By Sharon Bernstein SACRAMENTO, California (Reuters) - California Governor Jerry Brown on Wednesday stepped up his efforts to enshrine a rainy day fund in the state's constitution, stealing some thunder from Republicans backing a similar measure as he seeks an unprecedented fourth term. Brown, a Democrat who has followed a path of fiscal restraint since returning as governor in 2011 from two previous terms of office in the 1970s and '80s, is widely credited with restoring stability to California's battered budget after years of multibillion-dollar deficits. "We simply must prevent the massive deficits of the last decade, and we can only do that by paying down our debts and creating a solid rainy day fund," Brown said. On Wednesday, he called a special session of the Legislature for next week to discuss his plan for requiring the state to set aside money earned from volatile investments such as those in the stock market in flush years for use later during lean times.
The board of Detroit's General Retirement System on Wednesday approved economic terms of a settlement with the city that include cuts to pension benefits, putting in place another key component of Detroit's effort to exit bankruptcy by October. The city also has reached a tentative pact with the city's other pension fund, the Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System, whose board is expected to vote later this week. Together, the two pension funds represent some 23,000 active members and retirees. The settlements were incorporated into a new draft of the city's bankruptcy plan, filed with the federal bankruptcy court late Wednesday, hours before U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes was scheduled to hear objections to the proposed restructuring.
The United States warned Wednesday it was "actively preparing" new sanctions to hit Russia if critical Ukraine talks do not produce concessions from Moscow. US officials privately signaled they had little hope that the Geneva talks between Russia, Ukraine, the European Union and Washington would make significant progress. They also revealed that the toughest available sanctions -- those targeting key sectors of the Russian economy -- would only come into force in the event of a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A former US municipal leader was jailed for 12 years Wednesday and ordered to pay back $8.8 million for a massive corruption scandal which rocked a small Californian city in 2010. Robert Rizzo, former chief administrative officer of the working-class city of Bell, outside Los Angeles, was sentenced after pleading no contest to 69 charges against him.
Partisan bickering over immigration reform legislation intensified on Wednesday as President Barack Obama and House of Representatives Republicans accused each other of standing in the way of progress one year after bipartisan Senate legislation was introduced. On the one-year anniversary of the Senate bill, Obama went on the attack after a long period of trying to encourage progress in the House. "Unfortunately, Republicans in the House of Representatives have repeatedly failed to take action, seemingly preferring the status quo of a broken immigration system over meaningful reform," Obama said in a statement released by the White House.
(Reuters) - The board of Detroit's General Retirement System on Wednesday approved economic terms of a settlement with the city that include cuts to pension benefits, putting in place another key component of Detroit's effort to exit bankruptcy by October. The city also has a tentative pact with its other pension fund, the Detroit Police and Fire Retirement System, whose board is expected to vote later this week. Together, the two pension funds represent some 23,000 active members and retirees. The tentative settlement with the General Retirement System, reached during a mediation session late on Tuesday, would cut pensions for general city workers and retirees by 4.5 percent and eliminate cost-of-living adjustments, the retirement system said in a statement.
The United States warned Russia Wednesday to stop its "provocation" in eastern Ukraine, reiterating that new sanctions could be slapped on the Kremlin. With US Secretary of State John Kerry en route to Europe for international talks on the most serious East-West crisis in years, and a Ukrainian effort to reassert control over its eastern regions floundering, the State Department demanded de-escalation and demobilization on the part of Russian forces. "We definitely want to see an immediate halt to that provocation," State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters. Kerry and the European Union were to hold their first four-way talks with Ukraine and Russia Thursday in a bid to defuse the worsening crisis, but Washington was more interested in seeing direct steps on the ground by Russia, and warned it could penalize Moscow further if it did not stand down in Ukraine.
The US economy is showing clear signs of emerging from the brutal winter, with consumer spending picking up broadly, the Federal Reserve's Beige Book survey said Wednesday. "Economic activity increased in most regions" of the country since the prior Beige Book in early March, the report said, with "modest or moderate" expansion in most of the Fed regions surveyed. The latest Beige Book review of economic conditions, used by the central bank in formulating monetary policy, covered mid-February through March, capturing still-severe winter weather effects that began to fade last month. The health card for the world's largest economy showed that consumer spending, the lifeblood of growth representing two-thirds of US activity, strengthened.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ramped up his efforts to fight gun violence on Wednesday with a plan to spend $50 million on a grassroots network to organize voters on gun control. The initiative's political target is the powerful pro-gun lobby, including the National Rifle Association, that spends millions of dollars each year to back gun-rights supporters. Bloomberg's group, called Everytown for Gun Safety, will focus on state and local lawmakers, corporate boards, and state and federal elections - "fields of play formerly occupied almost solely by the gun lobby," according to a statement. The billionaire Bloomberg told NBC's "Today" show he did not view his $50 million investment as a "heavy political lift." "Thirty-one thousand Americans either get murdered or commit suicide with illegal guns.