Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

May 13, 2014
California public safety realignment formula needs overhaul, analyst says

Thumbnail image for CaliforniaPrisonsRealignment.jpg

California's formula to distribute money to help pay for public safety realignment lacks incentives and transparency, according to a new report by the Legislature's nonpartisan fiscal analyst.

There have been two temporary realignment formulas since lawmakers approved the 2011 law that made counties responsible for lower-level felony offenders. The first formula covered the program's first year and the second formula is in effect through June. The Brown administration is scheduled to present a new allocation formula for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Lawmakers should insist on a formula that is better than the current one because it "impacts the success or failure of the realignment of felony offenders," the Legislative Analyst's Office wrote.

The current approach is flawed, the LAO said, because it lacks transparency and makes it hard for counties to plan for the future. It also allows counties to choose from several formulas, including some that offer no incentive for counties to reduce the rate at which it incarcerates felony probationers.

"The result is that each county's allocation is based on whichever formula is most advantageous for that county rather than on a clear policy justification, such as variations in county caseload or performance," the report reads.

The LAO suggests that the next formula take into account the number of offenders under county control, average per capita income in a county, the number of offenders a county sends to prison, and other metrics.

PHOTO: In this 2011 file photo, Sacramento County Deputy Sheriff Chris Carroll opens a cell at a formerly closed housing unit at the Rio Cosumnes Correctional Center that will be reopened to handle the increase of inmates sentenced under the new prison realignment program. Associated Press Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

May 13, 2014
Compromise reached on Prop. 13 treatment of business property

JarvisGann.jpgDecades of political wrangling over how Proposition 13, the iconic property tax limit passed by voters in 1978, is applied to commercial property reached a climax of sorts Tuesday in a Capitol hearing room.

During a hearing of the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee, long-warring business groups and tax reformers agreed on modest change of law governing the reassessment of commercial property when it changes hands.

The committee chairman and co-author of the revised bill, Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, announced during the hearing that a vote would be postponed, but later, the committee approved it and sent it to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

The compromise, written into Assembly Bill 2372, would trigger reassessment when at least 90 percent of a property's ownership changes in any three-year period. It would not apply, however, to incremental changes of ownership through stock market trades.

Currently, any property is reassessed to market value when a single buyer acquires at least 50 percent ownership in a single transaction. Critics say that's a loophole that allows businesses to avoid reassessment by clever structuring of sales.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, had been pushing AB 2372 to tighten up the change of ownership provision of state tax law, but faced stiff opposition from business groups.

The compromise falls somewhere between current law and Ammiano's original measure and wins support from opposing groups such as the California Chamber of Commerce and the California Tax Reform Association.

It's less than the latter wanted, and also falls well short of a full "split roll" which would completely remove Proposition 13's limits from business property, long a goal of liberal groups. A split roll would require a constitutional amendment.

A full split roll would have, it's believed, multi-billion-dollar impacts, while the change that surfaced Tuesday is, those involved said, likely to have much smaller impacts on both business tax bills and local government revenues.

Ammiano said in a statement the revised measure would "bring back some fairness to the tax system in a way that will benefit all Californians."

Updated at 6:12 p.m. to reflect committee approval.

PHOTO: Paul Gann, left, and Howard Jarvis, hold up their hands on the night of June 7, 1978, as their co-authored initiative Proposition 13, took a commanding lead in the California primary. Associated Press file.

May 13, 2014
On third attempt, Gov. Brown extends peace officer death benefits

JV_042814_RAINY_DAY_FUND080.JPGA day after he stepped down as Assembly speaker, John A. Pérez received a parting gift from Gov. Jerry Brown: A long-awaited signature.

For three consecutive years, Pérez authored bills giving the loved ones of fallen firefighters more time to file worker's compensation claims for workplace-related fatal diseases. Pérez argued that survivors should be compensated for diseases, like tuberculosis and cancer, that deceased public workers contracted on the job.

The governor was not convinced. He vetoed the measures in 2012 and in 2013, both times questioning if denial of benefits was a big enough problem to merit legislation.

This time, Pérez appears to have at last persuaded Brown. In his signing message for Assembly Bill 1035, the governor referenced a National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health study that better illuminated the scope of the problem.

"A review of this data anticipates that fewer than 20 cases a year throughout the state
would be affected if the provisions only apply to diseases diagnosed during active
service," Brown wrote.

Once the law takes effect, survivors will have 420 weeks from the date of injury to file a claim - far longer than the current 240 week cutoff. The extra filing time ends at the start of 2019 and, in the meantime, the Division of Workers' Compensation will be compelled to collect more data on the repercussions.

The California League of Cities remained opposed to the measure, arguing it would saddle local governments with increased costs.

PHOTO: California Gov. Jerry Brown and Speaker of the Assembly John Pérez speak to an Assembly committee on April 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee.Jose Luis Villegas.

May 13, 2014
VIDEO: Jerry Brown downplays additional revenue in budget revision

capital_gains.JPGReporter David Siders explains the changes in Gov. Jerry Brown's May Revision and how they'll affect final budget discussions.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown holds up poster boards with graphic information regarding revisions to his budget during a press conference at the state Capitol on May 13, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench

May 13, 2014
Rapid response: Gov. Jerry Brown's May budget revision

Here are some reactions to Gov. Jerry Brown's May budget revision:

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins:

The Governor's revised budget provides a solid starting point for the final phase of our deliberations. I am particularly pleased the Governor has built upon the framework Assembly Democrats proposed for a STRS solution earlier this year. That, and the Rainy Day Fund we are poised to pass this week, are two great steps forward to ensure California's economic stability. As we finalize the budget over the next few weeks, we will also look to expand opportunity by combatting child poverty, improving access to higher education, increasing funding for transportation projects, and taking strides to expand affordable housing. Based on the Governor's May revision and the more than 50 hearings the Assembly has already held, I am confident we are on track for another on-time, balanced budget - one that will help solidify the state's fiscal position for years to come.

Republic gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari:

Once again, Jerry Brown is crossing his fingers and hoping for a roaring stock market to deal with California's unfunded liabilities. Hope is not a strategy. We need honest leadership and realistic forecasts to bring Californians together to solve our long-term fiscal challenges and rebuild the middle class.

Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare:

I am pleased to see Governor Brown once again show great caution in his revised budget plan. Fiscal responsibility must continue to the state's guiding budget principle, even with this year's one-time tax windfall. Time will tell if the Governor can get his fellow Democrats in the Legislature to embrace this same spirit of spending restraint as we work toward a final budget proposal.

It should be a wake-up call to all Legislators that almost our entire surplus is being eaten up by spending for government health care, welfare and pension costs. These fast-growing programs will consume more and more of the state budget and eventually reduce the amount we can spend on other important priorities such as education, public safety and transportation.

I am hopeful that we can build upon the progress of the bipartisan rainy day fund agreement to enact an on-time budget that protects funding for classrooms and public safety, uses the windfall responsibly to invest in one-time needs like transportation infrastructure, and makes further progress in paying down California's budgetary debt.

Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye:

The Governor's revised budget is encouraging because it identifies additional funding and recognizes the need for fiscal stability with a creative proposal for a two-year budgeting formula for the trial courts. I also appreciate the Governor's continued confidence in the statewide leadership of the judicial branch. I'm launching my blue ribbon commission on the future of the courts later this year and I believe this initiative dovetails with the Governor's desire that the judicial branch identify further efficiencies to promote access to justice.

As I outlined in my budget blueprint earlier this year, the trial courts will require a reinvestment to provide adequate services for court users. I look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature before the adoption of the Budget Act to ensure that all Californians have access to justice.

May 13, 2014
Jerry Brown releases $156.2 billion budget plan, ups Medi-Cal spending

budgetjerrybrown.JPGGov. Jerry Brown released a revised, $156.2 billion budget plan Tuesday, proposing to spend the bulk of a state windfall to cover vastly expanded rolls in the state's Medi-Cal program.

The May revision reflects the state's best projection of revenues for the coming fiscal year and touches off a rush of budget negotiations at the Capitol ahead of the adoption of an annual spending plan in June.

The budget replaces a $154.9 billion spending plan Brown proposed in January. It included modest increases for social service programs, but also billions of dollars to address long-term debt.

Brown's new plan says 1.4 million more people than projected in January signed up for Medi-Cal under the Obamacare roll out this year, which will cost the state about $1.2 billion more than the governor's predicted five months ago.

Brown's budget also confirmed that state revenue had grown enough to trigger a 2 percent pay increase for most state employees beginning July 1. Brown and 14 of the 21 bargaining units agreed to contracts that included the triggered pay hike. The budget projects that the raise will cost $183.7 for the fiscal year, $90.3 million of it from the general fund.

Brown's budget plan also includes $142 million to cover expenses from the ongoing drought.

The spending plan also lays out a 30-year road map to pay off the unfunded $73.7 billion liability in the State Teachers Retirement System by asking the state, school districts and teachers all to increase annual contributions.

After releasing the budget plan at a Capitol news conference Tuesday morning, Brown, who is running for re-election, was scheduled to hit the road to promote the plan in Los Angeles and San Diego.

The revised budget's release follows the announcement last week that Brown and legislative leaders had reached agreement on a major component of the annual spending plan, a rainy-day fund measure that, if approved by voters, would set aside 1.5 percent of general fund revenue every year, plus revenue from capital-gains taxes in especially lucrative tax years.

The measure would replace a reserve measure already on the Nov. 4 ballot but criticized by public employee unions and, in recent weeks, Republicans who acknowledged problems with its wording.

Brown has remained cautious about spending despite improving revenue estimates. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office reported Sunday that revenue for the current budget year from the largest general fund sources - personal income, corporation and sales taxes - was coming in about $1.8 billion above projections through the end of April.

May 13, 2014
California drags down nation's pre-kindergarten enrollment

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A new survey shows that spending on pre-kindergarten programs barely budged nationwide in 2012-13, with drops in California offsetting gains in some of the 40 other states that offer pre-kindergarten.

This morning's report from the National Institute for Early Education Research at Rutgers University in New Jersey comes as Gov. Jerry Brown releases a revised version of his January spending plan. Like the January plan, the revised plan does not include money for pre-kindergarten. That sets the stage for negotiations on the issue — a priority for legislative Democrats — over the coming weeks.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Brown did not rule out signing a budget that included money for the program. Referring to the program's supporters, the governor said they believe the extra year of education would make everything "hunky dory."

The institute's report finds that pre-kindergarten programs around the country are just beginning to emerge from years of recessionary budget cuts. Total state funding nationwide increased by $30 million during 2012-13, to $5.4 billion, about a 1 percent increase.

In California, though, enrollment dropped by almost 15,000 spots. Another four states had decreases of more than 1,000 students, according to the report.

"While more states increased enrollment than decreased it, the size of the decrease in large states such as California and Pennsylvania pulled the national total down," the report reads.

The study also judged pre-K programs on their meeting the institute's quality standards, such as teachers having university degrees, receiving at least 15 hours in-service training, and other benchmarks. California was among the five states that met fewer than one-half of the 10 benchmarks in 2012-13, according to the report.

"Our nation has emerged from the recession, but preschool-age children are being left to suffer its effects," NIEER director Steve Barnett said in a statement.

California's transitional kindergarten program, when fully phased in, will cover only one-third of four-year-olds. Democrats in the Senate and Assembly want to expand transitional kindergarten to cover all four-year-olds. In addition, Senate Bill 1123 would create "Strong Start" early learning services for children from birth to three years old.

"I think we have a real opportunity to transfer California from one of the nation's biggest under-performers" to a national leader in early childhood development, said Deborah Kong, president of Early Edge California, which backs the proposals. "We still have a lot of work to do."

Editor's note: This post was updated at 9:15 a.m. May 13 to include comments from Gov. Jerry Brown.

PHOTO: Kindergarten teacher Katherine Hoffmore, 48, left, works on a bead project with McKayla Parker, 6, right, where they learn to repeat patterns at Greer Elementary School in Sacramento on Jan. 17, 2013.

May 13, 2014
AM Alert: Jerry Brown announces budget revise

brownbudgetrevise.jpgTemperatures are heating up, the school year is coming to a close and Memorial Day is just around the corner, which can only mean one thing: Budget season is upon us.

Discussions in and around the Capitol about the 2014-15 budget are about to get serious as Gov. Jerry Brown unveils his revised budget proposal today at a series of press conferences across the state.

Brown's draft proposal in January, which projected California's first revenue surplus since the recession, emphasized paying down state debts and modest spending increases. Brown has maintained a drumbeat for fiscal responsibility in the months since, announcing a deal on a rainy-day reserve fund last week.

But many lawmakers and outside interest groups have been looking to use the additional money to reverse spending cuts implemented during the recession or fund major new programs such as universal pre-kindergarten. With state tax revenues running even higher than estimates, those calls are likely to get even louder as Brown and the Legislature negotiate a final budget over the next month.

Brown will first present his revised budget proposal at the Capitol at 9 a.m., with later stops in Los Angeles and San Diego.

VIDEO: In his campaign for state Senate, Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, is playing down his political career, Dan Walters says.

BRINGING IT HOME: In-home caregivers have made repeated trips to Sacramento this year to protest a budget proposal that would restrict their hours. They will be outside the Capitol, near 12th and N streets, following the governor's press conference for another rally. Sens. Cathleen Galgiani, D-Stockton, Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, and Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, and Assembly members Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, Jose Medina, D-Riverside, V. Manuel Pérez, D-Coachella, and Pan are scheduled to attend.

HEALTHY MINDS: The Each Mind Matters campaign, which works to reduce stigma surrounding mental illness, sponsors Mental Health Matters Day, with a rally on the south steps of the Capitol at 11 a.m. featuring state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, R-Oceanside, and Congresswoman Doris Matsui, D-Sacramento, among others.

ALWAYS LEARNING: The California School-Age Consortium, which advocates for programs for students outside of school time, will be joined by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson to call for the passage of SB 1221, which would expand access to after-school and summer programs, 11:45 a.m. on the north steps of the Capitol.

PROPOSITION PROTEST: In 2004, voters passed Proposition 63, which taxes millionaires to help pay for mental health services. One of the initiative's authors, Rose King, will be at the south steps of the Capitol at 10:15 a.m. to protest what she considers a waste of the program's funds. Last August, an audit found that state agencies had not properly overseen how counties were spending billions of dollars generated by Prop 63.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his revised budget plan at a news conference at the Capitol on May 14, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Renée C. Byer

May 13, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: Richard Pan plays down political career

Richard_Pan.JPGYou wouldn't know that state Senate candidate Richard Pan is already a member of the Legislature by looking at his campaign materials, Dan says.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: Assemblyman Richard Pan, D-Sacramento during the first day of session at the Capitol on Dec. 3, 2012. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua



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Capitol Alert Staff


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. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. jmiller@sacbee.com. Twitter: @jimmiller2

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

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

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

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. akoseff@sacbee.com. Twitter: @akoseff

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

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