Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tuesday Must Read: Oakland’s Deficit Balloons to $58 Million; Brown Signs Sweetheart Deal with Prison Guards

By Robert Gammon
Tue, Apr 12, 2011 at 7:01 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Oakland’s budget deficit has mushroomed to $58 million — $12 million higher than Mayor Jean Quan’s administration had estimated, the Chron and Trib report. The city continues to suffer from declining revenues, and the larger-than-expected budget hole means that nearly every city department likely will experience deep cuts next year. Quan’s administration is also in negotiations with city employee unions in an effort to obtain concessions in order to avoid massive layoffs. However, at a budget hearing yesterday, Quan said she would not lay off police officers. The huge deficit also increases pressure on the council to approve Quan’s plan to put a parcel tax measure on the ballot.

2. Governor Jerry Brown has slashed programs that help the poor and disabled and has approved devastating cuts to higher education, but he has refused to substantially cut the prison guards unions’ generous compensation package. The Bay Citizen notes that the tentative contract Brown reached with the prison guards will result in “significantly lower savings” than the governor had estimated, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analysts’ Office. Under the deal, prison guards’ pay would be reduced by just 5 percent, and the union would have to contribute more to its pension plan, while the state would have to pay more for the union’s health benefits and some senior guards would get pay raises in 2013. The contract still needs approval by the legislature.

3. A controversial deal that would allow PG&E to pay a maximum of $6 million in fines for failing to turn over key gas-line documents was questioned yesterday by the California Public Utilities Commission, the Chron and Mercury News report. Commissioners noted that the pact would allow PG&E to ignore safety regulations recommended by the PUC. PG&E, meanwhile, has rescinded its application for a license extension at its Diablo nuclear power plant near San Luis Obispo so that it can study a recently discovered earthquake fault. The utility had come under criticism, even from Republicans, for ignoring earthquake safety issues at the plant.

4. Japanese officials raised the disaster level at the crippled Daiichi nuclear power plant to match that of the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago, AP reports. The Japanese government raised the disaster level from a 5 to a 7, the maximum on the international scale, because of widespread radiation leaks at the plant. Crews, meanwhile, are still struggling to gain control over the nuclear crisis, triggered last month by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

5. And the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court decision that invalidated Arizona’s controversial anti-illegal-immigration law, ruling that it illegally intrudes on federal authority to regulate immigration nationwide, the Chron reports.


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