Calif. Lawmakers Pass Cuts, But Budget Unfinished

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Indicating they have gone as far as they can for now, California lawmakers on Thursday took a break from budget votes after tackling about half of the state’s $26.6 billion shortfall through cuts, loans and transfers.

They left the most contentious parts of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal unresolved, including his call for a special election so voters can consider extending recently enacted tax hikes.

The Legislature remains stalled over Brown’s proposal for additional revenue to fill the other half of the budget shortfall. The Democratic governor wants a special election June 7 so voters can decide whether to extend temporary increases in the personal income, sales and vehicle taxes enacted two years ago. If voters approve, those taxes would bring in an estimated $9.2 billion a year for five more years.

“The cuts we’ve made over the last two days are deep and painful,” said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, as he criticized Republicans for not putting the tax choice before voters. “Let’s finish the job over the next several days.”

Lawmakers spent the past two days chipping away at the budget by passing bills that reduced spending, give counties more responsibility over inmates and parolees, and make changes to education funding. On Wednesday the Legislature agreed to cut health care services for the poor and elderly, among other spending cuts totaling an estimated $7.4 billion.

Democrats said the actions over two days totaled nearly $14 billion and meant real cuts to people who rely on government services, but Republicans said many of the actions did not involve true program reductions.

Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said the budget contains “phony cuts,” including gimmicks and one-time spending options after Democrats rejected $1.6 billion in cuts proposed by Brown.

The Assembly and Senate adjourned until Monday, leaving Brown to continue negotiations with five senate Republicans who are seeking pension reform, a state spending cap and reduced environmental regulations, although none had yet agreed to provide the votes needed to put the tax extensions before voters.

Most Republican lawmakers have joined a group that pledges not to vote for any deal that involves tax increases unless the Legislature also gives voters the chance to enact a tax cut of equal or larger value.

“This proposal assumes a $14 billion tax increase,” said Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Thousand Oaks. “It’s an extra $1,000 burden to every taxpayer.”

Brown and Democratic leaders also have not been able to get enough Republican support to eliminate the 400 redevelopment agencies throughout the state, which the governor’s administration estimates will save the state an estimated $1.7 billion.

The bill fell short by one Republican vote in the Assembly on Wednesday. Democrats did not take up the issue on Thursday, adding to the tough choices ahead.

Brown argued that eliminating redevelopment agencies would allow the state to divert more tax dollars to essential services such as public safety and education. He also wants to eliminate tax credits for businesses located in enterprise zones.

While the houses adjourned, the legislative leaders instructed lawmakers to remain close to the Capitol throughout the weekend while Brown and Democrats negotiate with Republican lawmakers who willing to engage in talks. Assuming he has the backing of all Democrats, the governor needs two Republican votes in each house to call a special election.

Republicans argue that raising taxes would drive employers out of state and harm the economy.

“We keep piling more stuff on, more costs of doing business,” said Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga.

The taxes in question would hit individuals and consumers. For example, a couple earning $60,000 a year and filing a joint tax return would pay an extra $175 a year if the increase in the personal income tax is allowed to continue. The additional state licensing fee on a 2010 vehicle bought for $20,000 would be $100.

GOP members said the state should adopt public employee pension reforms, a cap on state spending and more government efficiencies before seeking to extend the tax increases, which are scheduled to expire this year.

“Any budget plan that does not include pension reform is incomplete,” said Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee.

Democrats said they fear lawmakers will have to make even more draconian cuts to vital services if voters aren’t asked and don’t agree to extend taxes that will expire this summer.

“The decisions we make today are going to hurt,” said Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles. “These are not … phony cuts. These are real lives, these are real human beings.”

In a sign of the impasse, the Legislature invoked Proposition 25 for the first time Thursday after Republicans would not assure support of bills that would give counties more responsibility over inmates and parolees and make education funding changes. Proposition 25 was approved by voters last fall and changed the legislative vote requirement to pass a budget from two-thirds to a simple majority.

The main budget bill also was approved on party-line votes — passing 25-15 in the Senate and 52-26 in the Assembly.

Realignment is part of Brown’s plan to have local governments take responsibility for many services now provided by the state, but the bill that would make counties responsible for incarcerating and supervising certain lower-level offenders, AB109, produced a partisan debate in both houses.

Democratic lawmakers said the step was necessary to save money in the state’s expanding corrections system. Corrections spending in the current fiscal year is $9 billion, or about 10 percent of all general fund spending.

Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, said the corrections realignment will result in 38,000 fewer inmates in state prisons by 2014. Democrats say the realignment, if enacted, would cut $450 million from the corrections budget in the first fiscal year, with the savings growing to $2 billion over three to four years.

Republicans objected that many of the inmates who would be shifted to county jails should be considered violent. They also warned that jail overcrowding would lead local sheriffs to simply release some of the inmates.

“Tell your constituents to get a dog, buy a gun and install an alarm system. The state of California will no longer protect you,” said Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster.

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

  • OlDog

    State employee costs have consistently grown faster than our economy has–even when it was growing. Either cut the state (and local) employee salary, benefit and retirement costs significantly and now, or necessary services and possible economic growth are dead for at least 5 years.
    Terrorism, Gov. Brown, is your public employee union elite supporters holding all state residents hostage for ever-greater ransom!

  • Thomas McDonald

    I will not vote to extend this extension of the tax..Did not work the first time to solve the budget problems..Will not this time either..The State must cut the fat first..

    • dunphy

      so the 12 billion dollars in intended cuts qualify as…?

  • herpe

    Were not kickin the can down the road no more. Two years of so called tempoary taxes didn’t even make a bit of difference. The defecit actualy got bigger. Democrats have been running this state for years and blame it on the Republicans because they wont fund their meaningless pet projects and useless overlapiing state agencies. Let them get us out of this mess!

  • LikeOMGIDK

    Wow, you don’t know what you are talking about. Compare State pay rates with private sector pay… BIG difference. An individual with a Masters degree gets about $35k per year at the state, for roughly the same job function in the private sector an individual with a BA can get $50k per year. The State employees are not the problem, some may be, but the general group are good people trying to make a living. Wow…OlDog you are so very wrong, you need to check your argument.

    • TJ

      State Workers make choices to work there. Depending on the job you do, will depend on the worth. If you go into social work, teaching, etc… have a MS/MA etc is just part of job. You don’t go into service jobs to make money. The private sector produces and therefore, what they make depends on the company and it ‘s performance. So my husband who has a BA while I have MS.. I make half of what he does. It is what it is.

  • Robert

    Just because you have a BA does not get you a license to steal from tax payers. Obama is supposed to be a brilliant man just ask him. CA is broke take cuts now or when we truly go broke that means no money you will be in the unemployment line with millions of your co workers.

  • stew

    Fools they have you fighting against your self all employers are taking advantage of the economy and keeping big money for them self while raising prices and making you idiots fight to take away your salary and benefit. Who ever thought you would want less money or benefits instead of fixing the problem and punishing the thieves.GET SMART PEOPLE PULL IT TOGETHER MAKE THEM BRING BACK THE JOBS and stop robbing you blind .

  • Weekender

    Eleminate all taxes, lay off all government employees and rehire them as temps. The temp employees will not have benefits, such as sick leave, vacation, health insurance, this would save the tax payers a lot of money. NO retirement at all.

    • dunphy

      it’s also illegal.

  • Mike Betzler

    where is all the 1/2 cent sales taxes that were going to go to roads, we have the worst roads in california.

  • jj

    ya right, the low level state employees are the problem…not the tax breaks for big business/oil, or the full prisons, or the big wigs getting richer while everyone else gets poorer. lets go build some more houses in the burbs and lay off some more teachers and things will be better.

    • TJ

      You would rather poor were poorer, provided the rich were less rich.

  • fool

    somebody has something i don’t have lets take it away i am to stupid or lazy to get it for myself.
    let’s see there is a money problem gee it could not be that the government gave it all away to wall street the banks and military contractors oh wait lay off the city and state employee and contract it all out yea like blackwater = any of several human or animal diseases characterized by the production of dark urine as a result of the rapid breakdown of red blood cells.

  • moo

    I would have to disagree I personally know people who have a BA and work for the government and make close to 50k a year. I see no problem with a BA making 50k but when they tell me how much their bosses make it makes my skin crawl. I saw you want to find a place in the budget that needs cuts its all of the top administration positions they rake in more money then most of there employs combined.

  • victor

    fi the elected officals REALLY CARE about the budget then why not cut Title one funding by 50%, no salary increases for state employee or state electted officals or appointees.

  • billie aldridge

    calif lawmakers are the cause of the trouble in calif so let them pay for it out of their pockets.

  • Dan

    Did you know prisoners get the best medical care available in the state? Lets cut down on the number of ambulance rides for inmates who complain every Friday of “chest pains” and just want a night on the town, to see the pretty nurses, and to get some free morphine. Makes me sick. Every single visit (and dozens a day, I might add) costs the the taxpayers at least $15,000. 95% of inmates lie in order to go on transports for fun and you and I end up footing the bill.

  • C. Short

    Personally, I think the current situation is far beyond the blame of one party over the other. Our budget has been late for the last 23 consecutive years. We have had multiple leaders in that span and none have proposed the level of cuts posed by our current governor. His proposal brings our budget to its lowest level in over a decade. AND…he is trying to honor his campaign pledge to bring any additional taxes to the vote of the people, which I respect and admire. For my family, I’d much rather see my vehicle license fee tax extend…or even increase, as well as my income tax…and pay an additonal 3-400 dollars collectively per year so that I don’t get laid off, as my husband is (banking) and so I don’t have to see my son struggle in a kindergarten with 36 children, and my elderly parent struggle from cuts to their programs. For a few hundred dollars out of my pocket, my day to day quality of life and stress would decrease. It would not kill me, but the day to day living with major cuts to education, social services, etc…will definitely contribute to long term stress. For those earning less than me, they will lose their child care, ability to keep working, and increase stress…putting more children at risk for child abuse and neglect. The voters spoke when voting for Brown on his platform to let the voters decide. I liked being offered a voice then, and I want one now. I want to vote on June 7th.

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