The governor "has been all over the map in his deficit estimates this month. But after offering vague explanations for the governor's previous calculations, his aides on Tuesday decided to embrace his latest figure: as high as $20.2 billion starting July 1
," writes Kevin Yamamura in the Bee.
"The number is an estimate, and Schwarzenegger is scheduled to reveal his revised budget May 14 with an official deficit figure when all the tax returns are opened and expenses and revenues for the next year projected.
"But Schwarzenegger's rhetorical flourishes aside, one thing is certain: The budget problem is getting far worse – nearly twice the problem he described in January – and the governor wants everyone to know it.
"'The larger that number gets, the more unrealistic it is to think you can cut your way out of it,' said Sen. Denise Ducheny, D-San Diego, chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee. 'And it's unrealistic to think you can tax your way out of it, either. It forces you to think of changing things we've been doing for years.'
"Schwarzenegger's aides advised Tuesday that the $20 billion figure could change. 'We don't have a hard number right now
,' said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear.
"The $20.2 billion figure includes a $2.8 billion reserve, which the governor had not factored in before.
"Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill
said Tuesday she believes revenues will be 'several billion below' what her office anticipated earlier this year, though she said she couldn't comment on the governor's $20 billion figure because she didn't know what his assumptions were. Schwarzenegger's number is roughly $11 billion higher than Hill's projection from February."
The Chron's Matthew Yi writes that the governor is hoping that the high number will build support for his budget reform proposals
"The governor's ideas include imposing a cap on spending, setting aside a so-called rainy day fund for lean budget years and giving him authority to impose automatic spending cuts in years when the state faces a fiscal crisis.
"His proposal has gotten little traction - Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, are balking at the ideas. But the widening deficit highlights the need for a structural change in how the state budget is worked out each year, said Larry Gerston
, a political science professor at San Jose State University.
"'I think he is priming the pump,' Gerston said. 'What he is trying to do is to help people realize that this isn't one of those years where you can just tweak (the budget) ... and limp along to the next year. The chasm is so deep that no quick fix of any kind will suffice
, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Sacramento State University, said she believes the governor is simply using "an arbitration and negotiation strategy."
"'You put the bleakest prospect out, and everyone moves to the middle,' she said."
Actually, we hear that some are simply jumping overboard. Anyhoo...
"That also allows Schwarzenegger to put forth ideas that may not be so popular at the outset, such as his budget reform proposals, O'Connor said.
"'Staking out a bleak picture forces the discussion,' she said."
Dan Walters finds similarities between the budget situation facing Arnold Schwarzenegger and that faced by Gray Davis
And, the editor had to use raising the roof
in the headline.
"The $20 billion includes nearly $3 billion for a budget reserve that Schwarzenegger wants. Adjusting for that still leaves the projected deficit nearly twice as high as what administration officials had been citing – and raises a suspicion that the governor is hyping the problem for political reasons, à la Davis
"Another possibility is that the big deficit number was constructed after the fact to bolster Schwarzenegger's somewhat shaky fiscal credibility. He's been tossing around all sorts of deficit numbers at "town hall" meetings to tout the budget reforms he wants in addition to balancing the current budget. Until Tuesday, administration officials were often unable to justify his numbers. Now they are insisting that the $20 billion figure is based on hard data.
"Schwarzenegger's press secretary Aaron McLear
said Tuesday that 'it's not hyperbole'
and is based on advice from the Department of Finance. But the much-larger number appears to be at odds with recent revenue figures, which are definitely soft but not cataclysmic, as the state's economy slides into recession
"Whether the figure is close to reality or illusionary will become more apparent when the governor releases the "May revise" of his budget in two weeks and his calculations are subjected to deeper analysis by the media and the Legislature's own budget analysts. Whatever the final number may be, it will touch off a frantic search for solutions that could last through the summer and beyond because the Legislature's two parties are locked into diametrically opposed positions and the governor is trapped somewhere in between."
"Senate Republicans stood with business representatives Tuesday in demanding a series of business and environmental regulation changes as part of state budget talks
," reports Judy Lin in the Bee.
"The measures included delaying implementation of a landmark greenhouse gas reduction law and suspension of mandatory overtime for working more than eight hours a day."
Does that mean that tax increase votes will go up if these concessions are met?
"Senate Republican leader Dave Cogdill
said he wanted to make GOP requests public after criticism last summer that Republicans did not fully reveal their budget demands.
"Legislative Democrats had different reactions to the package.
"'It's unfortunate Senate Republicans are once again trying to use their budget leverage to push unrelated proposals that would dirty our air and hurt working families
,' Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez
, D-Los Angeles, said in a statement. 'They tried unsuccessfully to do that last year, and their efforts will fail again this year.'
"But Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata
, D-Oakland, said he welcomed Republican suggestions.
"'We are in such dire trouble fiscally, I am glad for anybody who wants to get into the game
,' Perata said. 'We have not yet come to grips with how difficult this year will be. Everything must be on the table.'"
Meanwhile, the economic news continues to get worse. "Home prices in Los Angeles and Orange counties were down 19.4% in February from a year earlier
, among the sharpest drops in the nation, according to an index released Tuesday," reports Peter Hong in the Times.
"That compares with a 12.7% overall drop among 20 metropolitan areas measured by the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index.
"Las Vegas showed the most severe year-over-year decline, 22.8%, followed by Miami (21.7%), Phoenix (20.8%), the drop in Los Angeles and Orange counties, San Diego (19.2%), Tampa, Fla. (17.5%) and San Francisco (17.2%).
"'There is no sign of a bottom in the numbers,' said David M. Blitzer
, chairman of Standard & Poor's index committee."
So, with a $20 billion hole in the budget, why not give universal health care another go?
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday vowed to attempt another ambitious reform of health care
in California and said he would refuse to reduce the scale of his plan simply to cut a deal," reports Juliet Williams in the Merc News.
"Schwarzenegger spent months negotiating a $14.7 billion health care package with Democratic leaders last year. He then watched it fail in a state Senate committee after an analysis raised concerns about its financing.
"In an interview with the Associated Press, Schwarzenegger said he has an obligation to try to make health care available to Californians who lack coverage, estimated at 5.1 million people at any given time. He said his staff is working with health care advocates to fix the previous plan, even as the state faces a multibillion-dollar budget deficit."
The Bee's E.J Schultz reports that Francisco Franco is stil dead
! Oops, we mean, the Peripheral Canal is still dead...
"An Assembly committee on Tuesday shelved legislation to build a canal around the suffering Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, telling the bill's author to try again next year.
"Two years in the making, Senate Bill 27 tackled a subject so politically charged that author Sen. Joe Simitian
, D-Palo Alto, carefully avoided using the "P" word – Peripheral Canal – as he presented the bill as a way to shore up state water supplies without harming the environment.
"But with environmentalists, farmers and Delta-area interests all opposed for different reasons, the legislation went the way of so many other water bills – to the shelf to wait for more studies.
"The bill would have also asked voters to approve a $4 billion bond to pay for environmental restoration of the Delta.
"Voters rejected a so-called Peripheral Canal in 1982, but the idea has drawn renewed interest recently as groups take a closer look at the Delta's woes."
"California's "safe surrender" program, allowing parents to leave unwanted newborns at fire stations and hospitals without penalty, has become an orphan, with little money and no state agency responsible for publicizing or overseeing it
, according to a highly critical state audit released Tuesday," reports Patrick McGreevy in the Times.
"Although 218 California babies have been surrendered safely since the state approved the practice in 2001, the audit said, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Gov. Gray Davis vetoed bills that would have directed the state to mount a public awareness campaign so young parents would know there was an alternative to abandoning a child. The latest veto was due to other provisions in the bill.
"State Auditor Elaine Howle
said money and the assignment of responsibility to a state agency were needed if California was to be successful in preventing the dumping of newborns, many of whom do not survive.
"'The safe-surrender law is not as effective as it might be because it does not give state agencies rigorous, ongoing responsibilities for publicizing the law's benefits, and the state has not funded the administration or promotion of a safe-surrender program,' Howle's audit concluded."
And, though there may not be all that much going on, it is election season for some. Here's a quick breakdown of the day in camapign contributions, courtesy of ElectionTrack
-- AFSCME chipped in 300,000 to recall Jeff Denham, bringing the total amount raised for the No on Denham effort close to $1 million since April.
-- The League of California Cities and company got another $200,000 for their efforts to kill the new Proposition 98, the Howard Jarvis-backed eminent domain initiative on the June ballot, that would also phase out rent control laws across the state.
raised another $7,600 in his bid to unseat incumbent Carole Migden
The top legislative fundraisers for the day include Antonio Villaraigosa's cousin, John Perez,
who hauled in $16,200; Fiona Ma
raked in $12,200; Felipe Fuentes
reported $10,60o; new Rules Committee Chairman Ted Lieu
raised $9,600; and Senate candidate Loni Hancock
And it looks like Florida is the latest state to try to ban fake testicles
Really, we don't make this stuff up.
"Senate lawmakers in Florida have voted to ban the fake bull testicles that dangle from the trailer hitches of many trucks and cars throughout the state.
"Republican Sen. Cary Baker
, a gun shop owner from Eustis, Florida, called the adornments offensive and proposed the ban. Motorists would be fined $60 for displaying the novelty items, which are known by brand names like "Truck Nutz" and resemble the south end of a bull moving north."
Makes you feel a little better about our
Legislature, doesn't it?