Budget passed; work unfinished
California lawmakers submit plan in time to keep paychecks
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – California lawmakers passed a $92 billion budget Friday to keep their paychecks coming, but they left welfare cuts and other difficult issues unresolved with Gov. Jerry Brown.
Democratic lawmakers in the Senate passed the main budget bill that outlines state spending on a 23-16 vote without Republican support. Majority Democrats in the Assembly also passed the measure, 50-25.
The budget and a handful of companion bills were sent to Brown well before midnight, when a constitutional deadline would have cut off lawmakers’ pay. But Democrats did not take up any of the contentious bills needed to implement the spending plan because they refuse to make deeper cuts to the state’s welfare-to-work program and other social services for the poor.
That leaves more negotiations to come, since the Democratic governor wants welfare reform and a larger reserve to help pull the state out of its projected $15.7 billion deficit. And the whole package hinges on voters approving an initiative in November to raise taxes.
Republicans called the plan incomplete and urged Brown to veto the budget bill.
“Today we are voting on half a dozen budget-related bills when there are at least 29 needed to balance the budget,” said Sen. Bill Emmerson, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. “Despite the spin, this budget is full of borrowing and gimmicks.”
California’s new fiscal year begins July 1. Without a budget in place, the state will not be able make certain payments to school districts and vendors, or pay the salaries of elected officials and staff. Democratic leaders said they hope to work out a deal with the governor in the next week.
Brown did not indicate Friday whether he would sign or veto the bill.
In passing the main budget bill, AB1464, before midnight Friday, lawmakers met the minimum requirement to keep their paychecks flowing under a voter-approved measure that blocks lawmakers’ pay if a budget is late.
Last year, the governor vetoed the budget passed by Democrats, calling it unbalanced. The state controller withheld 12 days’ pay, but a judge has since found that Controller John Chiang has no authority to block paychecks because it violates the separation of powers clause of the California Constitution.
California lawmakers receive a base annual salary of $95,290, making them the highest-paid legislators in the nation.
In introducing the Democratic spending plan, Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Bob Blumenfield said lawmakers tried to soften the most severe cuts to social services and proposed “more compassionate alternatives to some of the governor’s proposals.”
Both the governor’s plan and the Democratic legislators’ plan assume voters will approve Brown’s tax initiative that’s projected to raise $8.5 billion through mid-2013.
Brown’s measure seeks to raise the state sales tax by a quarter cent and increase income taxes for people who make more than $250,000 a year. If voters reject the tax hike, schools and other public entities would be subject to severe automatic cuts, which include shortening the educational year by several weeks.
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