California meltdown

A weekly flyover of the state budget crisis

The end of the week brought hope that Legislators would reach a deal shortly. Earlier goings-on provided plenty of evidence that its impact was spreading widely and hitting hard.

July 9: California State University Chancellor Charles Reed said CSU fees may go up by as much as 15 percent to 20 percent for the coming fall semester to offset budget cuts—raising a year’s tuition to around $5,000. Reed also said the CSU would push for two employee-furlough days a month.

July 9: The Bee reported that Gov. Schwarzenegger’s latest budget proposal assumes almost 20 percent in state employee wage cuts: 15 percent from three-day furloughs starting in July and another 5 percent in across-the-board cuts. If the pay cuts don’t fly, the governor intends to add another furlough day.

July 9: The California Teachers Association launched a million-dollar television advertising campaign to fight Gov. Schwarzenegger’s proposal to suspend Proposition 98—which guarantees education funding—to solve the state’s fiscal mess.

July 10: Many state offices, including the Department of Motor Vehicles, closed to accommodate the first of three employee furlough days. The DMV will also be closed July 17 and 24. Tens of thousands of state workers stayed home.

July 10: The president of the SEIU local in Sacramento threatened a strike. The union represents thousands of state employees.

July 10: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the state acted illegally last year in cutting Medi-Cal payments by 10 percent to doctors, pharmacists and others who serve the poor. In order to fill the state’s $26 billion fiscal hole, Gov. Schwarzenegger and the Legislature have imposed further, similar cuts this year that could be thwarted by the ruling.

July 10: CSU officials announced campuses will not be accepting new students for the spring 2010 semester as part of a plan to cut enrollment by 40,000.

July 10: State Controller John Chiang reported that state income and sales tax revenues in June fell by more than $1 billion below estimates made just a month earlier.

July 10: Most banks stopped accepting the state’s IOUs. Locally, only Golden Valley Bank still accepts them, and only through July 17. Sierra Central and Star Community credit unions accept them from members only.

July 11: The Wall Street Journal reported that California is pressuring vendors to cut their contracted rates by as much as 15 percent. The vendors, who sell anything from computers to cornstarch to the state, are not impressed, the article suggests.

July 13: A federal judge ordered the state to pay In-Home Supportive Services workers up to $12.10 an hour, saying it had thwarted the intent of an earlier order. A lawsuit filed by the SEIU over the cut in wages to $10.10 resulted in a ruling last month that the wage cut was made illegally. The state then left matters up to individual counties to request their IHSS wages be increased.

July 15: Legislators announced they’re on the verge of reaching a deal. Wait, rewind. Yes, that’s right. After talks in the governor’s office that went into the wee morning hours, the state said it might have a final budget offer on the table in a matter of days. Still to be discussed: Cuts to education. How about that to end the week.