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THE BUZZ SHARING THE WEALTH: Californias brimming budget could pad voters wallets.

In a fortuitous development for Democrats, revenue surged right ahead of an election year.State bean-counters peg the overflow in the tens of billions. Starting from a place of plenitude will likely smooth negotiations between Gov. Gavin Newsom and lawmakers, and it could also allow them to give voters a financial boost before they head to the polls.

That could entail California rerouting cash directly back to taxpayers.Under the voter-enacted spending cap known as the Gann limit, the state must send excess funds to education or back to California residents. Newsom and his fiscal analysts have made clear that Californias windfall is likely to trigger that mechanism. The governor was reticent during his budget reveal about detailing what that would look like, but on Wednesday, he said we are likely to have an additional rebate to the taxpayers conjuring the Golden State stimulus checks that went out during last years recall campaign.

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A planned gas tax hike may also be on hold. Republicans and frontline Democrats have been clamoring for California to halt a planned annual increase that was baked in in 2017. Newsom included just such a tax holiday in his budget, which spurred enthusiasm from the likes of Democratic Rep. Josh Harder (who also claimed some credit for the idea). Its easier to forego more than $500 million in projected revenue when theres plenty to go around.

That scheduled gas tax increase was a major accomplishment for Gov. Jerry Brown and Democrats.It required some serious vote-wrangling, the effects of which reverberate to this day, and fueled a successful recall of Sen. Josh Newman (who subsequently won back his seat). So dont count on Democrats abandoning that work and ending the gas tax escalator, as GOP Assemblymember and House candidate Kevin Kiley is proposing. But a reprieve certainly wont hurt elected officials whose constituents are struggling with rising costs and maintain a gloomy economic outlook.

Not that Republicans are easing up on excoriating Democrats over taxes.A proposed constitutional amendment to fund single-payer health care may never clear a committee vote, but Republicans are hammering Democrats by linking them to a potentially massive tax increase. The practical effect of Democrats two-thirds majorities is often overstated having the margin for a tax increase doesnt mean you actually have the votes and thats never truer than in an election year.

BUENOS DÍAS, good Thursday morning. Heavyweight union officials and lawmakers are rallying at the Capitol today in favor of Newsoms proposal to reinstitute two weeks of paid coronavirus sick leave, underscoring that its a priority for organized labor.

Got a tip or story idea for California Playbook? Hit [email protected] or follow me on Twitter @jeremybwhite.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: Theres a legislative proposal that has nothing to do with the universal health care program I put out. Ours is funded. Ours is budgeted. Ours allows us to not only balance the budget this year but to balance the budget three years out. Newsom on how his universal Medi-Cal plan differs from single-payer legislation.

TWEET OF THE DAY: Former Assemblymember Bruce Young @realassemblyman, who was convicted on corruption charges, later dismissed, on lawmakers relationships with lobbyists: (2) They used to have a thing called Moose Milk where members and lobbyists would gather to get to know each other. I would be less than honest if I didnt admit that when all things were equal, I sided with my friends. I used to say that my friends won all ties.

WHERES GAVIN? In Santa Clara County, to highlight the transportation and infrastructure investments in his budget. Stream at 11 a.m. via Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

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TOP TALKERS

NO-SHOW McCarthy rejects Jan. 6 committee request for testimony about talks with Trump, by POLITICOs Kyle Cheney, Nicholas Wu and Olivia Beavers: McCarthy, who helped scuttle an attempt to establish a bipartisan commission to investigate the insurrection, has spent months thrashing the Jan. 6 committee.

GONZALEZ-FLETCHER FIRE Suspicious fire in San Diego scorches home of former legislator Lorena Gonzalez, by the San Diego U-Ts Teri Figueroa: San Diego police Sgt. Rick Pechin said investigators think the fire was suspicious but would not say how or where the blaze started. He said the Metro Arson Strike Team composed of police and fire investigators is handling the investigation.

A nightmare. Sacramento sued 12 homeowners during COVID. They lost control of their homes, by the Sac Bees Theresa Clift: Councilman Sean Loloee wants the city to instead start fixing the code violations for older residents, such as towing abandoned vehicles and paying for storage units.

CALIFORNIA AND THE CAPITOL CORRIDOR

CLOCK IN As hospitals reel, California tells coronavirus-positive medical workers to stay on the job, by the LA Times Hayley Smith: The policy, set to remain in place through Feb. 1, is designed to keep many healthcare workers on the job at a time when hospitals are expecting more patients.

Nurses, doctors sick. Ambulances, blood in short supply. Omicron hits L.A. healthcare hard, by the LA Times Rong Gong Lin-II, Luke Money and Emily Alpert Reyes: L.A. County has identified the 20 most hard-hit emergency rooms, and county employees have been dispatched to the top 10 all privately run hospitals to assist with offloading ambulances; the other eight are expected to receive federal help within the next two weeks, Ghaly said.

NEW RULES San Jose leaders approve new COVID-19 booster shot mandate, by the Mercury News Maggie Angst and Summer Lin: The City Council on Tuesday night also adopted a new ordinance requiring visitors of large, indoor events held at public facilities such as the SAP Center and San Jose Convention Center to show proof they received a booster shot or at least submit a negative COVID-19 test before entering.

BLOCKED Judge blocks new California law limiting vaccine site protests, by the SF Chronices Bob Egelko: A recent state law that prohibits protesters from coming within 30 feet of vaccination clinics to harass or obstruct those seeking to enter has been blocked by a federal magistrate, who said it violates free speech.

HERE WE GO AGAIN Oakland schools: Another sickout set for Thursday in solidarity with students demanding COVID safety, by the Mercury News Summer Lin: Even as the students threaten to stay home next week, dozens of teachers and staff members are continuing a sickout to push for similar measures the students are seeking and in solidarity with the students.

REPORT CARD ‘Grim’ outlook for California children’s well-being, report finds, by EdSources Carolyn Jones: The expansion of transitional kindergarten was a bright spot in the report. California got an A- for its investment in transitional kindergarten for all 4-year-olds, but it needs to do more to ensure that all children have access to early childhood education, the report said.

HEAT WAVE Gov. Newsom announces plan to deal with extreme heat, by the LA Timess Cindy Carcamo: State officials, when asked why they hadnt completed the proposals identified in 2013, cited lack of funding as part of the reason. The new recommendations are tied to $300 million in funding that was set aside during last years budget.

NO ON TOBACCO Sacramento County bans flavored tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and menthol, by Cap Radios Sammy Caiola: The countys move comes months before Californians vote on a statewide initiative, which could uphold a previous ban signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020.

HOUSING After a pandemic pause, Oakland ramped up homeless camp closures again. Why? by Oaklandsides Natalie Orenstein: In the spring of 2021, closures resumed in earnest. There were three scheduled in March 2021 and another three in April, with a big jump to 12 in May. Since then, planned closures have been consistent, ranging from six to 11 each month.

MURKY WATERS PG&E Liable for Potential San Francisco Waterfront Contamination, by Bloomberg Laws Maya Earls: PG&E may be held directly liable under the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act because its predecessor operated the plant and handled or transported waste, according to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

SICK DAYS Will COVID sick leave return to California? by CalMatters Sameea Kamal: The supplemental leave on top of the minimum three days of paid sick leave a year that all employees get was funded last year by a federal tax credit equal to a workers paid time off, including any health care costs. That credit also expired Sept. 30. The state law didnt contain a provision to reimburse businesses and its not in Newsoms proposed budget, or in his emergency $1.4 billion request for COVID response.

RINGER OFF Remember COVID-19 phone alerts? California app ignores at-home tests, missing exposures, by the Sac Bees Jason Pohl: California officials chose not to include an at-home testing option out of concerns that people might erroneously input tests or distort the system.

WATER WORLD Wet Season Watch: Will California get out of drought this winter? by the SF Chronicles Yoohyun Jung and Kurtis Alexander: State officials track the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and the mountains of the far north by measuring its water content. This is considered the best metric for gauging how snow will boost water supplies.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE S.F. police chief slams D.A.s office for dropping charges against suspect accused of assaulting officers, by the SF Chronicles Andres Picon: The charges were dropped after prosecutors found that there were inconsistencies in police officer statements and that Lugo was not breaking any laws when he was stopped by police, said Rachel Marshall, a spokesperson for the district attorneys office.

New report reveals who gets stopped by the police in California, by the LA Times Justin Ray: A higher percentage of Black people were stopped for reasonable suspicion than any other racial identity group. People perceived to be Latino (40.4%), white (31.7%), or Black (16.5%) made up the vast majority of stopped individuals. The graph below shows a breakdown of these stops.

Kin of dead sex abuse victim sue under new California law, by the APs Brian Melley: Previously, survivors of plaintiffs who died in California could seek damages for economic losses such as wages or medical bills, but not for their loved ones so-called pain and suffering or disfigurement. California was one of few states not to allow those type of damages after death.

BIDEN, HARRIS AND THE HILL

ON TO THE NEXT STEP Senate panel confirms L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti ambassador nomination to India, by the LA Times Dakota Smith: If Garcetti is confirmed by the Senate before his term ends, the City Council could appoint an interim mayor. If the office of mayor becomes vacant, the City Council president, in this case Nury Martinez, serves as acting mayor pending appointment and qualification of a successor, according to the City Charter.

ROCK THE VOTE California Democrats worry Black turnout hinges on voting rights bills. Can Biden deliver? by the Sac Bees Marcus D. Smith and David Lightman: Chances are that the measures being considered in Washington wont impact California voting rules much, since restricting poll access is not a huge problem in the state. The danger of not passing the voting rights bills, said Black leaders, is in the perception that votes dont matter.

CAMPAIGN MODE

ANOTHER ONE Former San Jose assistant police chief jumps into sheriffs race, by the San Jose Spotlights Eli Wolfe: Knopf told San José Spotlight he believes some of the issues afflicting the Sheriffs Office are similar to what he encountered at the San Jose Police Department six years ago, including lack of morale and leadership, retention issues and trouble hiring.

LEADER LUCRE House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy reported raising nearly $12 million in the final quarter of 2021 to bring his haul for the year to a record $72.4 million money that hell deploy to elected enough Republicans to position himself to be Speaker.

SILICON VALLEYLAND

BYE, A.I. Economists Pin More Blame on Tech for Rising Inequality, by the New York Times Steve Lohr: Half or more of the increasing gap in wages among American workers over the last 40 years is attributable to the automation of tasks formerly done by human workers, especially men without college degrees, according to some of his recent research.

Tech firms cheer smoother visa sailing, by Axios Margaret Harding McGill: The demand for technical jobs has spiked during the pandemic, while a tight overall national job market continues to face pandemic-related stress.

Elizabeth Holmes: Theranos fraudster to avoid sentencing for at least eight months, by the Mercury News Ethan Baron: The decision by Judge Edward Davila followed a court filing Tuesday by Holmes legal team indicating that they had agreed with the prosecution to put off the hearing until Sept. 12. Sentencing in federal criminal trials usually takes place within a few months.

MIXTAPE

ANIMAL CROSSING Worlds Largest Wildlife Crossing Is Finally Underway in Los Angeles, by Curbeds Alissa Walker.

LETS GET DIGITAL California state government ending office leases as employees shift to telework, by the Sac Bees Wes Veinteicher.

L.A. County foster care system to ramp up services in Indigenous languages, by the LA Times Jaclyn Cosgrove.

DIRTY TALK Meet the San Francisco man with the inside dirt on citys famously filthy streets, by the SF Chronicles Heather Knight

Muir Woods is getting a $20 million restoration. Heres the most ambitious part of it, by the SF Chronicles Sam Whiting.

LAPD Falsely Blames Temporary Closing of Wilshire Station On ‘Defunding’ In Face Of COVID Surge and 12% Proposed Budget Increase, by LA Tacos Lexis-Olivier Ray.

S.F. appellate justice is latest Biden appointee confirmed to the Ninth Circuit, by the SF Chronicles Bob Egelko

BIRTHDAYS

Kristina Schake Nora Walsh-DeVries of Rep. Katie Porters (D-Calif.) office … Julia Louis-Dreyfus … Mary Podesta … Shira Feinstein

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