Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 5, 2012
Jerry Brown proposes folding High-Speed Rail into new agency

Gov. Jerry Brown reiterated his commitment to California's high-speed rail project today, but he also proposed additional oversight, seeking to fold the troubled High-Speed Rail Authority into a new state agency.

The annual spending plan proposed by the Democratic governor this afternoon includes continued funding for the Rail Authority's operations, but it doesn't yet include bond proceeds to start construction in the Central Valley.

"The Authority's funding plan is under review by the Department of Finance," according to a budget summary. "After the review, the Administration will propose a plan for the initial train segment."

As part of a measure to consolidate state agencies and departments, Brown proposed creating a Transportation Agency, including the Rail Authority, the Highway Patrol and the departments of Transportation and Motor Vehicles, among others.

Tom Umberg, chairman of the Rail Authority board, said in a prepared statement this afternoon, "We embrace the reorganization proposal as it provides additional support and the necessary resources to support this project."

The $98.5 billion rail project faces an increasingly skeptical Legislature and electorate as it prepares to start construction this year. Earlier this week, a peer review group said it could not recommend bond funding until the project's long-term financing plan is more certain.

Brown told reporters today that some of the objections raised by the group "were not that well founded."

"I'm of the view that this is a time for big ideas, not shrinking back and looking for a hole to climb into," he said. "I think we've got to move forward."

January 5, 2012
Steinberg: Senate won't make March cuts proposed by Brown

Darrell Steinberg 20120104_PK_LEGISLATURE 0662.JPGCalifornia's top Senate Democrat today shut the door on Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal to make deep cuts to social services programs in the first few months of the year.

The January spending plan unveiled by Brown today includes nearly $1.4 billion in cuts to the state's welfare-to-work and subsidized child care programs. The Democratic governor called on lawmakers to approve those cuts in March to maximize savings.

But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, echoing comments made Wednesday, said he wants to hold off on further spending reductions in hopes that the state will see an uptick in revenues this spring.

"Why would we make cuts that are going to harm people and harm the economy in March when in fact in May there's a real not just possibility, but if the trend continues, a probability that the deficit number is going to be less," the Sacramento Democrat told reporters, pointing to improvement in a revenue forecast made in December.

January 5, 2012
Jerry Brown's budget glitch ... or his commitment to punctuality

Jerry Brown 1 5 2012 California Budget.JPEG-01c6.JPGIt was only a few hours and one computer glitch ago that Gov. Jerry Brown was freely dodging questions about his annual spending plan, telling reporters this morning to wait for its release next week.

"You got enough for today," the Democratic governor said after meeting with county officials in Sacramento. "This is a budget, it's got hundreds of pages. I want you guys to read it."

Sooner than later, it turned out.

"Due to a tech glitch, the state budget was posted to a public website today," Brown spokesman Gil Duran said on Twitter this afternoon. "Therefore, we will roll it out at 2:30 p.m. in (Room) 1190."

According to state Finance Department spokesman H.D. Palmer, a budget document that was intended to be uploaded to an internal site was instead posted mistakenly on the state's public budget website, www.ebudget.ca.gov.

The document was up for only about an hour this morning, but, Palmer said, "in this day and age, you can't put that toothpaste back in the tube."

The administration seemed to take it in stride. When asked after Brown's news conference to explain what had happened, Finance Director Ana Matosantos said, "The budget got released, and I think we're about done."

Upstairs at the Capitol, Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, was even spinning it for Brown.

"The governor is so committed to an on-time budget," Pérez said, "that he's even five days ahead of himself."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown discusses the cuts he has already made to help reduce the state's budget deficit from nearly $20 billion last year to a gap of about $9.2 billion as he unveiled his proposed $92.5 billion 2012-13 state budget at a Capitol news conference in Sacramento, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli)

January 5, 2012
Larry Miles launches bid for Sacramento County Assembly seat

Larry Miles headshot50.jpgDemocrat Larry Miles is entering the fray in an already crowded race for an open Assembly seat in east Sacramento County.

Miles, an attorney and member of the San Juan Unified School District Board of Education, announced today that he will run for the newly drawn 8th Assembly District. Miles said he decided to run after Assemblywoman Alyson Huber, D-El Dorado Hills, announced that she would not seek re-election to the seat.

The Sacramento Democrat believes his two decades of living in the Arden-Arcade area and the seven years he has spent representing a portion of the new district on the school board will give him an edge with voters in June. He plans to make public education a top issue in his campaign.

"I think that my experience, my background as a mediator, a school board member, as someone who represents small business all come into play," he said in an interview.

Miles ran unsuccessfully in the 2010 Democratic primary for the former 5th Assembly District, losing to now-Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, by about 18 percentage points. He said he believes the ability for Republicans and decline-to-state voters who have supported him for school board to cast a ballot for his primary bid under the top-two primary system will help his campaign this time around.

A roughly two-point registration advantage for Democrats is expected to make the seat a top target next year.

The race has already attracted several other candidates, including Democrats Ken Cooley, a Rancho Cordova councilman, and Chris Parker, a Franchise Tax Board attorney, and Republican Peter Tateishi, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Dan Lungren. Republican businessman Jon Bagatelos, also a former Assembly candidate, is also weighing a run.

Photo courtsey of Larry Miles.

January 5, 2012
Read Jerry Brown's California budget plan

Read Gov. Jerry Brown's budget proposal for the fiscal year that ends in June 2013.

January 5, 2012
Jerry Brown budget cuts $1 billion from California welfare

Gov. Jerry Brown proposed Thursday slashing nearly $1.4 billion in welfare and child care aid for the poor while holding voters liable for $5 billion in education funding with a November tax measure.

The Democratic governor announced his January budget plan this afternoon after his proposal was inadvertently leaked on his Department of Finance website.

He estimates the state faces a $9.2 billion general fund deficit through June 2013, which he proposes to bridge with mostly cuts and taxes. Brown will ask voters to pass a $6.9 billion ballot measure in November that raises taxes on sales and income starting with single filers earning $250,000 a year. The taxes would last through 2016.

"With the tax program, we will eliminate the budget deficit finally, after years of kicking the can down the road," Brown said.

With or without the taxes, Brown is calling for a base level of $4.2 billion in cuts, including the $946 million to welfare-to-work and $446 million to subsidized child care. He also would save $842 million in Medi-Cal by moving recipients into managed care plans.

The welfare cut would save money largely by cutting welfare for parents who don't meet work requirements after 24 months, compared to 48 months now.

If voters approve his tax measure, K-12 schools and community colleges would receive $4.8 billion more than they do in the current fiscal year, for a total of $52.5 billion in state and local tax revenues. Those schools are already owed a significant share of that $4.8 billion under existing formulas and past promises made by state leaders.

If the measure fails, the state would cut that funding. It would provide schools the same amount they receive in the current fiscal year, though districts may have to borrow more money to keep their programs intact, an option many may find difficult. Districts also face growing labor costs each year, while they have already cut school days, laid off teachers and eliminated art and music programs to make ends meet.

If the taxes fail, the state would also cut $200 million each to the University of California and California State University systems, which have relied on large tuition hikes in recent years to offset state budget cuts. Even if the taxes pass, CSU would get no increase in state funding this year; UC would receive $90 million toward retirement costs.

Brown wants the Legislature to enact his social service cuts by March, but Democratic leaders have dismissed his call for early action. Last spring, state tax revenues outpaced expectations enough for Brown and lawmakers to assume nearly $12 billion more than the governor anticipated last January. Democrats do not want to make cuts now, only to find out that tax revenues come in higher again this spring.

"I do not see us taking cut action between now and the May (budget revision)," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said Wednesday. "We've done enough damage on the cuts side. And the cash situation is pretty good. And it isn't like February of 2009 when we were close to heading over the cliff. I just don't see the need to make early cuts."

January 5, 2012
Jerry Brown quotes himself, more than 35 years later

It takes a special regard for history -- or for oneself -- for a politician to quote from his own old speeches.

But Gov. Jerry Brown, who was speaking in Sacramento this morning to members of the California State Association of Counties about shifting responsibility for certain services from the state to local government, found one he thought was on point.

"I was flipping through, going through a few of my old papers," the 73-year-old former governor said. "That's one of the things you do when you're my age, you go through old papers."

He came across a speech he gave to a group of county supervisors in San Jose in October 1975.

Brown said, "Were any of you there?" Then, for the benefit of everyone who wasn't -- everyone but Brown, judging by their silence -- he read from it.

"I'm going to quote, if I could, if you'll indulge me quoting myself," Brown said. "And the quote I said, 'And I'd like to devise ways in which authority and responsibility can be left with those who are closest to the problem. If I have learned anything in my 10 months, it is that the further you are from a situation or problem, the less you're able to understand it. Instead of dealing with people, you deal with paper.' "

"And that's pretty much the way it is today," he added, "only worse."

January 5, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown to release California budget today

Gov. Jerry Brown will release his budget today at 2:30 p.m. after his administration mistakenly posted the document on the Department of Finance website.

The projected budget deficit is $9.2 billion through June 2013, according to sources who have seen the document.

The Democratic governor was scheduled to release the budget on Tuesday and dismissed reporters' questions this morning about his plan, saying he wanted to be sure the media would show up for next week's release.

The budget announcement will be streamed online live at his website.

January 5, 2012
Jerry Brown seeking to 'do more realignment'

Gov. Jerry Brown said today that he will push forward with plans to shift control for some social programs to local government, after California controversially shifted responsibility for certain low-level offenders last year from prisons to county control.

"We want to do more realignment," the Democratic governor told county officials in Sacramento. "We want to look at taking over the health, the In-Home Supportive Service, the Medi-Cal, and maybe switching on some of the welfare. So, we're working on that for something we might do next year. We really want to clean up the relationship between state and local government."

A year ago, Brown proposed a Phase 2 for realignment linked to national health care reform. The plan, included in his budget proposal at the time, involved the state assuming costs associated with health care, including In-Home Supportive Services, and counties assuming responsibility for welfare and child support costs.

"We want to talk about taking the Medi-Cal, moving that more to the state," Brown told reporters after meeting with the county officials. "With social services, more authority at the local level. These are complicated. We're going to work it out over the next 12 months."

Brown was at a California State Association of Counties board meeting urging county officials to abandon a ballot measure that would guarantee state funding for additional responsibilities assumed under realignment, a protection the tax measure Brown is proposing also includes.

The governor is trying to clear from the November ballot a handful of measures that might compete with his own initiative to raise taxes.

"Obviously, not all of them can pass, and the more confusion, the more difficult it will be," Brown said.

He characterized his initiative as "your initiative, essentially, plus a little under $7 billion for schools. ... More money is better than less money, and there's more money in my initiative."

Brown suggested county officials consider their ongoing relationship with him.

"If you lose and I lose, and we're starting to squabble," he said, "that's not good, is it?"

January 5, 2012
Former Democratic Sen. Ruben Ayala, 89, was leader on water

PRISON PROBE.JPGFormer Democratic Sen. Ruben Ayala, who was a leading force on water policy during his two decades in the state Legislature, died last night. He was 89.

News of his death was announced in a statement from the office of Democratic Assemblywoman Norma Torres, who now represents Ayala's home region. A Torres spokeswoman said Ayala had been battling a prolonged illness.

Ayala, a former mayor of Chino and member of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, was first elected to the upper house in a1974 special election, according to JoinCalifornia.com. He went on to win six full terms in Senate before stepping down in the late 90s due to term limits.

The longtime Chino resident authored 1980 legislation that proposed building a peripheral canal to transport water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The measure, Senate Bill 200, was signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown but voters blocked it in a 1982 referendum.

Torres said in a statement that Ayala's "passion for our community and public service inspired us to build a better future for our children."

"If you ever had the chance to meet and speak to the Senator, you would've seen his passion for his family and the community he served," she said.

Read the obituary published by the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin at this link.

PHOTO CREDIT: California state Senators Ruben Ayala, D-Chino, left, and Quintin Kopp, I-San Francisco, listen during a joint legislative committee on allegations of mistreatment of inmates at Corcoran State Prison at the Capitol in Sacramento, on Wednesday Oct. 21, 1998. (AP Photo/ Bob Galbraith).

January 5, 2012
Counties, sheriffs to decide today on Jerry Brown initiative

Counties and sheriffs organizations are expected to decide today whether to pursue their own initiative protecting about $6 billion in annual state revenues - or back Gov. Jerry Brown's measure that would do the same while asking voters for higher taxes.

The Democratic governor will appear at a California State Association of Counties board meeting this morning to convince local officials to join his effort. Brown has filed an initiative that would increase the sales tax by a half-cent and raise income taxes starting at $250,000 for single filers.

Counties agreed this year to assume a host of state responsibilities, most notably incarcerating lower-level offenders and overseeing parolees. The state agreed to pay them for accepting those duties, but counties want that guarantee in the state constitution, where it cannot be easily changed by lawmakers and future governors.

January 5, 2012
AM Alert: Berman-Sherman slugfest set for Southern California

When the passing of the Senate Republican leader's baton from one Bob (Dutton) to another Bob (Huff) gets upstaged by a gun at an airport, California lawmakers might be hoping for a day without drama.

Both the Senate and the Assembly have floor sessions set for 9 a.m. Committees in both in the upper house and the lower house are meeting as well. Maybe it will keep their minds off the fact that Gov. Jerry Brown is planning to release his budget next Tuesday promptly at 9 a.m.

Which means there's no better time to focus on Southern California and what promises to be a coffer-depleting campaign for the new 30th Congressional District. Democratic incumbents Howard Berman and Brad Sherman will be slugging it out tonight in a town hall debate from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Westfield Shopping Towne Promenade in Woodland Hills.

Both congressmen, who got drawn into the same district, have been racking up the big-name endorsements in advance of the June primary.

In Berman's camp is the Democratic governor, who's quoted thusly on Berman's campaign website: "I'm with Howard because ... he is real, he knows what the hell he is going, and he can work with the other side." (The ellipsis is theirs.)

Those in Sherman's camp include former President Bill Clinton, who praises him for having "a keen understanding of both the challenges facing our country today and innovative ideas on what to do about them."

Berman's got the nod from State Treasurer Bill Lockyer. State Controller John Chiang has Sherman's back. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, interestingly enough, is listed on both websites, here and here (just keep scrolling down).

It's not just a two-man show, however. Two Republican candidates will also participate: Woodland Hills author Susan Shelley, who's written a novel called "The 37th Amendment," and
Mark Reed, an actor, rancher and small business man who challenged Sherman back in 2010.

Reed's website lists endorsers including former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton as well as names familiar around the Capitol: Sens. Sharon Runner and Tony Strickland, Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, Assemblymen Mike Morrell and Cameron Smyth, and former Assemblyman Chuck DeVore.



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Capitol Alert Staff


Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. achance@sacbee.com. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. ccadelago@sacbee.com. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. lrosenhall@sacbee.com. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. dwalters@sacbee.com. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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