Patterico's Pontifications


The Golden State Attempts to Scrape Together a Budget

Filed under: General — JVW @ 7:42 pm

[guest post by JVW]

UPDATE: Stupid me; I should have linked the proposed budget document which kinds of lays everything out. Here it is.

We of course have seen this coming ever since the COVID-19 shutdowns began, but now the California Legislature and Governor Newsom are beginning the difficult process of cobbling together a budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year. It involves a wing and a prayer:

How does a liberal, blue-state governor take on the unappealing task of slashing the budget? By shifting a lot of the pressure to the federal government.

In revising California’s budget down to $203 billion today, Gov. Gavin Newsom charted a plan to fill a huge deficit by tying many cuts to additional federal aid. If the feds come through with $1 trillion for state and local governments that Newsom and other Democratic governors have requested, California would not reduce funding to schools, colleges, parks, child care, health care and other programs.

“The President of the United States, with a stroke of the pen, could provide support for Nancy Pelosi’s new Heroes Act and these cuts could be eliminated,” Newsom said, as he presented his proposal to close a $54 billion deficit brought on by record job losses during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s a strategic, if risky, course as Newsom heads into a sprint of budget negotiations with state lawmakers over the next four weeks.

The state needs to have the federal commitment by July 1 when the new budget goes into effect, but given the partisan division that currently exists in Washington it might be a stretch to expect resolution in six weeks. So the state is exploring a number of scenarios, from the idealized framework of full support coming from Washington down to the disastrous one in which no federal aid is forthcoming. Taking those two as best-case and worst-case, the outline starts to emerge.

In the absolute best-case scenario Congress and the White House would cough up enough money so that the Sacramento gravy trail could continue, but given the reluctance of House Democrats in swing districts to sign on to Aunt Nancy Pelosi’s $3 trillion (yep, that’s trillion with a “t”) plan as well as Cocaine Mitch McConnell’s outright dismissal of progressive fantasies, states are inexorably going to tighten their belts. The hopes of the Democrat establishment in Sacramento are therefore limited to receiving a roughly $14 billion wet kiss from Uncle Sucker to plug budgetary holes. In return, California would:

* rescind approximately $6.1 billion in recent increases, including an expansion of MediCal services to immigrant families and the elderly
* forego a planned $2.4 billion supplementary contribution to public retirement accounts, which won’t sit well with the state actuaries or unions
* transfer $8.8 billion from the state’s rainy day fund, with the possibility of withdrawing an additional $7.5 billion over the following two budget years while we wait for what might be a fairly long recovery
* cap tax credits used by businesses and wealthy taxpayers, including those used for net operating losses, which would allegedly save $4.4 billion, providing those taxpayers don’t flee the state
* shuffle $4.1 billion from account to account and change payment dates, and rig up another $6.3 billion in unspecified borrowing and payment deferrals.

Those — ahem, ahem — “savings” coupled with $8.3 billion granted to the state in the second phase of the America Cares act would on paper at least cover the full deficit, provided that the feds kick in the $14 billion that the state desires. Should that funding not be forthcoming, the state is looking at 10% spending reductions in K-12 and higher education, elimination of state-funded optional Medi-Cal benefit and dental coverage, and a 10% pay-cut for state employees or else similar measures negotiated with the union in order to reach the same payroll reduction target (i.e. layoffs or furloughs). Already flushed into the memory hole are Gov. Newsom’s earlier plans to extend health insurance to illegal immigrant residents over the age of 65 and subsidize daycare for children of working parents. Among the spending initiatives from the first Newsom budget that is likely to be pared back is the money dedicated to building new subsidized housing for middle-class families and the homeless.

Even if the state manages to wrangle the full $14 billion in additional funding from politicians who find expedience in election year largesse, projections are that this economic slowdown will have implications on the budget that will likely last for at least two more years. So at right around this time next year the state will be either going hat-in-hand back to Washington (with a possible second Trump Administration who may tell them to go pound sand) or making additional cuts and raising revenue. The big wildcards will be whether or not the ruling party can convince Californians to raise property taxes on businesses this fall and whether the legislature will also entertain an attempt to raise income and sales taxes just as Jerry Brown did eight years ago.

But it’s bound to get ugly as we march on towards the budget deadline.


Trump Announces “Operation Warp Speed” And A Goal Of Having A Covid-19 Vaccine By The End Of the Year

Filed under: General — Dana @ 4:25 pm

[guest post by Dana]

President Trump went all out today, announcing an new initiative to work at ‘warp speed’ to develop a Covid-19 vaccine for Americans by the end of the year:

The Trump administration on Friday rolled out a hyper-ambitious plan to develop and manufacture hundreds of millions of Covid-19 vaccine doses by the end of 2020, outlining an aggressive process that, if successful, would shatter conventional wisdom about the typical process for developing vaccines for emerging infectious diseases.

At a Rose Garden press conference, the president and his deputies acknowledged their goal, dubbed “Operation Warp Speed,” was lofty. Trump said the project was “risky and expensive.” Gustave Perna, a four-star general who oversees logistics for the U.S. Army, called the task “Herculean.” Moncef Slaoui, the pharmaceutical executive Trump has appointed to lead the initiative, said the goal was “extremely challenging.”

Regarding the cost of the vaccine, Trump claimed that “The last thing anybody’s looking for is profit”.

There have been concerns about the selection of Slaoui to lead the initiative, given his relationship with Moderna and a possible conflict of interest:

According to federal financial disclosures, he still holds over 156,000 Moderna stock options, worth over $10 million at the company’s current stock price, creating a potential conflict of interest if the company’s vaccine is the first to be proven effective.

As noted here, there have been four timelines for the development of a vaccine:

Timeline one: 12 to 18 months, just as the experts — including Fauci — keep saying.

Timeline two: ~12 months or slightly less for full-scale delivery. That’s Esper’s timeline, per the clip.

Timeline three: By Election Day.

Timeline four: Before China announces a vaccine.

I think it goes without saying that if a vaccine could be announced by election day, Trump’s votes would likely increase. And you better believe he would toot his horn over that. But if China comes in with a successful vaccine before the U.S., that certainly has the potential to hurt Trump at the polls.

On Tuesday, Fauci testified before the Senate HELP committee about the development of a vaccine:

“There are a couple of things that are inherent in all vaccine development. First of all, there’s no guarantee that the vaccine is actually going to be effective. I still feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a candidate that will give some degree of efficacy.

Given Fauci’s projections and those of Operation Warp Speed, it wasn’t surprising to see him, along with Dr. Birx and Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, sidelined during the announcement. And they were the only ones wearing masks too.

Trump also presented a we’re-all-in-this-together face with regard to other countries – including China – working on a vaccine:

“We want to get to the solution. We know exactly where the other countries are, and we’ll be very happy if they are able to do it. We’ll help them with delivery, we’ll help them with it in every way we can.”

Here’s hoping that a vaccine can indeed be developed and manufactured by the end of the year.


ACLU Joins Suit against Trump Administration’s Title IX Changes

Filed under: General — JVW @ 6:30 am

[guest post by JVW]

A few days back we cheered the new Title IX guidelines announced by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, undoing the great mischief that the Obama Administration had encouraged. I suppose this shouldn’t come as a surprise to me, but the American Civil Liberties Union is joining with a group of plaintiffs in filing a suit to have the new guidelines halted:

The suit, filed on behalf of four advocacy groups for people who have been sexually assaulted, including Know Your IX and Girls for Gender Equity, is the first that seeks to block the Education Department’s new provisions before they go into effect on Aug. 14.

The rules championed by DeVos effectively bolster the rights of due process for those accused of sexual assault and harassment, allowing for live hearings and cross-examinations. It’s what agency officials say was lacking during the Obama administration to protect all students under Title IX, a 1972 law that prohibits gender discrimination, including sexual assault, at schools.

“This new federal effort to weaken Title IX makes it more difficult for victims of sexual harassment or sexual assault to continue their educations and needlessly comes amid a global pandemic,” according to the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York-based law firm Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP.

[. . .]

Advocates are concerned that students are “required to jump through hoops” to persuade their schools to even open investigations, Ria Tabacco Mar, director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, said Thursday.

The suit, she said, challenges Title IX regulations that will redefine sexual misconduct in narrower terms — as misconduct “so severe, pervasive and objectively offensive” that it “denies a person equal access to the school’s education program or activity.” (The definition comports with how the Supreme Court regards sexual harassment.)

But Tabacco Mar argued that it creates a “double standard” for how schools must treat sexual discrimination complaints compared to how they handle allegations of racial, national origin and disability discrimination.

In addition, the suit takes issue with how the rule will allow colleges to investigate complaints that are made only through a formal process and to certain officials, as opposed to any school employee. (The rule, however, does permit complaints in K-12 schools to be shared with any employee, which then must trigger an investigation.)

Maybe the ACLU is actually on to something there and the Department of Education needs to encourage schools to tighten up the standards on what constitutes a valid racial, national origin, or disability discrimination claim. But to the degree that the ACLU appears to be advocating for a roll-back of due process protections for the accused, I can’t help but be disappointed.

Now in the centennial of their founding, the ACLU has always been a left-wing organization, with the progressive’s pronounced predilection for fighting on behalf of the underdog. At times they have been willing to stand on principle and take unpopular stances in the name of advancing important civil rights, for example their opposition to the internment of Japanese-Americans during the Second World War or their advocacy for allowing Nazis to hold a public march in Skokie, IL during the 1970s. Over the last third of their existence, however, they have generally chosen to stick with trendy social justice crusades and ignore those instances where it’s their traditional allies on the left who seek to curtail our freedoms. The ACLU has mostly deserted the battlefield where campus speech codes are concerned, forcing groups like the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education to step into the void. They chose to support the alleged right to full contraception coverage promised by Obamacare over the religious freedom of the Little Sisters of the Poor. And now they’ve determined that kangaroo courts under no obligation to follow due process traditions are hunky-dory in their book if it provides feminists with a more secure sense of just retribution for alleged sexual assaults. At a time when the leadership of both major parties has appeared to be lukewarm at best to the Constitution, it’s a shame that the ACLU is so happily frittering away their reputation for protecting everyone’s civil rights, not just the groups in favor with the wokerati.

As for me, I will continue to return all of the mailings they send me in their postage-paid envelopes along with a note informing them that I will never donate to their rotten syndicate, and I will happily tell the canvassers seeking donations in the parking lot of Trader Joe’s to buzz off.


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