California Legislators Cut $7 Billion Over Bipartisan Objections
A plan to let voters decide in June if they want to extend three tax increases still outstanding, the state Legislature charged ahead Wednesday with approval of a handful of budget bills that would eliminate about a third of the state's nearly $26 billion deficit.
Under the budget framework proposed by Gov. Jerry Brown the state would erase the deficit by extending the $12 billion in taxes for the next five years and making an $12.6 in cuts. But Brown has failed to earn the minimum of four Republican votes needed to put a ballot measure in front of voters to extend the taxes as he has vowed to do.
Five Republicans in the Senate have been pushing for, among other things, freezing the pensions of current state workers, rewriting the state's environmental protection law, imposing a harder spending cap and letting private contractors bid to provide state services. No Republicans in the Assembly appear to be holding direct negotiations with Brown.
If a deal isn't reached by the end of the month between Brown and Republicans, a June election more than likely would be out of the question.
In the meantime, Democrats hope to pass this week the first half of the budget framework--the cuts. Democrats and Republicans both said they were voting for the cuts only because of the extraordinary deficit.
The measures earned wide bipartisan in the Senate, but picked up only a couple votes from Republicans in the Assembly.
The bill that would eliminate redevelopment agencies stalled altogether with Democrats unable to muster up the second Republican vote needed to achieve a two-thirds majority for passage in the Assembly. The house is likely to take up the bill again later this week.
The cuts and money transfers approved Wednesday are:
SB 72 - Human Services - $1.7 Billion
Legislation doles out fewer CalWORKS grants and reduces the amount of others'. Care time through in-home supportive services would be reduced. Supplemental social security payments would be reduced.
SB 74 -Developmental Services - $750 Million
SB 80 - Misc. - $230 Million
About $101 million in Indian casino revenues would be sent to the general fund in each of the next five years.
SB 82 (AB 106)
Allows the state to borrow money and defer payments to entities such as colleges.
AB 97 - Health Care Cuts - $1.8 Billion (SB 73)
To help pay for emergency room care of the uninsured, county board of supervisors had been able to charge an extra $2 for every $10 levied for things like traffic tickets. The legislation imposes the extra $2 for every $10 in fines in every county until 2016, and then sends $55 million in "Maddy Funds" each year to the state to pay for Medi-Cal services and leaves $9 million with the counties. Doctors don't think it's a smart deal.
The bill nearly doubles the monthly premiums for children whose families are stuck in the gap between expensive health/dental/vision insurance and Medi-Cal. One in ten California children rely on the Healthy Families Program.
The bill places caps on Medi-Cal visits and the amount of money that can be spent on various Medi-Cal benefits such as purchasing hearing aids and over-the-counter cold medicine.
AB 99 - Cigarette Tax Fund Shift - $1 Billion (SB 75)
This bill takes $1 billion from cigarette taxes that would have gone toward early childhood education and places it instead toward early childhood Medi-Cal coverage.
AB 100 - Mental Health Care - $860 Million (SB 76)
Legislation shifts $860 million from Mental Health Services Act reserve to the general fund to pay for mental health services for those needing special care, those in special education and those in need of screening.
AB 105 - Transportation Fund Shift- $1 Billion (SB 81)
Truck weight fees and a few other revenue streams meant to pay off debt will instead go to the general fund. The bill also authorizes the high-speed rail authority to hire six new executives and requires the authority to present an updated financial plan by mid-October.
About sixty percent of registered voters said in a recent Field Poll that they want to see the June election happen. Just under sixty percent of registered voters would support extending income, sales and vehicle taxes for five more years. Republicans contend that the number of likely voters that support tax increases is barely 50 percent. Both houses convene again 11 a.m. Thursday to vote on Brown's realignment proposals.