Water works. A controversial plan to restore habitat and overhaul California’s water system will cost a half a billion dollars more than originally estimated. The price tag of Governor’s Brown Bay Delta Conservation Plan is now almost $25 billion.
Brown’s plan calls for two enormous concrete tunnels that would carry water 35 miles from the San Joaquin River Delta to pumps near the town of Tracy. From there, it would be directed to central and Southern California. Brown also wants to restore more than 100,000 acres of Delta habitat, which would require buying some farmland.
State officials say the plan will cost $24.5 billion dollars over 50 years. That’s $500 million more than earlier estimates. But they say the project will provide benefits to farmers and cities that outweigh the costs by 35 to 40 percent. And Gov. Brown says action is crucial because of the potential for earthquakes threatening the Delta.
“This is not an if, it’s a when,” Brown said. “And that’s the whole purpose of this. We also have great deterioration to the fishery resources and the environment. We’ve got to take care of that.”
Water customers would pay for most of the project. An official with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which imports water from the Delta says the overhaul would add between $60 and $84 a year to the bills of household customers.
A formal review of the plan is scheduled to begin this fall. San Jose Mercury News
Spending blueprint. The L.A. City Council has voted unanimously to adopt a $7.7 billion dollar spending plan for the fiscal year that starts in July. The budget provides money to hire new firefighters and additional funding for tree trimming, street paving, graffiti removal, and the purchase of almost 300 new police cars. It also includes money to keep the downtown Central Library and eight regional branches open seven days a week. L.A. Daily News
Budget boost. L.A. County’s budget picture is brightening thanks to the improving real estate market. New figures released by the assessor’s office show that the total value of taxable properties in the county are expected to rise by more than four percent this year. That should deliver a $50 million boost in tax revenues to county government. Riverside County – which was hit hard by plunging property values during the recession – is expected to see tax revenues rise by 3.5 percent this year. Orange County is also anticipating an increase in the value of taxable properties. L.A. Times
Boy Scouts bill. Some California lawmakers want the Boy Scouts to pay higher taxes because of its refusal to allow gay adults to serve as scout leaders. The state Senate has passed a bill that would revoke the non-profit status of any group that discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identification. The Scouts recently moved to allow gay youth to join, but the group kept in place a ban on gay adults. The Senate bill required a two-thirds majority because it changes the state tax code. It passed 27-9, with no votes to spare. The bill now goes to the Assembly. L.A. Times
Gun controls. California lawmakers have passed a series of firearms bills designed to lower the chances of mass shootings. Among other changes, the bills would expand the list of people blocked from owning firearms, require permits and a fee when buying ammunition, and ban semi-automatic rifles with detachable ammunition magazines. The bills were introduced in response to recent mass shootings in Connecticut and Colorado. The bills were opposed by most Republicans, who say they punish responsible gun owners and do not address mental illness. Sacramento Bee
No Child Left Behind. LAUSD is part of a coalition of nine California school districts asking the federal government for a waiver of a law requiring all students to be proficient in English by 2014. The waiver is required for the districts to contend for No Child Left Behind funds, which are directed at schools in low-income neighborhoods. The federal funds are typically distributed through states. But California has been turned down in the past and isn’t applying this year. L.A. Daily News