Latest California news, sports, business and entertainment

CALIFORNIA BUDGET

Brown's budget plan starts tackling 'wall of debt'

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Gov. Jerry Brown is promising to chip into what he calls California's massive "wall of debt" in the state budget he is proposing for the coming fiscal year.

Soaring revenue from an improving economy and voter-approved tax increases have put the state in the rare position of having a projected multibillion dollar budget surplus.

While Brown proposes an 8.5 percent boost in spending from the current year's budget, he also takes aim at nearly $355 billion in unfunded liabilities and debts.

His budget proposal for the 2014-15 fiscal year will be released formally Thursday. In it, he dedicates $11 billion to paying down the debts and liabilities, including $6 billion in payments that had been deferred to schools.

Brown also proposes setting aside $1.6 billion for a rainy day fund.

COLLEGE ATHLETE DIES

Coroner investigates death of USC athlete

(Information in the following story is from: The Orange County Register, http://www.ocregister.com)

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — The Orange County Coroner's Office is investigating the death of a college athlete who just last month helped the University of Southern California water polo team win a national championship.

Nineteen-year-old Jon Walters, a freshman at USC, died of a heart attack at a hospital Wednesday, his father, Bill, tells the Orange County Register.

Bill Walters says his son had been fighting pneumonia and kidney failure after falling into a coma on Jan. 1.

The coroner's office says the cause of death is under investigation.

Jon Walters was on the USC water polo team that won the National Collegiate Athletic Association championship in December.

Walters, who played center, was a member of the U.S. junior team while at Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana.

GOOGLE-FERRY SERVICE

Google launches private ferry service for workers

(Information in the following story is from: San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News, http://www.mercurynews.com)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google workers commuting from San Francisco to the company's Mountain View campus can now make the trip on an 83-foot, Wi-Fi-equipped catamaran.

The San Jose Mercury News reported Wednesday that Google has launched a free ferry service from San Francisco's ferry terminal to the Port of Redwood City, where employees can hop a private bus to work.

The chartered ferry can carry up to 150 passengers.

The newspaper says Google is hoping to defuse a controversy over the shuttle buses that several Silicon Valley companies use to carry thousands of employees to work from San Francisco and the East Bay.

San Francisco announced plans earlier this week to start regulating those shuttles, charging a fee for those that use public bus stops and controlling where they load and unload.

HIT-AND-RUN CRASH

Jogger struck in Los Angeles hit-and-run

(Information in the following story is from: KABC-TV, http://abclocal.go.com/kabc/)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Los Angeles police are searching for a hit-and-run driver who struck a man out for an early morning jog.

KABC-TV reports the crash happened around 4:15 a.m. Thursday in the Playa Vista area near Loyola Marymount University.

Police say the female driver first struck a light pole and then the jogger, a man in his 60s, who suffered possibly life-threatening injuries.

The suspect then ran off.

Television images showed the Buick with a crumpled front end.

KABC reports witnesses said the woman was on her cell phone and may have been picked up by someone.

CHICKEN PLANT-COCKROACHES

Roaches found at California chicken plant

(Information in the following story is from: The Modesto Bee, http://www.modbee.com)

LIVINGSTON, Calif. (AP) — Work at a California chicken plant has been halted after federal inspectors found cockroaches.

The Modesto Bee reports the Foster Farms facility in Livingston carried out "enhanced sanitizing" Wednesday after receiving a letter from the Food Safety and Inspection Service detailing the cockroach problem.

The inspectors said they found roaches five times in several parts of the plant over the past four months.

The letter said inspectors found the pests early Wednesday at a hand-washing sink.

The company says no products have been affected and the plant is expected to reopen soon.

The temporary closure comes three months after inspectors threatened a shutdown because of salmonella problems at the Livingston plant and two Foster Farms sites in Fresno. Those facilities stayed open after the company agreed to improve safeguards.

LIBRARY-HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMAS

Los Angeles library to offer high school diplomas

The Los Angeles Public Library is teaming up with a private online learning company to offer diplomas to high school dropouts.

Library director John Szabo says he believes the program announced Thursday is the first of its kind in the nation.

Szabo says it's the latest step in the transformation of public libraries in the digital age as they move to establish themselves beyond just being a repository of books to a full educational institution.

The library hopes to grant high school diplomas to 150 adults in the first year at a cost to the library of $150,000.