Sacramento

Brown's Attempted Balancing Act Earns Bipartisan Praise, Criticism

Jan 25, 2013
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

He quoted Franklin Roosevelt and William Butler Yeats.  And he told the stories of Pharaoh and Joseph and the “Little Engine that Could.”  Governor Jerry Brown turned to every trick in his book Thursday to push an ambitious agenda in his State of the State address – all while urging fiscal discipline from the Democratic-controlled legislature.  We have two reports today from Ben Adler and from Amy Quinton.

Ben Adler on Governor Brown's speech:

The governor packed his speech with references from the biblical …

Office of the Governor

 California Governor Jerry Brown says California has “confounded our critics.”

“We have wrought in just two years a solid and enduring budget and by God, we will preserve and keep it that way for years to come," said Brown.

In a wide-ranging State of the State Address today Brown quoted the bible, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Franklin Roosevelt, and laid out a blueprint for his next two years in office.  He included a warning for Democrats who might be eager to spend more on social programs now that the state no longer has a deficit.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

The most important members of the California legislature this year might not be the two Democratic leaders - despite the two-thirds supermajorities they hold in each chamber.  And it almost certainly won't be the Republicans. 

They've been courted for key votes in recent years but now don't have the numbers to block any bills on their own.  As Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, the leverage in this legislative session may well lie with a newly-critical voting bloc: moderate Democrats.

New Audit Reveals California PUC Misrepresented Funds

Jan 18, 2013

California’s Public Utilities Commission has a math problem: Its budget staff has been misreporting the balance in special funds the agency manages.  That’s the finding of a new state audit that blamed the mistakes on “general confusion and lack of knowledge.”  

The Public Utilities Commission manages 14 special funds that use monthly fees from consumers to pay for special programs like the Universal Lifeline telephone service for low-income Californians.   It turns out that in 2011, agency staff miscalculated how much those funds held.

Brown Budget Proposal Marks New Era at Capitol

Jan 11, 2013
Pauline Bartolone / Capital Public Radio Network

Governor Jerry Brown’s new California budget proposal marks an end to the crippling deficits that have plagued California for years.  It’s also an attempt to make major policy changes – without big increases in spending.  But the governor’s message of fiscal restraint could find a warmer reception from Republicans than from his fellow Democrats.  Capital Public Radio's Ben Adler and Amy Quinton bring us this two-part report from Sacramento.

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Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

Most California lawmakers say they agree with Governor Jerry Brown that now is the time for fiscal discipline in light of a balanced budget.

But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, Democratic lawmakers have not ruled out restoring some cuts.

Legislative Democratic leaders expressed relief at the announcement of a balanced budget. They say the extra $2.7 billion in education funding is also a step in the right direction.

Senate Budget Chair Mark Leno says lawmakers are now in a position to talk about policy rather than cuts.

Jerry Brown
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The annual California budget cycle begins anew tomorrow as Governor Jerry Brown unveils his proposed spending plan.

As part of his budget, the governor is expected to propose major changes to the state’s education funding system. 

They include removing state spending requirements so districts have more flexibility, and introducing a weighted funding formula that gives more money to schools in poorer areas.

Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell  says he could support that proposal with some adjustments – such as making sure all schools get a minimum amount of money.

California Republican lawmakers now find themselves in the midst of Democratic supermajorities in both the Assembly and Senate.

But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, Republicans may look to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown for support.

With supermajorities, Democratic lawmakers have historic new powers. They could raise taxes, while Republicans sit on the sidelines.

“Well I used to be on the sidelines, I was a cheerleader,” says Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, joking.

California Lawmakers Return To State Capitol

Jan 7, 2013
Amy Quinton

The start of the New Year brings California lawmakers back to the Capitol. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, Democratic leaders anticipate a heavy work schedule.

Reforming California’s Environmental Quality Act, restoring cuts to education, fixing the state’s ballot initiative process and campaign finance reform, those are just a few of the issues lawmakers will likely contend with this session.

Democrats return with a supermajority in both chambers, even with two Senators recently resigning to serve in Congress.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The California Attorney General’s office has released its investigation into the funding surplus at the state Parks Department.

As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, it shows that only part of the $54 million dollars found in two funds were intentionally hidden from the Department of Finance.

The audit shows senior management at the parks department intentionally underreported as much as 20 million dollars beginning in 1996. It found that $34 million concealed in one fund was unintentional. But it’s a different story for the State Parks and Recreation Fund.

New Year, New Taxes Thanks to Props 30, 39

Jan 2, 2013
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

California taxes are going up in the new year – with higher sales and income tax rates … and a new requirement for out-of-state businesses to calculate their taxes the same way in-state businesses do.  

In November, voters approved two ballot measures that deal with taxes.  Proposition 30 raises the sales tax a quarter of a cent to 7.5 percent, starting in the new year 

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Now that Democrats hold a supermajority in both chambers of the California legislature, activists want them to use it to push a more progressive agenda. 

Progressives say they want lawmakers to restore cuts they say hurt the most vulnerable Californians, such as cuts to education, social services, and health care.

Joshua Pechthalt is President of the California Federation of Teachers. He says elected officials shouldn’t worry about a voter backlash similar to what happened in the 2010 elections.

California Schools Urged to Revisit Safety Plans

Dec 18, 2012
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California law requires each school to have a safety plan – and make it available to the public.  In the aftermath of Friday’s mass shooting in Connecticut, education and public safety officials want schools to take a new look at those plans to see if they should be revised.  

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson wants to reassure parents who wonder if what happened in Newtown could happen to them.

“I believe our California schools are safe," says Torlakson.

California Governor Jerry Brown’s administration says it will start moving about 860,000 children in the Healthy Families program into Medi-Cal on January 1st. But as Pauline Bartolone reports from Sacramento, state lawmakers and doctors want them to slow down.

Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg sent a message to the administration last week.  

“Do not make the actual transition unless you are assured that the child who has a doctor and sees a doctor under one program – HF’s – will be able to have ready access to a doctor when they’re shifted.”

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

It’s only the first week of the new California legislative session.  But three Democrats have already signaled they’re ready to adjust the “third rail” of California politics – the landmark property tax measure known as Proposition 13.  

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is the latest Democratic lawmaker to call for a change to Prop 13.  He wants to stop large companies from disguising changes in ownership that would normally trigger reassessments – something homeowners can’t do.

Amy Quinton

California’s newly-elected legislature is now officially sworn in, and Democrats hold supermajorities in both chambers.  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, legislative leaders are making a point of being modest.

The entire Assembly and half the Senate took their oaths on Monday, giving Democrats the power they’ve long craved – the ability to raise taxes.  But voters just did that for them, approving Prop 30 last month, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says that’s enough for now:

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California Democratic state Senator Mark Leno plans to introduce a constitutional amendment on Monday that will make it easier to pass local taxes for schools.

The amendment would allow voters to pass school parcel taxes with a 55-percent vote instead of the two-thirds vote required by Proposition 13.

Jon Coupal with the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association says the legislation isn’t surprising given that Democrats now hold a supermajority in the legislature.

A new study shows California community college students still face obstacles when they try to transfer to the California State University system. 

Despite a law passed two years ago intended to make it easier for students to transfer to CSU, many community colleges still don’t provide acceptable degrees.

According to a study by the non-profit “Campaign for College Opportunity,” an average of just five degrees have been developed by each of the 112 community colleges.

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California Democrats have gained a supermajority in both state legislative houses for the first time in 70 years.  But as KPCC’s Julie Small reports, the Assembly Speaker says his party won’t exploit the power.

The two-thirds majority in the Assembly and Senate gives Democrats the power to raise taxes without Republican votes.  They’ll also be able to expedite bills and change legislative rules.  But Assembly Speaker John Perez downplays that new power.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

California’s once-enormous budget deficit has shrunk to just under $2 billion, and the state could soon have a surplus.  But Mac Taylor, California’s non-partisan legislative analyst is urging caution as state finances improve.

Not long ago, California hit rock bottom, with a massive budget deficit. 

Nearly four years ago Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger told a crowd, “the $42 billion deficit is a rock upon our chest that we cannot breathe until we get it off.” 

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