Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

RexBabin12.jpgHere's a guide to all the news you missed during your (and our) holiday break.

Yes, California still has a budget problem.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democratic leadership negotiated during the holiday weeks over whether Schwarzenegger would sign their majority-vote package of $18 billion in cuts and taxes.

First they were "very close" in the words of Senate leader Darrell Steinberg. Then they were "far away" in the words of Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear.

Bee cartoonist Rex Babin sketched the battling sides (see right).

Schwarzenegger headed off to Idaho for a Christmas break, though he kept in touch with legislative leaders via videoconferencing.

Then, on New Year's Eve, Schwarzenegger administration officials unveiled the 2009-10 budget proposal to close the roughly $40 billion deficit.

It was the sixth Schwarzenegger budget proposal of 2008.

The new elements include reducing the dependent care exemption on state income tax returns from the current $309 per dependent to $103; carrying over some of the deficit into the 2010-11 fiscal year; borrowing funds from voter-created programs for the mentally ill and pre-kindergarten children, and borrowing $4.7 billion from the private sector.

Read The Bee's outline of the plan. Or read the governor's document for yourself.

The budget proposes to change state worker health care, reduce the length of the school year, save a billion in prison and parolee costs, and blow up some of those old boxes, among other things.

Schwarzenegger himself wasn't at his own budget unveiling. Legislative leaders seemed unimpressed by the plan.

The Los Angeles Times reported more bad budget news: California fire-fighting expenditures topped $1 billion in 2008.

The California Teachers Association, meanwhile, is taking matters into its own hands, filing an initiative to raise the sales tax by a penny.

"It's time for stable and independent funding that cannot be cut by the Legislature or diverted for other uses," CTA President David Sanchez said in a statement.

JohnChiang.jpgMeanwhile, State Controller John Chiang went to Texas to visit family, but he was hospitalized there with chest pains. (It was later determined Chiang suffered a mild heart attack.)

From his hospital bed in Texas, Chiang wrote a letter to state agencies saying California may have to resort to IOUs as early as Feb. 1.

First on the list of recipients: state lawmakers.

On the plus side..."Terminator," the 1984 film starring Schwarzenegger, was one of 25 films added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress.

In another policy arena, a panel of state leaders is calling for the construction of a canal to divert water around the Delta by 2011. And they're not asking for approval from lawmakers or voters.

TomCampbell2.jpgPotential Republican candidate for governor Tom Campbell, in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, makes the case for a temporary hike in the per-gallon gasoline tax combined with a strict spending cap.

Campbell may end up competing with a couple of billionaires (or near-billionaires) in Meg Whitman and Steve Poizner, but he's the first one out with some real, concrete ideas to solve the state's fiscal mess. Not that tax hikes are likely to woo the GOP faithful...

Speaking of Whitman, conservative Red County Placer blogger Aaron Park calls the former CEO of eBay, "Al Checci in a skirt."

Speaking of names from the past, you'd never guess who might toss his hat into the 2010 GOP ring.

Bill Simon, the 2002 Republican nominee, tells the Wall Street Journal he's interested.

In fact, Mr. Simon tells me that he would definitely consider running again for governor or lieutenant governor in 2010. He says that the budget crisis in California, including a deficit which he estimates at approximately $40 billion, will "require very fundamental change. This is an issue I understand. Economic issues are a strength for me."

Meanwhile, Attorney General Jerry Brown, who's a could-be, would-be candidate for governor in 2010, announced he was suing the Bush administration (always a popular move) over enforcement of the endangered species act.

It may seem early, but candidates are already sniffing around the open Assembly seats in 2010. The Fresno Bee says Blong Xiong may run.

Other odds and ends:

Big-time GOP donor Alex Spanos, 85, tells his family about his own battle with dementia.

The New York Times profiled California's congressional Sanchez sisters.

There are high levels of arsenic in Kern Valley State Prison, the Los Angeles Times reported. "It's not that major of an issue," said Kelly Harrington, the prison's new warden.

California's new clout on environmental issues was covered by the Washington Post.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled a prison sentence granted because of California's three-strikes law was unconstitutional.

Former Assemblyman Todd Spitzer has returned to Orange County as a prosecutor. The OC Register reports he lost his first jury trial.

Spitzer told the Register it "was one of only two "not guiltys" he's even gotten in his career as a prosecutor."

Former Assemblywoman Shirley Horton has a new job. She's taking the helm of the San Diego Downtown Partnership.

Health Access' Anthony Wright assessed health care politics in 2008:

In the fight for quality, affordable health coverage for all Californians, the year 2008 was a year of setbacks and steps back--not just opportunities lost, but decisions that will cause many Californians' coverage to be lost.

It started with the end of the proclaimed "Year of Health Reform," as a much-watched, much-negotiated comprehensive health reform stalled in January. The year was marked by the failure of many more bills, big and small, ambitious and specific, blocked by legislative action or a Governor's veto pen.

The Department of Fish and Game labeled 2008 the "Year of Extreme Poachers and Dangerous Encounters," for what it's worth.

Calitics blogger Brian Leubitz dropped his bid for vice-chairman of the California Democratic Party.

The dynamics of these races are, in fact, quite dynamic. When I got in this race, I did so not simply to make a point. I believed, and continue to believe, that I would do an excellent job as the vice chair of the CDP. And with these changes, it is clear to me that I will not have the votes come April in Sacramento. While I am not afraid to run a race that is merely to make a point, I believe the goals of competing in every race and building the party throughout the party will be made.

RexBabin13.jpgThose dynamics involved ex-Senate leader John Burton jumping into the chairmanship race and pushing Eric Bauman, chair of the Los Angeles Democratic Party, to run for vice-chair.

A couple of other blogs are closing up shop.

Boi from Troy, the musings of a gay conservative USC alum (Scott Schmidt), has published its last post.

Ditto for California Faultline.

And it wouldn't be a new year without new laws.

The Bee's Rex Babin gave his take (see right) on the most talked -- and texted -- about new statute.

Photo: John Chiang speaking to The Bee Capitol Bureau in 2008. Credit: Brian Baer/Sacramento Bee

Photo: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, left listens to state finance director Tom Campbell during a press conference at the Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday June 21, 2005. Credit: Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee



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