California meltdown

A biweekly flyover of the state budget crisis

My apologies: It’s been three weeks, not two, since this feature’s last appearance. Blame it on an abundance of other stories. In any event, it’s been a busy three weeks.

Tues., Feb. 2: The Sacramento Bee’s “Capitol Alert” reports that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has sent another letter to California’s congressional delegation asking for more federal dollars. This follows President Obama’s release of a budget that will provide only $1.5 billion of the $6.9 billion in new money the governor wants to help bridge the state’s $20 billion budget deficit.

Sun., Feb. 7: The California Teachers Association votes to back initiatives to rescind corporate tax breaks passed as part of a backroom budget deal in February 2009. The group allocates $587,000 to the signature-gathering effort.

Tues., Feb. 9: Capitol Alert reports that California ranks third, after Nevada and Michigan, in a new Associated Press calculation of economic stress. Seven California counties are on the Top 10 list nationwide.

Tues., Feb. 9: State Controller John Chiang warns that the state is looking at $51.8 billion worth of medical and dental benefits in the future for state government retirees, up $3.6 billion from last year. The current budget provides for only $1.3 billion in payments against that obligation.

Weds., Feb. 10: State Controller John Chiang has some good news for a change: January’s tax receipts exceeded the governor’s budget estimates by $1.28 billion, or 18.6 percent. He warns, however, against being “lulled into a false sense of security.”

Fri., Feb. 12: Capitol Alert reports the California Federation of Teachers has dropped $700,000 into a campaign account for a measure to lower the two-thirds budget vote requirement to a simple majority.

Fri., Feb. 12: Capitol Alert reports that Repair California, the group seeking to qualify two initiatives for the November ballot that would authorize holding a convention to overhaul the state’s constitution, has temporarily called it quits, citing lack of funds to pay for signature gathering.

Thurs., Feb. 18: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sibelius announces that the federal government will provide California with $675 billion in budget relief by adjusting cost-sharing formulas in the Medicare prescription-drug plan. Gov. Schwarzenegger says the decision is proof that his bipartisan fundraising efforts “are paying off” and thanks Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein for their help.

Fri., Feb. 19: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa calls on all city employees to take pay cuts in order to avoid the need to slash 4,000 jobs. The action comes just one day after the City Council voted to eliminate 3,000 jobs by July 1. The city faces a $212 million deficit, according to the L.A. Times.

Mon., Feb. 22: On the last day of an emergency budget session, the Legislature sends Gov. Schwarzenegger a budget package that seeks to reduce the deficit by about $2.3 billion, the Sacramento Bee reports. The governor had asked for $8.8 billion in cuts. The law-makers chose to delay action on cuts to social services and health care until later in the year.