66 percent of the vote was Jerry McNerney
of Pleasanton, who collected 53 percent to take the 11th Congressional District seat from 14-year incumbent Republican Richard Pombo
"-- Since 2004, Republican registration has dropped in every Bay Area county, while the Democratic numbers have grown, at least slightly. Democrats now have nearly 51 percent of the region's registered voters, compared with 22 percent for Republicans. That's well above the Democrats' 43-to-33 percent advantage statewide.
"While the Bay Area has long been a Democratic stronghold, until recently Republicans have managed to carve out enclaves where they could win. Silicon Valley, the Peninsula and Sonoma and Contra Costa counties all have sent Republicans to Washington and Sacramento in the past two decades.
"'We had a long lineage of moderate Republican lawmakers here on the Peninsula - Pete McCloskey, Ed Zschau, Tom Campbell, Becky Morgan
and others,' said Jim Cunneen
, a Cupertino assemblyman from 1994 to 2000. 'But things have changed demographically and ideologically in the party itself ... it's frustrating.
George Skelton has some advice for the CRAFT group
, which is trying to help the Republican party recruit and train candidates to win statewide.
"The first step on the road to recovery is admitting there is a problem. Some influential Republicans did that last week in announcing formation of a support group.
"'The problem is clear: Republicans have been largely uncompetitive in statewide races,' said Paul Folino
, a major financial supporter of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and executive chairman of Emulex Corp., a Costa Mesa high-tech company.
, a former GOP consultant who publishes the Target Book, a chronicler of legislative and congressional campaigns, says this about statewide races: 'You can't get elected as a Republican in California. You've got to get elected in spite of being a Republican.
"'You basically have to be an Arnold Schwarzenegger type of Republican: Moderate on social issues, conservative on fiscal issues. And do that with credibility.'
"It also helps to be green on the environment.Pete "Wilson
's correct: 'This state is by no means hopelessly blue.'
"But non-scary Republican candidates need to be recruited -- or "encouraged" -- who can re-brand the party, shading it purple. That will require several steps on the road to recovery."
"Proposition 98, backed by the California Farm Bureau Federation and an anti-tax group, would prohibit governments from seizing property, including farmland, for private use
," reports E.J. Schultz in the Bee.
"But some farm groups -- including the Fresno-based Nisei Farmers League and Western Growers Association -- fear the measure would block use of eminent domain for construction of long-sought pipelines, canals and reservoirs, including one targeted for east of Fresno.
"The anti-98 campaign picked up more steam last week when Rep. George Radanovich
, R-Mariposa, came out against the measure.
"The congressman is normally aligned with the farm bureau and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, the measure's other backer. But in a letter last week, he said 'serious questions have been raised regarding the impact this constitutional initiative will have on our ability to guarantee a plentiful and safe water supply in the future.'"
"The farm bureau --which has spent more than $298,000 on the "yes" campaign so far -- is standing by the measure and has support from multiple farm groups."
"Targeting what most teenagers lust for, California lawmakers may ban dropouts from driving
in a last-ditch attempt to entice them back to school," reports Jim Sanders in the Bee.
"The approach, if signed into law, would mark the first time California has used driving as leverage to get kids to stay in school.
"Two Assembly bills call for stripping dropouts and habitual truants of driving privileges unless they return to school, reach age 18 or qualify for a hardship waiver.
"Twenty-seven states have laws linking driving privileges to school attendance. California lawmakers wrestled with the issue about a decade ago but ultimately dropped the idea.
"This year's carrot-and-stick measures, Assembly Bill 2107 and Assembly Bill 2414, have passed policy committees but not yet reached the Assembly floor."
"Since a whistle-blowing chief bucked the California Highway Patrol establishment by angling for the commissioner's job four years ago, the department's efforts to retaliate against him have cost taxpayers more than $600,000
," writes the Bee's John Hill.
"The tab has hit $619,000 and is still rising, as the CHP defends itself on multiple legal fronts.
"In January, the State Personnel Board issued fines and a stinging rebuke to the CHP for its treatment of former Assistant Chief Art Acevedo
, who had sought to expose a pension-spiking plan.
"It found that the CHP trumped up disciplinary charges against him, tainted his promotional exam and apparently used explicit photographs he took during a consensual affair in an effort to discredit him."
Ah, your tax dollars at work.
"With baby boomers preparing to retire as the best educated and most skilled workforce in U.S. history, a growing chorus of demographers and labor experts is raising concerns that workers in California and the nation lack the critical skills needed to replace them
," reports Teresa Watanabe in the Times.
"In particular, experts say, the immigrant workers needed to fill many of the boomer jobs lack the English-language skills and basic educational levels to do so. Many immigrants are ill-equipped to fill California's fastest-growing positions, including computer software engineers, registered nurses and customer service representatives, a new study by the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute found.
"Immigrants -- legal and illegal -- already constitute almost half of the workers in Los Angeles County and are expected to account for nearly all of the growth in the nation's working-age population by 2025 because native-born Americans are having fewer children. But the study, based largely on U.S. Census data, noted that 60% of the county's immigrant workers struggle with English and one-third lack high school diplomas.
"The looming mismatch in the skills employers need and those workers offer could jeopardize the future economic vitality of California and the nation, experts say. Los Angeles County, the largest immigrant metropolis with about 3.5 million foreign-born residents, is at the forefront of this demographic trend.
"'The question is, are we going to be a 21st century city with shared prosperity, or a Third World city with an elite group on top and the majority at poverty or near poverty wages?' asked Ernesto Cortes Jr.
, Southwest regional director of the Industrial Areas Foundation, a leadership development organization. 'Right now we're headed toward becoming a Third World city. But we can change that.'"
And finally, from our If You Can't Beat em, Join 'em Files
, "Mayor Bloomberg has been encouraged by advisers in his inner circle to consider making a bid for the Old Gray Lady after he leaves office, Newsweek magazine reports," the NY Daily News reports.
"A source with close ties to the billionaire media magnate told the magazine that a friendly Bloomberg News-New York Times merger appealed to the mayor's sense of 'civic-mindedness.'"
Hey, Mr. Mayor. We'll let you have the Roundup for a few million dollars less...