Good Monday morning!
The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.
The California Assembly’s Daily File is here and the California State Senate’s here.
There are a number of press conferences around the Capitol today.
Another presser touts legislation that proponents say will “tackle piracy, business fraud and the state’s expanding underground economy,” according to a news release.
Senate Bill 1185, by Democratic Sen. Curren Price of Los Angeles, would create a multiagency task force involving the Board of Equalization, the Franchise Tax Board, Employment Development Department, as well as the Departments of Insurance, Justice, Health, Motor Vehicles, Consumer Affairs, and Industrial Relations.
Price will join the BOE’s Randy Silva and Mira Guertin, of the California Chamber of Commerce at an “undisclosed warehouse in West Sacramento containing millions of confiscated products,” the news release says.
Meanwhile, dueling rallies abound, with the National Association of Social Workers meeting at 11 a.m. on the Capitol’s south steps. Listed speakers include Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, and Democratic Sens. Mark Leno of San Francisco and Christine Kehoe of San Diego.
Then at noon on the west steps, it’s the Tea Party United with the Citizens Reclaiming Constitutional Liberty PAC. Listed speakers at that rally include Republican Sen. Doug LaMalfa of Richvale, former Republican legislator Chuck DeVore, and Tom Del Beccaro, president of the California Republican Party.
On to today’s California headlines:
Dan Walters: Stockton not only California government in financial distress
It’s easy – justifiably so – to beat up on Stockton for spending itself into a fiscal hole so deep that bankruptcy may be its only course.
City officials borrowed and spent heavily on a baseball park, a sports arena, a marina and other facilities in hopes of resurrecting a woebegone downtown, and simultaneously boosted their employees’ salaries and fringe benefits.
At the time, Stockton was seeing a surge of sales and property taxes from a housing boom and the city’s politicians and administrators wagered, in effect, that it would go on forever.
When the bubble burst, it was left with more debts and operating costs than it could afford.
Under a new state law, Stockton is now dickering with its creditors and unions over reducing its burden, and if that fails, a bankruptcy filing is next.
However, Stockton isn’t alone.
The state’s finances are not in any better shape. Governors and legislators have consistently overspent revenue – even when the economy was booming – with chronic budget deficits the inevitable result.
Federal law does not allow states to seek bankruptcy protection, nor should it, but California is functionally insolvent nonetheless, and has amassed what Gov. Jerry Brown calls “a wall of debt” to cover its income/outgo gaps. He’s now seeking a tax increase to narrow the deficit.
Mammoth Lakes, one of the state’s smallest cities, is going through the same process as Stockton, having lost a big lawsuit, and if it can’t work out a payment plan for the judgment, it’s probably headed to bankruptcy court.
A number of school districts have been listed by the state as being in fiscal distress, some facing the prospect of state receivership. And cities large and small throughout the state, especially those that overspent housing bubble revenue, are likewise in trouble – including the largest, Los Angeles.
State Assembly races: Primaries are just a warmup
In two state Assembly races based in the San Fernando Valley, the June 5 primary election will serve as the launch of a six-month-long campaign for two incumbents.
Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield in the 45th Assembly District in the central Valley and Assemblyman Mike Gatto in the 43rd Assembly District in the east Valley, are running unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Their Republican challengers, Chris Kolski and Greg Krikorian, also are unopposed in their parties and are using the additional time to make their case to voters to oust the incumbents in November.
Response to tuition plan vexes Santa Monica College leaders
Nearing midnight and with the sting of pepper spray in the air, Santa Monica College trustees wondered how their plan to offer a selection of higher cost classes this summer had come to be so misunderstood.
For many on the eight-member panel, which includes a humanities professor, an ACLU board member and a college counselor, the plan was conceived as a progressive response to drastic state funding cuts and was intended to increase access and allow more students to graduate and transfer.
The plan, said one, was socialism in action. But just an hour before, angry demonstrators had nearly beaten down the door, hurling accusations that a two-tier pricing system would shut out low-income students and lead to privatizing public education. A campus police officer used pepper spray to stop the surging crowd.
“It’s an opportunity to make a very progressive policy, an opportunity to be Robin Hood,” said trustee Rob Rader, who summed up the frustrations of many of his colleagues near the end of the April 3 meeting.
Furthermore, he said, the successful two-year school is in an area considered by many to be a liberal bastion.
“The plan is quintessentially Santa Monica, and it’s a bitter irony to hear the criticism,” Rader said.
Enjoy your morning!
Here is Dan Walters discussing the tax initiative battle between California Governor Jerry Brown and wealthy attorney Molly Munger: