California meltdown

A (bi-)weekly flyover of the state budget crisis

When last we left the Capitol, on Sept. 12, lawmakers had just ended their session by passing a scaled-down prison-inmate-reduction plan that fails to achieve the $1.2 billion in savings called for in the July budget revisions. We pick up the story on:

Sept. 14: A bipartisan group of 20 Assembly members wings it to D.C., where they hope to convince top congressional and Obama administration officials to send more federal money California’s way.

Sept. 15: Meeting in San Francisco among massive student protests, UC regents announce they likely will approve a 32 percent hike in student fees, on top of double-figure hikes the past two years.

Sept. 17: State officials lift a ban on adding as many as 88,000 children to Healthy Families medical insurance.

Sept. 18: The state Employment Development Department announces California’s unemployment rate was 12.2 percent in August, up from 11.9 percent in July.

Sept. 19: The state Department of Social Services announces that In-Home Supportive Services care will be reduced or axed altogether for 130,000 disabled Californians starting Nov. 1.

Sept. 21: Capitol Weekly reports that the state’s mandatory three furlough days per month has “crippled” the licensing of doctors because so many work hours have been lost in the Medical Board’s licensing and enforcement programs.

Sept. 21: Gov. Schwarzenegger signs AB 1422, the bill restoring funding to the Healthy Families program and health insurance to 700,000 low-income children.

Sept. 23: The Contra Costa Times reports that the state’s community colleges will receive $90 million less federal stimulus funding than the Legislature had expected, “meaning the 110-school system will have to make deep cuts in student services.”

Sept. 24: On the first day of the new school year, about 7,000 students and faculty throughout the UC system protest mandatory furloughs and fee hikes. The largest turnout, about 5,000, was at UC Berkeley.

Sept. 24: A San Francisco Superior Court judge finalizes a ruling ordering the state to reimburse back pay for 7,900 State Compensation Insurance Fund workers for the 16 days they have been illegally furloughed this year.

Sept. 24: The Los Angeles Times reports that mutual aid to the Station fire, the largest in L.A. County history, was down by one-third over past Southland fires because of state budget cutbacks.

Sept. 25: Gov. Schwarzenegger announces he’s not going to close 100 state parks after all, just decrease their hours, stop picking up trash and hold off on all equipment purchases.

Sept. 28: The San Jose Mercury News reports that, “buoyed by a resurgent stock market and other signs the recession is on its way out, the state’s fragile revenue and spending projects ought to hold up until at least mid-January—and maybe even beyond.” Wow, that’s terrific. All the way to January, eh? The paper went on to report, however, that, “While California’s 2009-2010 budget is in good shape for now, the budget deficit for 2010-2011 is already estimated at $7.4 billion.”