Happy New Year! I am pleased to share with you an update from Sacramento, as well as news from around the 23rd Senate District. It has been an eventful 2009, and I wish you and your loved ones all the best for 2010!
In this Issue
- The Governorís Proposed 2010 Budget
- Race to the Top Education Legislation
- 2009 Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen
- Canoga Park's Green Learning Center
- Oxnard Peaker Plant Update
- Regional Transportation Update
- U.S. EPA plan for Halaco Superfund Site
- Welcome Katharine Moore
- 2010 State Parks Initiative
- Select Committee on Global Warming information
- In Memoriam
Here We Go Again - The Governorís Proposed 2010 Budget
Another challenging fiscal year is ahead. On January 8, Governor Schwarzenegger released his 2010 Budget proposal to the Legislature. The proposal identifies a $19.9 billion dollar shortfall, including a roughly $6 billion "carry-over" shortfall from 2009. The Governor vowed in his State of the State address to protect education funding in the coming budget, though many anticipate that program reductions may be on their way in all areas of State spending.
The choices will be difficult again. At a time when state unemployment figures are well over 10%, with unemployment and under-employment becoming chronic and the possibility of another round of home foreclosures this year, the possibility for rapid economic recovery seems remote. Severe budget cuts have left little or no safety net. Tax revenues plummeted 30 percent last year in the middle of a global recession, and unlike the federal government, who can engage in deficit spending, California must balance its budget every year.
One popular misconception is that the budget crisis has been caused by bloated spending. State spending has grown in the past 10 years, but most of the increase was due to population growth and inflation. Voters also have approved initiatives for a wide variety of programs that, while often worthwhile, have no funding source.
In addition, Californians applauded Gov. Schwarzenegger in 2003 when he cut the vehicle license fee - or car tax. But the reduction in the car tax has cost local governments between $4 billion and $5 billion each year, and state government has since replaced this lost revenue to cities and counties with money from our State's general fund. That totals approximately $25 billion - almost the same amount as last year's budget deficit.
Our ability to soften the blow of budget cuts last year was hampered significantly by the requirement for a two-thirds vote to pass a budget even without a tax increase. California is one of only three states that require such a vote. The 2/3 vote requirement gives members with a minority viewpoint the power to make or break the budget vote, negotiate concessions for their districts, and gives those members who do not necessarily reflect the views of the majority of voters a disproportionate voice. Thanks to the 2/3 requirement, there likely aren't enough votes to pass new taxes or fees to solve our budget problem. That leaves making significant cuts (over and above the already deep cuts from last year) as the only option currently under consideration, unless other legislators and the Governor will consider revenue options to avoid some of the more draconian cuts.
The Governor's proposal to meet this shortfall includes $8.5 billion in budget reductions, hoping for $6.9 billion in additional federal funds, $3.9 billion in "alternative" funding, and $572 million in miscellaneous fund shifts.
Budget reductions totaling $8.5 billion would be permanent. Major cuts include:
- $2.4 billion to schools (Proposition 98 delaying repayment on maintenance, reducing the school year up to 5 days, changing rules on layoffs and seniority, cutting administration and consolidating services, and reductions in Cal WORKS).
- $2.9 billion in health and human services (reductions for In-Home Supportive Services, MediCal, Cal WORKS, Healthy Families, Supplemental Security Income, Developmental Services, programs for legal immigrants and California Food Assistance).
- $1.6 billion in state employee compensation reductions, combined with increases in employee contributions to retirement contributions, and a 5% reduction to all departments.
- $1.2 billion in cuts to Corrections/Juvenile Justice.
One major aspect of the Governor's budget solution is reliance on an additional $6.9 billion in federal dollars that we may or may not ever see. This includes an estimated $2.1 billion in federal stimulus dollars for health and human services, and a little under $5 billion in a combination of "asks" to the feds for increasing state compensation. These range from things like increasing Federal assistance for Medi-Cal coverage, receiving a large amount of special education funding, to financing the prison costs of undocumented inmates in California prisons. Many observers have expressed concern that the Governor wants to rely so heavily- about 1/3 of the total shortfall- on monies from the federal government that at this point are entirely speculative.
In addition to asking for Federal funds, the Governor's "alternative" funding proposals include approximately a billion dollars from proposed ballot propositions for a variety of purposes, redirecting local government funds, oil drilling revenues from a controversial off-shore project, Tranquillion Ridge, which was previously rejected, and a billion-dollar gas-tax "swap" that would provide money for road-building but would gut public transit and also reduce Prop 98 funds for education.
Some of the other major components of the Governor's proposal include:
- State Parks - eliminates $140 million General Fund support for state parks, to be backfilled with uncertain oil lease revenues from new drilling from the controversial Tranquillon Ridge project. (See article below.)
- Midyear Actions - To achieve savings in the current year, the Governor proposes to reduce the K-3 class size reduction program by $550 million (reflecting an additional $210 million for 2010-2011). This is the amount of funding that is expected to go unused.
- State University/College System- Reduces total budget of UC ($600 million), CSU ($600 million) and Community Colleges by $1.3 billion to reflect the decrease in one-time federal ARRA funds.
- Student Aid - Suspends $45.5 million in Competitive Cal Grant awards, eliminating 22,500 awards.
The budget also includes a controversial policy provision that would give state agency bureaucrats the ability to decree that construction and infrastructure projects which have completed environmental impact reviews would not be subject to legal challenge- a major change in our state's environmental law. There are candidates, politicians and special interests in California who are using this recession as an opportunity to weaken the important environmental and consumer protections that have been in place when the economy was booming.
In addition to reviewing the Governor's budget, the Senate is committed to efforts to create jobs and support workforce development programs, including accelerating the distribution of bond and Federal stimulus money, maximizing federal funds, and investing in renewable energy and the green economy.
I would welcome your advice and suggestions. For further details on the Governor's proposed 2010 budget, you can watch his budget address here: http://gov.ca.gov/press-release/14154, as well as Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass' joint response here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVaFZgFP9RE.
Race to the Top Education Legislation
In the first week of 2010 the Legislature passed a package of bills aimed at making California competitive for up to $700 million in Federal stimulus funds which the Obama administration has set aside for education funding as part of its "Race to the Top" initiative. My office contacted many of our local school districts about "Race to the Top", and while some favored the package of bills, many had legitimate concerns about the ongoing costs and impacts of some of the reforms. Many expressed concerns about the uncertainty of receiving this one-time money from the Federal Government, and how many of the provisions in the bill would affect them in the future. Chair of the Assembly Education Committee Julia Brownley co-authored SB 5X 1, which was a part of the overall bill package. Assemblywoman Brownley was instrumental in making sure that the legislature took a longer term view of these bills in addition to simply making California eligible for federal funding. To learn more about California's "Race to the Top" application, please visit Assemblywoman Brownley's website: http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/a41.
2009 U.N. Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen
Participating in the UN COP15 Global Warming Conference with California delegation leaders; Assemblymember Skinner, Climate Registry Director Diane Wittenberg, Cal EPA Secretary Linda Adams, CARB Chairman Mary Nichols and Senator Fran Pavley.
This past December I had the honor of attending the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen as part of a delegation of California officials, business and environmental leaders.
One of the lessons learned from Copenhagen is the role of the rapidly developing nation of China. China is now the largest emitter of ghg emissions, while the US is one of the leaders in per capita emissions. China is becoming a leader in energy efficiency in building designs. According to expert speakers, China is also number 1 in the world in the production of photovoltaic cells and solar thermal panels and 4th in the manufacturing of wind turbines. I am increasingly concerned that California, as a Pacific Rim nation, may lose our opportunity to grab a share of these new green industries and the jobs that come with these businesses. Investing in this new green economy, even during a recession, is vitally important to our long term economic success.
Canoga Park High Schoolís New Green Learning Center
Senator Pavley and Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield attending the opening of the Canoga Park High School Green Learning Center on December 11, 2009.
Last month, Canoga Park High School launched its Green Learning Garden, an innovative "green living" center for the entire community. The garden has been developed on a corner of the high school grounds and, when complete, will include a rain forest, rose gardens, 250 seat amphitheater, green houses, organic and hydroponics gardens, and "green tech" programs in which California manufacturers can demonstrate their energy and water efficient products. The construction of the garden was completed through a collaboration of students at the high school, West Valley Regional Operation Program, Pierce College, and CSU Northridge. More than $100,000 in services, materials and funding have been donated by business and the community and a $500,000 grant was received from Lowe's Charitable and Educational Foundation.
Oxnard Peaker Plant Update
In 2006 the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) ordered Southern California Edison (SCE) to build five new "peaker" power plants in response to a summer heat wave that caused extensive power outages around the state. One of those plants was slated for development adjacent to the existing Reliant Power Plant on Mandalay Beach in Oxnard. On Monday, December 14, 2009, a LA County Superior court judge rejected SCE's latest attempt to begin construction of this plant, the fifth and final plant to be developed pursuant to CPUC's 2006 order.
The ruling follows a move by the City of Oxnard to block the development for failure to comply with the City's water policy, which requires all new development to be "water neutral". The City is also awaiting a ruling on its appeal of the California Coastal Commission's decision to approve the plant last March. That decision is expected this summer. Among other problems for the plant are the appropriateness of building yet another power plant in the coastal zone and the environmental justice concerns in the Oxnard community.
Senator Pavley has led the effort in the State Senate to ensure that the CPUC, which must approve any new peaker plant for Ventura County, convene a process to examine the need for the plant and analyze alternatives to the proposed site at Mandalay Beach. In particular the Senator would like to ensure that there is a public process where opponents to the plant can express their views and convey information to CPUC staff and decision-makers. Thanks to her efforts and work with the Senate Rules Committee, CPUC President Michael Peevey promised at his confirmation hearing in December to look into siting issues related to the plant, and would be supportive of another location if available.
Regional Transportation Update
I-405 construction to begin January 12th, 2009 - Set to end in 2013
- The I-405 Sepulveda Pass Widening Project will add a 10-mile northbound carpool lane on the I-405 from the I-10 to the US 101, and will realign certain ramps, improve bridge structures, and erect sound walls. Anticipated project completion is spring 2013.
- To do this work, the Contractor will isolate the work zone from freeway traffic by placing concrete barriers on the shoulder of the I-405 freeway for the 10-mile affected stretch.
- The delineation of traffic lanes for northbound I-405 and selected locations for southbound I-405 is anticipated to start on the night of Tuesday, January 12, 2010 and continue for approximately four weeks. Work hours will be from 7:00pm to 6:00am.
- Following the lane delineation, concrete barrier placement for northbound I-405 is anticipated to start on Monday, February 15, 2010 continuing for approximately four weeks between the hours of 7:00pm and 6:00am. During these activities, temporary lane closures and ramp closures will be implemented.
- Details will be available at www.metro.net/I-405. Please feel free to contact Metro Community Relations at (213) 922-3665 for all additional questions and concerns.
U.S. EPA plan for Halaco Superfund Site
Last month the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its plan for the industrial buildings at the Halaco Superfund Site on Ormond Beach in Oxnard. The former aluminum and magnesium recycling plant was closed in 2006 after a long battle by the community. Clean-up has been proceeding slowly. The latest report clears the way for removal of the two primary structures remaining on the property, which present both environmental and safety hazards. Under the plan, scrap metal from the buildings will be taken offsite for recycling, concrete debris will be crushed and used as fill in onsite pits and vaults, and any residual waste associated with the buildings would be disposed of appropriately offsite. Work is expected to commence this month and take two months to complete at a cost of $1.3 million. The proposal is outlined in the Engineering Evaluation and Cost Analysis report available on EPA's website, www.epa.gov/region09/halaco, and at the South Oxnard Branch Library located at 4300 Saviers Road in Oxnard. Comments on the proposal may be submitted to EPA through January 29, 2010. Please send your comments to Wayne Praskins, Project Manager, U.S. EPA, 75 Hawthorne Street, SFD-7-3, San Francisco, CA 94105.
Welcome to Katharine Moore, 2009/2010 Science and Technology Fellow!
Please join me in welcoming Katharine Moore, to my staff and to the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee which I chair. She is a member of the inaugural class of the new Science and Technology Policy Fellowship program, sponsored by the California Council on Science and Technology. This new Fellowship places Ph.D. level scientists and engineers in the Legislature for one-year terms. As so many of the pressing issues facing California involve science and technology, the fellows represent an additional resource providing unbiased expert advice to help inform the policy-making process. That advice, in fact, is also free-of-charge as the fellowship program is completely supported by the generous financial contributions of private foundations here in California.
Katharine earned her Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from Colorado State University and holds Environmental and Mechanical Engineering degrees from UC Berkeley and MIT. She has held research positions at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Caltech and, most recently, was on the research faculty in the Civil and Environmental Engineering department at USC. While I lost a constituent when Katharine moved to Sacramento, the Committee and I are looking forward to taking advantage of her expertise this year. We expect that Katharine will work on issues related to environmental and water resources, including climate change.
The future of our state parks
Our state parks are the natural, historic, and cultural gems of our state and they are especially loved by the residents of Senate District 23. But unfortunately, for nearly two decades, the State has slowly been reducing its investment in the state park system. Last year these reductions reached a critical point as the Governor's cuts to the Department of Parks and Recreation threatened to close approximately 200 of our state parks. In the end, enough stop-gap measures were found to avoid outright closures. This year, the Governor is proposing to make the state park budget completely dependent on revenue from a proposed off-shore drilling project called Tranquillon Ridge.
The Tranquillon Ridge project, also known as T-Ridge, is a proposal by oil company PXP to drill for oil and gas under California waters from a platform in federal waters located five miles off the coast of Northern Santa Barbara County. Last year the State Lands Commission denied approval of the project. Later, as part of the budget package, the Senate passed a bill to override the Commission in attempts to approve the project (I was a "no" vote), but thankfully the measure was defeated in the Assembly. Now the Governor is resurrecting the project and holding our beloved state parks as ransom.
The Governor's proposal is a thinly veiled threat to close state parks unless the Legislature allows new off-shore drilling. Linking these two disparate issues raises questions, including whether it is wise to make the operation and maintenance of our state parks dependant on volatile oil and gas prices. Also, the T-Ridge project would provide revenues only for 14 years. How can state parks plan for the long-term protection of our resources when their funding will run out? There is an irony in proposing to protect our natural resources with royalties from resource extraction. I believe we need to find a long-term, stable funding source for our state parks - a goal that won't be accomplished with the Governor's T-Ridge project.
The Governor's T-Ridge proposal will not be the only story regarding state parks this year. A long-term funding mechanism is being proposed by a coalition of organizations known as "Yes for State Parks". They are currently collecting signatures to place the California State Parks and Wildlife Conservation Trust Fund Act on the November 2010 statewide ballot. Under this act, most California vehicles would be charged an $18 annual surcharge in exchange for free admission to all of California's state parks. The revenues from the surcharge will be placed in a trust fund where they can only be used to operate, maintain and repair the state park system, and to protect other wildlife and natural resources. Ballot initiatives require 430,000 signatures in order to qualify. For more information on the Parks initiative, please visit www.calparks.org.
Select Committee Hearing on Climate Change and AB 32 Implementation
On Thursday, January 7th I held a hearing with my Select Committee on Climate Change and AB 32 Implementation to learn about the California Air Resources Board's (CARB) proposal for a cap-and-trade program in California, part of the regulatory package they are proposing to implement my bill, AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. AB 32 requires that CARB pass regulations that will reduce California's level of the greenhouse gases that cause global warming by 25% by 2020.
Cap-and-trade refers to a system that is supposed to allow flexibility and lowered costs to companies required to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, and incentivise additional reductions beyond what is required. Companies are limited, or "capped", on the amount of greenhouse gases they can emit in a given year and given credits, called allowances, for their emissions. If they can go below their allowance limit, they are allowed to sell their surplus to companies that are not able to reduce their emissions sufficiently to meet their requirements. Because the total emissions are subject to overall limits that decline over time, the total atmospheric emissions decline and the state's goals can be met.
The hearing featured testimony from CARB Chairman Mary Nichols and her staff describing their proposed regulations. CARB was followed by a panel of distinguished experts from think-tanks in Washington DC and Boston, Stanford University Law School, and the California Attorney General's office, who provided detailed testimony on how and why to design, enforce and monitor a cap-and-trade program.
My takeaway from this hearing is that while cap-and-trade has some potential to hold down costs of achieving the goals of AB 32, it is also very complicated and not without risk, and any cap-and-trade system we might adopt needs to be designed to include extremely rigorous enforcement, monitoring, and transparency. I will be following the progress of this regulation extremely closely, and legislation may be needed to adjust or direct whether and how cap-and-trade is implemented.
CARB has done an outstanding job of implementing AB 32 up to now. Eighty percent of the reductions that CARB has proposed to meet AB 32's goals do not require cap-and-trade under CARB's proposed program. Many of these reductions can spur jobs and economic growth for our state. Investment in a low-carbon future is one of the most important tools we have to help us emerge from our current economic difficulties, and I will be working hard this year to ensure that we can spur investment to grow the economy, increase our energy security, reduce greenhouse gas pollution, and create jobs.
The 23rd Senate District has lost several constituents recently who will be dearly missed. Here is a list of those individuals who have made a positive impact in the 23rd Senate District.
- Santa Monica Mayor Ken Genser passed away on January 9, 2010 after a long illness. Mr. Genser has long been a fixture in Santa Monica politics, serving on the City Planning Commission, the Santa Monica Pier Restoration Commission, and a record 21 years on the City Council including three terms as mayor. Ken was known in his public life for his compassionate protection of renters, as a champion of living wage ordinances and for wise city planning and land use decisions. He will be dearly missed by friends and colleagues.
- Encino resident Dr. Milton Feinberg passed away on New Years Eve after a short battle with cancer. Dr. Feinberg practiced medicine for nearly 70 years including service with the U.S. Army Medical Corps in World War II and for the last 30 years as Assistant Clinical Professor of Pathology at UCLA. Dr. Milton also supported "The Rim of the Valley Park", a greenbelt around the San Fernando Valley proposed by his late wife, Marge Feinberg. The project is now being implemented by the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the National Park Service.
- Longtime HIV/AIDS activist, former West Hollywood employee, volunteer and resident Howard Jacobs died on November 11th after having been diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer. He was 45. Volunteer of the Year in 1995, Mr. Jacobs devoted his life toward helping others, particularly those with disabilities and children, and although he never served as an elected official, Mr. Jacobs helped influence to creation of many citywide policies in West Hollywood.
- Nao Takasugi, politician, civic leader, Oxnard native, and survivor of the Japanese American internment camps, died in November at the age of 87 following complications from a stroke. Mr. Takasugi first entered political life on the Oxnard City Council in 1976. He served five terms as Mayor of Oxnard before running for and winning a seat in the State Assembly in 1992 where he served six years before terming out. Even in his 80's, Mr. Takasugi served two terms on the Oxnard Harbor District before finally retiring in 2008. He will be greatly missed by friends and family alike.
- Pacific Palisades Democratic Club President and Attorney Robert Berke died suddenly of a sudden and acute illness over thanksgiving weekend. Energetic, compassionate, and a loyal friend to many, Bob was relentless and effective in advocating for political change through courageous activism and respectful engagement. He was known in his 36 year career practicing law, for battling injustice particularly in defense of poor clients and victims of police misconduct. An inspirational, standing room only, memorial service at Kehillat Israel Synagogue was attended by family, friends, state and local officials, attorneys, and the hundreds of people whose lives have been touched by Bob's generous spirit.