Budget Negotiations Getting Combative

MARCH 18, 2011

By KATY GRIMES

The Legislature Thursday passed the main budget bill, with nearly $14 billion in spending reductions. Budgets would be slashed for libraries, higher education, parks, programs for the poor, universities and colleges, state parks and child care programs.

The budget passed even though Republicans threatened party “turncoats” who might compromise with Democrats on the budget, particularly by supporting higher taxes.

Even the proposal to shift tens of thousands of inmates from state prisons to local jails was approved.

However, the attempt to eliminate the more than 400 redevelopment agencies in the state was not revisited, despite needing only one more vote to pass.

In order to pass Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget and place the income, sales, and vehicle taxes extensions on the June ballot before the taxes expire, Brown needs four Republicans to go along. But he doesn’t have the votes yet.

With the California Republican Party convention taking place this weekend in Sacramento, Republicans appear to have held off Brown’s budget and ballot initiative this week. Many expect that arm-twisting for party unity will be the focus this weekend. But legislators could meet today and try to push through the redevelopment cuts, which Republicans are barely holding at bay.

The questions remain: Will this end up being an all-cuts budget? Or will Republicans succeed in getting reform measures on the June ballot together with Brown’s tax extensions?

Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton (Rancho Cucamonga) said In a statement last evening:

Unfortunately, Senate Democrats have passed a budget without Republican support. This budget grows government by 30 percent over the next three years and relies on the hope that Californians will increase their own taxes by $50 billion during the next five years. Senate Republicans will continue to fight for a state budget that puts people back to work, includes long-term solutions, and puts an end to government as usual.

The cuts to health and social services are being criticized by Republicans because service recipients are targeted. The GOP instead wants the focus put on heavy administrative costs, the excessive number of employees within state agencies and bloated overhead.

“We want to make clear that the cuts were difficult to make, but we need to do our jobs,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg responded.

This was the first budget vote where legislators implemented Proposition 25, which allowed a state budget to pass with a majority vote instead of the two-thirds margin previously needed. In the Senate, the vote was 25-15. In the Assembly, it was 52-26.

The vote to eliminate redevelopment agencies, however, still requires a two-thirds vote.

Giving some insight to the Republican strategy, San Luis Obispo Republican Sen. Sam Blakeslee said yesterday that if Democrats will not accept a spending cap, pension reform or regulatory reform, they should use a “one-party solution” and approve Brown’s tax extensions on a party-line majority vote.

In a legal opinion after the last election, the state’s Legislative Counsel lawyers told Republicans that Democrats could put taxes on the ballot with a majority vote — but only under certain circumstances. Any change would have to be consistent with the “scope or effect” of the initiative.

A majority vote to place a tax-increase on the ballot would have to be tied to a pre-existing initiative. Otherwise, it would risk being charged with “an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power.”

Even with no apparent Republican support, Brown insisted Friday that he is not even considering a majority-vote tax strategy.

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  1. ping
    ping 18 March, 2011, 13:20

    May I object just a little. I object to the premiss that budget cuts have to come from the poor, the children, cops and fire. This is insulting, albeit effective.

    Can someone ask in a loud voice … “How about cutting our State EPA?” We already pay for a Federal EPA. Is that one so, so bad that we need two? And if it is that bad… why is no voice to fix it / cut it ?

    From the budget: http://www.epa.gov/budget/2011/2011bib.pdf
    “The EPA FY 2011 budget requests $10.020 billion in discretionary budget authority. ….”
    Goal 1: Clean Air and Global Climate Change Goal 2: Clean and Safe Water Goal 3: Land Preservation and Restoration Goal 4: Healthy Communities and Ecosystems Goal 5: Compliance and Environmental Stewardship

    Reply this comment
  2. stevefromsacto
    stevefromsacto 18 March, 2011, 18:21

    Here is a thoughtful budget editorial from David Bolling, editor of the Sonoma News. Of course it will be anathema to most of the readers of this blog, but it never hurts to get perspective from different points of view.

    Wednesday evening, just before heading home for dinner, I balanced the state budget. It took me 12 minutes and I ended up with a $9 billion surplus by 2015.

    I did the same thing from a Beirut hotel room last June and came up with a $22.4 billion dollar surplus.
    You can balance the budget too, if you’ve got a few spare minutes, by going to budgetchallenge.org and following the simple instructions.

    My new budget is pretty much like my last one. I reduced health benefits for current and future state workers while increasing premium costs for both state employees and retirees.

    I also negotiated an increase in employee contributions to state pension plans, and cut $600 million from in-home supportive services by reducing hours of service for some clients and requiring certification of need. But I maintained current funding for Medi-Cal and for both the University of California and the CSU system.

    I kept redevelopment funding as is, preserving tax increment financing for local redevelopment projects. And I refused to cut support for the Community College system, keeping support at current levels of about $5,700 per student.

    I increased K-12 per-pupil funding by $2.5 billion, bringing it up to 20 percent below the national average.
    I supported Gov. Brown’s plan to realign state government by shifting responsibility for low-level criminal offenders, juvenile offenders, mental health services, adult protective services and other public health and safety programs to local jurisdictions, while approving a 1 percent sales tax increase, and a one-half percent vehicle license fee increase, to fund local government in taking on the new responsibilities.

    I also increased taxes on alcoholic beverages, eliminated economic enterprise zones and imposed a tax on internet sales for companies situated in California.

    I instituted an oil severance tax (California is the only energy-producing state without one) and bumped taxes on cigarettes.

    I directed greenhouse gas emissions cap and trade revenues into the general fund and required an annual reassessment on non-residential property values.

    Altogether, I cut spending by just $3.8 billion and increased revenues by $24.9 billion over current budget levels. The revenue increases were largely modest percentages in a variety of current fees and taxes, none of which would impose nearly the hardship on Californians that would come from gutting education, slashing social services and shrinking public safety resources.

    I was guided in large part by the belief that, out of a total state economy of $1.8 trillion, there is enough wealth in California to come up with $25 billion. It is one thing to slash the safety net when the economy is healthy and there are jobs to cushion the cuts. It’s something else to do it while people are struggling to stay in their homes.

    Your priorities may well be different from mine, and you can create your own budget with the help of the budget challenge tools created by Next 10, a non-partisan organization focused on charting California’s future for the decade ahead, and beyond. Give it a try and you may be surprised by what you learn.

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  3. GoneWithTheWind
    GoneWithTheWind 19 March, 2011, 07:33

    Limit the average pay for ALL state workers including elected officials to no more then the average pay of all private workers. This would be a huge cut in pay for state workers but that is the intent. It could also result in some/many state workers quitting and going elsewhere which brings me to my second suggestion: Freeze hiring state workers until the state achieves a 25% cut in total workers. I think most of us know we already have too many bureacrats.

    Reply this comment
  4. David from Oceanside
    David from Oceanside 19 March, 2011, 09:30

    I find the redevelopment agency the easiest of all cuts and acknowledge Jerry for making this possible.

    On a federal level the divide in government between the corportist and limited government free market types began early. Hamilton and his supporters wanted large government interference and subsidies for “internal Improvements”. Jefferson and his crowd fought for limited government and market solutions. The push pull between the two continued until the Lincoln administration when the Internal Improvement crowd all but won. Although presidents Madison and Jackson among others declared Federal “internal Improvements’ unconstitutional, Since the Lincoln consolidation of power only crackpots like Ron Paul have called for limited constitutional government.

    At the state level the Whigs and early Republicans were the responsible parties for the institution of “internal Improvements. Everywhere it was tried at the state level it was a complete failure. Not one of the many projects funded and begun with state subsidies was completed. Not one. The result of all this state run development was large debt, bankruptcy, corruption, fraud and theft.

    So glaring was this abuse from collusion between industry and state, that by 1861 state subsidies for internal improvements were forbidden by constitutional amendment in 13 states. By 1875 is was outlawed in all but Mass.

    Given the long and terrible history of government/industry collusion one might think Redevelopment should be ended. Recent articles in the LA times bring to light substantial abuses of the system.

    Politicians however relish redevelopment for the same reason they benefit from public employee unions. They use redevelopment to reward their special interests, who in turn put them or keep them in office.

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  5. Lea
    Lea 19 March, 2011, 09:45

    This is why I left the Republican Party, they are wimps. Here we had a chance to fix problems and did nothing. We could have reformed CalWORKs snd stopped California from being the palce welfare clients want to flock to.

    The Republican failed to makethose on welfare reponsible for themselves. Shame on the Republicans.

    Reply this comment
  6. surfcitybob
    surfcitybob 21 March, 2011, 13:40

    Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of congress. But I repeat myself.

    Mark Twain

    Reply this comment

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