State officials look to federal government to ease budget woes

KPCC's Washington correspondent Kitty Felde discusses the most recent way in which California leaders are looking to the federal government for help with the state's fiscal problems; Kitty also looks at the changes to immigration policy being proposed in Washington D.C.

Steve Julian: On Mondays, we talk with KPCC's Washington correspondent, Kitty Felde. Kitty, apparently California's budget problems are leading state leaders to look to Washington for help.

Kitty Felde: Well that's right, Steve. You know, federal stimulus money is on its way to California – a lot of stimulus money. The state figures it's at least $2 billion less, though, than it's going to need as the year goes on. So everybody is scrambling.

So last week, Bill Lockyer, the state treasurer was here, and he met with U.S. Treasury officials, and he made this unusual pitch – he said, why don't you guys back short-term cash flow bonds that the state may need to float later on this year.

Now, this is where the math gets kind of fuzzy, Steve. I talked about $2 billion. Somebody in the state treasurer's office says he's talking about at least $5 billion in these short-term bonds. And incidentally, the feds have never done this before.

So Lockyer went over to Capitol Hill and he met with some of California's congressional delegation to try to get support for this idea. And I said why, you know, why does he need to do this, and one person in the treasurer's office said, "Well, since Washington's throwing billions of dollars at Wall Street, why not use some of that for California?"

Julian: Well Kitty, has California ever defaulted on bonds before?

Felde: Never. Not even during the Great Depression. So again, it comes back to that question, is why does California need to do this? It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Julian: At the time. Immigration policy changes seem to be floating around D.C. lately as well.

Felde: Indeed. Last week on Thursday, late, after most members had jetted off to wherever they go on weekends, California Democrats Howard Berman and Lucille Roybal-Allard, both from Southern California, reintroduced what's called the American Dream Act, and this allows in-state tuition for undocumented students and it also provides a path to legal residency for students and soldiers.

Now it's been reintroduced here on Capitol Hill for almost a decade. Nothing has happened with it, but there's hopes that a comprehensive immigration measure is gonna be introduced later this year and the Dream Act will be folded into that.

And in the meantime, sources within the Homeland Security Department say that Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security secretary, is redesigning the guidelines the department uses for workplace immigration raids.

There's only been one since President Obama took office, and Secretary Napolitano said that nobody told her it was going to happen. And some on Capitol Hill, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have been pressuring the White House to stop these raids altogether.

Julian: When you say redesigning, does that indicate that they will continue?

Felde: Under some limited guidelines. Again, everybody wants to understand who they're going after and why. The interest is more in the people who are hiring people without documents, rather than, you know, meat carvers and people who are working on the floors of a lot of these factories.

Julian: Kitty Felde, what's up this week in D.C.?

Felde: Well, familiar name to Southern Californians, Albert Carnesale, who used to be the chancellor at UCLA, he has been tapped to head up a special committee on climate change.

They're supposed to come up with some suggestions for how the federal government might proceed on attacking greenhouse gases. He is hosting a two day hearing on that topic here in Washington. And Mary Nichols, of California's Air Resources Board, will be among those testifying.

Julian: Got some students coming out?

Felde: (laughs) Yeah, it's that time of year. You know, it's Cherry Blossom Festival time, so it's a great time to be here in Washington, and there's a high school group from South Pasadena who are here to take a look at the workings of Washington. And I'm gonna track around with them later on this week and see how they see that things work out.

Julian: Great. All right. Kitty, thanks very much.

Felde: You bet.

Julian: KPCC's Washington correspondent Kitty Felde joins us every Monday here on 89.3, KPCC.

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