By Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed a budget that slashes state employee salaries by five percent and cuts Medi-Cal by $1 billion while adding 75 new positions to “perform preliminary engineering and design work” for the environmentally destructive peripheral canal or tunnel.
Brown claims this “balanced” state budget “protects funding for education and public safety” while cutting $8 billion from government to close a $15.7 billion deficit and build a reserve of nearly $1 billion.
“The budget slashes spending in almost every part of state government and enacts significant welfare reform while increasing funding for K-12 education by 14 percent, pending voter approval of the Governor’s initiative,” according to a statement from the Governor’s Office.
“This budget reflects tough choices that will help get California back on track,” alleged Governor Brown. “I commend the Legislature for making difficult decisions, especially enacting welfare reform and across-the-board pay cuts. All this lays the foundation for job growth and continuing economic expansion.”
However, these “tough choices” don’t include cutting the Department of Water Resources budget for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP) to build the peripheral canal. The budget features 75 new positions to “perform preliminary engineering and design work for the Delta Habitat Conservation and Conveyance Program.”
This addition of these new positions comes at a time of record budget deficits when state workers are being asked to scale back their pay and essential services, including health care for children and Medi-Cal, are being cut. The Governor, in a case of blackmail, also plans to shave school time if his tax initiative doesn’t pass.
Representatives of fishing and environmental groups are asking: Won’t these 75 new employees of the state of California really be doing the bidding of Westlands Water District and the Metropolitan Water District?”
If the answer is yes, the question is: Does the state have the right to shift this new cost onto taxpayers?
The budget-busting peripheral canal or tunnel would hasten the extinction of Central Valley Chinook salmon, steelhead, longfin smelt, Delta smelt and other fish species, according to agency and independent scientists. The government boondoggle is opposed by the majority of Californians – and doesn’t make any economic sense.
These 75 new workers will be performing work that will destroy California fisheries and take vast tracks of Delta land out of agricultural production so the water can be delivered to agribusiness corporations now irrigating drainage-impaired, selenium-laced soil on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley.
A comprehensive economic benefit-cost analysis of the water conveyance tunnels at the center of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, released on June 14 by the University of Pacific’s Eberhardt School of Business, stated, “We find the tunnel is not economically justified, because the costs of the tunnel are 2.5 times larger than its benefits.” For the complete report, go to: ( U.O.P. Report )
So these 75 new workers will be employed to work on a project where the costs are 2.5 times larger than the benefits – again, while existing jobs, services and programs are facing the budget axe!
DWR raids boaters’ fund to help water barons
As if 75 new positions to benefit corporate agribusiness isn’t enough to appease the water contractors, the Budget also includes a $10 million continuous appropriation from the Harbors and Watercraft revolving fund to fund the state’s obligations under the Davis-Dolwig Act. That’s an act passed by voters in 1961 and implemented by the Department of Water Resources (DWR). It relates to the cost of fish and wildlife enhancements and recreation for State Water Project facilities, according to Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, Executive Director of Restore the Delta.
“Who should pay for what – SWP contractors or the General Fund – has been a matter of controversy for a long time,” she said. “This year, there isn’t any money in the General Fund, so it looks like they found some in a fund that comes from gas taxes on boaters.”
“It is ironic when we consider the number of times we have heard water contractors say in testimony to California legislators that they are paying for the planning and will pay for the construction of the BDCP. Design must be separate from planning,” quipped Barrigan-Parrilla.
“It is even sadder to think that the state is spending money to help the water barons while nearly a million children are slated to lose their health benefits and California education continues to be gutted,” she concluded.
Brown and Laird continue Schwarzenegger’s war on fish and the environment
Brown and Natural Resources Secretary John Laird are not only expanding Arnold Schwarzenegger’s plan to build the canal or tunnel by adding 75 new workers to the state budget, but they have dedicated themselves to forging ahead with many of the most odious environmental policies of the Schwarzenegger administration.
Brown and Laird have continued Schwarzenegger’s privately funded Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative to create so-called “marine protected areas” in California waters. These fake “marine protected areas,” created under the oversight of a big oil lobbyist, real estate developer, agribusiness operative and other corporate hacks, fail to protect the ocean from oil spills and drilling, pollution, wind and wave energy projects, military and seismic testing, corporate aquaculture and all other human impacts on the ocean – other than fishing and gathering.
Brown also presided over a record fish kill and record water exports at the Delta pumps in 2011. The DFG released a report documenting the “salvage” of tens of millions of fish including 42 species in the state and federal water export pumping facilities in the South Delta in 2011.
A total of 11,817,051 fish of all species were “salvaged” in the state and federal pumps in 2011, according to the report published in the Interagency Ecological Program for the San Francisco Estuary Newsletter, Fall/Winter 2012 edition. (REPORT)
The splittail “salvage” number was a total of 8,986,089 fish, a new salvage record for the species, eclipsing even the massacres of splittail that occurred under Schwarzenegger. The fish, a native member of the minnow family found only in the Central Valley, was formerly listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but is no longer listed.
However, the “salvage” numbers greatly underestimate the actual amount of fish lost in the Delta death pumps. One study of “pre-screen loss” estimated that as many as 19 of every 20 fish perished before being counted (Castillo, 2010). Other studies estimate that the actual loss of fish in the pumping facilities is 5 to 10 times the “salvage” numbers.
The Brown administration, while slashing salaries and services, appears to be fully committed to wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on the peripheral canal, forging ahead with corporate greenwashing under the Marine Life Protection Act Initiative and exporting record amounts of water to benefit corporate agribusiness and Southern California water agencies.
Brown, Natural Resources Secretary John Laird and Deputy Secretary Jerry Meral apparently care nothing about the needs of the 99 percent of Californians, but only the 1 percent who are their puppet masters. That’s why the Governor is slashing state worker salaries and programs needed by the poor and vulnerable while hiring 75 new workers to destroy Delta family farms and Central Valley fish populations.
Significant Details of the 2012-2013 State Budget Cuts:
Cuts State Employee Compensation Costs: The budget includes a 5 percent cut to state employee compensation for a savings of $800 million.
“Reforms” Welfare: The budget restores the CalWORKs program’s “focus on self-sufficiency and employment” by establishing a 2-year time limit for parents who are not meeting federal work requirements.
Cuts scholarships: The budget will reduce scholarships for students attending private colleges starting in the 2013-14 academic year. In addition, students won’t be able to use the scholarships, “Cal Grants,” at colleges with low graduation rates.
Medi-Cal slashed: The budget cuts $1 billion from Medi-Cal, the insurance program for the poor, and other health programs.
Eliminates “Healthy Families” program: The nearly 900,000 poor children covered under this program will be shifted into Medi-Cal over the course of a year. Brown alleges this shift is expected to save $13 million in the new fiscal year.
Restructures Funds for Trial Courts: The budget restructures trial court funding and reduces General Fund support by $246 million on a one-time basis and requires each trial court to use their available reserves. The budget delays court construction for a savings of $240 million and includes $125 million in ongoing savings.
The budget in full is posted at: http://www.dof.ca.gov .
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