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Biz Buzz: JS Design + Build welcomes Walker to team

JS Design + Build, Inc. announced that Gregory A. Walker has joined its Napa-based team as project manager and estimator.

"Walker’s resume exhibits an impressive history in the contracting business with experience managing projects, directing all aspects from design, pre-construction through project completion," said the release. 

He has 20 years of experience.  

“We’re delighted to have found Gregory whose long history and accomplishments in the field bring a lot to JS Design + Build," said JSDB owner and licensed general contractor Judy Schindler. 

Walker is a longtime resident of Napa.

California governor offers $144 billion budget, sees big surplus

SACRAMENTO — California Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed a $144 billion general fund budget on Thursday that’s up 4 percent from the current year and predicts a $21.4 billion surplus from robust tax collections and slower growth of state health care costs.

It’s the largest projected surplus since at least 2000, according to state finance officials.

The new governor’s budget devotes $13.6 billion of the windfall to build the state’s reserves and to pay down state debt and its growing pension liability. It’s in keeping with his promise to follow the fiscally frugal path of his predecessor, termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown.

Like Brown, Newsom said he is girding the state against an inevitable recession.

“The message we are advancing here is discipline, building a strong foundation on which everything else can be built,” Newsom told reporters in Sacramento.

Newsom’s proposal kicks off negotiations with the Legislature. Lawmakers have until June 15 to approve a balanced spending plan or lose pay.

Newsom previously outlined more than $2.5 billion in spending proposals focused on early childhood education and health care. He’s also asking lawmakers to vastly expand the state’s paid leave program for new parents. He’s framed his budget as a “California for All” agenda that looks to close the gaps between rich and poor.

The Democratic governor announced his plans during a time of sustained prosperity in California, which clawed back from a $27 billion deficit following the Great Recession that required deep and painful cuts to education, health care and just about every other service offered.

This year, state revenue has soared since lawmakers and Brown approved a $139 billion budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

The nonpartisan legislative analyst projected in November that lawmakers would have a $15 billion surplus to allocate next year on top of $15 billion in the rainy day fund, which is at the maximum allowed under the state Constitution.

Newsom emphasized paying off debts accumulated over the years. He wants to make a $3 billion one-time payment to California’s teacher pension fund on behalf of schools to help districts that are seeing more of their budgets eaten up by pension obligations.

He’s proposing $1.4 billion for higher education. The bulk, about $400 million, would go to the community college system with the goal of making tuition free for two years.

He wants to invest $500 million in infrastructure to provide more childcare and $750 million for kindergarten programs. And he’s calling for boosting a tax credit for the working poor by a total of more than a half-billion dollars.

Saying California is “not playing small ball,” Newsom is also seeking more than $1 billion to combat the most populous state’s homeless problem by encouraging new affordable housing.

Among the budget items that Newsom has already outlined are a nearly $2 billion plan to support low-income children, with much of the money earmarked for construction of childcare facilities and kindergarten classrooms.

Taking a page from Brown’s budget playbook, which targets as much new spending as possible on one-time expenditures that don’t carry a long-term cost, Newsom has focused much of his new early childhood spending on construction projects. That would limit the long-term cost of his initiative and help Newsom maintain his pledge to preserve rainy day savings.

Eighty-six percent of his spending is for one-time efforts, he said.

Helping low-income children in the crucial early years of life, when brains are developing rapidly, was a central campaign promise for Newsom, who has four young children and was elected with an overwhelming majority in November.

Newsom has also proposed expanding state-funded health care to low-income people living in the country illegally until their 26th birthday, up from a current cutoff age of 19. He wants to increase subsidies for people who buy their own insurance, rather than getting it from an employer or government program. His health proposals would cost $760 million a year.

And he plans to propose a significant expansion of California’s paid leave program, which allows new parents to receive a portion of their paycheck while away from work following the birth or adoption of a child. Newsom wants to eventually offer six months of leave to be split between the parents, though his initial budget will include a smaller step in that direction.

California currently replaces a portion of wages for six weeks for new parents, and birth mothers can take an additional six weeks of disability leave. The program is funded through a payroll tax. It’s unclear how Newsom would pay for a full six-month program.

Rich Pedroncelli 

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom autographs a copy of his book "Citizenville" on Jan. 6 for a wellwisher while attending a pre-inaugural Family Event held at the California Railroad Museum in Sacramento.

PG&E ordered to inspect all territory for trees, equipment that could cause wildfires

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal judge in San Francisco on Wednesday tentatively ordered PG&E Co. to inspect its entire electrical service area and remove or trim any trees and repair any damaged transmission equipment that could cause wildfires.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup will hold a Jan. 30 hearing to decide whether to go ahead with the order.

He invited representatives of Cal Fire and the California Public Utilities Commission to attend the hearing, in addition to PG&E and federal prosecutors.

Alsup is overseeing the utility’s probation in a criminal case in which the utility was convicted of violating federal pipeline safety rules and obstructing justice in a probe of a fatal natural gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno in 2010.

Alsup wrote that the purpose of his proposed order is “to protect the public from further wrongs by the offender” and to “reduce to zero the number of wildfires caused by PG&E in the 2019 wildfire season.”

The season runs from June 21 to the first region-wide rainstorm in November or December.

The judge noted that Cal Fire has determined that San Francisco-based PG&E caused 18 wildfires in its northern and central California service areas in 2017. The agency is still investigating the cause of the devastating 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County that killed 86 people.

The proposed order would allow PG&E to supply electricity during the wildlife season only in areas determined to be safe under the wind conditions then prevailing. Power would be shut off in areas not determined to be safe under such winds.

Alsup wrote, “This will likely mean having to interrupt service during high-wind events (and possibly at other times) but that inconvenience, irritating as it will be, will pale by comparison to the death and destruction that otherwise might result from PG&E-inflicted wildfire.”

PG&E spokesman James Noonan said, “We are aware of Judge Alsup’s orders and are currently reviewing.

“We are committed to complying with all rules and regulations that apply to our work, while working together with our state and community partners and across all sectors and disciplines to develop comprehensive, long-term safety solutions for the future,” Noonan said in a statement.

Submitted photo 

Aetna Springs Resort.

Len and Rosie
Len and Rosie: Can rental home be sheltered from estate claim?

Dear Len and Rosie,

My grandmother died several years ago and left her house to my mother. The house was rented out since my parents live in another house.

If either of my parents went into a rest home would the government take the house since it is not their primary residence?

They have no assets other than my grandmother’s house and their own home.


Dear Sarah,

If one of your parents needed nursing home care, Medi-Cal would pay for that care subject to a share of cost, if their non-exempt assets are worth less than the $123,600 Community Spouse Resource Allowance (CSRA), an amount that will be updated soon for 2019.

Your parents’ home is exempt, but the rental property is not. Since the rental property is certainly worth more than $123,600, then the ill spouse cannot get Medi-Cal. Right?


Strangely enough, Medi-Cal eligibility workers do not care what your parents’ rental property is really worth.

To make it easy for them and to keep Medi-Cal applicants from having to pay for real estate appraisals, the gross value of non-exempt real property for purposes of Medi-Cal eligibility is the assessed value of the property shown on its property tax bill, minus the balance of any loans against the property.

It’s even possible to own rental property with a value of zero for purposes of Medi-Cal eligibility if the balance of the loans against the property are greater than the property’s assessed value.

I am sure that your grandmother purchased her home a very long time ago and enjoyed a low property tax assessment because of Proposition 13.

When your grandmother died and your mother inherited the home, the property was not reassessed because of the parent-to-child property tax reassessment exclusion created by Proposition 58.

This means that it’s more than likely that the rental property’s assessed value, and it’s value for Medi-Cal eligibility purposes, is low enough to fit inside of the CSRA.

Your parents should examine their property tax bills and other financial records to see if they will qualify for Medi-Cal if they ever need it. If one of your parents ever needs nursing home care, or suffers from an ailment that will likely result in a need for nursing home care in the future, they should consult with an elder law attorney.

Attaining eligibility for Medi-Cal benefits is only the first step. Protecting their assets from Medi-Cal claims is the second.

If either of your parents receive Medi-Cal benefits during their lifetime, then after they both pass away, the California Department of Health Services could assert an estate recovery claim against their assets.

It’s important to make sure the two properties avoid the estate claim, and, in this case, your parents may need an irrevocable trust to shelter rental income. See a lawyer who does Medi-Cal planning.

Len and Rosie