State budgets all come down to one thing -- the amount of incoming revenue. And that means that California's 2011-12 budget is in big trouble: The state finished 2011 -- the first half of the budget year -- down by some $2.5 billion.
From the Bee's Kevin Yamamura: "California missed its December revenue target by $1.4 billion due to weak income tax totals, closing the first half of the fiscal year down $2.5 billion compared to the budget enacted in June, according to state Controller John Chiang."
"That gap isn't a huge surprise, given that the June budget was overly optimistic."
"Gov. Jerry Brown said last month that the state budget would fall $2.2 billion short in the current fiscal year, triggering nearly $1 billion in mid-year budget cuts. He also acknowledged that deficit when he built his new 2012-13 budget proposal, which projects a $9.2 billion shortfall between now and June 2013."
Making up for that lost money isn't going to be easy, but Gov. Brown has come up with one creative option: Using money from the cap-and-trade program that targets greenhouse gas emissions.
From the LAT's Marc Lifsher: "Gov. Jerry Brown has found a new pot of money to help him fill a $9-billion hole in his proposed budget: $1 billion from auctioning credits to allow California companies to emit greenhouse gases."
"But business groups are already denouncing Brown's plan as a back-door tax increase that they intend to challenge in court if the proposal is approved as part of the state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1."
"At a time when the public is concerned about jobs and the economy, the budget proposes a new tax on California businesses for climate change activities," said Dorothy Rothrock, vice president of the California Manufacturers and Technology Assn. "The anticipated $1 billion is not windfall revenue. The funds will be paid by California employers suffering the worst recession since the Great Depression."
It hasn't rained for awhile, which means it's time to start worrying about drought -- a primeval fear in California.
From the Bee's Matt Weiser: "A dry December is not that unusual. But a dry January – well along into winter and usually the state's wettest month – is another matter."
"What is unusual is that it just hangs on and on and on," said Maury Roos, chief hydrologist at the California Department of Water Resources, noting it will be hard to recover from the missed January storms."
"It's not impossible, but it's quite unlikely we'll make it back to normal before the end of the season," Roos said."
"Sacramento has had no rain since Dec. 15, and only a trace on that day: 0.07 inches."
The Harris Ranch, the sprawling farm operation in the San Joaquin Valley that includes a major beef operation, was the target of animal-rights activists, who destroyed 14 company trucks by fire in the middle of the night. The Chronicle's Henry K. Lee has the story.
"The fire broke out at the feed lot truck-storage facility at the ranch about 3:45 a.m. Sunday, said Fresno County sheriff's Deputy Chris Curtice. Firefighters found 14 trucks fully engulfed and extinguished the blaze within 45 minutes, he said."
"In an e-mail sent to the media Monday, the North American Animal Liberation Press Office said it had received an anonymous message from someone with specific details about the fire at the Coalinga ranch, one of the largest farming operations in the San Joaquin Valley."
"Containers of accelerant were placed beneath a row of 14 trucks with four digital timers used to light four of the containers and kerosene soaked rope carrying the fire to the other 10," the e-mail said. "We were extremely pleased to see all 14 trucks 'were a total loss,' " the message said."
"As national attention turns to GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney's leadership of a company called Bain Capital, the company's handling of a deal in Orange County is getting a close look. The OC Register's Martin Wisckol has the story.
"One of the most controversial businesses taken over by Bain Capital, the company Mitt Romney ran for 15 years, was Anaheim’s DDi, which makes printed circuit boards. The company would eventually flounder, but not before Bain got 200 percent of its investment back."
"As with much of Bain’s track record, it’s hard to know exactly how much credit or blame to lay at Romney’s feet. But rival Newt Gingrich was apparently referring to DDi today when talking about a company in an similar situation that Romney and Bain “looted.”
"Romney touts his stint at Bain as proof of his ability to create jobs, while Gingrich and other critics point to the numerous firings, mass layoffs and bankruptcies that resulted from takeovers by the equity firm. I’ll get into the weeds of Romney’s record at Bain in a subsequent blog post, but wanted to first detail what happened to the company Bain took over in our own backyard during Romney’s 1984-to-1999 stint."
When it comes to computer systems, the state of California has had more than its share of woes over the years. The latest example is the system known as Fi$Cal, which already has sucked in $62 million.
From the Register's Brian Joseph: "Five months before selecting a contractor, the state of California has already spent $62.6 million on a computer project that the state auditor says is beset by problems with staffing, funding and conflicts of interest."
"Auditor Elaine Howle comes to this conclusion in her new annual letter about the Financial Information System for California, or Fi$Cal, project."
"Fi$Cal is an IT project that seeks to modernize and streamline state’s accounting, budget and cash management systems."
"Today, California relies on several antiquated and department-specific systems to handle these routine tasks. The current systems are independent and don’t talk to each other, making it difficult for policy makers and managers to get accurate, statewide data."