Explaining Southern California's economy

Why public education finances in California are in bad shape

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Students may have trouble getting to class once federal trigger cuts slash $38 million from California's school transportation budget.

KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez reports today on the effect that anticipated "trigger cuts" to spending, due to a looming budget deficit in California, could have on funding to both K-12 and higher education:

The governor’s office may announce $2 billion in midyear cuts to state-funded agencies on Thursday. That’s likely to reduce state support for public education at every level from kindergarten through college.

The cuts are likely because the revenues state lawmakers had predicted never materialized. That means $100 million in cuts to the University of California and the Cal State systems. Student fees for community college would go up $10 a unit. School districts are figuring out how much money they’ll lose.

Charles Kerchner, an education researcher at Claremont Graduate University, says some public schools are better prepared than others. "It tends to be the case that school districts that have quieter politics tend to have bigger budget reserves."

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California budget: If you think this year looks bad, just wait until 2012

California Governor Jerry Brown Unveils State Pension Reform Program

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California Governor Jerry Brown announces his public employee pension reform plan October 27, 2011 at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California. Gov. Brown proposed 12 major reforms for state and local pension systems that he claims would end abuses and reduce taypayer costs by billions of dollars.

It's unclear what sort of unicorns-and-moneybags fairyland that officials in California were living in when they projected a $500-billion surplus in the 2011-12 budget. Against 12-percent unemployment and exposure to the housing crisis that ranks right alongside Nevada and Florida, any surplus at all was political and economic wishful thinking. So now come the trigger cuts — $2 billion of 'em.

Education will bear the brunt of this, if lawmakers can't figure out how to dodge the cuts. Not that education hasn't already been pummeled: according to Education Week, K-12 statewide has endured $18 billion is cuts over the past five years. The University of California and Cal State systems will also take it on the chin. Education Week says that some districts are in better shape than others, based on budget planning. But there are some time bombs out there, such as San Diego Unified.

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Gov. Brown's veto means that borrowing is more important than state services

Gov. Jerry Brown just vetoed a measure that would have forced him to debate whether so-called "trigger cuts" will kick in if the state runs short on its revenue goals this year. As the LA Times PolitiCal blog notes: "If those taxes don't materialize, up to $2.5 billion in cuts would occur automatically, including the option for local schools to reduce the academic year by up to a week." 

What Brown wants is for the state to retain its capability to borrow at historically low interest rates. This is from the governor's press release:

"I am vetoing a third bill that would have undermined investor confidence in California by altering the budget’s mechanisms for automatic trigger cuts. The trigger mechanisms were adopted when I signed the budget and were essential to improving our credit standing. Indeed, our no-gimmick, on-time budget was the reason S&P assigned its highest rating to the short-term notes sold this past week—the first time that’s happened since 2007,” said Governor Brown.

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Reportings: Grocery strike; Netflix screw-up; Jerry's veto

Still no grocery strike in Southern California. But you have to wonder why the union and the big chain stores — Albertsons, Ralphs, and Vons — couldn't figure out how to resolve the problems with a jointly administered health care fund before now. VoiceofOC.org provided a blow-by-blow back in June, explaining how the fund was allowed to rapidly move from surplus to looming deficit. (VoiceofOC.org)

 

Speaking of which, the LA Times thinks a strike now would be a very bad move for the chains: "Today, Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons have fewer stores in Southern California, and fewer employees. Albertsons has closed 67 locations since the 2003-04 strike and worker lockout. Ralphs has closed 48 stores, and Vons and Pavilions are down 47." (LAT)

 

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings' solution to the epic screw-up of raising prices on subscriptions: The smaller DVD-by-mail business will now be spun off into a new company, Qwikster, presumably allowing Netflix to restore its brand. How long did it take to think up that new name? (NYT)

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