In the rush of last-minute activity leading to the passage of the state budget, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) won approval of a measure he co-sponsored to boost the state's Rainy Day Fund.
The fund sets aside money in years when there is a budget surplus and guarantees that it be used first to fully fund public schools, then to pay down the state's bond debt and then to cover costs in years when the state operates at a deficit.
The bill Gatto co-authored with Assemblyman Roger Niello (R-Fair Oaks) would place a constitutional amendment before voters to increase the amount of money state leaders set aside in good years — up to 10% of general fund revenue — and guarantee it be used only for those three purposes.
The ballot measure would likely appear in 2012, Gatto said, unless the next governor calls for a special statewide election in 2011 to gain voter approval of other fiscal reforms.
Gatto noted this year's $19.1-billion deficit comes only four years after the state was taking in huge surpluses. The idea of putting away money in good times for use in bad times is essential in a state with a volatile, boom-and-bust economy, he said.
"Every family in California gets this common-sense concept, but for whatever reason Sacramento hasn't grasped it for a long time," Gatto said. "It's very important for the state to learn its lessons from the current budget malaise."
This year's budget process is being viewed as a disaster, as lawmakers and the governor missed their deadline by 100 days and used a combination of cuts, borrowing and accounting tricks to close the $19.1-billion budget gap.
"It was definitely a complex process in a very tough year," Gatto said.
But he said it was important to restore funding to the state university systems and preserve other programs that protect jobs.
As in recent years, nearly all of the budget work was done behind closed doors by the so-called Big 5 — the governor and Democratic and Republican party leaders in both houses — before details were revealed to the members of both houses.
"The budget process is clearly broken," Gatto said. But, "there are always some components of the negotiations that make it difficult or impossible to do with 120 people in the room."
Gatto's rival on the Nov. 2 ballot, Republican Sunder Ramani, hammered the budget deal in an Oct. 13 statement.
"This budget is largely the product of accounting gimmicks and wishful thinking. This is the same Sacramento shell game that our representatives have been playing for years," Ramani said in the statement. "This state is bankrupting itself and its citizens, and should be adopting wide-ranging austerity measures while reducing the tax burden and rolling back regulation that drives business away. The best that can be said of this budget is that it delays the pain until next year."
Ramani has picked up the endorsement of the Pasadena Patriots TeaPAC. The Patriots is a grassroots organization advocating the low-tax, limited-government principles associated with the national "tea party" movement.
Candidates' forum is Oct. 27
All the candidates running Nov. 2 to represent Burbank and Glendale in Congress or the state Assembly are scheduled to appear Oct. 27 at a League of Women Voters Glendale-Burbank forum at Burbank City Hall, 275 E. Olive St.
The candidates are slated to include 29th Congressional District Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) and his Republican challenger, an entrepreneur and former Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy John Colbert; and the Libertarian candidate William Cushing; 27th Congressional District Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and his Republican challenger, San Fernando Valley businessman Mark Reed.
The event starts at 7 p.m. and is free to the public. It will also be rebroadcast on Burbank TV6.
Hearing will address pension-related excess
Glendale City Hall will be the site of an Oct. 21 joint legislative hearing on a measure by Mike Gatto (D- Silver Lake) to address the pension-related excesses revealed by the scandal in the city of Bell.
Gatto introduced Assembly Bill 192 in August in the wake of revelations that Glendale and other cities would bear most of the pension costs for former Glendale Police Chief Randy Adams.
Adams' pension spiked to $400,000 a year after he accepted the $471,000-a-year post in Bell. Glendale and the other cities where Adams worked — Ventura and Simi Valley — are on the hook for most of that money.
If passed, the bill would require cities to take on all additional pension costs for employees whenever they hire top managers from other cities with salary increases of 15% or more.
Lawmakers expected to preside at the hearing include Gatto and the chairs of the pension-related committees in Sacramento, Assemblyman Alberto Torrico (D- Newark) and state Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana.).