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Essential Politics: Budget day bonanza

I’m Christina Bellantoni and this is Essential Politics. Here we go!

It’s state budget day here in California, and before your eyes glaze over, consider that the annual spending plan touches just about every aspect of your life: class sizes in public schools, funding for road repairs, healthcare subsidies and how much you pay in taxes. Government budgets, it’s often said, are a reflection of our priorities.

What should you be looking for when Gov. Jerry Brown sends his budget plan to the Legislature later this morning? For starters, his view on the health of California’s economy, which drives how much tax revenue there is to spend.

And Brown will also undoubtedly roll out some new policy ideas. One of them, we now know, will be how to resolve a standoff over healthcare funding that’s been going on for more than a year.

John Myers and Melanie Mason scooped a few details about that effort — namely, that the governor has revamped a tax on health insurers that federal officials say is no longer legal. If he and lawmakers fail to do so, $1.1 billion in healthcare funding disappears beginning in July.

And there’s more to come, from Brown’s push for reform of public employee pensions to how much to spend on prisons in the wake of recent efforts to reduce the inmate population. Keep an eye on our live updates page today, and we’ll break down the numbers you really need to know.

CLINTON-FORNIA

Hillary Clinton comes to California on Thursday for a mix of important events for her campaign — from raising money up and down the state to wooing a crucial voting bloc.

She’ll start the day in San Gabriel to launch "Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders for Hillary" alongside Democratic Rep. Judy Chu, chairwoman of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

As we reported in this space Monday, Clinton captured Asian voters over then-Sen. Barack Obama by 3 to 1 in California in 2008.

Cathleen Decker finds that Clinton’s effort is not really about winning over Asian Americans in the San Gabriel Valley, but in the critical swing states of Virginia and Nevada.

She writes in her column:

The desire for support from Asians has been driven by their swiftly increasing numbers. Two million Asians were registered to vote in 2000; the figure had doubled by 2012. By 2044, Asians are expected to represent 1 in 10 voters nationally, according to a study by Karthick Ramakrishnan, a UC Riverside professor who has long studied Asian voters.

Already, the voting-age population of Asians exceeds 10% in seven states, including California. Important areas in other swing states, such as the Research Triangle in North Carolina and Fairfax and Loudoun counties in Virginia, also have growing Asian populations.

Can the group be influential? Consider this stat:

In 2014, a Virginia exit poll by the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund showed that Asian voters sided with Sen. Mark Warner, a Democrat, over Republican Ed Gillespie by a 2-1 margin. At the time, Asians represented 3% of the electorate. Warner won by less than 1% of the overall vote, meaning that Asians alone roughly accounted for his victory even in a state without a huge Asian population.

We’ll be covering the event, and any other stops Clinton might decide to make in Hollywood, so keep an eye on our politics page and follow @latimespolitics.

WARM AND FUZZIES?

Clinton is out West, of course, thanks to a Democratic forum in Las Vegas on Wednesday night that featured her, Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley.

Chris Megerian was there and writes that it was a rowdy night, with the room packed full of Clinton and Sanders supporters who "tried to drown out one another with cheering, air horns and vuvuzelas." Yes, vuvuzelas.

Megerian this week was observing Clinton in Iowa and found she is appealing to voters in a very different way from 2008.

As the former secretary of State and first lady tries to present herself in a more human scale, her effort appears to be bearing fruit, with Iowans saying she came across as simultaneously more confident and congenial than the last time they saw her on the trail.

"She’s not the fuzziest person in the world," Lois Boone of Sioux City told Megerian. "But she’s a lot fuzzier than she was then."

But you can put Ron Burkle in the not-feeling-so-fuzzy category. The supermarket magnate, who jetted around the world with former President Bill Clinton for years in an unconventional partnership that netted the former president about $15 million and Burkle entree into the palaces and offices of world dignitaries, talked with Evan Halper about the Clintons.

Let’s just say the friendship has faded. So what’s Burkle done for the Clintons lately? Nothing, Halper writes:

"They never asked me for a penny," he said of Hillary Clinton’s campaign during a rare interview in his West Hollywood office that touched on his dim outlook of Hillary as a candidate, Bill’s post-presidency role with Burkle’s investment firm and what, exactly, happened on those plane rides.

The festering weirdness between the California billionaire and the Clintons might have drifted below the radar but for Burkle’s decision to start raising campaign funds for a candidate other than Hillary Clinton. He’s co-hosting a fundraiser this month for Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich at Soho House in West Hollywood. Burkle says he might decide in the end to back Clinton — or he might not.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

-- The latest Obamacare repeal measure will hit the president’s desk. Noam Levey explains why congressional Republicans’ moves are more about Donald Trump than crushing the Affordable Care Act.

-- Sarah Wire reports that California’s House delegation voted along party lines on the bill to dismantle the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and cut off federal funds to health clinics that provide abortions, like Planned Parenthood. The state’s 39 Democratic members voted "no" and 13 of 14 Republicans voted "yes." Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) did not vote. Rep. Mark Takano offered some snark about the many votes on the issue.

-- George Skelton argues in his column that Brown is wasting money with a special election to replace Henry Perea, who resigned his Assembly seat to take a job with PhRMA. He asks, why not just allow the governor to fill the vacancy temporarily until the next regular election?

-- Veronica Wong has taken over as Issa’s chief of staff. His previous chief of staff, Dale Neugebauer, retired after working for the congressman for 15 years.

-- A California Assembly committee approved a bill Wednesday that would allow fantasy sports companies to operate in the state if they obtain a license and pay an annual regulatory fee, Patrick McGreevy reports. Website operators would have to undergo a background check, as well as pay taxes on their profits and report player winnings to the state. Those winnings would then be taxed. Licensed operators would be responsible for determining that players are eligible adults and that there is no fraud in the games.

-- David Zahniser has the details on L.A. Weekly managing editor Jill Stewart leaving her post to become campaign director for the Coalition to Preserve L.A. The Hollywood-based nonprofit group seeking a crackdown on real estate "mega projects" has drafted a ballot measure to limit the city's ability to change planning and zoning rules for major real estate projects.

-- The U.S. Supreme Court is being asked to consider whether California should do more to find the rightful owners of $8 billion in "unclaimed" bank, investment and retirement funds before seizing the accounts and pocketing the money. David Savage gets at the details of Sacramento attorney William W. Palmer’s 15-year fight to force changes in California’s Unclaimed Property Law, which last year contributed nearly $450 million to state coffers.

LOGISTICS

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