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Legislative Democrats Want to Restore Budget Cuts, But Priorities Differ

May 22, 2013

Calif. State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) speaks at a rally to restore funding for after school programs at the Capitol Tuesday.
Credit Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

As California budget talks head into their final weeks, supporters of programs suffering from years of cuts are asking for help.  Governor Jerry Brown opposes any new spending.  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, Assembly and Senate Democrats have different programs in which they'd like to invest.

The steps of the State Capitol have hosted rally after rally in recent weeks, including this one yesterday that drew a high school marching band and flag squad.  Each group wants to draw attention to a program that’s taken deep budget cuts in recent years: child care, health care, and in this case, after school programs.

Many Democrats have been hoping state revenues would improve enough to restore at least some of those cuts.  Here’s Senator Mark Leno at the rally:

Leno: “To the degree that we have a little bit of additional money – yes, we want to pay down debt and yes, we want to put some money away, appropriately, for a Rainy Day, but then we need to reinvest where we can.” 

But Democrats in the Senate and Assembly have different priorities.  The Senate hopes to increase money for mental health programs, adult dental coverage and career technical education.  The Assembly is focused on child care programs, courts and child poverty grant increases for the state’s welfare-to-work program.

But Governor Jerry Brown made very clear as he released his updated budget proposal last week that he’s not interested in any of that.

Brown: “Everybody wants to see more spending.  That’s what this place is – it’s a spending machine.  You need something?  Come here and see if you can get it!  Well, but I’m the backstop at the end, and I’m gonna keep this budget balanced as long as I’m around here.” 

And so…the negotiations begin.  The Senate and Assembly budget committees will release their opening proposals in the next few days.