California Looks To Approve Budget By Midnight Deadline
"We have made repeated requests for an honest and open budgetary process and for the budget measures to be in print for 48 hours, to allow public review," Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands, said in a statement. "We can't in good conscience vote for bills we have not seen."
According to The Los Angeles Times, two years ago, California voters made it easier to pass a state budget based on a majority vote instead of the previous requirement of a two-thirds vote. This means the Democratic-controlled Legislature can approve the spending plan, quickly bypassing the Republican minority.
The majority of the budget bill was published online Thursday morning, and Democrats passed the main budget bills without GOP votes that day. The Republic reports that Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said the Legislature plans to put off voting on the more controversial parts of the bill. The goal is to pass the main budget by Friday’s midnight deadline to ensure lawmakers get paid.
If the budget does not pass by Friday’s deadline it would violate voter-approved Proposition 25, which targets legislators’ pay each day the budget bill sits unapproved. Larry Gerston, a political science professor at San Jose State, told the San Jose Mercury News that the entire budget needs to be approved on time.
"If they're saying, 'We'll get to the rest of that later,' they have not met the intent of the law. The whole thing's a sham," Gerston said.
However, the Senate leader’s fear of a docked paycheck is has little chance of happening because they only have to propose that a budget is balanced, according to The Los Angeles Times.
"You could take a piece of paper and write, 'We estimate revenue will meet spending,' " a lawyer for state Controller John Chiang told Sacramento County Superior Court Judge David I. Brown in April.
"And you could wrap it around a ham sandwich, and you could send it over to the governor, and you could call it a budget. And you could keep getting paid. But it's still a ham sandwich."
The biggest point of contention for both political parties, particularly among Democrats, is the $1.2 billion in cuts to child care, college aid, in-home support and CalWORKS, the state’s welfare-to-work program.
Brown wants to curtail $880 million from CalWORKS by implementing tougher eligibility requirements and three different levels of support, according to The Republic. He would reward working parents and provide less aid to “families where only the children qualify or if the parents are no longer eligible.”
Democratic lawmakers and advocates fear that would drive families into homelessness. They say a family of three in which only the child is eligible for benefits would be cut from a $516 a month benefit to $375 a month, an amount equal to 24 percent of the federal poverty level.
Democrats only wanted to cut $428 million by extending existing cuts to counties to provide work training and child care.
"We are continuing to talk to see if we might find middle ground," Steinberg said, "but we maintain our same strong position that the people in the middle, the people who are poor, the people who had been middle-class but now find themselves on the edge because they've lost a job, these are the people we are talking about when we talk about CalWORKS."
Bloomberg Businessweek also outlines some of the cuts Brown intends to put through such as cutting workers’ hours to “reduce state employee costs by 5 percent.” The savings are written into the plan but unions still need to agree on the changes.
Brown also wants to slice $1.2 billion from health-care for the poor, $1.1 billion from welfare and in-home help for the elderly and disabled, and $500 million from courts.
Democrats in the Legislature built a $544 million rainy day reserve into the budget, about half of what Brown proposed. They would reduce education funding by $330 million by using a different method of calculating how much schools are due and take $250 million more than Brown from tax money that formerly flowed to the state’s now-abolished redevelopment agencies.
The California State Association of Counties denounced the Democrats’ $250 million proposal because many counties believe those funds are owed to them from shutdown redevelopment agencies and the association hinted that counties may sue.
Brown’s spokesman Gil Duran told Mercury News that discussions are still taking place. Brown has 12 days to decide “whether he will veto the whole budget, veto individual line items or sign the budget bills.”
While a debate still wages between Democrats and Brown over the specifics of the bill, Democrats are largely in agreement with Brown’s spending plan but an estimated $300 million in proposed cuts still needs to be resolved if they want to close a $15.7 billion gap between revenues and spending.
For more of Neon Tommy’s coverage on California's budget, click here.
Reach Executive Producer Subrina Hudson here.