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Budget Debate Under Way in California Legislature

Jun 14, 2013

Calif. Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), Gov. Jerry Brown and Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles) walk together to a Capitol news conference Tuesday announcing a state budget deal.
Credit Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

The California legislature has approved the 2013-14 state budget bill - one day before its constitutional deadline to send a spending plan to Gov. Jerry Brown. Debate continues on the budget's accompanying "trailer" bills.

The $96 billion dollar general fund budget uses the cautious revenue estimates insisted upon by Brown while also making new spending investments in select programs pushed by legislative Democrats.

"California is back, and I think this budget is a reflection of that fact," said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara).  "This budget is on time, it’s balanced, it’s responsible and it’s visionary."

"With this budget we have positioned ourselves perfectly to repeat the mistakes of the past," said Asm. Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo).

The state Senate passed the main budget bill by a party-line vote of 28-10.  The Assembly also voted along party lines, 54-25.

Asm. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) said she's disappointed lawmakers couldn't restore more of the deep budget cuts from previous years, but "we have crafted, in my opinion, a brilliant budget to deal with the revenues that we have."  She said the spending plan begins to restore some of the money schools lost during the recession.

"This budget does contain, for the first time in more years than we should be comfortable acknowledging, a modest investment in California's poorest working families - families that live in all of our districts," said Asm. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), a vocal proponent of reinvesting in health and social services programs such as increasing child poverty welfare grants.

Republicans criticized the spending plan for increasing spending in future years without the guarantee of sufficient revenues and not adequately addressing what Brown has called the state's "wall of debt."

"If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak them to me," said Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), quoting Shakespeare.  "We’ve been here before.  We've seen seeds of budgets grow.  And indeed, some of the new spending here, I can prophetically tell you, will grow into unsupportable spending down the road because it’s built upon the backs of high-income earners."

Asm. Brian Jones (R-Santee) called it "a compromise between people who want to spend a little more and people who want to spend a lot more."

Republicans also criticized Democrats for leaving the GOP out of the budget negotiations.  "To not even be involved in the process of the budget, to not even know what’s in it, to no one even taking the time to say, hey, you know what, I’d like to see what you think – I have a problem with that," said Asm. Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside).

There are 22 bills in the budget package - the main budget bill and 21 "trailer" bills that implement the spending plan.  Although the budget bill has been passed, debate continues on the trailer bills - some of which will likely be put off until Saturday.