Good Thursday morning!
The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.
On to today’s California headlines:
Even if voters approve Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal for higher taxes this fall, his ballot initiative would be only a partial solution to the state’s chronic budget deficits.
California could face shortfalls for the foreseeable future depending on how much Democrats are willing to cut social programs and whether the economy rebounds. In many cases, the financial pain on Californians will persist. College students will still face higher tuition fees, public school teachers still face layoffs and parks are still scheduled to close.
Officials at the University of California, for example, are considering plans to raise tuition by 6 percent this fall. If voters reject Brown’s tax hike in November, the officials warn of a mid-year, double-digit tuition increase or drastic cuts to campus programs and staffing.
“Whether the tax initiative passes or fails, the UC still loses,” said Cheryl Deutsch, 27, a graduate student in urban planning at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The California State University system hiked tuition by 9 percent for this fall and froze admissions for next spring in response to state budget cuts. There are no plans to roll back the tuition increases of recent years even if the tax hikes pass.
Brown announced over the weekend that the projected state deficit has swelled to $15.7 billion through the 2012-13 fiscal year, up from $9.2 billion in January. He previously proposed a tax hike that would fill about half that shortfall and said he would lean on majority Democrats to make deeper cuts to social services and health care programs for the poor.
“What I’m proposing is not a panacea, but it goes a long way toward cleaning up the state’s budget mess,” Brown said in a video message.
His finance spokesman, H.D. Palmer, said the state budget would actually be in surplus each of the next four years if the Legislature adopted his budget as-is.
But that’s a big if. The Democrats who control the Legislature have resisted Brown’s proposed cuts in the past, and were expressing unhappiness with his latest budget proposal just hours after he announced it on Monday.
Republican lawmakers say a good portion of the governor’s proposal and the budget from last year were filled with funding shifts that allowed lawmakers to avoid real program cuts.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg today repeated a pledge to look for budget solutions that would allow lawmakers to preserve some services targeted with steep cuts under Gov. Jerry Brown’s revised budget plan.
“I said on Monday, I’m not looking for a public fight here,” the Sacramento Democrat said this morning. “We’re looking to work collaboratively and yet not be afraid to have our differences or air our differences with the other stakeholders, the other parties, but come to a resolution where we can in fact buy out some of the worst cuts.”
The revised budget proposal released by the Democratic governor Monday calls for roughly $8 billion in cuts to close a projected deficit that has grown to $15.7 billion since his January budget was unveiled. Those cuts include reductions to health and welfare programs and Cal Grants for low-income students.
Steinberg said he doesn’t like many aspects of the proposal, including using money won in the mortgage settlement with major banks and reducing funding for the courts, but added that cuts with the most severe effect on the state’s neediest constituencies will be the first to come off the chopping block.
“To me a cut that, you know, will result in the difference between life and death and a cut that will increase homelessness by definition, it’s our obligation it seems that we do everything we can to avoid those cuts,” he said.
Every year that California has budget trouble — basically the last 10 — another state licks its lips and boasts how it will reap the benefits as businesses and residents flee the Golden State. These poachers are usually more conservative southwestern states like Arizona or longtime California rival Texas.
So, um, add Iowa to the list.
That’s right, Iowa, land of snow, farms, presidential caucuses and … snow. In an interview with The Times, the state’s Republican governor, Terry Branstad, boasted how he balanced the state’s budget without raising taxes and is getting calls from California businesses looking to move.
“They want to get out of California as quick as they can,” Branstad said. “We welcome them to Iowa. I’ve got California companies on my call list right now.”
Branstad declined to name the California firms he plans to call, but said just Monday he met a California businessman at an Iowa groundbreaking who described how terrible the business climate was in the state.
California could end federal court oversight of prison health care without all of the costly new construction planned. That’s the conclusion of a report out on Wednesday by the state’s nonpartisan legislative analyst.
The report looks at Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to reduce prison overcrowding and save money doing it.
The Brown administration wants to expand facilities for mental health and medical care at a few prisons, shut down one prison and recall nearly 10,000 inmates that California sent to out-of-state prisons to ease overcrowding. Doing all that would save the state $1.5 billion a year.
But the governor’s plan hinges on getting a federal court to agree to let California exceed the prison population cap it ordered by 6,000 inmates. Aaron Edwards with the Legislative Analyst’s Office says that’s a problem for lawmakers.
“It’s difficult for the Legislature to determine the most prudent course of action,” said Edwards, “because their options really depend on whether the court approves that increase in the population cap.”
Brown has given no time-table for when he’d ask the federal court to raise the cap.
Enjoy your morning and Dan Walter’s Daily video: Term limits meant to ‘break the stranglehold’