With the state budget mired in deficits, Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators, especially his fellow Democrats, are searching under every fiscal rock for money to spend.
That search has spawned an odd syndrome involving what could be three big pots of money a competition among liberals over how they should be spent if, indeed, they materialize.
What could be several billion dollars a year in "cap-and-trade" fees that industries must pay as part of the state's anti-greenhouse gas crusade.
Another billion-plus bucks that it's believed would appear were the state to change taxation of multi-state corporations by adopting the so-called "single sales factor."
A billion-plus dollars in low-income housing funds gathered by local redevelopment agencies before Brown and the Legislature put them out of business.
By law, the cap-and-trade funds must be used for greenhouse gas reduction. But they could be indirectly captured to offset state budget deficits by allocating them to existing state operations tied to carbon reduction, thus freeing up money for other areas facing cuts, such as health and welfare services.
Liberal legislators appear to be leaning in that direction, but Brown has indicated that he wants cap-and-trade money to be the backstop for his pet project, a statewide bullet train system, which otherwise is very short of money. However, the Legislature's budget analyst and other authorities opine that the money could not legally be allocated to the bullet train.
There are several bills kicking around to spend the corporate tax proceeds.
Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez wants to create a "Middle Class Scholarship Fund." Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, would use the money for a "Keep Our Promises Act" to bolster veterans' services, while a pending voter initiative would spend half of them on a "Job Creation Fund."
There is, meanwhile, no small sentiment for merely allowing the proceeds to relieve a general fund that is billions of dollars in deficit.
As it stands, the low- income housing money is to join other redevelopment funds in a pool to support schools and local government, thus allowing the state to cut its education financing and free up money for other purposes.
But housing advocates want the money to flow into their programs.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who is sponsoring a bill that would keep the housing money intact, said last week that he's stalling because he's torn between that approach and using it for health and welfare services to the poor.
These three pots could amount, in total, to as much as $5 billion. It would be fair to say that the conflicting demands are many times that amount. The scramble should be a window into the Capitol's pecking order and priorities.