California's fiscal woes are a lot deeper than people thought, according to a watchdog group that says its trying to focus attention on the problems of the states. One of the key players in the group is former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's financial adviser.
From the NYT's Mary Williams Walsh: "Directors of the State Budget Crisis Task Force said their researchers had found a lot of other debts that did not turn up in California’s official tally. Much of it involved irrevocable promises to provide pensions to public workers, health care for retirees, the cost of delayed highway maintenance and an estimated $40 billion bill to bring drinking water up to federal standards."
"They also pointed out many of the same unpaid bills from previous years that the governor had brought to light, like $8 billion in delayed payments to schools and community colleges, and $250 million that was raided from a fund dedicated to transportation and treated as revenue."
"The task force estimated that the burden of debt totaled at least $167 billion and as much as $335 billion. Its members warned that the off-the-books debts tended to grow over time, so that even if Mr. Brown should succeed in pushing through his tax increase, gaining an additional $50 billion over the next seven years, the wall of debt would still be there, casting its shadow over the state."
Speaking of money, ratepayers and the public are footing a huge bill in the development of solar energy -- development that represents a bonanza for solar plant builders and investors.
From the LAT's Evan Halper, Ralph Vartabedian and Julie Cart: "Taxpayers have poured tens of billions of dollars into solar projects — some of which will have all their construction and development costs financed by the government by the time they start producing power."
"Banks, insurers and utility companies have jumped in, taking advantage of complex state and federal tax incentives to reap outsized returns. Among the solar prospectors in the Mojave are investor Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway Inc.,General Electric, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanleyand technology giant Google Inc."
"The cost for decades to come will also be borne by ratepayers. Confidential agreements between solar developers and utilities lock in power prices two to four times the cost of conventional electricity. The power generated by the mega-plants will be among the most expensive renewable energy in the country."
Sen. Mimi Walters' Democratic opponent in the 37th Senate District has filed a suit claiming that she does not live in the district, as required by law.
From the OC Register's Brian Joseph: "According to the suit, Walters and her husband, David, have lived in a 14,000-square-foot mansion in Laguna Niguel since 1999. Then, this year, the suit says that Walters changed her voter registration to reflect that she’s living in a 570-square-foot apartment in Irvine with no dishwasher or washer/dryer hook ups."
"The suit notes that David Walters continues to be registered to vote at the Laguna Niguel address. A quick check of the state’s voter registration rolls confirms that David Walters lives at the Laguna Niguel residence while Mimi Walters is registered at the Irvine apartment."
"The suit goes on to say that from 2008 until earlier this year, Walters’ official State Senate website said, “She and her husband, David, live in Laguna Niguel with their four children.” In May 2012, the suit says the site was changed to say, “She and her husband, David, live in Irvine with their four children.”
Meanwhile, the House Ethics Committee said it is considering dropping its probe of Rep. Maxine Waters, an L.A. Democrat who had come under fire for allegedly helping her husband's business interests.
From the LAT's Richard Simon: "The secretive panel on Thursday signaled that the long-running case may be nearing an end by calling an unusual public Friday session to take up the matter."
"Waters has been accused of improperly helping a bank linked to her husband. She has denied any wrongdoing, saying her efforts were in keeping with her longtime work to promote opportunity for minority-owned businesses and lending in underserved communities such as her South Los Angeles district."
"The committee, which hired prominent Washington lawyer Billy Martin to investigate the charges and recommend a course of action, could make a decision by Friday afternoon, according to Capitol Hill sources. It is expected to issue a report with its findings."
California's cap-and-trade auction, the crucial market piece of the state's landmark greenhouse gas law, will get under way on Nov. 14 and business interests aren't happy.
From the LAT's Marc Lifsher: "Corporate executives and workers from dozens of refineries, glass-makers and other business groups bombarded members of the California Air Resources Board with complaints about an upcoming auction of credits allowing them to release greenhouse gases."
"Critics, including the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Manufacturers & Technology Assn. and the Western States Petroleum Assn., complained about the potential cost of cap-and-trade. At a daylong hearing Thursday, they asked that all of the credits needed to stay below the cap be provided to them at no cost."
"The board's chairwoman, however, made it clear at the start of the hearing that her agency has been working on cap-and-trade for three years and isn't about to make substantive changes in the state's plan for combating global warming."