California State Capitol Roundup

By Lucy Ma, Independent Voter Network California Capitol Correspondent

Here are a few buzz worthy items making the rounds right now:

Governor Jerry Brown is set to sign legislation authorizing the initial funding for constructing California’s High-speed rail- signing ceremonies will be taking place in Los Angeles and San Francisco today. SB 1029, which provided $5.8 billion to begin construction in the Central Valley; passed out of the state Senate on a bare minimum number of votes. For more information on the signing: http://gov.ca.gov/news.php?id=17636

Two new independent studies have been released that highlight California’s ongoing fiscal problems, and the future doesn’t look much brighter from here. Findings from both the State Budget Task Force report- which is chaired by former Federal Reserve Chair Volcker and former NY State Lt. Governor Richard Ravitch- and the S&P Dow Jones Indices indicate that California’s woes are not cyclical but rather a structural problem. Key areas include the high cost of Medi-Cal, potential cuts in federal spending, unfunded liabilities for public pensions, and general “budget gimmickry”. Here is a Los Angeles Times article with more on the findings: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-pension-shortfalls-20120718,0,2745757.story

California State University trustees voted to approve a 10% pay hike for two new campus presidents despite looming financial problems. The 23 campus system will be facing a deficit that ranges anywhere from $177 million to $427 million for the upcoming fiscal year. The final amount will change pending on whether or not additional taxes are approved at the ballot this November. Needless to say, this decision by the CSU board was ill timed and there is currently no shortage of criticism. For more on the story from the Sacramento Bee: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/07/17/4637671/cal-state-mulls-tuition-credit.html

The California Department of Parks and Recreation is under fire after The Bee uncovered an unauthorized vacation buyout program that cost more than $271,000. According to the report, the program was carried out without authorization by a deputy director of the department- considering California’s recent budget problems no vacation buyouts have been approved for quite some time. Assemblywoman Beth Gaines, R-Rocklin, has called for a fiscal probe of the department. More from the Sacramento Bee: http://www.sacbee.com/2012/07/18/4638188/assemblywoman-gaines-calls-for.html