Calif. Lawmakers Start Closing $9.6B Deficit
SACRAMENTO (AP) — Exercising their new majority-vote authority, Democratic lawmakers began approving an $86 billion spending package Tuesday but did so without the tax renewals they had sought all year.
Instead, they filled California’s remaining $9.6 billion budget deficit with more spending cuts, optimistic revenue assumptions and fee increases that likely will be challenged in court.
The state Assembly passed the main budget bill for the fiscal year that starts Friday, sending it to the Senate. That chamber could not reach the 21-vote simple majority needed to pass the bill and will bring it back for another vote later in the evening.
Both houses were taking action on a series of related bills that will raise fees, fund a prison realignment and prepare for deeper cuts to schools, higher education and social services if the revenue assumptions don’t pan out.
“This plan is best described as making the best out of a bad situation,” said Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Sherman Oaks, chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee.
Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown had hoped to extend temporary increases passed two years ago to the state sales, personal income and vehicle taxes to help close the state’s budget deficit. Brown wanted the Legislature to call a special election so voters could decide the question, but he could not persuade any Republicans to support it.
While Democrats can pass a budget with a simple majority vote, a two-thirds vote is needed for tax increases and to place measures on the ballot.
Republicans had wanted reforms to the public pension system, a state spending cap and an overhaul of state business regulations but in the end could not close a deal with the governor. On Tuesday, they criticized the Democratic budget plan, especially its reliance on the assumption that general tax revenue will rise $4 billion more than expected in the coming fiscal year.
“It is woefully short on reforms,” said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber. “There’s some creative work in here, creative in terms of determining how much new money might be available.”
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)