California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers failed on Wednesday night to agree to balance the state’s budget by closing a $26.3 billion deficit, but officials said talks would continue.
The budget talks, which have lasted weeks, have stalled over a part of the governor’s plan to suspend a law on school funding, Karen Bass, the Speaker of the State Assembly, and California Senate President, Darrell Steinberg told reporters.
The legislature’s two top Democrats said budget talks would resume on Thursday.
Schwarzenegger, a Republican, had said earlier on Wednesday, he was hopeful a deal to resolve the lengthy budget crisis was near and might be reached by the end of the day.
“There’s no nastiness in the discussions, no blowups,” he said at a press conference. “There’s none of that, so I think we have a good shot of getting the budget done today.”
The state government began its fiscal year on July 1 facing a historic budget gap and a severe cash crisis.
California, which would be the world’s eighth largest economy if it were an independent nation, has issued IOUs to vendors as well as taxpayers owed refunds to save cash for servicing of state bonds and other priorities payments.
Among sticking points in negotiations are Schwarzenegger’s demands for a budget deal including changes to rules he says will prevent fraud in welfare programmes.
He has also proposed paring education spending by suspending a voter-approved measure that locks in funding levels for public schools. Democrats oppose both ideas and are especially concerned about education spending cuts.
The size of a budget reserve also is being discussed. A cash cushion may help the state sell short-term debt after a budget agreement is reached. “It’s all about being able to go out to the market after this is done,” Steinberg said.
State Senate Republican Leader, Dennis Hollingsworth said the state could use a reserve of up to $2 billion.
California’s IOU effort is also intended to calm Wall Street. Credit rating agencies have grown increasingly anxious about sagging state revenues propelled by the recession and double-digit unemployment.
Moody’s Investors Service on Tuesday cut its rating on about $72 billion of the state’s general obligation debt by two notches to Baa1, or three notches above speculative “junk” status. Moody’s said there may be further downgrades because the risk to priority payments — and eventually debt servicing payments to bondholders — is rising without a budget deal.
On July 6, Fitch Ratings cut its credit rating on California to BBB, just two notches above junk level.
Democrats have conceded there will be no tax increases in a budget deal as Schwarzenegger and anti-tax Republicans in the legislature’s minority have demanded and have accepted dramatic spending cuts to fill the state budget gap. “We have made very, very deep cuts,” Bass said.
FOI Act Implementation Bothers BPST Boss
The Director-General, Bureau of Public Service Reforms, Dr Dasuki Arabi, has expressed regrets that the implementation of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) has remained very low since the law was enacted.
The BPSR boss made the observation during a workshop held on Wednesday in Abuja on the appraisal of Freedom of Information Act.
Arabi said the Act was meant to entrench transparency and openness in governance through improved compliance to annual reporting obligations of public institutions.
“It is also expected to guide and improve compliance of public institutions in proactive disclosure of mandatory publication requirements, as well as empower citizens, the right to access information held by the state.
“Regrettably, since the introduction of the FOI Act, it is evident that the level of compliance among public institutions still remains low.
“While the level of engagement by citizens still remains insignificant and in some cases fraught with misunderstanding between the State and Non-State actors,” he added.
Arabi, therefore, said that the workshop was to resolve some of the grey areas around FOI, as well as foster a harmonious relationship between the State and Non-State actors towards the implementation of the Act.
He said good governance and transparency would only thrive in the country when citizens access to Information is assured.
The DG emphasised that the FOIA provided platform for inclusiveness that sought to hold leaders to account and feed into the decision making process.
Arabi said that the Bureau had worked assiduously towards the implementation of the Act and was making efforts to ensure that it was institutionalized across the public sector.
He said that the interventions were in the areas of training public service workers and development of feedback mechanism through which a portal for application and responses for FOI request were deployed.
Others, he said, are score-card for ranking the performances of websites of public institutions using specific benchmarks, including FOI portal.
“Creating platforms for citizens engagement with Civil Societies Organizations on topical issues of government through the BPSR flagship programmes such as the monthly Lunchtime Seminar series,” he added.
Arabi said that the Bureau had also deployed information technology to provide innovative means to improve record keeping and management using intranet and Electronic Data Management Systems.
He continued that they were working in conjunction with the Nigeria Economic Summit Group to gauge the perception of citizens on public policies.
In her remarks, the National Coordinator, Open Government Partnership (OGP), Nigeria, Dr Gloria Ahmed, said making information open was a hallmark of democracy and a basic human right.
She said that the FOIA has given citizens the opportunity to access information as regards government policies and reforms.
FCTA Harmonises Mobile Adverts, Haulage System Against Double Taxation
The Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), Department of Outdoor Advertisement and Signage (DOAS), has launched the FCT/State Mobile Advertisement and Haulage permits for 2023 financial year.
Permanent Secretary, FCTA, Mr Olusade Adesola, while launching the system sought the cooperation of the business owners in the FCT, in order to achieve the objective of the initiative.
Adesola said the move was part of efforts to facilitate the ease of doing business drive in the nation’s capital.
He commended DOAS for the initiative. aimed at improving institutional cooperation and partnerships with the critical stakeholders.
Adesola warned: “FCTA would no longer tolerate acts of thuggery in the collection of taxes, as there are better ways of doing such, which will ensure the attainment of ease of doing business.”
He commended the leadership of Area Councils for resolving to synergise with DOAS to streamline the system.
The Permanent Secretary said the proliferation of collection authorities for mobile advertisements had led to serious loss of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in the FCT.
Earlier, the Executive Chairman, Kwali Area Council, Danladi Chiya, said although Area Councils have the constitutional right to collect such advertisements, they have no issue with FCTA over the establishment and mandate of DOAS.
LASG Begins Vehicle Parking Lanes Demacation
The Lagos State Parking Authority (LASPA) has revealed it will today commence creating additional Vehicle Parking Lanes in some selected locations across the State.
The Authority stated that all efforts have been geared towards improving the parking system of the State.
Speaking on the planned initiative on Friday in Ikeja, the General Manager of LASPA, Mrs. Adebisi Adelabu, stated that the vehicle parking lane mark exercise, which will begin with designated streets within Surulere, Ikoyi, Lekki, Obalende, Ikeja and Victoria Island axis of the State, is a step towards improving street parking from 2023.
Adelabu noted that the Parking Lane Markings will further guide motorists and pedestrians on appropriate parking regulations and spaces, minimise indiscriminate parking, confusion and uncertainty, while conveying a range of information to residents on parking procedures within each specified environment.
According to her, the lane markings will also include special consideration for people living with disabilities and signposts for parking directives, among other features.
The General Manager, however, solicited the understanding of residents within the locations who might be affected by any inconvenience the process might cause, assuring that the government is working rigorously in regulating and improving the parking culture as part of its Traffic Management and Transportation Agenda to ensure parking is convenient, safe and secure across the state.
Recall that the Authority had recently unveiled plans to begin full implementation of parking policy in the second quarter of 2023 and has continued to sensitise the public on the need to embrace the parking culture.
By; Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos
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