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Religion, Politics and World Events They make great dinner conversation, don't you think? plus Political Film

View Poll Results: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?
Cut spending. 61 48.03%
Raise taxes. 7 5.51%
Both of the above. 46 36.22%
None of the above. 13 10.24%
Voters: 127. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 06-21-10, 05:06 PM   #701
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Re: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?

Originally Posted by Lemmy View Post
You guys are so far off in your assessment of Unions that it's sickening. And there's no way in hell I'll change your minds, so I won't even try. You want no union? Don't work in one. But I'm sure you'll suffer for the lack of the Union; but hey, just attribute that fucking from the boss due to your lack of efficiency, and you'll be A-OK.

I'm done discussing Unions here ever again. You've won. Enjoy your Union-free lives. And if I didn't enjoy other portions of DVDTalk, I'd not be so polite.
You kind of missing the point. If I suffer, I know it will be MY fault. I'm not empowering my boss or union or anyone else to "rule me". I want it to be ME. Good, bad, indifferent, I want the responsibility, accountability and options to be ME.
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Old 06-21-10, 06:17 PM   #702
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Re: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?

Originally Posted by Thor Simpson View Post
Oh. We hadn't thought about those things. But- just shut up. You'll find out what the license plates will do and how they work after we pass a bill!
Some people think outside the box

As long as private vendors are footing the bill for this it's fine with me. When we wind up having to pay NOT to have them (in the usual trickery way.. you know raise the vehicle registration $20 and waive it if you have the commercial plate) that is when I will cry foul.
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Old 06-21-10, 06:38 PM   #703
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Re: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?

We're footing the bill to pay the legislators to waste time on this. Is there even a prototype for this thing? If not, why even bother? Why not wait until after the product is at least somewhat finalized before taking this kind of vote?

I know the response is going to be that at least this way, they're not doing any further harm making stupid decisions (like boycotting Arizona) that actually affect the here and now, and I can somewhat agree with that.

And I can seem them making you pay to have a custom plate NOT to show ads.

edited to add: Just read the bill and it does seem like this opens the way for the DMV to help fund this company to develop this license plate, since they don't even have a prototype, so we are going to be spending money here. And there are details about a screen on the dashboard so the driver can choose which ads to display. Again, are they going to force all new cars to have this apparatus, and if so, what's the premium going to be on new cars here?

Last edited by fujishig; 06-21-10 at 07:37 PM.
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Old 06-21-10, 09:28 PM   #704
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Re: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?

Next our hubcaps will look like this.

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Old 06-22-10, 11:05 PM   #705
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Re: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?

Interesting way to solve your budget problems. Wonder if this will set a new trend in the state.,7006423.story

Maywood to hire others to run the city
The L.A. County community, facing a $450,000 budget deficit, plans to lay off its employees, disband its Police Department and contract its operations to the Sheriff's Department and the neighboring city of Bell. Experts say it is the only city in the state to take such drastic action.

By Ruben Vives, Jeff Gottlieb and Hector Becerra, Los Angeles Times

June 23, 2010

Maywood, a small working-class community south of downtown Los Angeles, plans to lay off all its employees, disband its Police Department and turn over its entire municipal operations to a neighbor — an action that appears to be without precedent among California cities.

Several cities in the state have said that they are close to bankruptcy because of the sharp drop in sales and property tax revenues caused by the deepest recession in decades. But experts who track California cities say Maywood is the only case they know of in which a city has dismissed all top positions except for the city manager, city attorney and elected officials. Under the plan adopted by the City Council on Monday night, council members would continue to be paid to set policy, but all services would be contracted out.

"Most cities would generally maintain a certain workforce," said Sam Olivito, head of the California Contract Cities Assn. Vallejo, in Northern California, filed for bankruptcy in 2008, but City Hall and the Police Department continued to operate independently.

Maywood officials said they had no choice but to adopt the drastic plan.

Maywood's $10.1-million general fund budget has a deficit of at least $450,000, officials said. Beyond that, the city has been unable to obtain insurance because of a history of lawsuits, many involving its Police Department, which also patrols Cudahy. Operating without insurance would make even routine government services highly risky.

"We're limited on our choices and limited on what we can do," Councilman Felipe Aguirre said. "We don't want to file for bankruptcy. We don't want to disappear as a city."

Aguirre said filing for bankruptcy was not an option for Maywood because its problems were related specifically to insurance coverage and not cash flow.

But during a contentious City Council meeting that stretched late into Monday night, opponents of the plan accused council members of managing the city incompetently by failing to maintain the city's insurance coverage.

"You single-handedly destroyed the city," Lizeth Sandoval, the city treasurer, told the City Council.

Last month, the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority notified Maywood that it was terminating general liability and workers' compensation coverage because the city posed too high a risk. A large number of claims filed against the police were a significant factor in that decision. Jonathan Shull, chief executive officer of the insurance authority, said Maywood was the first city to have its insurance cancelled by the group. The insurer acted after Maywood failed to make basic improvements the insurer had mandated, including hiring a permanent city manager, he said.

"Maywood has had a rather challenging loss history in the last few years," Shull said.

The action is yet another blow for the predominantly Latino city of 45,000 residents densely packed into about 1.2 square miles in the heavily industrial southeast part of Los Angeles County. Officials estimate about half the city's residents are illegal immigrants.

Under the city's plan, the Sheriff's Department will take over patrols. The neighboring city of Bell will take over other municipal services, including staffing Maywood's City Hall, saving the city an estimated $164,375 a year, officials said. The changes would take effect July 1.

Contracting with Bell is the most cost-effective way to ensure that residents still get basic public services, Aguirre said. "Our streets will be cleaned, our potholes will be filled, this is not affecting any of that," he said.

Maywood's acting city manager, Angela Spaccia, declined to comment on the vote. She also declined to make employees available to talk with the media. Before taking the Maywood job, she was the assistant city manager of Bell.

Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez said the deal would be financially beneficial for Bell — though that was not the city's only motive.

"Of course, we want to make a little bit of money, but that's not really the point," he said. "We want to help our neighbor, we want to provide services to our neighbor, and that's good enough for us.

"It's sad to see your neighbor's house on fire and watch it burn, but we're not that kind of city," Hernandez said.

Maywood has had a contentious history for years. In the last decade, shouting matches have erupted during council meetings, election campaigns have been marked by political hit pieces, and even an accusation was made that a city clerk tried to have a councilman killed.

The Police Department has been the focus of troubles as well. Four years ago, the department faced a political outcry when it began running checkpoints that resulted in hundreds of cars being taken away from unlicensed illegal immigrants. Critics charged the checkpoints were an attempt to make money off Maywood's large illegal immigrant population.

The checkpoint sparked a political movement that brought a new council that was more sympathetic to illegal immigrants. But Maywood was back in the headlines when it declared itself a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants, making the town a target of conservative talk radio and TV news shows.
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Old 06-23-10, 03:44 PM   #706
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Re: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?

I realize that it is not the sole reason that Maywood is in the situation it's in (the corrupt politicians had a lot to do with it), but a sanctuary city, really?

And maybe she's just really really good at her job, but a 28 year old city treasurer?
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Old 06-25-10, 03:31 PM   #707
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Re: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?

Well, here's some waste. Sure, it's only 1.8 million, and it's from people on welfare who withdrew money at casinos, but I'm sure we can get the money back from them, no problem. Also, I'm sure they can't just withdraw money from the ATM across the street and go into the casino. Or make them promise to use it for necessities.,1615510.story

California welfare recipients withdrew $1.8 million at casino ATMs over eight months

By Jack Dolan, Los Angeles Times

June 25, 2010

California welfare recipients using state-issued debit cards withdrew more than $1.8 million in taxpayer cash on casino floors between October 2009 and last month, state officials said Thursday.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an executive order requiring welfare recipients to promise they will use cash benefits only to "meet the basic subsistence needs" of their families. The order also gave the state Department of Social Services seven days to produce a plan to reduce other types of "waste, fraud and abuse" in the welfare program.

The moves came after The Times reported Wednesday that officials at the department failed to notice for years that welfare recipients could use the state-issued cards to withdraw taxpayer cash at more than half of the tribal casinos and state-licensed poker rooms in California. The state initiated the debit card program in 2002.

Casino withdrawals, which represented far less than 1% of total welfare spending during the eight months for which the department released data, averaged just over $227,392 a month.

Schwarzenegger has already ordered the vendor that runs the state welfare system's ATM network to prohibit the cards from working at casino machines. Republican lawmakers are now calling on the administration to track down the people who withdrew cash at gaming centers and recover the money.

"I'd say that $227,000 per month is an astounding waste of taxpayer dollars," said Seth Unger, spokesman for Assembly Republican Leader Martin Garrick of Solana Beach. "To me it is absolutely clear that the department failed in its duty to provide oversight. We should explore all options to get the money back."

The electronic benefit transfer cards allow welfare recipients to access two accounts: cash offered through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program and an electronic version of food stamps, which comes with strict rules governing how the money can be spent.

The cash benefits, however, can be withdrawn and spent just about anywhere. A Times review of state records found that the cards work at ATMs in 32 of 58 tribal casinos and 47 of 90 state-licensed poker rooms.

Most of the ATMs impose a withdrawal limit of about $300 a day. The monthly cash grant for a family of three ranges up to $694, while families with more than 10 people can get as much as $1,469, documents from the Social Services Department show.

Some Assembly Republicans called Thursday for assurances that welfare recipients can't access ATMs at other "seedy" businesses. "If they're going to shut down … the casinos, why not also shut down the ATMs at liquor stores and bars?" Unger asked.

Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said the point of the executive order was to force the department to examine the program for all manner of abuse, but did not specify any other kinds of businesses that might be weeded out of the network. "We're going to eliminate any waste, fraud and abuse that makes sense to eliminate," he said.

Democrats, who have been fighting to preserve the state's fraying social safety net in the face of a $19-billion budget gap, angrily rejected a Schwarzenegger proposal last month to eliminate the cash portion of welfare.

That was before anyone in Sacramento realized the money could be withdrawn by someone strolling from a poker game to a blackjack table.

Democratic leaders steered away from specifics while discussing calls for reform.

"We will conduct timely legislative oversight," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). "We want to make sure all families are spending the money on the children it's intended to serve."
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Old 08-05-10, 06:31 PM   #708
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Re: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?

Los Angeles: Pensions projected to take up 1/3 of the general fund by 2015,5060130.story

Police, for example, can retire after 33 years of service (average age of retirement: 51) with 90% of their pay, then go pick up another job. Is that how it works in other big cities?

Also, I stated this before in the City of Bell thread, but I still don't understand why there's not a maximum limit to pensions, above which the wealthy city employee can take care of their own retirement? And why is it somehow based on the highest earnings, allowing workers to tack on overtime and get promotions in their last year on the job to get a higher pension?
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Old 08-06-10, 12:22 AM   #709
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Re: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?

Average age of retirement is 51 with 33 years in? So some must start working as police officers before they are 18? That doesn't jibe.
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Old 08-06-10, 12:59 AM   #710
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Re: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?

Originally Posted by kvrdave View Post
Average age of retirement is 51 with 33 years in? So some must start working as police officers before they are 18? That doesn't jibe.
That only guarantees them 90% of their pay. But they can still obtain a huge pension if they retire after only 20-25 years.

Any many cops do start out right out of high school, or a 4-6 year stint in the military, or right out of college. So that age group sounds right.
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Old 08-06-10, 12:41 PM   #711
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Re: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?

Yeah, sorry, should've clarified that a lot of them do retire early and get partial pensions, as Superboy said, as little as 20 years into the job. Note that I realize that the job is strenuous and that many need to retire early, I'm mostly wondering what the standard is in other places for police and firefighter retirement.

I'll include this here since we're talking about pensions: apparently, CalPERS did know about the drastic city of Bell pay increases some years ago, here's why they didn't do anything about it:,711701.story

During a routine audit in 2006, CalPERS learned that Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo had received a 47% salary increase the year before, driving his pay up to $442,000. CalPERS is supposed to stop pay spikes that can unduly enlarge retiree pensions, but officials signed off on Rizzo's raise because Bell's assistant city manager and City Council members were also getting enormous boosts. CalPERS took no further action. Rizzo's salary would eventually grow to nearly $800,000.
So as long as everyone is getting a ridiculous raise, I guess the pension overseers don't care.
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Old 11-15-10, 02:06 PM   #712
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Re: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?

More California lunacy....

UC changes barely touch retirement cost problem
Daniel Borenstein, MediaNews columnist
Posted: 11/13/2010 09:00:00 PM PST
Updated: 11/15/2010 08:34:45 AM PST

GENEROUS retirement programs that have been irresponsibly managed for decades are pushing the University of California off a financial cliff.

President Mark Yudof will ask regents this week to change the employee pension plan for new hires and reduce UC's contribution to health care costs for current and future retirees. But rather than reform retirement programs that are sucking money away from the classroom, Yudof is timidly fiddling on the margins, ensuring UC will be strangled by tens of billions of dollars of debt for decades to come.

Yudof's proposals are based on recommendations of a 28-member task force of UC administrators and faculty, most with a vested interest in the status quo, who quickly concluded that the current system must be maintained to attract and retain top-quality faculty.

UC could not, and should not, tamper with pension benefits employees have already earned. But, unlike most California public employers, it could, like the private sector, reduce, or even end, accrual of pension benefits for future work. That was never seriously considered, even though, for example, Harvard, Stanford, Yale and the University of Michigan don't provide guaranteed pension plans. Those schools instead offer faculty 401(k)-style retirement plans that avoid the risk of billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities.

Nor did the task force question why providing top-level pensions to attract coveted faculty members should determine the benefits for the much larger number of other university employees, who are more easily replaceable.

Instead, the task force proposed preserving the system for all employees with only minor tweaks. Yudof, in turn, echoes that in his recommendations to the regents in which he promotes inadequate solutions that will push the problem onto future generations.

Retiree health care

Since 1962, UC has promised health care coverage to retired workers. But rather than set aside money to cover the costs, the university has only paid the health insurance premiums when they come due. It's like promising a pension but failing to save money to fund it. It's a financial time bomb.

To adequately cover the retiree health benefits current and former workers have earned, UC should have set aside $16.1 billion by July 1, 2011. That "unfunded liability" is equal to more than two-thirds of the university's annual budget.

Yudof proposes two changes. First, he would reduce for all retirees the university's standard contribution to health care premiums from 89 percent of the cost to 70 percent over about the next six years.

Second, he would change the eligibility rules. UC currently makes the full standard contribution for 20-year employees who are at least age 50 when they retire. Under the new rules, 20-year employees would have to be 65 when they retire in order to receive the full benefit. Younger employees and those with less experience would receive smaller amounts.

But Yudof chose not to apply the second change to about half the current employees, thereby significantly reducing the potential savings. Consequently, the university would still be left with an unfunded liability of $13.4 billion by next year. Moreover, since Yudof has no plans to set aside money for future costs, the debt would continue to grow, reaching $21.9 billion in 2020.

Pension benefits

Most UC employees can retire starting at age 60 with 2.5 percent of top salary for every year on the job. So a 30-year veteran can collect 75 percent of salary. (The university and its employees also contribute to Social Security, which adds to those retirement payments.)

But the university's pension plan is underfunded by at least $6.3 billion because neither the university nor its employees made payments into the system for two decades -- while, at the same time, sweetening benefits. Blame regents, management and employee groups who agreed to this.

The contribution "holiday" started in 1990, when the UC retirement system had surplus funds, which ended this year. If the university and its workers had made payments over the past two decades, there would still be more than enough money in the pension system today.

Instead, the retirement program is underfunded and getting worse. The $6.3 billion liability does not yet account for most of the 2008 investment losses. To climb out of the hole, two things must happen.

First, UC and employees must contribute enough to cover the liability increase created each year as employees earn more future pension benefits. Right now, that liability increase is about $1.4 billion a year, or, put another way, about 17.6 cents for every dollar of salary.

UC policies adopted earlier this year require UC and its employees to start contributing again, but not enough to cover the liability increase. Employees are now paying 2 to 4 percent of payroll, and the university is contributing 4 percent. By 2012, that will ramp up to 5 percent and 10 percent respectively, shy of the needed total 17.6 percent. That shortfall means the system underfunding will worsen.

Second, the university must start paying off the total debt, which continues to increase. The problem has gotten so bad that regents have recently decided to repay the shortfall over 30 years rather than 15 years.

Think about it: For the next 30 years, future generations will pay off a mortgage created because UC and its employees failed to act responsibly during the past 20 years. Or, put another way, future students will have fewer instructors and support staff because money will be diverted for the next three decades to help pay costs the university and its employees should have been paying during the past two.

Looking to the future, the university is expecting its total share of pension costs to increase fivefold from today, reaching about 20 percent of payroll during a 10-year peak starting in 2018. It's unclear how UC, which is struggling to pay 4 percent now, will manage 20 percent in the future. Today, that would cost the university about $1.6 billion a year. UC will also need employees to kick in more.

To keep those numbers from getting even worse, Yudof proposes pushing back the retirement age for maximum pension benefits from 60 to 65 for new hires starting in 2013, and requiring them to pay more into the system. The so-called two-tier system is a marginal step in the right direction, but the savings are small and won't be realized for decades.

So, if UC officials this week try to sell this plan as reform, know that it's really only a minuscule down payment on a huge debt.
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Old 06-29-12, 09:51 AM   #713
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Re: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?

Stockton, Calif. files for Chapter 9 bankruptcy
Move stops a barrage of lawsuits and allows the city breathing room, city manager says

updated 6/28/2012 10:05:14 PM ET

SAN FRANCISCO — Stockton, California, became the largest city to file for bankruptcy in U.S. history on Thursday, after years of fiscal mismanagement and a housing market crash left it unable to pay its workers, pensioners and bondholders.

The filing by the city of 300,000 people followed three months of confidential talks with its creditors aimed at averting bankruptcy.

"We are now a Chapter 9 debtor," Marc Levinson, the lawyer who filed the city's voluntary petition in the Eastern District of California, in Sacramento (Case 12-32118) told Reuters.

Pleadings in support of Stockton's eligibility for Chapter 9 bankruptcy will be filed on Friday, Levinson said.

Stockton, which officially declared insolvency and its desire to restructure its debt, also filed a separate list of its major unsecured creditors.

The California Public Employees' Retirement System, which manages Stockton's pension plan, tops the list. The retirement system has a $147.5 million claim for unfunded pension costs.

Other top creditors include investors holding $124.3 million of Stockton's pension obligation bonds, $40.4 million of the city's variable rate demand obligations, $35.1 million of the city's public facilities fees bonds and $31.6 million of the city's parking garage debt.

Wells Fargo Bank NA is listed as the trustee for the investors.

"We are extremely disappointed that we have been unable to avoid bankruptcy," Mayor Ann Johnston said in a statement. "This is what we must do to get our fiscal house in order and protect the safety and welfare of our citizens."

Negotiations with creditors ended on Monday with Stockton failing to win enough concessions to help close its shortfall for the fiscal year starting on July 1. The city will also file a motion to request permission to share information from the confidential mediation process.

Healthcare to be phased out, pensions unchanged
The Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing, a rare event for U.S. municipal debt issuers, was left as the only option to close a deficit of $26 million in Stockton's budget for its the new fiscal year, according to city officials.

The budget approved on Tuesday by Stockton's city council suspends $10.2 million in debt payments and cuts employee compensation and retiree benefits by $11.2 million to help close the deficit.

About $7 million in savings would come from cutting retiree medical benefits for one year.

While the retiree medical benefits will eventually be eliminated, Stockton plans to leave its public pensions unchanged while in bankruptcy proceedings. Attempts to pare them would invite long and expensive challenges.

Stockton becomes the nation's most populous city to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy. But Jefferson County, Alabama, remains the biggest municipal bankruptcy in terms of debt outstanding, as it had a debt load exceeding $4 billion when it filed in 2011. Stockton has about $700 million in bond debt.

Stockton has suffered a sharp drop in revenue since the collapse of its once red-hot housing market, forcing it to cut more than $90 million in spending in recent years.

The housing boom transformed the farming city into a distant bedroom community of the San Francisco Bay area, and the bust put it at, or near, the top of national foreclosure rankings in recent years.

Standard & Poor's Ratings Services downgraded Stockton to default from selective default on Wednesday, citing the city's move toward bankruptcy and expectations that it will not substantially pay all of its obligations as they come due.

Moody's Investors Service on Wednesday cut to 'Caa3' various general fund-supported debts of the city, putting the ratings in the "substantial risk" category, one notch above the "may be in default, extremely speculative" grouping. Moody's said its move was based on Stockton's bankruptcy budget.

A sign of more municipal bankruptcies yet to come?
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Old 06-29-12, 10:53 AM   #714
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Re: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?

I know, I know, I'm anti-union, but when your retirement costs are 17.5% of the budget and growing, like Stockton had there's a problem with pensions and something needs reform. I'm not discounting the housing bust and development costs, etc.

Good thing Los Angeles is only at 15.4%... oh wait, that's not a good thing. And on a state level, even Brown's new budget with its cuts, is heavily dependent on the voters feeling pressured to raise taxes, and doesn't deal with pensions at all. That next bubble better come soon...
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Old 06-29-12, 11:35 AM   #715
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Re: What should California do to solve its $40 billion budget deficit?

I'm sure it doesn't help that Stockton has some of the highest gang members per capita (and the violence to go with it)

If all those police and retired police move on for lack of pension, what's going to happen to the city?
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