‘Big three’ budget talks behind closed doors

June 11, 2012

By Katy Grimes

SACRAMENTO — This is budget deadline week in California. Which explains why every known special interest group in the state is at the Capitol, protesting against the looming proposed spending cuts. Hundreds of home health workers lined the Capitol halls Monday, greeting everyone who passed, making sure that their signage was noticed.

Gov. Jerry Brown has warned that social services and welfare cuts are inevitable, while Senate and Assembly Democrats continue to promise to save welfare and social services.

But the latest Field Poll found that while the governor’s tax increase proposal is currently favored by a 52 percent to 35 percent margin statewide, 43 percent of voters do not believe that Brown will solve the budget problems. “Large proportions of voters say they don’t have much confidence in either the governor (43 percent) or the legislature (65 percent) to do what is right to resolve the state budget deficit. In addition, by a 41 percent to 26 percent margin, more voters would side with the governor over the legislature if he and state lawmakers were at odds about matters relating to the budget,” the poll stated.

The poll was completed May 21– 29, before the June election, among 710 registered California voters.

‘Big Three’ Budget Talks

Monday was spent by “the big three” behind closed doors–Gov. Jerry Brown, Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles,and Sen. President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento

Senate and Assembly Democrats provided their budget plans Monday, which included lower reserves and significantly smaller cuts in welfare programs than Brown has proposed.

The Assembly and Senate will hold budget committee meetings Tuesday, and will vote on the budget on Friday, the June 15 constitutional deadline.

But in addition to cuts, there is much talk about the budget trailer bills, which usually become the home to the bad spending bills. Trailer bills are usually comprised of legislation which couldn’t get out of policy committees.

Earlier in the year I reported about the 80 spot bills — empty bills awaiting bill language — which were moved from the legislative budget committees to the Assembly and Senate floors.

The now includes Proposition 25majority vote by the Legislature to pass a budget; and Proposition 26 requiring a supermajority vote to pass fees and taxes by the Legislature. So the majority Democrats are making major policy changes and potential tax increases by dropping either in trailer-bill language.

By using the spot bills, and now budget-trailer bills, the majority party is avoiding the usual and legal committee process, and the public will never hear the policy and financial debate surrounding the bills.

This means legislators are not always given have a chance to weigh in on and debate the bills.

The tactic raises serious questions about the questionable lengths the majority party will go to jam through legislation without the historically and legal processes.

Bypassing policy process

In April, it was evident that the traditional Budget Conference Committee was going to be bypassed. A package of three mortgage bills mysteriously dropped off of the Banking and Finance Committee schedule one day. But these weren’t just any bills. They were the bills which make up the mortgage reform “Homeowner Bill of Rights” package, sponsored by Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Ostensibly, this bill package would reform California’s mortgage and real estate crisis.

However, after the Harris bill package dropped off the Assembly committee schedule, a related bill, AB 278 by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, popped up on the Senate floor one day later, and was shoved through to passage, with only support from Democrats.

AB 278 was just a shill-bill dealing with unlicensed real estate agents. But it was used to trigger the necessary procedures required to create a Democratic-controlled conference committee to manage the outcome of the attorney general’s bills.

Supporters of the conference committee option said that, because the Harris bill package was complex, the conference committee would provide lawmakers the opportunity to deal with the major policy changes.

But others were outraged and said that creating the legislative conference committee will allow the bill package to bypass the entire committee policy and finance process, as well as avoid scrutiny by the public.

“To have hearings on policy is right,” said Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar. “To obfuscate is not.” Huff pointed out that the Senate Joint Rules require that all bills, other than budget bills, must be heard by policy committees of each house.

“We form a conference committee to find a meeting of the minds,” Huff said. “Without normal transparency, major policy issues here will be decided on in some smoke-filled back room. Trampling on the rules is a slippery slope.”

Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters wrote yesterday, “This year, the Legislature is taking even more steps down the path to secret government by abolishing the traditional ‘conference committee’ that goes through the budget line by line in public, and by increasing the number of so-called ‘trailer bills,’ many of which contain token $1,000 appropriations, but have no real budget connection.”

“What’s the real agenda? Giveaways of one kind or another to favored interest groups.”

Budget, and Trailer, Bills

The budget trailer bill list is nine pages long.

Capitol staff said that there are goodies in the trailer bills like the climate change bill, AB 1186 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley; and environmental justice bills like SB 535, by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles.

AB 1186 proposes the use of Cap and Trade proceeds from California’s Investor-Owned Utilities to retrofit K-12 schools for energy and environmental friendliness, and redirect funds into classrooms.

SB 535 would require a minimum of 10 percent of revenues from AB 32’s cap and trade auctions be invested in low-income neighborhoods “to enhance or initiate projects that reduce emissions, and help communities confront the climate crisis,” according to the Environmental Justice outfit, the Ella Baker Center.

In the trailer bills, there is a $300 million loan from the DMV to the state’s general fund. As happens when a family member borrows money, it’s not a loan when there is no intention of paying the money back.


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  1. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 12 June, 2012, 13:08

    translation= lets figure out how to screw everyone but the specoial interests who pay our bribes…….

    Reply this comment
  2. Hondo
    Hondo 12 June, 2012, 13:12

    The democrats are trying to hide the fact that there is no more money left to steal. Unless it is the filthy rich public unions stealing from the poor and indigent, people who really need some help.
    And for those who think that tax increases are the answer, look to Illinois. They had a huge tax increase and still can’t balance their budget by a long shot.
    Kalifornia and Illinois are dragging Obama down. But for those two states the unemployment rate nation wide would be approaching 7%. Romney doesn’t have to run against Obama, he has only to run against Gov. Moonbeam. He can’t lose that race.

    Reply this comment
  3. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 13 June, 2012, 00:31

    They need ME in there behind the doors helping out with negotiations!!!!

    Reply this comment
  4. Tom Becker
    Tom Becker 13 June, 2012, 08:17

    You go get ’em Rex the Wonder Dog! And while you’re in there make a few shovel ready projects for them. Perhaps they’d be distracted long enough not to do something stupid.

    Reply this comment
  5. Rex the Wonder Dog!
    Rex the Wonder Dog! 13 June, 2012, 10:11

    🙂 Thanks Tom!

    Reply this comment

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