Despite the budget deal reached by the Legislature and the governor, most state offices will remain closed for three days each month for the next year. According to the Chron, the closures and forced unpaid days off for state workers amount to a 15 percent pay cut for state employees. The cuts were necessary to help balance California's $26.3 billion budget deficit. The closures also will result in longer lines at state offices, including the DMV.
After months of bitter negotiations, the state legislature approved a budget that saves state parks and spares local governments, but falls short of closing California's $26.3 billion budget gap. As a result, the state's budget problems will continue next year even if the economy recovers, according to the Chron. In reaching the budget compromise, Sacramento lawmakers used a series of accounting gimmicks, along with deep cuts to state services. The governor also plans to use his line-item-veto powers to achieve more cuts and balance the budget overall. In addition, lawmakers put off making a decision on how to implement $1.2 billion in cuts to the state Department of Corrections until next month.
A guided tour yesterday of Downtown Berkeley's Hotel Shattuck Plaza, which occupies the site of the former Shattuck Hotel, revealed eye-poppingly cool design elements and green technology.
Peralta Community College Trustee Marcie Hodge says she knowingly used a college district credit card for personal use, including buying expensive clothes from Las Vegas and Manhattan. According to the Contra Costa Times, Hodge defended the purchases, saying she repaid the district and always intended to do so. But it appears that Peralta Chancellor Elihu Harris knew what Hodge was doing was ethically questionable and had tried to cover for her. According to the paper, an assistant for Harris repeatedly attached notes to Hodge's expense reports, saying that she had "mistakenly" made the purchases. But Hodge says she didn't write the notes and knew all along that she was using a taxpayer-funded card for personal use.
Dianne Feinstein is among a group of moderate and Blue Dog Democrats who are blocking passage of the president's health care reform package. According to the Chron, Feinstein says she's concerned about the potential future costs of the program and doesn't want to expand "entitlements." The longtime US senator from California, however, is apparently unconcerned about the 47 million Americans who can't afford private health insurance or about the skyrocketing costs of health coverage as insurance companies continue to rake in obscene profits.
Even though the number of foreclosures dropped in the past few months, the total number of property defaults jumped significantly. The development is raising fears that the housing crisis, which looked to be improving, may actually worsen in the months ahead. There were nearly 20,000 default notices issued in the Bay Area from April through June, a jump of 7.3 percent over last year, the Chron reported. More troubling is that a significant portion of the increase occurred in wealthier areas that had been previously insulated from the foreclosure crisis. That means that more middle and upper middle-income residents are having a tougher time making ends meet. If the trend continues, it could lead to a widening of the housing crisis, putting any hope of an economic recovery further in doubt.
It appears that state Republican leaders are more concerned with appearances than actual policy making when it comes to being tough on crime. The state GOP leadership had threatened to scuttle a budget deal negotiated with Democrats and the governor because of the governor's plan to lower the state's prison population by about 27,000 inmates. Republicans said they would never agree to such a plan. But then they backed off after Democrats and the governor assured them that the plan would be negotiated separately from the budget in August, according to the Chron. The result, however, is that the governor's plan will likely win approval next month because it only needs a simple majority vote of the legislature to pass while the budget deal requires a two-thirds vote. In other words, it looks as if the Republicans are more concerned about not voting for the prison reform plan than actually stopping it.
The Oakland Police Officers' union is expected to agree to an overall 7.5 percent cut in compensation after union leaders reached a tentative agreement with the city. According to the Chron and the Trib, the police rank-and-file began voting on the agreement last night. The deal would save the city about $11.8 million next year, and it's hard to see the union members turning it down, after it got a ringing endorsement from their leadership. "I think it's a good deal for everybody right now," Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, the police union president, told the Trib. "It will save jobs. It will save the city money."
Phil Tagami, a politically connected Oakland developer, has won the right to develop the Port of Oakland's piece of the former Army Base and likely will receive the city's portion as well. Tagami and his business partners plan industrial uses for the base, including an array of support services for the port. Although the City Council will not award the city's section of the base until Tuesday, it would difficult for the council to now give it to a competing developer who wants to build a retail center, since Tagami's plans for the other half of the base got the greenlight Tuesday from the port commission.
One day after state political leaders finally reached a budget compromise, the deal was in doubt as Republicans threatened to block it and local governments vowed to sue. According to the Chron, Republican legislators are angry that the budget deal may result in the early release of up to 27,000 non-violent prison inmates, and local governments are upset about the state taking $4 billion of city and county revenue to fix its $26.3 billion fiscal mess.