Thursday, January 12, 2012

PCL Insider for January 12, 2012

The Planning and Conservation League
 PCL INSIDER: News from the Capitol


Last week, due to a technical glitch, the Brown Administration unintentionally released the Governor’s proposed budget a few days earlier than expected. Through $10.3 billion in cuts and increased revenues, the proposed budget would close a $9.2 billion deficit, compared to last year's $26 billion gap, and build a $1.1 billion reserve. The most severe cuts will be inflicted on CalWORKs, Medi-Cal, child care, and the Cal Grant Program. The budget is contingent on voters approving a temporary increase in the sales tax and a higher levy on wealthy residents. If voters reject the ballot initiative in November, the state would be forced to cut another $4.8 billion from schools and community colleges; a cut equivalent to 3 weeks of instruction. ‘Trigger cuts’, as they’re called, would also strip funds from courts, public safety officers and flood protection. 

So how did the environment fare in the proposed budget? Overall, environmental protection did better than many other programs, though there are significant cuts to key programs, and much of the funding that has been allocated is for projects that are controversial even within the environmental community. The Department of Parks and Recreation will see $22 million in cuts, twice the reduction from last year’s budget, which would result in the closure of up to 70 state parks. Additionally, if the Governor’s tax initiative does not pass, it will trigger the elimination of all seasonal lifeguards on state beaches and a 20% reduction of the Park Rangers workforce.

Programs that will see more funding in 2012 include highly contentious projects, like California High Speed Rail and the Delta conveyance program. The budget allocates $15.9 million to usher along the development of a high speed rail system, which is under increasing scrutiny due to governance, routing and financing issues. The budget would also allocate more funding to the Department of Water Resources for its work on the highly controversial Bay-Delta conveyance research and planning processes; specifically, for 135 positions for preliminary engineering work to support the Delta Habitat Conservation and Conveyance Program.

The budget also earmarks $1 billion that are to be received by auctioning pollution credits to California companies to be used to “create jobs and deliver public health, economic and environmental benefits” as part of the state's effort to curb global warming. Businesses have complained that this cap-and-trade program, a critical piece of California's landmark legislation aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, represents an unfair tax. Cap-and-trade is also controversial among the environmental and environmental justice communities, some of whom believe it merely commoditizes dangerous pollution rather than directly and more aggressively curbing it.

The governor’s proposal still needs to be debated by the Legislature, and the Brown Administration will release an updated version in May. The deadline to have a budget passed by lawmakers and signed by the governor is June 30.



California is a national leader in food production, but there is mounting concern about the costs, land conversion, and water shortages.  At the same time, significant questions have come up about the role of water in the more developed regions of the state.  Two panels, one focused on our food, the other on water plans, will bring to light some of the concerns we are facing.

The Role of Food in California's Environmental Future

Our food future may be at risk based on water availability, rising energy costs, loss of critical lands due to sprawl and poor planning, and other critical environmental factors.  This panel will focus on the role of food in California’s environmental future and what changes we may be headed toward, including a greater emphasis on local food production.  Participants will have a better awareness of the connection between food production, energy and water consumption, and environmental protection, and will hear about regulatory trends on food production.

  • Kari Hamerschlag, Environmental Working Group
  • Claudia Reid, Fresh Producers
  • David Runsten, Community Alliance with Family Farmers

Show Me the Water (Plan)

With water and the future of water at the state and local level being of extreme importance in planning for our future communities, the link between water usage and land use planning must be addressed.  This panel will focus on water in the planning process, including General Plan updates, Water Supply Assessments, and environmental review.  Participants will gain tools to engage in the land use process to promote better water use and tools for better connections between land and water will be considered, such as developing Title 24-like standards for water.

  • Curt Johansen, Sustainable Community Partners, LLC
  • Susan Lien Longville, Water Resources Institute
  • Dennis O’Connor, Principal Consultant, CA Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Water

The Annual Environmental Legislative Symposium and Awards Ceremony is Saturday, January 28, 2012 at the Sacramento Convention Center.  Register now to reserve your spot!  If space is still available, you may be able to book room at the Citizen Hotel.


1107 9th Street, Suite 901, Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone (916) 822-5631 • Fax (916) 822-5650

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