Sunday, January 22, 2012

Riverside Press Enterprise: High speed rail efforts continue LA - Las Vegas

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: Maglev gone, but high-speed rail remains

Regional transportation planners focus funding, planning on local connections, not bullet train to Nevada

Sacramento Bee: Governor Brown asks Californians to support big projects

Gov. Jerry Brown once again seeks to sell Californians on big projects

By David Siders
The Sacramento Bee Published: Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3A

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

"My father built the water plan. I want to complete it. So, whether it's high-speed rail or water or education or public safety, I'm going to invest and build for the future, not steal from it." GOV. JERRY BROWN, son of former Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown
Before leaving Southern California last week, after urging greater infrastructure spending in a "land of dreams," Gov. Jerry Brown recalled how long he has made that case and how wary of his ideas people can be.
"I actually wanted to have a state satellite," Brown, governor before from 1975 to 1983, told the City Club of San Diego on Thursday. "Couldn't pull it off."
Governor again three decades later, Brown is promoting high-speed rail and a multibillion-dollar water project, versions of which he advocated, ultimately unsuccessfully, when he was governor before. He's also campaigning to raise taxes. In a series of appearances in Southern California following his State of the State address, he made repeated references to his father, the late Gov. Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, a legendary builder of state infrastructure.
"My father built the water plan," Brown said. "I want to complete it. So, whether it's high-speed rail or water or education or public safety, I'm going to invest and build for the future, not steal from it."
In Burbank, a reporter said to the Democratic governor, "But the issue is, 'How do you balance cuts vs. raising revenue.' "
"No, see that's the small-minded mentality," Brown responded. "We want to build. We want to build high-speed rail, we want to build water, we want to build roads, we want California to stay on the move."
Brown is expected by summer to propose a peripheral canal or another way to move water through or around the Delta, a project he said will cost water users "well over $10 billion." He persuaded the Legislature when he was governor before to approve such a canal, but it was defeated in a referendum in 1982.
Three years earlier, in his State of the State address, Brown had called the project "an investment in the future," a refrain he repeated this week, more than 30 years later.
"It takes a long time to get things done, and that's why I'm still governor, because I didn't finish everything," said Brown, 73. "In fact, my father didn't finish everything. So, we stick to it. You know, we're not a flash in the pan."
The public's appetite for public works spending is uncertain. Californians authorized the state's high-speed rail plan in 2008, but they now oppose it by a wide margin, according to the most recent Field Poll. The electorate has a dim view of the Legislature, and Brown's own public approval rating – though higher than many other politicians' – is nowhere near as high as he posted when he was governor before.
"The voters are very cynical, and rightly so," said Allan Hoffenblum, publisher of the California Target Book, which handicaps legislative elections.
Hoffenblum, who was working for the Los Angeles County Republican Party in the late 1960s, when Brown was elected to the Los Angeles Community College board, said Brown has "always been a grandiose thinker."
Though the governor's positions are in line with a Democratic Party that is trying to distinguish itself as "the party of bright ideas," Hoffenblum said, "I don't know whether the electorate's ready for that yet."
Brown said Californians, despite their negative feelings about government, are "loyal to their community" and have "deep feelings about our state."
He said, "It will be up to me to draw the picture of what California could look like, and what the alternatives are."
Mark Petracca, a political science professor at the University of California, Irvine, said Friday that Brown "must be extraordinarily frustrated."
For "somebody with very big ideas," Petracca said, "it's hard to motivate people to think in those terms when there's not only so much mockery around that, but where people's lives, you know, they want to make sure they can pay the next month's mortgage."
In his State of the State address Wednesday and at a series of follow-up events in Southern California, Brown urged Californians to reject declinists and to invest in the state's future.
"I do admire the fact that he is challenging California to think bigger, to think about having big infrastructure projects that we can complete," said Ruben Barrales, president of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Still, he is unsure if Brown's effort will succeed: "Obviously, on a practical level, the people are concerned about the economics of it, the cost of big programs and all that."
Brown's appeal was not unlike that of years ago, when he proposed a $5.8 million communications satellite system and was mocked for his interest in space.
"It's a new idea," Brown said in 1978, "and many people have a hard time dealing with it. They're the same ones who didn't believe we'd ever land a man on the moon."

San Francisco Chronicle: Governor working legislative Dems to pay off debt

Jerry Brown must win Dems' support to pay off debt

Copyright San Francisco Chronicle. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to eliminate California's "wal... Michael Macor

Gov. Jerry Brown is trying to eliminate California's "wall of debt," billions of dollars of borrowing through years of budget balancing gimmicks, but first he must gain the support of fellow Democrats.

Photo: Michael Macor

Saturday, January 21, 2012

California Governor Jerry Brown's 2012 State of the State Address

You can read a copy of Governor Jerry Brown's 2012 State of the State address, which he delivered to the State Legislature this past week in Sacramento HERE:

Governor's 2012 State of the State Address

Los Angeles Times: Social Media's role increasing in 2012 campaign

Facebook, Twitter's roles in campaign 2012 media coverage deepen

News outlets' attempts to mine campaign data from Facebook and Twitter point to social media's growing influence, but some caution the science is too new to be reliable.

Republican presidential debate
Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney, left, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul at Thursday's debate. (Photo by Michael Reynolds / EPA)

Politico headlined a story last week "Mitt, Paul winning Facebook primary." About the same time, the Washington Post reported "Romney with the momentum in S. Carolina," that conclusion based on its new Twitter-tracking app, @MentionMachine.

One of the most striking innovations of campaign 2012 media coverage has been the attempt by news outlets to harness Twitter and Facebook, not just for a spot check on individual voters' feelings but to take the temperature of the electorate in a broader way.

The vast trove of messages and status updates embedded in Facebook, in particular, has created what technology journalist-blogger Marshall Kirkpatrick called "the biggest, most dynamic census of human opinion and interaction in history." But the initial Facebook/Politico analysis belied how fraught the nascent science of "sentiment analysis" is, producing "total bunk," said Micah L. Sifry, the creator of the website Techpresident, which examines the nexus of political practitioners and technologists.

The attempt to analyze the data should come as no surprise in a season when social media have assumed an ever-larger profile, with regular input from such media in televised debates and even a session in which Republican hopefuls answered tweeted questions in 140-character Twitter bursts.

But experts in polling and computer science caution against inexact and overblown conclusions when converting far-flung messages into hard data. They said media outlets should recognize that computer programs are still in their infancy when it comes to distilling human feelings from digitized text.

Imagine a computer trying to parse, for instance, the exact intention of someone who posts "I love having Ron Paul in this race!" Is this hypothetical tweeter a) a stalwart supporter of the Texas congressman b) someone who likes Paul's candor and consistency, but would never vote for him c) a President Obama supporter who enjoys seeing Paul muddle the Republican field d) an observer employing a bit of irony or e) none of the above.

Marc A. Smith, a sociologist who studies online communities and founded the Silicon Valley-based Social Media Research Foundation, said "we are in the Model T Ford era of information systems" and analyzing their content.

Scott Keeter, the president of the American Assn. of Public Opinion Research, said that members of the professional organization and journalists should "proceed with a degree of humility" in deciding what social media can tell us about political campaigns. "Until we have more experience with real world outcomes, it's hard to know the meaning of what we have captured from social media," said Keeter, director of survey research at the Washington-based Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Much of the debate followed a Jan. 12 article by Politico, the online news site, which reported that it had partnered with Facebook to examine all "posting, sharing and linking about candidates" from Dec. 12 to Jan. 10. The arrangement was a first not only in that Facebook delved into both public and private messages but also used computer analysis to "identify positive and negative emotion in text." (The company stressed that while computers draw an aggregate view of user sentiment, human beings do not monitor individual messages.)

Facebook said it employed a "well-validated software tool used frequently in social psychological research." But Smith said he was "highly skeptical" of some of the precise findings in the Facebook analysis. He added that the intellectual disciplines focused on deciphering texts — natural language processing and computational linguistics — "are very deep and can do remarkable things, but they don't necessarily have the ability to predict the next president of the United States of America."

Politico's report didn't actually predict an outcome, reporting instead that a surge in Facebook mentions for Mitt Romney effectively "predicted" (though after the vote) a strong finish for Romney in the New Hampshire primary.

What the story did not say is that the summary of the Facebook chatter was not nearly as accurate when it came to the Iowa caucuses. Politico's charts show Romney in a fairly distant third in Facebook mentions leading up to the Iowa event. In the actual voting the candidate finished in a virtual tie for first.

Keeter said those examining the data should realize that Facebook users represent only a portion of the U.S. population. About 65% of adults who go online told Pew researchers that they use at least one social networking site. The portion of those online who utilize social networks is much lower for those 50 to 64 years old (51%) and those 65 and older (just 33%.)

Politico's national political editor, Charles Mahtesian, acknowledged that the data from Facebook don't represent "a scientifically valid predictive tool." Asked why the website did not use more caveats with the reporting, he said, "We think our readers understand this is just one additional data point. Our readers are such [political] junkies they are interested in seeing it anyway."

In introducing its @MentionMachine feature in early January, the Washington Post said social media acclaim "is the newest measurable campaign benchmark," joining polling data, fundraising totals, ad spending and other measures. At the end of last week, the feature found former Massachusetts Gov. Romney with the "momentum in S. Carolina" — mentioned 183,000 times on Twitter during the week. Whether that has any meaning in Saturday's voting remains to be seen.

All the major presidential campaigns monitor social media closely and use the platforms to communicate with voters. But none are known to employ the same kind of systematic computer analysis the media outlets are trying.

"I think the algorithm and the machine learning will continue to improve and soon they will be able to provide greater and more tangible insights that will be actionable for a campaign," said Zac Moffatt, digital director for the Romney campaign. For now, Moffatt said, the campaigns look at social media analysis as "just one source of data" — though a very intriguing one — in assessing their candidate's fortunes.

Riverside Press Enterprise: Inland job market, economy continues growth

Inland job market continues its comeback

Distribution and logistics were among the sectors to add jobs in December
Published: 20 January 2012 04:08 PM

December was an excellent month for the job market in Inland Southern California, and the typical seasonal opportunities in stores, restaurants and movie theaters had very little to do with it.

There were almost 23,000 San Bernardino and Riverside county residents on payrolls last month than were working a year earlier, a level the region has not seen in 2 ½ years, the state Employment Development Department reported Friday. It was the fifth consecutive month of job growth, and the pace of the expansion has accelerated in each of those months.

Unemployment was estimated at 12.2 percent in December, down from 12.5 percent the previous month and a sharp decrease from the peak of 15.1 percent in the summer of 2010.

“This is the best report we’ve gotten since the start of the recession,” Chapman University economist Esmael Adibi said. “The recovery seems to have some legs, and job creation is creeping along.”

There were an estimated 1,158,000 Inland residents on payrolls in December, up from 1,102,000 six months ago. Payroll employment had been as high as 1.3 million before the worst recession in modern history began to devastate the Inland economy more than four years ago.

Statewide the unemployment level fell to 11.1 percent from 11.3 percent in November. The figures for the state are adjusted to account for expected seasonal fluctuations, while data for counties are not adjusted.

Local unemployment numbers usually decline in December because of one of those seasonal shadings. Many job-hunters settle for two-month tenures at retail or service establishments that need extra staff for the holidays. There was some growth in those sectors this year, according to the report, but it was only marginal.

What the state’s report did show is growth in a much wider reach of job sectors when compared to December 2010, some of it substantial.

Jobs from the area’s distribution and logistic sector are up about 5 percent from a year ago. Smaller increases were noticed in the manufacturing and construction sectors.

Opportunities for office workers, mostly support staff, were up sharply last month. Other increases were seen in the health-care and government sectors.

One of the few sectors still losing jobs was financial services, which is tied to a lack of new construction. Redlands-based economist John Husing said it might be another two years before the construction industry becomes a serious economic factor in the Inland area again.

Also, Husing said some national financial institutions, notably Bank of America, are cutting back on local branch operations. But he was encouraged that other white-collar operations appear to be hiring again.
“Back in October the logistics and health-care sectors were carrying the area,” Husing said. “Now we’ve added pieces to the puzzle. This is an excellent report, and it’s what we need to continue.”

Support jobs in the professional and business services sector could mean relatively low-end clerical positions, but it also encompasses jobs for trained professionals such as paralegals and bookkeepers. Those jobs were up by a stunning 10.5 percent from December 2010, the state reported.

Palbinder Badesha, owner of the Corona office of employment service Express Employment Professionals, said her office has seen an increase in temp-to-hire orders, which means that her clients are coming to her for temporary workers who eventually would be hired permanently.

“In December we got orders for administrative workers from clients that had been slow for two years,” Badesha said. “It’s definitely turned around.”

The challenge now, Badesha said, is finding qualified workers. Some who have been idled for two years are ready to get back to action but are rusty.

Despite the faster job growth, one in eight Inland workers is still officially listed as unemployed by the state, and it will take a while to cut into that. Brad Kemp, an economist who watches the area for Los Angeles-based Beacon Economics, said that might not be a bad thing. Slow but steady job growth tends to be more sustainable.

“Volatility is both a privilege and a curse,” Kemp said. “When things are happening, people move quickly in the Inland Empire. The boom is wonderful, but the bust a little more painful.”

Kemp said there could still be problems that slow the recovery. “But right now, employers are making decisions to get back into hiring, and we’re seeing evidence of that.”

Sacramento Bee: Proposal pushed to replace state school bus funding

Lawmakers push bill to replace California school bus cut

by Kevin Yamamura
The Sacramento Bee
January 20, 2012

After a mid-year budget cut wiped out school bus funds, state lawmakers are pushing a bill to restore transportation money by cutting general purpose dollars in all districts.
The Senate budget committee amended its Senate Bill 81 in the Assembly yesterday, signaling lawmakers' intent not only to preserve school bus service now, but in the future as well. Gov. Jerry Brown proposed eliminating school bus funds permanently in his 2012-13 budget.
Brown has shown little willingness to reverse cuts, especially with the state facing a new $9.2 billion deficit. With that in mind, SB 81 would replace the $248 million school bus cut with an across-the-board reduction to all districts equal to about $42 per student, shifting more of the pain to suburban districts that don't offer much bus service.
The midyear bus cut hit rural and urban districts particularly hard. According to data compiled by the California School Boards Association, the isolated Death Valley Unified School District would lose $1,734 per student. Meanwhile, Davis Joint Unified would lose less than $8 per student and Rocklin Unified less than $10.
The state's coalition of education groups, which includes teachers, school boards and administrators, supports the change. Brown's Department of Finance does not yet have a position, said spokesman H.D. Palmer.
The reduction was triggered in December when fiscal forecasters determined California would fall $2.2 billion short of the optimistic revenue projections that Brown and lawmakers used last June. Since last month, rural school districts have lobbied lawmakers to reverse the bus cut, noting that it would cause uneven hardship throughout the state.
The Los Angeles Unified School District filed a lawsuit to block the bus cut last month, alleging it would violate federal busing mandates and past court decisions ensuring equal education funding across districts. LAUSD would lose $61 per student, according to the CSBA data.
Updated to clarify that the cut would apply to general purpose funding, which largely pays for classroom instruction but also goes toward administration and other costs.

Riverside Press Enterprise: Bill aims to save redevelopment for closed bases

REDEVELOPMENT: Bill aims to save agencies improving former bases

A state Assembly plan to continue revamping ex-military bases could be expanded to Inland sites

Published: 19 January 2012 06:19 PM

SACRAMENTO — Redevelopment agencies focused on bringing new businesses and other projects to decommissioned military bases could keep operating if legislation taking shape in the Capitol becomes law.

Last month, the California Supreme Court upheld a state law ending redevelopment but voided a second measure that created an alternative program that would have allowed local governments to continue redevelopment if they paid more money to the state.

Several redevelopment agencies created to focus on reusing former military bases, including three in Inland Southern California, are among the roughly 400 agencies now faced with shutting down.

“The burden on those communities is frankly far too great to be able to redevelop large pieces of military land without some kind of economic stimulus tool,” said Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, whose district includes the former Concord Naval Weapons Station.

Bonilla carried legislation last year to exempt the base from the June budget legislation ending redevelopment. The measure died last week, but her office is crafting a new bill that could apply statewide.

In Inland Southern California, three redevelopment agencies focus on reusing Air Force land: the March Joint Powers Authority (the former March Air Force Base), the Inland Valley Development Agency (Norton Air Force Base), and the Victor Valley Economic Development Authority (George Air Force Base).

A.J. Wilson, interim executive director of the Inland Valley agency, which oversees the development of San Bernardino International Airport, said he hopes the Legislature will step in. Military bases did not pay property taxes, so redevelopment of former bases does not cost the state anything, he said.

Wilson also questions whether the state law ending redevelopment applies to his agency, which is the product of legislation passed in 1990. Nearly every other agency in the state was created by a city or county sponsor.
The effort to save redevelopment of former military bases is another piece of the Legislature’s post-Supreme Court landscape.

A bill to postpone the dissolution of redevelopment agencies from the current Feb. 1 deadline to April 15 is pending in the Assembly. Another measure would allow local governments to keep an estimated $2 billion for low- and moderate-income housing.

Any bill, however, would need to get past a skeptical Gov. Jerry Brown. He contends that redevelopment was diverting money from schools and other services and, since the Supreme Court decision, has not seemed interested in reopening the issue.

“I don’t think we can delay this funeral,” Brown said in Los Angeles on Wednesday, when asked about the postponement bill.

Los Angeles Times:Governor steps up discussions with education groups

Gov. Jerry Brown talks budget concerns with school advocates

by Chris Megerian
The Los Angeles Times
January 20, 2012 |  6:15 pm

Jerry Brown talks with schools advocates about his budget proposal
Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks to reporters in a classroom last year. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

Wary school advocates huddled privately with Gov. Jerry Brown in the Capitol on Friday to discuss education spending, outlining their concerns about the governor’s budget proposals.

“It was cordial. We all laid out our issues and agreed to continue talking,” said Dennis Meyers of the California School Boards Assn.

Some of the districts’ worries were highlighted earlier this month by the Legislative Analysts’ Office. Although Brown is asking voters to approve tax hikes in November to help cover school costs, districts may cut money preemptively to brace themselves in case the proposal fails.

And if voters turn down the taxes, Brown says schools would lose $4.8 billion. The administration has said it is working on legislation to help districts create contingency plans.

But there are other sore spots as well, and school advocates say the Brown administration is trying to unfairly manipulate Proposition 98, the constitutional amendment requiring the state to spend about 40% of its budget on public schools.

For example, Brown wants to remove the gas tax from the state’s calculation on school funding. That would reduce spending by roughly $300 million.

And if his tax plan fails, Brown suggests using $2.4 billion in debt payments to meet the constitutional requirement on education spending. That would free up $2.4 billion in classroom funding for other purposes.

“It’s $2.4 billion we wouldn’t have to hire teachers and serve students,” said Bob Wells, executive director of the Assn. of California School Administrators. “And it’s just an obvious violation of what voters approved when they put Proposition 98 in the Constitution.”

The governor's office declinedto  comment on Thursday's meeting. Many of Brown's budget proposals are going to be the subject of intense negotiation with the Legislature and advocacy groups until the June 30 deadline to approve next year's spending plan.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Los Angeles Times: Referendum to repeal California Dream Act fails

Effort to repeal California Dream Act comes up short

Los Angeles Times: News analysis - California retreats from social services

New analysis

California in retreat on social service spending

In his new budget, a frustrated Gov. Jerry Brown cuts a swath through California's renowned assistance programs.

State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg
State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg is not happy with the cuts that would be required under Gov. Jerry Brown's spending plan. “You know that old cliche about the pendulum swinging too far,” Steinberg said Thursday. “I think it needs to swing back.” (Photo by Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press / September 17, 2010)

January 7, 2012

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Sacramento -- During his first governorship more than three decades ago, Jerry Brown warned that California was entering an "era of limits."

The austere state budget he proposed this week is a stark acknowledgment that the Golden State has now reached them. The Democratic governor's spending plan takes large steps toward dismantling much of California's once-vaunted social safety net.

Brown proposes cutting welfare services again as the state continues its struggle to shake off the effects of a deep and persistent recession. He would continue years of reductions in Medi-Cal, child care and home health aid. He would eliminate the Healthy Families program, which was a significant expansion of healthcare in California when enacted in 1997 and serves nearly 900,000 children.

Brown was visibly frustrated as he detailed what he described as the "tough medicine" California needs to balance its books but said a $9.2-billion deficit had forced his hand.

"California government is a very generous, compassionate political jurisdiction," he said. "When we have to reduce our spending, that spending is going to have to come from programs that are doing good."

He added: "I can't figure out any better way. This is the best I can do."

In 2007, when the economy was fairly healthy and there was far less need for state aid, California spent $29.3 billion on social services, according to Brown's Department of Finance. The governor proposes leaving four years of budget cuts in place and spending $26 billion now, when poverty rates are higher and so is the demand for welfare assistance.

His plan would strip welfare benefits from people who cannot find adequate work after two years rather than four, forcing more than a quarter-million families from the rolls. Although families with children would continue to receive benefits, the average monthly check would be slashed by 20%, to $368. Child-care programs would be cut almost 40%, eliminating 62,000 slots.

The children moved out of Healthy Families would be enrolled instead in Medi-Cal, the state's healthcare program for the poor, which covers fewer costs and would take an $842-million hit in Brown's plan.

"It's appropriate that he's a former seminarian," said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College and former GOP official, "because the entire state is about to have a very long Lent."

The suggested cuts in health and human services, projected to save about $2 billion, have put Brown at odds with his fellow Democrats and would diminish the brand of liberalism cultivated by his governor father, the legendary Pat Brown.

Legislative leaders wasted no time pushing back on the proposed reductions, and social services advocates protested that the ax would fall primarily on the most vulnerable Californians, as they have in past years.

"You always want your public policies to reflect what's going on in the economy," said Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project, a think tank that advocates for low-income families. "The governor's proposals totally fly in the face of the economic realities for Californians right now."

Ross said the spending blueprint puts tens of thousands of children at risk for homelessness if their parents are unable to pay the bills.

Mike Herald, a lobbyist for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, said the message of Brown's budget is that "we want to become a crappy welfare state like everybody else."

Brown acknowledged that his proposals would be "very hard to digest" for many lawmakers, and Democrats proved him right.

"You know that old cliche about the pendulum swinging too far," state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said Thursday. "I think it needs to swing back."

Last year, Brown and the Legislature approved $5 billion in cuts from health and human services programs, pushing welfare grants below 1987 levels and eliminating adult day-care centers for people with serious disabilities, brain injuries and chronic illnesses. (In the face of a lawsuit, the program was later reconstituted for those most at risk of being institutionalized.)

Brown received a rare nod this week from Republicans, who have thwarted his efforts to raise taxes to prevent even deeper cuts.

"The governor is dead right: this is the most generous state," said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), vice chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee. "We can no longer afford to be the most generous state."

Brown tempered his grim news with some of the sunny optimism that characterized California during his previous governorship three decades ago. And he spoke of his desire to invest in high-speed rail, renewable energy and other projects.

"The good news is: California is recovering," he said Thursday. "We are the innovative state. We're the state of Apple computer, of Facebook, of Hewlett-Packard, Hollywood, stem cell research, international trade, diversity. This is a state that's dynamic, it's creative, and it's prosperous."

The governor noted that his projected deficit is a vast improvement over last year's $26-billion gap, and his spending plan assumes that the economy will continue to grow, giving a modest boost to the state's tax collections.

His proposed budget also includes nearly $7 billion in tax increases that he hopes to put before voters in November. But it provides for deep cuts from school funds if voters say no. He would also take $200 million each from California's two public university systems and cut courts and firefighting services. He would eliminate lifeguards at state beaches.

Experts said the proposed health and social welfare cuts are clearly part of Brown's pitch to voters, helping him build the will for new levies. Education, they noted, is one of the few areas of state spending that the public has said it would support with higher taxes.

"It's very smart politics," said Dan Schnur, director of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at USC.

Los Angeles Daily News: Governor's budget creates fear andanger in LA area

Gov. Brown's budget plan sparks fear, outrage in Southland

By Christina Villacorte and Melissa Pamer, Staff Writers

Gov. Jerry Brown's proposed state budget elicited dismay and outrage Friday from a wide array of elected officials and advocates for students, the poor and the disabled, who stand to bear the brunt of proposed cuts.  
"We're shocked and appalled at the fact that, once again, the governor has chosen to balance his budget on the most vulnerable Californians," said Vanessa Aramayo, executive director of the California Partnership and co-chair of the Health and Human Service Network of California, both coalitions of community organizations that advocate on behalf of the poor.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe said his frustration was "at the highest level" because the governor has decided to adopt "slash-and-burn kinds of fixes."
Brown on Thursday unveiled a budget proposal to balance a deficit of $9.2 billion projected for the remainder of this fiscal year and all of fiscal year 2012-2013, which begins in July.
The spending plan calls for $4.2 billion in cuts to safety net programs such as Medi-Cal, which provides health care to the poor.
Also slated for cuts is CalWORKS, the state's welfare-to-work program.
In announcing the budget Thursday, Brown conceded that it was not ideal. And he acknowledged that it could be even worse if voters reject a series of tax increases he has proposed.

"We're making some very painful reductions," the governor said at his Sacramento news conference. "This is not nice stuff."
But state officials said the steep cuts were necessary because tax revenue was coming in lower than expected when the current year's budget was written.
Frank Mecca, executive director of the County Welfare Directors Association of California, said reducing families' time for receiving CalWORKS assistance from 48 months to just 24 will be "devastating ... particularly when jobs simply don't exist in California."
"The value of CalWORKS has become even more apparent during this economic crisis and now is the time to ensure the only program standing between children and abject poverty is shored up, not further sliced."
Los Angeles County assistant chief executive officer Ryan Alsop, meanwhile, questioned the wisdom of slashing funds for In-Home Supportive Services, which allows the disabled to receive care from family members at home and avoid going to more expensive convalescent homes and similar facilities.
"I don't think it makes sense," he said. "IHSS is a cost-efficient way to provide care."
In Los Angeles County, 179,000 families depend on CalWORKS while 105,000 people rely on IHSS.
Their benefits would be slashed under the proposed spending plan.
The governor also sought to slash funding for the Healthy Families program, which serves 875,000 children in families without health insurance but whose incomes are not low enough to qualify for Medi-Cal.
Dr. James Hay, president of the California Medical Association, said this "would undoubtedly ensure that those kids now have a harder time getting access to care."
The governor's strategy for closing the deficit required not only budget cuts but also an increase in revenue through a ballot measure he hopes voters will approve in November.
The initiative seeks to impose a temporary half-cent increase in the sales tax and a temporary increase in the income tax rates for persons earning more than $250,000.
It would also amend the state Constitution to guarantee that counties will continue to receive funding to take over the state's responsibility for jailing and supervising the parole of low-level offenders.
If the ballot measure is defeated, the state would respond by cutting $4.8 billion from public school funds and $200 million each from California's public university systems.
Budgets would also be slashed for courts and firefighting services, and state beaches would have to do without lifeguards.
Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent John Deasy noted the district has already endured $2.3 billion in cuts from the state since 2008-2009.
"After four years of relentless reductions in programs and staff, we're now at the edge of the cliff," he said. "The next step is a wholesale loss of critical programs."
"What's even worse is that these cuts trample on the fundamental right of all youth in our society to receive a quality education," he added. "That they come at a time when we are achieving significant gains in test scores across LAUSD makes them that much harder to accept."
Los Angeles County Chief Executive Officer William Fujioka said he is worried voters will refuse to impose additional taxes on themselves.
"In these very difficult times, it might be hard for the general public to embrace and that will create additional cuts," he said.
Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a Democrat, agreed the cuts would be painful but pointed out that Brown inherited the budget crisis from previous administrations.
"I think this governor is trying to make a sincere effort in balancing the budget," he said. "I don't think anybody's going to like it but what I do think is responsible about it is that it balances the budget with both revenues and cuts."

"The impacts are going to be very profound on people who can least afford it, people whose very subsistence is going to be jeopardized by these cuts," he said. "It's a horrific situation, but it didn't start with this governor. This governor inherited a problem that is a product of almost a decade of fiscal mismanagement at the state level."

San Jose Mercury News: Governor proposes closing youth prison system

Gov. Jerry Brown calls for historic shuttering of state's notorious youth prison system

Following years of failed attempts to rehabilitate juvenile offenders and improve public safety, California's once-sprawling youth prison system may soon shut its gates for good.

If the Legislature approves the plan Gov. Jerry Brown released Thursday as part of his budget blueprint, California could become the first state to entirely eliminate its prisons for youthful offenders, juvenile crime experts say. The responsibility for jailing all youths would shift to local governments.

Fiscal pressure in a system with annual costs of $200,000 per ward drove Brown to propose halting new admissions into the Division of Juvenile Justice. Under the plan, beginning next year the state's three remaining youth prisons would be phased out as current inmates complete their terms.

But Brown's vision represents far more than just belt-tightening. Already, it's being described by crime experts across the country as a historic proposal given the state's size and the notorious history of its youth prisons. Wire-mesh cages, 23-hour cell confinement and brutal staff beatings are well-documented parts of that legacy.

"California is at the front end, cutting edge of what is going to be the huge trend going forward," said Bart Lubow, who directs national juvenile justice reforms for the Annie E. Casey Foundation. "And that is the policy embrace of the fundamental truth that kids do better when they are near their homes."

Matthew Cate, California's corrections chief, predicted Brown's plan would be a boon to public safety. "The biggest benefit is it keeps wards close to home," Cate said. "The evidence shows, especially with young people, that it eases the return to communities and reduces victimization."

Currently, only the most serious and violent offenders are housed by the state. And California's corrections system for youths has reached other milestones that reform advocates could only have dreamed of a decade ago.

With dramatic drops in youth crime and more incentives for counties to keep their offenders close to home, the number of youths in custody has plunged from more than 10,000 wards in 1996 to just about 1,100 today. The number of youth prisons has dropped from 11 to three. And for the first time in recent history, conditions inside the facilities have finally begun to improve, said one of the system's longtime critics, Donald Specter of the Marin-based Prison Law Office.

Juvenile crime rates have plunged in every major county in California from 1998 to 2010. The rates of serious youth crime are now the lowest since statewide statistics were first collected in 1954, according to the San Francisco-based Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice.

Those who have spent decades attempting to overhaul the youth corrections system say they never imagined the reforms would become so costly -- and the population so shrunken -- that the juvenile prisons would ultimately close.

Still, they share concerns about sending young prisoners back to county jails. Absent a state option, they predict, more youthful offenders will be sent to adult prisons, or housed in facilities even less equipped than those run by the state.

In contrast with adults, juvenile offenders have a legal right to treatment, education and training. But juvenile halls are designed for short-term detentions, and county ranch programs are generally not secure enough to provide for maximum security.

Acknowledging that counties will need help adjusting, the Brown administration has proposed giving them one year and $10 million to prepare.

The change cannot come soon enough for Maria Sanchez, a typist from Santa Clarita whose 18-year-old son has spent the past year in the state's youth prison system for robbery. The teen began getting into trouble at age 13, attracted by gangs in his low-income neighborhood.

Sanchez said the state prison experience has left her son battered. During visits, he has limped, sported a black eye and showed her bruises on his ribs, she said. And he has spent 23 hours a day in his cell for as long as four months at a time, she added, emerging for a recreation hour shackled at the hands and feet.

"He actually told me that it is a school to become more professional -- to become criminal," Sanchez said.
Shutting down the institutions, she said, is the right thing to do. "The people who run these facilities, instead of recuperating them and fixing them up and making them better people for society, they break their spirit and make them more vicious and more violent -- then they bring them back to us even more broken than before," Sanchez said.

Her observations are echoed in volumes of state-sanctioned reports prompted by a Prison Law Office lawsuit. Under a resulting 2004 settlement agreement, the state has labored to overhaul education, safety, treatment and mental health care programs.

In the wake of Mercury News coverage of the institutional abuses, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger prompted some early changes -- pledging, for example, to end the use of telephone-booth-sized cages placed in a circle to form classrooms.

By all accounts, broader changes took years to even begin. That has led the state system's most dedicated reformers to question whether counties will be able to create better alternatives for more serious offenders, who typically suffer from severe mental illness and childhood trauma.

"I am happy that we're going to get rid of these terrible, old facilities," said Barry Krisberg, a longtime state consultant now with UC Berkeley's law school. "Having said that, though, there's no objective information on how bad it is in counties, and how bad it's going to be when counties take on these very challenging kids."

In Santa Clara County, Deputy Probation Chief Robert DeJesus said that despite a highly regarded ranch program and a juvenile hall with adequate bed space, the county will struggle without the state option. He said there are now 14 county juvenile offenders in state custody, including three admitted last year.

"With only one year, that's going to be extremely difficult for Santa Clara County to respond," DeJesus said.
But not all counties say they are ill-prepared. Alameda County Probation Chief David Muhammad is pleased to see his cry of "Bring our kids home!" finally coming to reality.

Noting that other local governments may not be as fortunate, Muhammad said he has 100 empty juvenile hall beds and money for a new facility. He said there are now 48 Alameda County youth offenders in the state system, with 12 admitted last year.

"The quality of care that the state has provided has been incredibly poor for a very long time," he said. "For it to be extremely costly and to have such poor quality of care is really a travesty to the taxpayer."

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sacramento Bee: Senate leader says no March cuts as proposed by Gov.

Steinberg: Senate won't make March cuts proposed by Brown
by Torey Van Oot
The Sacramento BeeJanuary 5, 2012
4:48 PM

California'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.
Brown's plan relies on a mix of roughly $4.2 billion in cuts and the passage of a $6.9 million tax measure he is seeking to qualify for the November ballot in order to close what he estimated to be a $9.2 billion budget deficit through June 2013. He proposed deeper cuts to K-12 and higher education if that measure fails.
Steinberg emphasized that the plan Brown unveiled today is just the first draft of a 2012-2013 spending plan.
"It's a January budget, and a ... June 15 budget, by definition, historically looks nothing like a January budget," he said.
Steinberg characterized Brown's call for additional cuts if voters fail to approve his tax measure in November as a "sound" approach but signaled that the Legislature might look at other areas for those spending reductions.
"You have to say that if the revenue measure doesn't pass, here will be the consequences. I think we will want to debate, discuss and analyze what those trigger cuts should be on the other side, but I have no quarrel with the way the governor approaches the notion of November 2012 triggers," he said.
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez said in a statement that the plan "reflects the fact that even though California's economic recovery is gaining strength, we still face a year of difficult choices."
"His plan underscores the need for new revenues to avoid cuts that will be a major drag on the recovery, and I am looking forward to working with the Governor and my colleagues to produce an on-time budget that reflects California's values by our June 15th deadline," the Los Angeles Democrat said.
John Vigna, spokesman for Pérez, called it "a little premature to say what we're going to do one way or the other" when it comes to the cuts Brown is proposing. Vigna said the speaker wants to discuss the plan with members of the caucus before taking a stance.
"The whole caucus has to go up on this, and he wouldn't want to make a move without consulting with members and getting their thoughts and feedback," Vigna said.

KQED-FM Capital Notes: Surprise! Proposed 2012 State Budget released

Capital Notes -- From KQED's John Myers
A glimpse of the policies, people, and politics of California state government, from John Myers of The California Report

California's Proposed 2012 State Budget is here!

Read California Governor Jerry Brown's entire proposed 2012 State Budget here:

California's Proposed 2012 State Budget

Los Angeles Times: Governor's new budget targets education and voters

Gov. Jerry Brown's new budget plan targets schools

Public education funds would be cut by $4.8 billion if voters reject a proposed tax hike the governor hopes to place on ballot.

Jerry Brown
Gov. Jerry Brown discusses the cuts he has already made to help reduce the state's budget deficit from $26 billion last year to a gap of about $9.2 billion as he unveiled his proposed 2012-13 state budget at a Capitol news conference in Sacramento. (Photo by Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press / January 5, 2012)

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Sacramento -- Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his new budget plan, calling for a painful $4.8-billion cut in public school funds if voters reject a proposed tax hike that he hopes to put on the ballot in November.

Despite the possible reduction — the equivalent of slashing three weeks from the school year — the spending blueprint Brown released Thursday is a relatively optimistic document. It assumes he will have to close a $9.2-billion deficit, a vast improvement over last year's $26-billion gap.

Half of the deficit would be wiped out through the temporary half-cent sales-tax hike and increased levies on the wealthy that Brown wants voters to approve — or by the schools cuts. The remainder would be eliminated with reductions in welfare, Medi-Cal and other programs.

Brown was scheduled to roll out his budget next week, but his administration erroneously posted the document online. At a hastily called news conference, the governor claimed credit for the state's shrinking deficit but noted that more painful work remains.

"California is recovering," Brown said. "We now have the possibility of eliminating, over the next several years, the deficits that have plagued California."

To do that, Brown must persuade voters to approve a statewide tax hike for the first time since 2004; he promised them final say in the matter when he ran for office. He will also have to convince his fellow Democrats, who dominate the Legislature, to continue paring back treasured social-service programs.

Those include what administration officials said was a $1.4-billion decrease in welfare and child-care services for poor families. Nearly $1 billion would also come out of Medi-Cal, the state's healthcare program for the poor. The administration also proposes saving $64 million by moving children out of the popular Healthy Families program that provides healthcare to offspring of the working poor.

Democrats have already said they do not want to make reductions before May, in case the economy recovers enough to boost tax revenue and shrink the deficit further. Brown's proposal presumes that most of the cuts would be made by March 1.

"We are not interested in making early cuts here, and we don't think it is necessary," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). "We have done significant damage to the services for those in most need in California in the past several years, and we are not going to do any more unless it's absolutely necessary."

Brown countered that if the Legislature delays action, the cuts will need to be deeper.

"This is not nice stuff," Brown said. "But that's what it takes to balance the budget — and that's assuming we get the revenues."

If the revenue fails to materialize, the governor proposes cutting the schools money and $200 million each from California's two public university systems. He would also take funds from courts and firefighting services and eliminate lifeguards at state beaches.

Republicans said Brown intentionally targeted popular programs to scare voters into approving higher taxes.

"This cynical, scare-tactic budget strategy once again hinges on the hope that voters will ignore their own financial problems to bail out the Democrats with another ill-advised tax increase," said Tom Del Beccaro, chairman of the California Republican Party.

Even before Brown formally unveiled his budget, Republicans who had seen it began to criticize it.

"Can't tax our way into economic prosperity," said a Twitter post by Sabrina Lockhart, a spokeswoman for Assembly Republicans.

GOP lawmakers are likely to have little influence over the budget, however. Democrats have comfortable majorities in both houses of the Legislature and can pass budgets on their own. Republican backing is needed only to increase taxes and fees, but the governor is trying to bypass the GOP by taking his tax plan to the ballot box through the initiative process.

Still, advocates for social-service recipients were lining up to decry the new spending plan.

"These are ugly cuts," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, which tries to expand health coverage for the poor.

"Even if revenues are approved, there will be severe cuts to the healthcare system we all rely on."

Some items in the governor's proposal could cause consternation among teachers unions and other Democratic allies. The governor proposed eliminating restrictions on class sizes and other education-spending mandates. Instead, he wants to give school districts more flexibility to spend their money as they see fit.

"If they think they can save some money by adding a few kids to class, then they should be able to do that," Brown said.

Before the Internet snafu forced the governor to release his budget, Brown was focused on trying to improve the prospects for his November tax plan. He had spent the morning meeting with local government officials, arguing that they should table their own funding initiative in favor of his.

Brown subsequently told reporters that he would not discuss his budget proposal, preferring to unveil it Tuesday. Less than two hours later, the administration was frantically scheduling news conferences after a copy began circulating around the Capitol.

Sacramento Bee: Governor's budget removes some agencies, 3000 jobs

Jerry Brown's budget eliminates 3,000 state jobs, axes agencies

by Jon Ortiz
The Sacramento Bee
January 5, 2012
Gov. Jerry Brown's new budget plan would eliminate a few thousand state jobs and consolidate or ax nearly 50 state organizations, according to documents released this afternoon.
Brown's first draft of the budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year that begins July 1 envisions reducing the state workforce by some 3,000 positions, mostly from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The cuts fill a small part of the $9.2 billion budget hole projected through June 2013.
When asked whether state workers could expect layoffs or job elimination through attrition, Department of Finance Director Ana Matosantos said the goal is "reductions in positions."
The administration will "try to minimize the number of layoffs" by relocating employees whose positions have been eliminated, Matosantos said during an afternoon press conference. "But the total workforce will continue to go down."
The budget proposal doesn't include state worker furloughs. Contracts covering more than half the 200,000 unionized workers under gubernatorial authority contain no-furlough protections in exchange for one unpaid day off per month, but those provisions expired last year. Several unions that signed similar contracts with Brown last year still have the furlough-free guaranteed for a few more months.
That left open the possibility that Brown could have suggested the Legislature impose furloughs again. But the governor and his administration have consistently signaled that they don't think furloughing is sound policy.
Brown's budget plan reduces the number of state agencies -- cabinet-level organizations that oversee departments -- from 12 to 10. Brown also wants to eliminate 39 state entities and wipe out nine state programs.
Brown wants to ax the California Volunteer Agency. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger named the first secretary to the agency in 2008 to "encourage volunteerism in California and to improve coordination of volunteer efforts between the state's departments and agencies," according to the volunteer agency's website.

The agency's functions (and federal funding) are proposed to continue through the Office of Planning and Research.
The California Emergency Management Agency which prepares for a responds to emergencies, would also vanish under Brown's plan by reducing it to an office that reports directly to the governor.
Here's a list of Brown's consolidation proposals:
New: The Business and Consumer Services Agency
Will include: The departments of Consumer Affairs, Housing and Community Development, Fair Employment and Housing, Alcoholic Beverage Control, and "the newly restructured Department of Business Oversight."
New: The Government Operations Agency
Will include: The departments of General Services, Human Resources, Technology, the Office of Administrative Law, the Public Employees' Retirement System, the State Teachers' Retirement System, the State Personnel Board, the Government Claims Board and the newly restructured Department of Revenue.
New: The Transportation Agency
Will include: The departments of Transportation, Motor Vehicles, the High-Speed Rail Authority, the Highway Patrol, the California Transportation Commission and the Board of Pilot Commissioners.
The budget also:
• Eliminates the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs. Their services will be spread among several offices and departments.
• Eliminates the Managed Risk Medical Insurance Board and transfers its services to the Department of Health Care Services.
• Eliminates the Rehabilitation Appeals Board.
• Moves the Department of Resources, Recycling and Recovery to Cal EPA.
• Eliminates the Department of Boating and Waterways and moves its duties to the Department of Parks and Recreation.
• Consolidates the tax collection functions of the Employment Development Department with the Franchise Tax Board in a new Department of Revenue.
• Consolidates the Department of Corporations and the Department of Financial Institutions, which both license and regulate businesses, into a new Department of Business Oversight.
• Moves the following organizations into the Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development: the Infrastructure Bank, the Film and Tourism commissions, the Small Business Centers and the Small Business Guarantee Loan Program.
• Transfers the Housing Finance Agency into the Department of Housing and Community Development.
• Eliminates the Office of Traffic Safety and transfers its function, distributing federal grants to state and local entities, to the DMV.
• Consolidates investigations and compliance functions of the Gambling Control Commission to the Department of Justice.
Editor's Note: This post was updated to explain the transfer of volunteer agency functions to the Office of Planning and Research. Updated at 6:45 p.m., Jan. 5, 2012.