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in the KNOW

June 28, 2013

Governor Signs State Budget

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Governor Brown signs state budget as Democrat leaders observe. Photo courtesy of Governor Brown’s website: www.gov.ca.gov.

This week, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a $96 billion state budget. Among its many provisions, the 2013-2014 budget includes a $1.1 billion rainy day reserve fund for contingencies and devotes $2.6 billion to pay down borrowing from prior years.

After signing the budget, Governor Brown said, “California’s finances are in very solid shape for the first time in a decade. We’re making significant investments in the things Californians care most about – the education of our children and adequate healthcare.”

Water Fees in the State Budget

The budget, as approved by the Legislature, contained a water fee increase on farmers for the State Water Resources Control Board to hire seven staff members to increase oversight and enforcement of agricultural wastewater discharges and develop greater expertise in agricultural production at the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Ag Council and many other ag organizations opposed this water fee increase and asked the governor to line item veto the appropriation. In the final budget, Governor Brown chose to reduce the new staff members at the State Water Board from seven to five, saying this reduction is “necessary to prevent an excessive fee increase on farmers.”

Ag Council appreciates the recognition by the governor that costs imposed upon the ag community are significant especially when viewed in the larger context of other water fees already being proposed by the State Water Board. Such proposed fees will impact farmers, dairymen and food processors.

As background, farmers within the Central Valley and the Central Coast regions pay for mandatory Regional Water Board regulatory program monitoring and reporting costs. In addition, these farmers have substantial costs to implement new beneficial managementpractices and infrastructure modernizations to comply with the surface and groundwater provisions of the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program.

Fertilizer Tax Update

The final budget does not contain a fertilizer tax, which Ag Council actively opposed in the Legislature and our members advocated against during our recent Legislative Day.

However, a separate state bill by Assemblyman Henry Perea (D-Fresno), AB 69, would impose a $100,000,000 tax on all fertilizer products sold in California. Ag Council and a large coalition of ag organizations oppose this measure.  Click HERE read a copy

of the AB 69 opposition letter.

To read the governor’s budget statement, including details about education and health care, click HERE.

Assembly Democrats to Lose Supermajority

Beginning next week, Assembly Democrats will no longer possess a supermajority as a result of two vacancies that will not likely be filled prior to the end of the legislative session this year, which is September 13.

A two-thirds supermajority holds significant power because it allows the political party in control to more easily approve state tax increases, override vetoes, and place constitutional amendments on the state ballot without support from the minority party. The state Senate continues to retain a Democrat supermajority.

Special elections for the two vacant Assembly seats will be held over the next few months.

Read more in a SacBee article HERE.

Salary Increase Approved for Legislators & Governor

The California Citizens Compensation Commission recently voted to increase salaries for state legislators, the Governor, and other state officials for the first time since 2008. Legislators’ health benefits were also partially restored to previous levels.

The panel of seven appointed members voted for a 5 percent increase, which restores legislators and state officials to their 2011 salary level following a pay cut in 2012 due to the state fiscal crisis. Currently, Governor Brown is paid $165,288 annually and, with the Commission’s decision, will be paid $174,000 annually starting in December.

For legislators, the average state legislator will see an increase from $90,526 to $95,290 this December. Prior to state fiscal woes, salaries for legislators in 2008 were $116,208. Per-diem pay will remain at its current reduced level and legislators’ car allowances will not be restored.

Commission member Wilma Wallace said that the increase is in acknowledgement of the efforts the governor has taken in reducing the state budget deficit.

The pay increases will go into effect on December 1, 2013.

Click HERE for a link to the California Citizens Compensation Commission’s site that lists public official salaries by year.

Blue Diamond Celebrates Opening of Turlock Plant

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Blue Diamond hosts the first tour of its new Turlock Plant. Photo by Elias Funez as published by SacBee.

Ag Council member, Blue Diamond Growers, recently opened its Turlock Plant for the first facility tour of the 200,000 square-foot plant, which is the cooperative’s largest single almond investment since 1910. The facility, on 88 acres in Turlock, represents approximately half of a three-phased capacity enhancement project scheduled to be completed over the next 10 years.

Blue Diamond President and CEO, Mark Jansen, said, “The new Turlock Plant supports the significant growth in our global almond ingredients business with a facility that sets new standards for food safety. While increasing our capacity and enhancing our capabilities, we are also able to produce efficiencies that allow us to confidently invest, knowing there is significant payback to growers for their investment.”

The first phase of the expansion allows Blue Diamond to meet growing global demand for value-added almond ingredients. The products from the plant will go into cereals, snack bars, yogurt toppings, baked goods and candies, among other destinations.

The initial phase will yield over 300 jobs, including over 100 direct jobs. The Turlock Plant began operation in May processing almonds from last year’s crop.

Click HERE to read more in a Modesto Bee article.