Talk of rolling back public employee pensions appears to be gaining momentum in Sacramento. Some lawmakers increasingly link budget negotiations to pension reform, and an independent state commission last week called for dramatic changes in the way California compensates its retired employees. But anyone who hopes that reducing pension benefits will help balance next year’s budget, or any budget in the near future, might be disappointed. California is facing a $25.4 billion budget deficit right now, yet changes to the public employee pension system generally take years or even decades to produce significant savings.
Month: February 2011
Here’s a fact that should command the attention of every policymaker in California: Nearly 5 billion dollars in federal funding is lost each year when California families eligible for food stamps aren’t enrolled in the program. Funny how a state unemployment rate stuck at 12 percent-plus since August 2009 can turn a bureaucratic issue like “program participation rates” into a strategic discussion about economic stimulus.
“Hello!” Anne Griffith called out as she unlocked the front door of a recently purchased home in the Elmhurst neighborhood of East Oakland. Though the house was purchased in foreclosure, and has stood empty for months, Griffith expected an answer to her call. She got one.
Californians want their state legislators and the governor to balance the budget. But voters also want to control the way lawmakers spend much of the money sent to Sacramento. That contradiction is one reason for the political paralysis in the Capitol. Over the past generation, voters have set aside 40 percent of the budget for K-12 schools and community colleges. They also have locked down billions of dollars for transportation, public safety, mental health, children’s services, after-school programs and anti-tobacco education, among other priorities.
Walking into the classroom of Richmond’s Latina Center intimidated Maria Lourdes Sanchez. The other Spanish-speaking women in the room, who also came to develop their leadership skills, were welcoming. But Sanchez was still afraid.
It’s almost spring here in California, which for many means it’s time to start planning this year’s garden. But when it comes to growing food in cities, planning for gardens means more than just picking out seeds. Unless city and county planning documents include policies supporting urban agriculture, community gardening and other local food-growing programs could be in jeopardy.
Gov. Jerry Brown wants California voters to weigh in by June on his plan to balance the budget. But the voters, polls show, know next to nothing about the state’s finances, and much of what they think they know is wrong. That widespread ignorance, understandable in a state as complex as most countries, might play a role in shaping the debate over Brown’s plan, and ultimately the outcome.
Nearly 900 pounds of citrus fruit is making its way to the tables of many hungry Stockton families, thanks to Healthy Choices, a program of the Health Education Council. Students in the YMCA’s Healthy Choices afterschool group at Franklin High School have been spending their afternoons harvesting fruit from citrus trees in the Eastside neighborhood surrounding Franklin High School.
For the first time, American’s official dietary guidelines this year have new advice for the nation: eat less food.
California is making early progress toward its goal of reducing the use of motor vehicles, but more creative and aggressive public policies will be necessary to get people to switch from driving to walking, biking and using public transit, according to a new report from the Public Policy Institute of California.