The state's so-called "special funds," those operations of state government that are financed by specific fees and taxes, are doing quite well, thank you very much, even during these difficult fiscal times.
From the Mercury News' Mike Rosenberg: "As California uses one arm of state government to ax services and ask for new taxes, a seldom-watched arm is raking in cash hand over fist."
"A review by this newspaper found that the state's 500-plus "special funds," like the ones at the center of this month's hidden-money parks scandal, have nearly tripled their spending since 2000 as highly scrutinized general fund spending has barely budged."
"California now spends nearly $40 billion on special fund programs, more than every state except New York and Texas spends on its entire general fund. The special fund money pays for an amazing array of services, from major priorities such as mental health, hospital construction and highway repairs to obscure things like bingo halls, acupuncture and midwifery."
State Treasurer Bill Lockyer apparently is eyeing a new job -- chancellor of the California State University. The venerable Lockyer may even leave the treasurer's office before his term is up -- giving Gov. Brown a chance to appoint a replacement.
From the Chronicle's Matier & Ross: "The 71-year-old former state Senate leader, former attorney general and former assemblyman is lobbying the system's 25-member Board of Trustees, which will make the call."
"It's very early, and the national search for a replacement for retiring Chancellor Charles Reed is still under way - but we're told Lockyer is right up there with Cal State Long Beach President F. King Alexander as a contender."
"The pluses of a Lockyer chancellorship are many: He has the best grip on state finances of just about anyone in Sacramento, he has strong ties to legislators who fund the cash-strapped system, and his selection would give Gov. Jerry Brown the chance to name Lockyer's replacement. That last one is always a big consideration in politics."
Just when California voters think they have seen it all, a new measure comes along -- human sex trafficking.
From Capitol Weekly's Kinley O'Sullivan: "California voters, no strangers to taxes, political districts and the clash of special interests, are in for a surprise in November when they get to a proposition that deals with a topic rarely listed on a ballot – human sex trafficking."
"Proposition 35, dubbed the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act, would expand protections given to victims of human trafficking in court and force stricter punishments for those convicted."
"Another rarity for a statewide ballot issue: There’s little or no opposition to Proposition 35."
As the drought ravages the nation's farm belt, California's cattle ranchers are feeling the pinch.
From the Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead: "Most corn farmers have subsidized crop insurance, a program so generous that farmers who lose their entire crop could wind up making more money than if there were no drought at all."
"Cattle ranchers across the country, however, are seeing the price of corn, hay and other feed skyrocket as a result of diminished yield, forcing many of them to slaughter their animals now rather than later. Corn has gone from about $5.50 to $8 a bushel, and hay and other grains are following."
"The drought "has a tremendous ripple effect," said Jim Warren, owner of 101 Livestock Market, a cattle auction in Aromas (San Benito County). In the last three weeks, the price of young steers waiting to be corn-fattened has plunged from $1.40 to $1.10 a pound, Warren said, mirroring the rising cost of feeding them."
Meanwhile, tax breaks for public pension systems, a common practice, are getting new scrutiny from the Internal Revenue Service.
From Calpensions' Ed Mendel: "The IRS is taking a new look at whether public pension systems qualify for tax deferrals, raising questions about nonprofit charter schools in CalSTRS and county systems using “excess” earnings to fund retiree health care."
"Taxes on employer-employee contributions to pension systems and their investment earnings can be avoided until retirees are paid. But if the rules are not followed, the IRS can change the tax status and impose fines and penalties."
"As public pension funding problems surfaced during the economic downturn, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service began encouraging retirement systems to seek compliance reviews and make voluntary changes."
And finally, from our "New York, New York" comes word that hipsters have declared Manhattan the new Brooklyn.
"There are a few stats to back up the assertion:"
"With the mean rent for a studio in Williamsburg topping $2,700, apartment hunters are likely to find cheaper places in Greenwich Village, where mean studio rents for non-doorman buildings are just more than $2,500 a month, according to June figures from MNS, a real-estate company. ..."
"Rents for studios in Manhattan were up almost 8% on a mean basis in June from the same month a year earlier, compared with a 10.4% jump in Brooklyn. One-bedrooms also rose by less than 5% in Manhattan in the same period, while rising nearly 10% in Brooklyn."
Time to move to Canarsie or Flatbush....