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Gov. Brown Vetoes 'Legally Questionable' Budget

Raquel Estupinan |
June 17, 2011 | 4:47 p.m. PDT

Staff Reporter

California Governor Jerry Brown, Creative Commons
California Governor Jerry Brown, Creative Commons
Governor Jerry Brown vetoed what he called an “unbalanced” state budget yesterday, blaming Republicans for rejecting his January version that proposed both spending cuts and tax extensions. No other California governor has vetoed a state budget.

In his veto, Brown said the budget “contains legally questionable maneuvers, costly borrowing and unrealistic savings.”

Republican legislators have said they would not support the vehicle and sales tax extensions that are set to expire June 30, unless Brown would agree to reforms in pension plans and other areas.

Brown needs two Republican votes from each legislature before Californians can vote on Brown’s proposed tax extensions.

“I’m going to do everything I can, I’ll move heaven and earth, to get those votes,” Brown said in a Los Angeles press conference yesterday, according to Bloomberg news.

But this game of political football has one California budgeting expert doubtful that legislators will pass a more sustainable budget.

“In the past it seems politics gets in the way,” said Kim Rueben, an expert on state finance and an adjunct fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

“It was probably the right decision, although it’s not very clear that they’ll end up with a budget that’s very different,” Rueben said.

Rueben said it was a “gutsy move” for Brown to veto a budget his own party authored.

The veto caused tension for Democratic lawmakers. "We are deeply dismayed," said Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), Senate President Pro Tem. "The governor, I think, is … a little bit confused between total victory … and progress,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Some Democratic lawmakers said Brown had a 12-day period where he could have negotiated with Republicans before taking swift action—about 16 hours after legislators submitted their spending plan, according to the Sacramento Bee.

"Let's be clear; the action today was completely unnecessary," said John Pérez (D-Los Angeles).

However, one of Brown’s problems with the spending plan was that it would exacerbate what Brown calls a “$35 billion wall of debt.

“It contains big deficits for years to come and adds billions of dollars of new debt,” the governor said.

Brown said the plan contained questionable actions, such as reducing $3 billion to schools and delaying a $744 million bill the state owes school districts from money borrowed, according to CNN.

The veto garnered praise from Republicans, even though Brown blamed them for the “unbalanced” budget.

Republicans who had been negotiating with the governor said he did “the right thing by vetoing the Democrats’ sham budget,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

"Let the people vote on the reforms that would end our state's chronic budget deficits and put Californians back to work," the Republican group said, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. "… Let's get this done."

Voters passed a measure last year that requires lawmakers to approve a balanced budget by June 15—since the new fiscal year begins July1—or they will not be paid. Although lawmakers met their deadline, because Brown vetoed the bill, the state controller is reviewing the requirement to determine whether the legislators will be paid.

Contact Raquel Estupinan here.



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