Thursday, June 25, 2015

Almond board pushes back against criticism

With drought-related water cutbacks causing many an urban lawn to go brown, environmentalists -- perhaps most notably those in advocacy organizations disguised as news media -- have seized on the opportunity to try to blame almond producers for using too much water and (gasp!) sending their product overseas. The Almond Board of California is pushing back, announcing today a $2.5 million commitment to production research that includes studies on irrigation efficiency and honeybee health.

From the almond board's press release:
Today, the Almond Board of California (ABC) announced a $2.5 million dollar commitment to independent, third-party research into next-generation farming practices. The funding is part of an ongoing effort by the almond community to develop innovative production practices that lead to continued improvement in efficient and sustainable1 farming.

Today's funding approval follows a natural progression of research efforts by the Almond Board that enable almond growers be good stewards of the land. In the last two decades, industry-funded research overseen by ABC allowed farmers to reduce the amount of water they use per pound of almonds by 33 percent2. It has also helped develop orchard practices that better promote healthy environments for honey bees.

"We've made great strides in building a sustainable industry over the past 40 years," said Almond Board CEO Richard Waycott. "Because of the industry's commitment to research and efficiency, growers use 33% less water to grow a pound of almonds than they did two decades ago. Today's investment will fuel the next round of innovation to ensure we continue to grow healthy, nutritious food while improving water efficiency and continuing to protect our pollination partners."
Waycott mentioned the blame game in a conference call with reporters, saying: "We've been caught up in the blame game and the shame game. We feel that's not a comfortable place to be, but I think our industry has done a lot (to conserve) ... We're focusing on the future and on solutions."

For my complete story, check soon.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Hot weather to return to north state this week

After a brief respite, sizzling summer weather is expected to return to the north state later this week, according to the National Weather Service.

Here's the lowdown, courtesy of the agency's Sacramento office:
Hot temperatures and Increasing Fire Danger

Heat-related illnesses and impacts possible to likely if action not taken
Extra heat precautions should be made for outdoor events
Hot and dry conditions are priming fuels for enhanced fire danger
Initially dry mountain thunderstorms with lightning could cause fire starts

Forecast Confidence
High for heat
Medium for mountain thunderstorms

Timing and Strength
Thursday + Friday 100-112 degrees Valley
Warm lows in the 70s North Sacramento Valley
Mountain thunderstorms afternoons and evenings Friday into the weekend

Weather Summary
Hot weather returns late this week, with above normal temperatures by Tuesday and widespread triple digits in the Valley by Thursday. The hottest day of the week is expected to be Friday, gradually cooling over the weekend. A special concern for the heat is the large crowds at the US Senior Open in Sacramento. Moisture spreading northward Friday into the weekend will bring the potential for mountain thunderstorms with limited rainfall initially. A transition to wetter storms is possible as we move through the weekend.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Caucus cheers as USFS buries groundwater rule

From the Congressional Western Caucus:
Today the U.S. Forest Service announced full withdrawal of the Proposed Directive on Groundwater Management. The directive, which was proposed in May of 2014, was finally withdrawn after a bipartisan effort to stop the directive and protect the longstanding and effective state management of these waters.

Western Caucus Chairman Cynthia Lummis (WY-at large) and Vice Chairman Scott Tipton (CO-03) issued the following statements in response:

“The grounds for the proposed directive were never established, but the danger quickly became clear: a federal grab at the expense of state authority and private water rights,” said Chairman Lummis. “State led groundwater management isn’t just the law of the land, it’s the tried-and-true method to manage groundwater. While I appreciate the Forest Service withdrawing the directive, the Service and all federal agencies for that matter should think twice when they get a wild hair to force their way into areas reserved to the states, especially the lifeblood of western communities: our water.”

“It’s welcome news that the Forest Service has officially backed away from this ill-fated attempt to drastically expand control over groundwater and private water rights. This Directive would have been especially harmful to the countless farmers and ranchers who rely on access to their private water rights to produce the crops that feed our nation and earn a living,” said Vice-Chairman Tipton. “This is a win for all private water rights users, but short of a legislative solution such as the Water Rights Protection Act to provide permanent protections, we will continue to see similar attempts by the Administration to exert control over private water rights.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Fewer eggs being produced in California, says USDA

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
California poultry farmers produced 311 million eggs in April 2015, down 9 million from March and down 78 million from April 2014. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Pacific Region Poultry Report, the average number of chickens producing eggs remained the same from March to April, but was down 21 percent from last year.
I'll be delving into the reasons for this decline. Watch for my story at in the coming days.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Shasta cold-water plan complicates ag deliveries

The federal government's need to keep cold water in Shasta Lake for fish could complicate the timing and quantity of remaining deliveries to farms and other water users along the Sacramento River, agencies are explaining in a conference call with reporters happening now.

Here is the news release, courtesy of the State Water Resources Control Board:
State and federal officials today announced the outlines of a revised plan for managing water flows in the Sacramento River for cities and farms while keeping enough cold water in Shasta Reservoir to avoid high temperatures in the river that could be catastrophic for endangered winter-run Chinook salmon.

The Sacramento River Temperature Management Plan, which is required annually, guides the release of water from Shasta Reservoir to maintain healthy fisheries during the summer and fall, when water temperatures rise. In this fourth year of extended drought, with low reservoir storage levels and higher-than-normal predicted summer temperatures, the plan seeks to prevent another catastrophic loss of this year’s class of juvenile salmon. Federal and state fish agencies believe such a loss would have devastating impacts to the long-term viability of this important species of native salmon.

“Changes in Shasta operations will have a system-wide effect on Central Valley Project and State Water Project operations and water supplies,” said David Murillo, regional director of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), which operates Shasta Reservoir, California’s largest reservoir. “Every effort will be made to minimize the water supply effects of the adjusted operations and to ensure that water is provided to meet community needs.”

Changing releases from Shasta Reservoir this summer will affect operations of the federal and state water projects and the ability of Reclamation to deliver water to long-time water rights holders, although the extent of these impacts has not yet been quantified. Coordinating with the state and federal fishery agencies, Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources, which operate the projects, will rely on rigorous real-time management and system flexibility to minimize impacts on water users.

“The situation is grim for everyone and everything. The winter-run Chinook salmon may not survive losses in the Sacramento River similar to last year. At the same time, the situation is dire for California’s urban water users and agricultural communities,” said Charlton H. Bonham, director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “This historic drought continues to force hard decisions on how to allocate limited water supplies to meet ecological, urban and agricultural needs.”

Last year, despite modeling indicating that temperature control could be maintained, temperature targets were not achieved in the upper reaches of the river late in the season, resulting in the death of nearly all 2014 wild juvenile winter-run salmon.

Earlier this year, farming and environmental stakeholders came together with government scientists and water officials to agree on a compromise plan that would have released water for use by cities and farms but in the amounts and during the time periods that would still protect fish survival. Supported by diverse interests, the plan was submitted by Reclamation and approved by the State Water Resources Control Board on May 14.

The plan was based on Reclamation modeling showing that water temperatures of 56 degrees Fahrenheit could be maintained in the upper reaches of the river during the critical winter-run spawning and early rearing period. However, the equipment used by Reclamation to estimate the amount of cold water in Shasta Reservoir was later determined to have provided inaccurate data. In late May, additional temperature measurements by Reclamation pointed to warmer than expected water in Shasta Reservoir.

On May 29, Reclamation informed the State Water Board’s Executive Director that these warmer temperatures would make it very unlikely to meet the 56 degree target throughout the summer and fall as proposed in their earlier temperature management plan. The Executive Director temporarily suspended the plan while Reclamation corrected modeling deficiencies and worked with State Water Board staff and the fisheries agencies on an alternative plan. The State Water Board today is extending its suspension to give state and federal officials additional time to finalize the details and submit a revised plan.

Changing operations at Shasta Reservoir has ramifications not only for the Redding-to-Bakersfield Central Valley Project, but also for the State Water Project, which delivers water from Reservoir Oroville to Southern California cities and farms in the San Joaquin Valley. Reduced Shasta outflows also may require Reclamation and the California Department of Water Resources (DWR), which operates the State Water Project, to release more water from Folsom Reservoir and Reservoir Oroville to repel salinity downstream in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

The temporary emergency rock barrier installed across West False River in the Delta last month by the DWR will help ease the need to make bigger reservoir releases to repel salinity, but the potential remains for additional releases, depending upon the weather and other circumstances. Exactly how the changes in outflow from Shasta Reservoir may affect other water users will depend upon many factors, including weather, how much water is diverted or seeps in to groundwater aquifers from rivers and streams, and how much water is needed to repel salinity in the Delta.

Coping with this fourth year of ongoing drought and a potential fifth year of dry conditions will require maximum cooperation, collaboration and creativity from water users to allow for water transfers and exchanges to meet the most critical needs.

“This year is all about balancing unavoidable bad risks across the board and choosing a careful course given the uncertainties of what the summer will bring," said Will Stelle, West Coast Regional Administrator for NOAA Fisheries. "As we do so, we are collectively determined to avoid last year's loss of nearly the entire population of spawning winter-run Chinook salmon because of high water temperatures.”

Under the outlines of a revised Sacramento River temperature plan, releases of water from Keswick Reservoir, which regulates flows from Shasta Reservoir, will target 7250 cubic feet per second (cfs) as a basis for operations. Actual operations will be decided through a monitoring and decision-making process that examines on-the-ground conditions in real time, including water temperatures and the volume of cold water. The plan also will revise slightly upward to 57 degrees the temperature target for water in the upper reaches of the Sacramento River.

Reclamation, in cooperating with other state and federal agencies, will conduct necessary monitoring and reporting requested by the State Water Board and fisheries agencies to inform real-time decisions.

The revised plan will need formal review by multiple agencies. Reclamation is expected to submit the plan on Friday or Monday to the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for their review and concurrence under the Endangered Species Act, and to the State Water Board for their approval. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife will also be asked to issue a consistency determination under the California Endangered Species Act. The State Water Board will hold a workshop on June 24 to receive updated information on Reservoir Shasta temperature operations and the water supply effects of the operations.
Keep watch at for our continuing coverage of the drought and its impacts.

Canadian official: Dahle bill sends 'wrong message'

I finally heard back from the Canadian consulate with regard to my inquiries about Assemblyman Brian Dahle's bill to essentially set a state preference for California-grown wood products. Here is the response I received from Justin Currie, foreign policy and diplomacy officer in the Canadians' San Francisco office:
Canada values it’s strong partnership with the state of California. Procurement preferences and restrictions, such as those contemplated in AB 429, can impede legitimate cross-border trade between Canada and California because they create barriers to market access. Canada and California’s total goods trade is USD $46.1 billion, and more than 1 million jobs in California depend on trade and investment with Canada. Procurement preferences like those contemplated in AB429 send the wrong message to businesses and investors.

Furthermore, local content restrictions can often be complicated to apply, limit choice, and potentially can create liability in the event of their misapplication. Both Canada and California have commitments under the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Government Procurement (WTO-GPA), which provides trading partners with expanded access to covered procurement. Lastly, it should be noted that Canada’s sustainable forest management practices are internationally recognized as among the most rigorous in the world.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Locals gear up for this week's Shasta District Fair

Today I attended the annual media luncheon for the Shasta District Fair, which kicks off Wednesday and runs through Saturday at the fairgrounds in Anderson. Here is the full schedule.

The luncheon is always a great opportunity to touch base with other members of the area's print and electronic media. There's always a certain amount of turnover at the radio and TV stations in our area, so it's a chance to welcome newcomers to the area and let them know what we do at the Capital Press.

I'll be in the livestock area during the fair featuring youngsters in 4H and FFA, finding out what's new with them and perhaps finding a Western Innovator. Look for photos here, and watch for my coverage at

Friday, June 12, 2015

State fines Shasta County landowner over pot grow

From the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board:
The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board has imposed $297,400 in liability against property owner Christopher Cordes and contractor Eddie Axner Construction, Inc., for large-scale grading activities that resulted in actual and potential harm to surface waters in the Ono area of Shasta County.

The civil liability is the first penalty action taken by a multi-agency Cannabis Pilot Project formed specifically to address the adverse environmental impacts caused by marijuana cultivation. The project includes staff from the State and Regional Water Boards and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Assistance in this case was also provided by the Shasta County Department of Resource Management.

The grading activities resulted in unlawful discharges of sediment to pristine surface waters that provide habitat to aquatic organisms that are an important food source for fish, amphibians, birds and other wildlife. The contractor conducted the grading operations on a portion of the property without the necessary permits and was held jointly liable for up to $139,700 of the total penalty imposed.

Cordes purchased and developed property in the Ono area for the purpose of growing marijuana. The development involved the unpermitted grading and terracing of approximately 3.8 acres and 1.5 miles of roads that resulted in numerous discharges of highly erodible sediment and the unauthorized placement of fill into tributaries of North Fork of Cottonwood Creek in violation of the Clean Water Act and the California Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act.

“The failure of Mr. Cordes and the contractor involved in this matter to obtain the necessary permits prior to developing the property for marijuana cultivation resulted in severe impacts to water quality. The land grading activities could have been completed in a manner that would have avoided violations to our water quality protection laws and regulations,” said Clint Snyder, Assistant Executive Officer for the Central Valley Water Board. “The penalty adopted by the Board reflects the egregious nature of these violations and the importance of holding all involved parties accountable.”

Due to significant and potential long-term sediment discharges at the site, both parties are also under a Clean Up and Abatement Order issued on March 20, 2015 to remediate ongoing problems with the property. The order requires the dischargers to 1) obtain all necessary permits, 2) prepare an Interim Erosion and Sediment Control Plan, 3) prepare a Restoration, Mitigation, and Monitoring Plan, and 4) conduct long term monitoring.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

NCBA applauds House vote to repeal label law

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association is applauding yesterday's lopsided vote in the U.S. House of Representatives to repeal the mandatory country-of-origin labeling law that has the nation in hot water with its two closest trading partners.

From the NCBA:
The bill passed with a strong bi-partisan vote of 300 to 131. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President and Chugwater, Wyoming, cattleman Philip Ellis said this strong action by the House sends a clear signal that this is a failed program.

“COOL has been without benefit to the U.S. cattle industry and producers like myself,” said Ellis. “And now with retaliation eminent from our largest trading partners, it is time this legislation is repealed. There is no other fix that can be put in place to bring value to this program or satisfy our trading partners.”

Canada and Mexico have announced they will seek $3.6 billion in retaliatory tariffs, raising prices for U.S. beef, pork, ethanol, wine and a host of other products.

“It is imperative that the Senate act quickly to pass this legislation,” said Ellis. “The governments of Canada and Mexico have been very clear that they fully intend to retaliate to the fullest extent allowed by the WTO and the only step before that happens is to determine the actual amount. Retaliation will be in the billions, and our economy cannot afford that hit.”

The USDA’s Economic Research Service estimates that each dollar of agricultural exports stimulates another $1.22 in business activity and that every $1 billion of U.S. agricultural exports requires 7,580 American jobs throughout the economy.

“COOL retaliation will have a major impact on our economy and our trading relationships, now and into the future,” said Ellis. “Cattlemen and women support consumers in the information they seek, we are open and transparent, and we can do that without costly and trade distorting rules. We support voluntary labeling efforts that provide consumers with information they want and benefit cattle producers who can provide that information.”

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Water shortages cause drop in rice acreage

Last night's rain notwithstanding, rice growers in the Sacramento Valley continue to curb their expectations for this year's crop as the dry summer progresses.

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
Water shortages mean another cut in Sacramento Valley rice planting, according to the California Rice Commission. The commission said Tuesday it expects rice to be planted on 375,000 acres of land this year, down about 60,000 acres from last year and below an earlier government projection. Along with the loss of economic activity, the commission says the reduced acreage will also affect wildlife that depend on rice fields for habitat.
As I reported last month, the National Agricultural Statistics Service had anticipated 408,000 acres of rice this season.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Cut in Shasta Lake releases concerns CFBF

The state's largest ag organization is concerned that a halt in releases of warm water from Shasta Lake into the Sacramento River could lead to deeper cuts in water sent to farmers.

From the California Farm Bureau Federation:
Uncertainties have grown about the state's ability to deliver water for multiple uses, as officials reviewed river and reservoir temperature models for cold water being released from the state's largest reservoir, Shasta Lake, to protect salmon.

The State Water Resources Control Board has temporarily suspended releases from Shasta Lake into the Sacramento River. Officials said after four years of drought and very little snow melt, water temperatures are higher than expected.

Salmon and their eggs are very sensitive to water temperatures and are damaged or destroyed when water temperatures rise above 56 degrees. [...]

[T]emperatures in Shasta Lake are significantly warmer than expected and will likely make it impossible for the [U.S. Bureau of Reclamation] to meet the 56 degrees maximum temperature requirement at Clear Creek throughout the temperature-control season—through summer and early fall.

Chris Scheuring, an environmental attorney for the California Farm Bureau Federation, said that while the temporary cutback in releases from Shasta Lake represents a small fraction of agricultural water supply in an average year, farmers remain concerned that the inability to manage temperature requirements could lead to longer, deeper cutbacks.

"We're in a bad situation and there's just no slack in the system for anything," Scheuring said. "We're scraping the bottom of the barrel for human use, as well as for protected fisheries. The only reasonable conclusion we can draw from this is that additional storage might help in critical drought years like this."

Scheuring said additional water storage capacity would certainly give water managers "more options to operate the system and still manipulate temperatures in a way that supports fisheries, without detracting from reliable water supplies for cities and farms."

Monday, June 8, 2015

Slightly lighter prune crop expected this summer

The warm early-spring temperatures in California this year may cause prune tonnage to be slightly below last year, a survey of growers has determined.

In all, 100,000 tons of prunes, or dried plums, are expected to come out of dryers this summer and fall, down 4 percent from the 104,000 tons produced in 2014, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service in Sacramento.

While the plum set appears to be very good, the warm and early spring may increase the amount of smaller fruit, NASS reasoned.

Northern areas may fair better. Grower Tyler Christensen notices a heavy fruit set in his plum orchards near Red Bluff, as down crops in 2013 and 2014 may have given the trees enough rest to produce in abundance this year, he said.

"We had a pretty warm winter and a warm spring, so they came out of dormancy pretty early," Christensen said. "But all the farm advisers are assuring us that we had much better chilling hours than in the last couple of years. That and the fact that the trees got some rest from two years of down crops in our area, those two factors helped us out."

For my complete story, check soon.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

EPA: Fracking doesn't systemically pollute water

From the Washington Examiner:
In a victory for the oil and gas industry, the Environmental Protection Agency released a long-awaited draft study Thursday that said the practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, doesn't systemically pollute drinking water.

The EPA acknowledged specific instances of groundwater pollution from fracking, but ultimately said the draft study showed the threat is not endemic.

"We did not find evidence that these mechanisms have led to widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States. Of the potential mechanisms identified in this report, we found specific instances where one or more mechanisms led to impacts on drinking water resources, including contamination of drinking water wells. The number of identified cases, however, was small compared to the number of hydraulically fractured well," the EPA report said.

Fracking, with the advent of horizontal drilling, has unleashed the U.S. shale oil and natural gas boom, turning the country into the world's largest hydrocarbon producer. But the method, which involves injecting a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals into tight-rock formations to access oil and gas buried deep underground, has raised fears of water pollution.

The draft of the five-year-long study is sure to please drillers who had criticized previous agency findings regarding the drilling practice.
HT: Erin Ryan.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Weather expert on El Nino hype: Not so fast

Assurances of a strong El Nino weather pattern through the summer doesn't necessarily mean California is in for a wet winter, a National Weather Service long-range forecaster warns.

The federal Climate Prediction Center recently asserted that El Nino, whose warm sea surface temperatures fuel southern storms, stands a 90 percent chance of continuing over the next few months and a more than 80 percent chance it will last through the end of the year.

While there's more confidence that El Nino will continue into the winter, it's too soon to know how strong it will be, said Michelle Mead, warning coordinator for the weather service in Sacramento.

"The strength is really what determines the potential to see above-average precipitation for California," Mead said.

Early predictions don't necessarily materialize, Mead cautioned. She pointed to last winter, which started strong amid predictions of a wet winter but fizzled after Christmas.

The CPC's assertion prompted breathless reports by some California media outlets, including this one from Channel 5 in San Francisco:
Climate experts say El Nino is growing stronger and could bring drought-busting wet weather to California this year. [...]

On Thursday, scientists at the International ResearchInstitute for Climate and Society (IRI) said chances for El Nino this summer are close to 100 percent, with simulations suggesting by December, it could exceed the devastating 1997-1998 event that brought widespread flooding and hurricane-force winds to most of California.
For my complete story, check the upcoming issue of Capital Press.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Drought to cause $2.7 billion in ag losses in 2015

The drought will cause about $2.7 million in total agricultural costs in 2015 with direct job losses totaling about 8,550 and total job losses exceeding 18,600, University of California-Davis researchers said today.

The researchers were giving their first economic estimates for this year after estimating that the drought cost the California ag economy $2.2 billion last year and left some 14,000 farmworkers without jobs.

This year, researchers from UCD's Center for Watershed Sciences expect growers to fallow 564,000 acres, suffer a crop revenue loss of $844 million and incur $558 million in additional groundwater pumping costs, they told the state Board of Food and Agriculture in a meeting streamed online.

For my complete report, check soon.

State agencies brace for a summer of drought

Today promises to be a busy day for state agencies as they discuss how they're responding to the drought and its many impacts. In Sacramento, the State Water Resources Control Board will unveil April per capita water use information and discuss enforcement measures, while the state Board of Food and Agriculture discusses the (often erroneous) public perceptions of farm water use.

Both meetings will be streamed live online. Watch the water board's 9 a.m. meeting here and the food and ag board's 10 a.m. meeting here.

Meanwhile, Monday was the deadline for senior rights holders in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta region to submit their voluntary plans for cutting their water use by 25 percent. I'll be checking on how many farmers have signed up, what they're doing to reduce their water use and what it could mean for the future.

In the photos above, which are courtesy of the Department of Water Resources, crews are seen putting the finishing touches on a temporary barrier to keep saltwater out of the Delta during the drought. The person speaking in the final photo is Paul Marshall, chief of the DWR's Bay-Delta Office.

I'll be working up several stories on the developments. Look for our comprehensive drought coverage at

Monday, June 1, 2015

Nielsen lays out GOP budget priorities

From the office of north state Sen. Jim Nielsen:
As legislative budget conference committee members discuss the state budget, Senate Republicans outlined their priorities to create a bi-partisan budget that is sustainable.

While there are many positive elements in the Governor’s budget plan, it proposes a new record high spending level of over $267 billion and is precariously balanced. This is $13 billion more than last year’s budget. This rapid state spending increase will not be manageable in the future.

Senate Republicans support the following budget priorities:

Ø Invest in education – keep faith with voter-approved constitutional spending requirements for schools under Proposition 98.

Ø Continue to build the state’s new rainy day reserve as promised in Proposition 2.

Ø Pay down state debt and address unfunded liabilities like pensions that jeopardize our state’s fiscal future.

o The Department of Finance projects that under the Governor’s current spending policies, California will return to operating deficits in excess of $2.5 billion by 2018-19.

Ø Keep Proposition 30 taxes temporary. The dramatic increase in revenue from Proposition 30 taxes is short-term; and the Governor promised voters that these tax increases would be temporary.

Ø Invest money in infrastructure. Our roads and highways have been neglected for years; we pay a high cost for rough roads, spending more for repairs and maintenance, tire wear and increased fuel consumption. Gov. Brown has stated it will take close to $60 billion over the next 10 years just to get our roads and highways back in shape.

Ø Hold University of California to agreement to not increase tuition and increase state student enrollment.

Ø Heed the independent Legislative Analyst’s warning: “We are clearly on the upward slope of the state’s revenue roller coaster. But just as the state's revenue picture has improved significantly over just a few months, it can just as easily reverse course with a stock market or economic downturn. It is prudent that the Legislature act with fiscal restraint.”