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Cal Fire Burning Through Its Budget

Aug 20, 2012
Sierra National Forest

Fire season in California is about half over, but the state has already spent more than two-thirds of its $93 million firefighting budget.

H.D. Palmer is with the California Department of Finance. He says the state is prepared to pay, whatever the cost.

“If we do spend more for fire suppression than is in the budget, that doesn’t mean that the tankers don’t fly, that doesn’t mean the hand crews aren’t out there, that doesn’t mean the trucks don’t show up, we will have emergency appropriation authority to do that.”

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The City of Fresno's precarious financial position is leading to more repercussions in the investment community. On Friday, the firm Standard & Poor's downgraded the city's credit rating from "A" to "BBB." Last month, the two other major credit ratings agencies, Fitch and Moody's issued similar downgrades.

The rating of "BBB" is Standard & Poor's next to lowest "investment grade" rating. The firm also gave Fresno's  financial outlook a "negative" rating, meaning future downgrades are possible. 

California Revenues Fall $475 Million Short

Aug 13, 2012
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics /

California State Controller John Chiang released his monthly revenue report today. Revenues fell way below projections for July, but state finance officials say it’s not so bad.

The controller says July revenues were $475 million short. The State ended the last fiscal year with a cash deficit of $9.6 billion. As of July 31, that cash deficit totaled $18 billion, and is being covered with temporary loans from special funds. State Controller John Chiang called the collections “disappointing.” Republican Senator Tom Harman says he’s concerned the state will run out of cash soon.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Airports in Fresno and Bakersfield could be forced to close if lawmakers in Washington D.C. can't reach a deal on deficit reduction in the coming months, according to a new analysis released today by a Washington D.C. think tank. 

This week on Valley Edition we look at how new regulations, budget cuts and the economy are all changing the way local colleges operate. Dr. Tony Cantu from Fresno City College joins us to talk about new policies that are intended to keep community college students on track to graduate within two years. We also talk with higher education advocate Jessie Ryan of the Campaign for College Opportunity and Joe Haydock of Institute of Technology, Clovis Campus about new federal regulations that prevent students who don't have a high school diploma or GED from obtaining financial aid.

California's Budget On Hook For Wildfires

Jul 31, 2012

The wildfires blazing across California this fire season aren’t just burning through trees, grasses and homes, they’re burning through the state budget as well.  

Fifteen helicopters. Seven bulldozers. 46 fire engines. And 900 people. It took all that to fight a single California wildfire this summer – the Robbers fire in Placer County. It’s paid for with a special state emergency fund. If that runs out, says H.D. Palmer with the governor’s Department of Finance.

Many cities around the country are faced with growing costs and shrinking revenue. Despite making sweeping cuts, Stockton, California recently became the largest city to file for bankruptcy. Host Michel Martin talks with Stockton Mayor Ann Johnston about how she's managing a city that's operating in the red.

State Park Scrambles as It Faces Two Week Deadline

Jul 17, 2012
Capitol Public Radio

It's been a rollercoaster ride for California state parks. A year ago, the Department of Parks and Recreation selected 70 parks to close on July 1st as a result of budget cuts. But operating agreements with private partners have kept 40 of the parks open.

Now it appears all but a handful will stay open, but nobody knows for how long. In the first of a two-part series looking at the state of California's state parks reporter Kathleen Masterson visited one still struggling to stay open.


Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Reduced enrollment or a mid-year tuition increase. That’s the choice the California State University could face if voters reject Governor Jerry Brown’s November tax measure.

You’ve heard of trigger cuts. Now, there’s a "trigger on a trigger" – a $150 per semester tuition increase to meet a potential 250 million dollar cut. That’s one proposal CSU Trustees are looking at. The other would reduce enrollment by three percent, or about 6-thousand students. Robert Turnage is with the CSU Chancellor’s office:

State budget suspends Brown Act provisions

Jul 16, 2012

Local government boards in California are no longer required to post agendas or disclose decisions made in closed sessions. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the legislature suspended those provisions of the state’s public meeting law in the budget passed last month.

CalPERS barely earned any money at all during the fiscal year that ended June 30th. The nation’s largest public pension fund announced a one-percent return on investment today.

The California Public Employees Retirement System’s one percent return is nowhere near its projection of seven-and-a-half percent. It’s even below the California State Teachers Retirement System, which earned a one-point-eight percent return.

Could the City of Fresno follow Stockton, Mammoth Lakes and San Bernadino in declaring bankruptcy? According to Barron's, Wall Street experts remain concerned about Fresno's financial position, thanks to the city's long term labor contracts and limited revenue options. They say the downsides of filing for Chapter 9 protection will likely serve as a deterrent for most cities, but Fresno's case is still a concern.

California Governor Jerry Brown Signs Budget

Jun 28, 2012

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a roughly $90 billion spending plan into law for the fiscal year that starts on Sunday. It’s designed to close the state’s $16 billion deficit. The Governor’s signature came just hours before a midnight deadline to sign the main budget bill Democratic lawmakers sent him earlier this month.

It came with little fanfare, and his office did not release any details about his line-item vetoes. The spending plan includes cuts to welfare, social services and more. It also assumes voters will approve Brown’s tax hike on the November ballot.

This week on Valley Edition we talk about the City of Fresno's new "fiscal sustainability plan," and find out what city leaders are doing to avoid bankruptcy. We also hear about efforts to bring solar power to Valley homes, and a new program that aims to help disadvantaged kids and share with them the joy of cycling.

Valley Edition for March 27, 2012:

Segment 1: California's long running budget battle entered a new chapter last week, when Governor Jerry Brown vetoed a budget sent to him by the Democratic controlled Legislature. On this edition of Quality of Life, we talk with Democrat Assembly member Henry T. Perea of Fresno, and Republican Assembly Leader Connie Conway of Tulare about what's next in the budget debate. We also get political analysis on the budget from Professor Jeff Cummins of Fresno State and Nathan W. Monroe of UC Merced.

Segment I: California State University Budget Cuts - California's publicly funded state university system, the CSU was once the envy of the nation, providing accessible and affordable higher education to millions of Californians. While the 23 campus system is still the largest in the country, the recent budget crisis has taken its toll. Under Governor Brown's latest "May Revise" budget, the system faces as much a $1 billion budget cut (36 percent) and a potential student fee increase of as much as 32 percent for the coming year. We ask Fresno State President Dr.

Part I: National Parks - Central California's National Parks are known worldwide and attract millions of visitors each year. In 2010, over 4 million people visited Yosemite National Park, just short of breaking the park's all-time record. But those visitors bring big city problems with them, from traffic jams, to pollution and safety concerns. This week on Quality of Life, we examine the difficult task of balancing public access with preservation of natural resources, in Yosemite and beyond.

Prop 13 casts a long shadow on state, local government

Mar 1, 2011

Thirty three years ago, California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 13 into law, ushering in a new era of California politics and forever changing state and local government. Not only did the constitutional amendment cut property taxes nearly in half, its implementation also ushered in a major change in the way government services are provided, in the Golden State, centralizing more power in Sacramento. It also helped spark a wave of so called "ballot box budgeting" with citizens taking control of the power of the purse, in both setting tax rates and spending priorities.