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Brown Picks Mariano-Florentino Cuellar for Supreme Court

by: Brian Leubitz

Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 17:04:59 PM PDT

Stanford Law Professor is first of two picks that Brown will make

by Brian Leubitz

Gov. Brown will replace Justices Baxter and Kennard this year, and today he announced his first pick, Stanford law professor Mariano-Florentino Cuellar .

Cuellar, 41, was born in Matamoros, Mexico, and for years crossed the border by foot to attend school in Texas. He moved with his family to the Imperial Valley when he was 14 and obtained his bachelor's degree from Harvard College, his law degree from Yale Law School and a doctorate in political science from Stanford.

In selecting Cuellar, Gov. Jerry Brown said: "Tino Cuellar is a renowned scholar who has ... made significant contributions to both political science and the law. His vast knowledge and even temperament will - without question - add further luster to our highest court." (LA Times)

Baxter was widely considered one of the more conservative of the seven member court, so the replacement will likely shift the court leftward. While we can only speculate how a Justice Cuellar will rule, the fact is that Brown will have 3 of the 7 justices by next year. With another Brown administration very likely comes the very real possibility of a Brown majority on the court. And with his current appointment pattern, perhaps a very intellectual California Supreme Court as well.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Yee Advances to General Election as Pérez Concedes

by: Brian Leubitz

Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 18:07:34 PM PDT

SF Gay Pride 2009 - State BOE Betty YeeFormer speaker concedes to allow election to move forward

by Brian Leubitz

The trouble with elections decided by less that 500 votes is that you are basically within the margin of error. It isn't the same kind of error you get in a poll, but the point remains. There are just going to be mistakes somewhere along the line. That's the nature of the process. But John Pérez has decided that in the interest of moving the election forward to concede.

While I strongly believe that completing this process would result in me advancing to the General Election, it is clear that there are significant deficiencies in the process itself which make continuing the recount problematic. Even in the effort so far, we have found uncounted ballots, but there is simply not enough time to see this process through to the end, given the fact that counties must begin printing ballots in the next few weeks in order to ensure that overseas and military voters can receive their ballots in a timely manner. (John Pérez release)

Yee thanked the former speaker and is looking forward to the general election:

"I want to thank Speaker Emeritus John A. Pérez for doing the right thing in recognizing that the recount was unlikely to reverse the outcome of the June primary election.  This allows us to move forward and to be united for the November general election.  John A. Perez is an outstanding leader who has played an important role in helping to put California back on sound fiscal footing.  He ran a strong and positive campaign and will have a long career of leadership and public service."
Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Have We Seen the Last of the Death Penalty in California?

by: Brian Leubitz

Fri Jul 18, 2014 at 10:52:39 AM PDT

Cormac J. Carney District Judge.jpg

Court ruling could mean big changes at San Quentin

by Brian Leubitz

The death penalty isn't actually executed in California anymore. Oh, our courts sentence people to death, but it hasn't actually been executed since 2006, when Clarence Ray Allen was put to death in January.

Bay Area Fox affiliate KTVU did a little slideshow that shows our death row looking more like the early bird special at the local buffet. For a variety of legal and pragmatic reasons, we just don't perform executions anymore. And now that is increasingly likely to stay the case for the foreseeable future:

A conservative federal judge from Southern California may have done what progressives have been trying to do for years: end the death penalty in California.

The July 16th order by Judge Cormac J. Carney (PDF), in the case of Jones v. Chappell, is an astonishing document. It takes no position on the morality of the death penalty, or whether it's inherently cruel for the state to take a life. But it repeatedly spanks the State of California for turning the process of executions into such an unpredictable fiasco that inmates - and the families of victims - have no idea whether, or when, a condemned man will die. (48Hills / Tim Redmond)

A few things before I continue. First, if you aren't reading 48Hills, you should be. I don't always agree with Tim on some of the local San Francisco issues, but he brings a great insight on local politics. Next, if you are interested in this issue, it might be worth the time to read the whole decision linked above and here.  Now, Judge Carney was appointed by Gray Davis before getting the George W Bush appointment to the federal bench, but he was still a Bush appointee FWIW. (Also, he was a former USFL player!)

As Tim points out in his story, the decision is about process. We have sentenced 900 people to death since 1978, and only 13 have been executed. Certainly the deterrent effect is not what we are going for here. And because we underfund public defender services, death penalty appeals take years upon years to complete. That's not even to mention the questions of how we perform (or don't) the executions.

In 2012, California voters very narrowly retained the death penalty, 52-48, by rejecting Prop 34. But how much longer before those numbers flip? And even if we are inclined to retain it, are we going to adequately fund it? Perhaps it won't be too long until we get another crack at a similar measure on the ballot.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

We Need to Save More Water

by: Brian Leubitz

Wed Jul 16, 2014 at 10:53:41 AM PDT

State Water Board issues mandatory conservation order

by Brian Leubitz

We all know that the state is in a pretty serious drought. But while most of the state has at least made some headway in conservation efforts, it just hasn't been enough. I see you, SoCal, grinning sheepishly in the corner.

The new rules, approved by the State Water Resources Control Board on a 4-0 vote, impose new restrictions on outdoor water use starting Aug. 1 that could result in fines of up to $500 per violation.

Gov. Jerry Brown in January asked Californians to slash their water use by 20 percent. But a new state survey released Tuesday showed that water use in May rose by 1 percent this year, compared with a 2011-2013 May average. (Merc News / Paul Rogers)

Now, this isn't all just household users. Perhaps it would be easier if that were the case, but water usage is a big mess of different parties and factions. Agricultural water use has been slightly decreased, mostly by force, but it still isn't enough. Commercial use, like pressure washing, needs to be reduced as well. And, we all need to strive to take shorter showers and reduce water in every way that we can at home.

Because enforcement is up to local water authorities, many people won't really notice any changes. But some are already up in arms. Like, say, the famously powerful lobbying group of BigPressureWashing. I kid, but this law directly impacts these users and their jobs. And here in SF, where local authorities are now taking a data-driven approach to poop on our sidewallks power-washing can be #KindOfABigDeal.

We can all do more to reduce water usage by using common sense, simple water-saving techniques. Maybe El Nino will save us next year, but we have to plan to be in a drought for a while. Better start saving now.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Tim Draper Submits Six Californias Ballot Measure Signatures

by: Brian Leubitz

Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 16:20:10 PM PDT

Measure splitting the state looks set to appear on ballot

by Brian Leubitz

I'll admit that I sort of thought this was some sort of joke that would never make it to the ballot. I was surprised when word filtered out that serious signature gathering was moving forward in the spring and summer. Apparently that has now borne fruit:

Tim Draper said he will file the signatures in Sacramento on Tuesday morning. State officials still need to review the petitions to ensure the initiative can qualify.

"California needs a reboot," Draper's campaign said in a statement on Monday. "With six Californias, we can refresh our government." (LA Times)

Well, he's got the awkward technology lingo thing going on, but just because you can say "reboot" doesn't mean it is a good idea. An LAO report from earlier in the year showed a bunch of flaws in the proposal including higher costs and greater inequalities. Yes, Silicon Valley would be a dynamic and wealthy state, but what about the rest of the state(s)?

And then there is the whole question of this being entirely powerless until Congress acts. With the Senate divided, would either party want to roll the dice on 10 new Senators?

In the end, Draper will spend his few millions on this, the state will pay to count these votes, and not much will happen.

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

General Fund Ends Fiscal Year with Positive Cash Balance!

by: Brian Leubitz

Thu Jul 10, 2014 at 10:22:05 AM PDT

Controller John ChiangMilestone follows budget stability since 2012.

by Brian Leubitz

It's been a long time, but we did it! Positive cash!

State Controller John Chiang today released his monthly cash report for the month of June, and announced that the state's General Fund -- the primary account from which California funds its day-to-day operations and programs -- ended the fiscal year with a positive cash balance for the first time since June 30, 2007. A positive cash balance means that the state had funds available to meet all of its payment obligations without needing to borrow from Wall Street or the $23.8 billion available in its more than 700 internal special funds and accounts.

Now, this is more of a symbolic milestone than anything else. The Controller can shift money around so that there isn't a huge cost to the taxpayers of having a general fund deficit on one particular day. And the close of a fiscal year isn't really that much different than any other day.

That being said, this still speaks volumes about where we have come from over the past two years. Since the majority vote budget rules and the Prop 30 tax increases passed, we are on solid footing. We still need to do more to focus on what comes next when the Prop 30 taxes expire, as a simple expiration would just put us back to the boom/bust cycle that we've seen for the last 20 years.

But for today, hooray!

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

SF/LA Look towards $15 Minimum Wage

by: Brian Leubitz

Thu Jul 03, 2014 at 10:08:36 AM PDT

California Cities look to follow Seattle's lead

by Brian Leubitz

San Francisco voters will have a chance to vote on a $15 minimum wage proposal this November in a gradually increasing wage compromise announced last month:

The mayor, city supervisors and business and labor leaders came together on the compromise - even the Chamber of Commerce was on hand - but service industry representatives warned the plan would be hard on restaurants and other hospitality-related businesses.

The compromise announced at City Hall would increase the city's current hourly base pay, $10.74, to $12.25 next May 1, then to $13 in July 2016 and $1 each subsequent year until it reaches $15 in 2018. That would bring the annual pay for a full-time minimum-wage worker to $31,000. (SF Chronicle)

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, unions are working to get a requirement of a $15 minimum wage for city contractors:

Currently, Los Angeles has a living wage ordinance that requires that city contractors pay at least $12.28 per hour without health benefits, or slightly less with health benefits, according to its Bureau of Contract Administration website.

The Coalition of LA City Unions, which includes unions representing more than half of city workers, wants to raise that minimum to $15, Chairwoman Cheryl Parisi said Tuesday. It also wants to set the same bar for city employees.(LA Times)

Now, both of these proposals are not nearly as dramatic as some in the social justice movement would like. There is concern on the lower end of the labor market that some employees could be squeezed out. However, the data on these questions is very mixed, and in fact shows no statistical proof that minimum wage. As you can see from the chart to the right, all of the studies basically say that there will be very little economic impact. It may confound many of the free-market people, but data is data.

Seattle is facing its own hurdles in implementing the $15 minimum wage, with recent news that some business interests have filed signatures to put the measure to a referendum.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Betty Yee Finishes 2nd, Faces Swearingen in November

by: Brian Leubitz

Tue Jul 01, 2014 at 09:53:06 AM PDT

Yee defeats former Speaker John Pérez

by Brian Leubitz

Maybe you see races decided by 484 votes for some City Council races, or in some some states in exceptionally close elections. But in a California statewide election? That razor's edge is extremely rare:

A month after the primary election, Democrat Betty Yee finished 484 votes ahead of John A. Pérez for second-place in the state controller's race, officials announced Monday.

Lake County Registrar Diane Fridley used nearly all of her allotted 28 days to certify the results in the down-ballot contest that sparked a daily ritual of political junkies refreshing their web browsers. (SacBee)

Just how close is that? It is 12 thousandths of a percent of the vote total.   Or approximately the same as the vote difference in Florida in 2000 (percentage wise).

Pérez can seek recounts of specific precincts, but there is always the risk of going the other way. There is no guarantee of picking up votes in any one precinct. Because Lake County took so much time, there is a limited decision period for Pérez to decide if he wants to seek that recount. But as of right now, Betty Yee looks to be the favorite over Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearingen in November.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Gay Conversion Therapy Ban Upheld

by: Brian Leubitz

Mon Jun 30, 2014 at 11:21:33 AM PDT

Supreme Court declines review of gay treatment ban

by Brian Leubitz

While there was some very disappointing news coming out of the Supreme Court today, there was some positive as well:

The justices on Monday let stand an appeals court ruling that said the state's ban on so-called conversion therapy for minors doesn't violate the free speech rights of licensed counselors and patients seeking treatment.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last year that California lawmakers properly showed that efforts to change sexual orientation were outside the scientific mainstream and have been rejected for good reason.(SacBee)

This is very good news for teenagers that had been subjected to the harmful practice. It has no basis in anything resembling science, gives credibility to homophobes, and can irreparably damage the self-esteem of its victims.

In short, there is clear evidence that reparative therapy does not work, and some significant evidence that it is also harmful to LGBT people.

In contrast, there is ample evidence that societal prejudice causes significant medical, psychological and other harms to LGBT people. (HRC)

As you can see from the statistics in the image to the right, LGBT youth face many challenges already. There is no place for this practice in anything resembling a medical setting, and it should never be forced upon children. This ban is a big step forward in the fight against homophobia.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Yee and Pérez still waiting on Lake County

by: Brian Leubitz

Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 07:52:57 AM PDT

Lake County holds the last remaining uncounted ballots.

by Brian Leubitz

UPDATE June 30: Lake County News has an update:

The Board of Supervisors will meet in a special evening session next Tuesday to take up, among other things, the final canvass for the June 3 election. The board will meet beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 1 ... Registrar of Voters Diane Fridley has until 5 p.m. Tuesday to complete the count, according to the Secretary of State's Office.

Fridley's office is the last of the 58 county election offices statewide to complete the final count for the June 3 primary, according to the unprocessed ballot posted by the California Secretary of State's Office on Friday.

Maybe tomorrow we'll have an idea of what is going on in Lake County for those last 6,000+ ballots.

The Controller's race is now sitting at a 861 vote lead for BoE member Betty Yee over former Speaker John Pérez. And the only remaining outstanding mail-in ballots come from Lake County:

But before any decisions are made on a possible recount, there are about 6,000 ballots to count in Lake County, where Pérez outpolled Yee by about seven percentage points in election day results. Diane Fridley, the Lake County registrar, said Tuesday that the office plans to process 5,263 vote-by-mail ballots Thursday morning and will sometime later deal with 743 provisional and 47 damaged ballots. The office will finish its work no later than next Tuesday's deadline, said Fridley, who is on light duty following surgery and has only a skeleton staff to help with the ballot work.

Fridley said it's the first time in her 36 years at the office that any statewide race could come down to Lake County. Both campaigns have been in touch and plan to have representatives in her Lakeport office on Thursday.

"We're working as fast as we can," she said.(SacBee)

It does seem a bit odd that Lake County is now the focus, but we are still waiting on those results. In the results previously announced in that county, Pérez and Republican David Evans basically tied with 2326 and 2325 votes. Yee trailed behind with 1662 and Swearingen with 1134. If the proportions are the same with those 5,263 votes, Pérez (and Evans) would pick up about 390 votes on Yee. That would still leave Yee ahead by over 400 votes.

But to be clear, this is an extraordinarily close race. In the end, it could come down to a few thousandths of a point. In an election with about 4 million votes, the odds of that happening are just mind-boggling.

Lake County said that they would be counting on Thursday, but no results have been released on the web yet. I'll update this post if results are released

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Field: Big Lead for Brown, Legislature's Approval Slips Back

by: Brian Leubitz

Fri Jun 27, 2014 at 07:32:44 AM PDT

Field Poll shows Legislature took hit after recent controversy

by Brian Leubitz

Field is in the midst of their most recent data dump, and you can't help but feel that Gov. Brown is all smiles. First, there's the fact that he has a 20 point lead over Neel Kashkari

The results of the latest Field Poll show incumbent Democratic Governor Jerry Brown leading Republican challenger Neel Kashkari by twenty points, 52% to 32%, among likely voters in this year's gubernatorial election.  ... Brown is regarded favorably by 54% of likely voters, while 31% have an unfavorable opinion. Following his second place showing in the June primary, Kashkari is viewed favorably by 28%, while 16% of voters hold an unfavorable opinion of him.

In addition, the Poll finds 54% of voters approving of the job Brown is doing as governor, while 29% disapprove. (Field PDF)

The Governor's approval rating during this term has been as low as 43%, before reaching a high of 59% in April of this year. While it did slip, when combined with his mound of campaign funds, the contest between Brown and Kashkari doesn't really seem a fair fight. Barring some major shift of the political landscape, you have to feel that Brown should defeat Kashkari handily.

Now, on the other side, the Legislature was so close to actually having a net favorable rating. The institution's ratings were trending up from a low of 19% in May 2012 before Prop 30. In December 2013, it hit 40% for the first time since 2002. In other words, a really long time. And then in the late March poll, approval was trending even higher, with a 46-40 split in the first few days of polling. Then the Leland Yee story broke, and the numbers fell back to earth.

Slightly more voters believe California is generally on the wrong track (46%) than say it is moving in the right direction (41%). In addition, more voters disapprove (47%) than approve (35%) of the job performance of the state legislature.

Opinions about both matters are directly related to the party registration of voters. Democrats offer a much more optimistic assessment of the direction of the state and hold more positive views of the job the state legislature is doing than Republicans. (Field PDF)

Still, this says a lot about the harmony of the post Prop 30 days. There are still budget fights, but they aren't nearly as toxic as they once were. The majority vote budget means that the fights are basically all within the party. The scandal can't help, but beyond a bad apple or two, this is a legislature that works for California.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

With SF Ellis Act Bill dead, local housing advocates forced to look elsewhere

by: Brian Leubitz

Tue Jun 24, 2014 at 18:55:55 PM PDT

Ellis Act reform would have required waiting period before evictions

by Brian Leubitz

Well, after a lot of drama getting out of the Senate, the SF Ellis Act reform legislation died in the Assembly:

The Ellis Act reform bill introduced by Sen. Mark Leno, D-S.F., will not be moving forward this year, according to his office. The proposed legislation, Senate Bill 1439, sought to limit evictions in San Francisco by requiring new property owners to wait five years before invoking the Ellis Act, a state law that allows a landlord to evict their tenants if they intend to leave the rental business. ...

"I am profoundly disappointed that the Assembly Housing Committee failed to pass critical legislation that would help mitigate the negative impacts of a recent surge in Ellis Act evictions in San Francisco," said Leno in a statement following the Assembly Housing Committee vote. (SF Examiner)

The bill took a couple tries to get it through Assembly, and ultimately trying to make law for one county at the state level was just too high of a hurdle to clear. The bill only applied to SF because of the unique housing conditions, something of a perfect storm. Rising housing costs in both the rental and ownership markets, combined with a complicated rent control system leave a lot of loopholes to exploit and a lot of incentive to exploit them for speculators.

But ultimately, this was never any sort of silver bullet. It dealt with a small, but high-profile, loophole. San Francisco needs to look at a kitchen sink approach to try to bring housing costs under something resembling control, or the beautiful City by the Bay will lose the diversity that helped make it great.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

The water bond and the tunnels

by: Brian Leubitz

Mon Jun 23, 2014 at 15:27:20 PM PDT

windlessWater bond still faces tunnel stumbling block

by Brian Leubitz

There is little disagreement that our water infrastructure needs some work. Across party lines and the north-south divide, there is a consensus that we need to invest in our water system. The amount of the bond package is still in dispute, but those are minor disagreements.

But the one big stumbling block are the twin tunnels that Gov. Brown wants to build to bring water to Southern California from the Delta. The administration released a report on the potential job gains from the project:

The study's author, Dave Sunding, a UC Berkeley agricultural and resource economist, predicts that construction of what is called the Bay-Delta Conservation Project would create an average of about 15,500 jobs a year over a decade of construction and habitat restoration. Once built, the project to make water supplies more reliable would spur an additional estimated 19,600 jobs a year over 50 years, he said.

"In the short, medium and long range, the Bay Delta Conservation would provide economic benefits to California," said Nancy Vogel, spokeswoman for the Department of Water Resources. "The plan is essentially an insurance policy against species extinction and inadequate water supplies." (LA Times)

To call these figures controversial is a big understatement. The job figures are being called highly speculative, on both construction and the long-term prospects. The tunnels, which were rejected by the voters during Brown's first stint as governor in the 80s, are back again with the same controversy. Like then, the questions of drought are still very much present. If our current drought continues, or another, more vicious dry spell hits, there simply won't be any water there.

Sen. Lois Wolk, who represents much of the Delta has been trying to move past this issue, and is taking the right tack. She is working hard to get a water bond on the ballot without any sort of authorization for the tunnels. And in the NBCLA clip below the fold, this is what Sen. Steinberg is endorsing, and warning against a bond that includes them.

The tunnels are a big conversation of their own, and tying the bond up with that political melee could backfire at the ballot. But with the deadline for the ballot getting closer, we should have a resolution soon.

There's More... :: (0 Comments, 3 words in story)

What does Kevin McCarthy's Ascension Mean for California? HSR? Immigration?

by: Brian Leubitz

Wed Jun 18, 2014 at 10:16:28 AM PDT

Kevin McCarthy - CaricaturePotential new majority leader not normally in step with his home state's leadership

Kevin McCarthy looks all but assured of assuming Eric Cantor's old job as Majority Leader in the House. Raul Labrador is having troubles controlling his own state's convention, let alone trying to wrangle votes for leadership, and there don't appear to be any viable challengers. So, it appears that is just a matter of time until both the Majority and Minority Leaders are Californians.

Now, you might think that awesome for California. We'll be flush with federal dollars for infrastructure and other development. Well, you may want to hold that thought. McCarthy is a Republican. In 2014. That means he must act like all federal programs are ridiculous and that states are awesome. Except California and our San Francisco values.

As I noted on the budget post below, McCarthy has been on the harshest HSR critics for years now. He does not like the project for a multitude of reasons. The cynical would say that it may have something to do with his overall chumminess with energy companies. And if you look at his energy policy, you won't find too many disagreements with Big Oil. But if you ask him, it is about funding and protecting the California and federal budgets.

He aimed most of his ire at the bullet train project, which would receive $250 million in the next fiscal year and in subsequent years. The funds are 25% of revenues from the state's cap-and-trade program, which collects fees on polluters.

"Time and again, the high-speed rail boondoggle has proven to be an unfeasible project that will put undue and damaging pressure on our state budget, ultimately hurting taxpayers," McCarthy said in a statement. (LAT)

There area a multitude of other issues where he disagrees with a majority of the state. On water, he is hard-core in the agricultural corner, a stalwart for the farmers over fish people. And that isn't really surprising considering his district. It is a strong GOP district, with Obama not managing to break 40% in either election.

But there are some other dynamics to his district. Check these demographics:

Race: 75.8% White, 6.8% Black, 5.2% Asian, 1.4% American Indian (National Percentages: 72.4% White, 12.6% Black, 4.8% Asian, 0.9% American Indian)

Ethnicity: 64.6% Non-Hispanic, 35.4% Hispanic (National Percentages: 83.6% Non-Hispanic, 16.4% Hispanic) (Politics USA)

McCarthy has never been hard line anti-immigrant. To be honest, it is hard to find a big difference on that front from Cantor. As he has a large farmworker population, and many large agricultural operations that rely on them, he is in a tough position with his more reactionary colleagues when he has support like this:

"There is no reason for Congressman Kevin McCarthy, as leader, not to take leadership on this issue," said immigration reform activist Arturo Rodriguez, president of United Farm Workers. "Everyone will expect it and demand it. And we will step up all of our activities as a whole." (CNN)

But McCarthy is a smart man. You don't move up the ladder as quickly as he has if that wasn't true. He sees the math, and understand the Republican predicament if they keep turning off Latino voters. In a district like his own, it would be hard to miss.

A few years ago, we thought we would have a great opportunity for reform. Republicans like Cantor and Boehner knew that the party had to change on the issue, or would continue to haunt them. But with Brat's win over Cantor, will McCarthy continue to press the issue?

"I think his (McCarthy's) views on immigration are similar to Cantor's," said Steven Camarota, director of research for the non-profit Center for Immigration Studies. "But after this week's results, it seems much less likely he would push it. And even less likely still that he would move his members to push it." (CNN

But McCarthy is capable of building coalitions, sometimes despite his own party's reluctance. If he is willing to work with Boehner and Democrats, he could probably muster the votes. The question is how he deals with his own members. It is a question of threading a very, very fine needle. But it is a needle that he, and his party, need to thread. Electorally, Democrats would be better if he didn't, but clearly comprehensive immigration reform would be the right course for the nation.

But on the plus side, he frequently says funny/incomprehensible things, so there's that.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Budget Goes to Governor's Desk: Republicans Freak Out About HSR

by: Brian Leubitz

Mon Jun 16, 2014 at 08:59:57 AM PDT

Budget Based on Compromises Leaves Questions

by Brian Leubitz

First, let's get this out of the way: the budget ($156bn for those counting at home) has now been passed and just awaits a few formalities. It is a budget of compromises, but a solid foundation for California's priorities.  And there are no big public fights, no big accusations, and no sleepovers in Sacramento. This is all good, and says a lot about the improved process under the majority vote budget system. (And Prop 30, which gives the revenue breathing room that we need.)

All that being said, the Governor wanted to maintain a hard line on spending. It's nice and prudent and all that, but there are a lot of gaping holes in the budget that should have been addressed. George Skelton's review of the completed product outlines some of those holes:

But the governor refused to reverse a 10% cut in pay rates for doctors who treat patients in the Medi-Cal program that is greatly expanding under Obamacare. Because of the measly rates - lowest in the nation - more and more doctors are refusing to accept Medi-Cal patients.

And, shamefully, no one even tried to restore previously cut funding for the most vulnerable: the aged, blind and disabled poor living entirely off federal and state subsistence programs (SSI/SSP) - $880 (sic, it is actually $877.40 - BL) monthly for singles and $1,480 for couples. There are roughly 1.5 million Californians receiving SSI/SSP, which was reduced to the federal minimum during the recession. The state is still stiffing them. They're not unionized and can't make campaign contributions. Meanwhile, legislators keep raising the minimum wage, bumping up inflation and squeezing these impoverished folks even more.

So the governor and Democrats shouldn't be patting themselves on the backs all that much for their budget compromise. ([George Skelton / LATimes)

There have been a few good editorials about the Medi-Cal question, including this one in the SF Chronicle. Boiling it down, our reimbursement rates are among the lowest in the nation. And while there is a sharp need to control medical costs. As you can see from the graph in this tweet, our costs are still out of control. But the problem here is that if the tightest controls are isolated to Medi-Cal, doctors simply won't take Medi-Cal patients. And that is exactly what is happening. As you can see from the ad up top, this was a big deal for the state. But under the current budget, reimbursement rates are still far too low.

In addition to the heartbreaking failure to restore SSI/SSP funding for some of the state's most vulnerable, the state's contributions to CalSTRS are taking a big chunk out of the restoration of funding to K12 education. And even with the $250+ million for both early child education and vocational education, there are still big funding problems at all levels of California education.

The other big issue: yeah, that would be Republican Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy's non-stop tirade over the high speed rail project. (Seen here looking hilarious in flick user donkeyhotey's cartoon.) The budget allocates $250m from cap and trade revenue, but long-term funding issues are still out there. At this point, HSR leaders can point to several billion of funding that is out there for the project, but are still a ways off from the full price tag. And if McCarthy becomes Majority Leader as expected, comments like these could mean it becomes a lot more challenging to get federal assistance for the project:

"Governor Brown's persistence shows he is more interested in protecting his legacy than communities that will be uprooted by its intrusion," he added. "As long as I am in Congress, I will do whatever I can to ensure that not one dollar of federal funds is directed to this project." (Melanie Mason / LAT)

But those decisions are for another day. Today, we have a budget that will keep the lights on throughout the state, and that's good thing.

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