Senate Passes Unemployment Extension; Trigger Fate Tomorrow?
A couple quick updates to stories in California I've been following:
• The State Senate today approved two bills relating to unemployment insurance on a near-unanimous vote. The bill (AB 23x3) to extend benefits for an additional 20 weeks using federal stimulus money passed 38-0, and the bill (AB 29x3) changing eligibility requirements to allow seasonal workers to benefit from unemployment benefits, also with federal money, passed 37-1. The latter bill needs to go to the Assembly for concurrence; the former will go right to the Governor. Sen. Gil Cedillo remarked in his release:
“Our immediate action on this issue was necessary to help almost half a million unemployed Californians stay afloat. These bills put to use the estimated $3 billion dollars in federal stimulus monies made available by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA),” remarked Cedillo. “We have a tremendous opportunity to turn our economy around and put federal dollars to work for California. The bipartisan leadership today highlights what we are able to accomplish when we focus on results,” Cedillo added.
At least 76,000 people whose benefits would run out on April 11 would see immediate relief. It appears the Governor, after hedging, will sign both bills, but we shall see.
• As early as tomorrow, says Marty Omoto, we may have a decision from the Finance Director Mike Genest and Treasurer Bill Lockyer on whether the state will receive enough stimulus funding to "pull the trigger" that would reduce some of the worst cuts in February's budget, and eliminate some of the tax increases.
The determination by the State Treasurer and Department of Finance Director is crucial on whether major permanent cuts happen or not to several critical programs that serve hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities, mental health needs, the blind, seniors and low income families. While there has been no official word on what the State Treasurer or the Finance Director will report, most observers feel that the likely news will not be good.
If you want the details on the cuts at risk, read Marty's post. Given the fact that the Legislative Analyst already foresees an $8 billion dollar hole in the budget, and that the special election poll numbers are tanking, which would add another $5-$6 billion hole, I would expect the bad news as well. Because of the murkiness of what money counts toward the General Fund and what doesn't, there's a fair bit of room for politicking in there.