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Feb 22 2012

Flap’s California Morning Collection: February 22, 2012

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Moorpark College, Moorpark, California

The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.

On to today’s California headlines:

Community colleges hit by $149-million shortfall

California community colleges were struggling Tuesday to absorb an unexpected $149-million budget shortfall that will mean more class cuts, layoffs, borrowing and probable elimination of summer programs affecting thousands of students.

In the latest fallout from California’s ongoing fiscal crisis, the state’s 112 community colleges reported that revenues from students’ fees are $107 million below projections for the current fiscal year as more economically strapped students seek and receive fee waivers. In addition, property tax revenues also fell short of estimates by about $41 million.

The news has caused more angst and numbers-crunching in a system that has seen its budget slashed by $809 million since 2008. The new cuts pose a particular challenge because most colleges have begun spring session and have little flexibility to change course offerings or make other adjustments that could minimize the effects.

In California, Mitt Romney holds lead, but Santorum gains

While challengers rise and recede in the Republican presidential primaries, Mitt Romney’s sail remains full in California.

Rick Santorum, the most recent alternative to surge, remains six percentage points behind the former Massachusetts governor among California Republicans, according to a new Field Poll.

Newt Gingrich, who came within striking distance of Romney three months ago, has fallen nearly 20 points behind.

Though the Republican nominee is widely expected to be decided before California holds its primary election on June 5, the poll suggests a potential backstop for Romney should the race reach the Golden State.

California Field Poll results graphic is here.

Dan Walters: California’s red light cameras in jeopardy

The battle over the cameras that many California cities and counties use to nab motorists who blow through red lights or – more commonly – make rolling stops for right turns has raged in the Capitol for several years without resolution.

Critics of the cameras – which are installed and operated by private companies for shares of the resulting traffic fine revenues – say they are used primarily to generate income for local government coffers and serve little or no traffic safety purpose.

The critics found a friendly audience for their complaints in the Legislature. Two years ago, they finally won legislative approval of a bill that would have reduced fines for rolling red light turns caught on camera, overcoming stout opposition from lobbyists for local governments.

California city and county pensions in trouble, report says

Many of California’s biggest local governments spend an average of 10 cents of every dollar covering pension costs, according to a study of the largest independent pension plans released Tuesday.

The study, by Stanford professor and former Assemblyman Joe Nation and a junior at the school who is a member of a nonprofit that studies California governance, examines plans for cities and counties that do not rely on the state’s largest public pension group, CalPERS. They include the city and county of Los Angeles, the cities of Fresno, San Jose, San Francisco and San Diego, and other jurisdictions. The pension plan unveiled by Gov. Jerry Brown last year is intended to change these plans, as well as thousands of other local ones run by CalPERS.

The study found that pension spending grew by 11.4% over the past decade in the 24 largest independent pensions, larger than any other category of government spending. “That rapid growth,” the report states, “is likely to accelerate over the foreseeable future, exerting pressure on spending in other categories.”

The report pinned the debt of the plans at between $36 billion and $136 billion.

Enjoy your morning!

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