Budget Update - 6 Days to Go

The Governor’s March 10th deadline is rapidly approaching and there has been more progress this past week.

The joint Budget Conference Committee completed their work this past Thursday and voted to send the budget bill to the Assembly and Senate floor.  The committee’s final proposal is very close to the Governor’s initial proposal.  The budget spending plan includes one of the most controversial pieces -- the elimination of the state’s redevelopment program.

Democratic lawmakers on the panel sided with Brown, saving $1.7 billion, though supporters of the program called the move unconstitutional and threatened to sue.

Democrats said the reductions they approved amounted to $12.5 billion to help close the deficit, but they lowered or otherwise altered some cuts proposed by Brown.

The conference committee:

  • Rejected Brown's plan to limit the number of doctor visits by adults under Medi-Cal, instead approving a "soft cap" that would require physician certification that any visits beyond seven a year are necessary.
  • Reduced Brown's proposed cuts to CalWORKs, which provides cash assistance to needy families. The legislative committee agreed to lower grant levels by 8 percent; Brown had proposed reducing grant levels by 13 percent.
  • Increased by $50 million Brown's proposal to save $200 million in general fund spending through department consolidations, operational efficiencies and other cost reduction measures.

All four Republicans on the 10-member committee opposed the final measure. Afterward, Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, R-Dana Point, called for an analysis of how much of the budget consists of such measures as one-time cuts and borrowing.

Under Proposition 25, approved by voters in November, majority Democrats can pass a budget bill and most related measures without needing Republican votes to achieve a two-thirds majority.  That does not hold for the tax extension measure, however, and Brown continues to look for two Republican votes in each house that would allow a June 7 election.

Five Senate Republicans – Senators Berryhill, Blakeslee, Canella, Emmerson and Harman – have developed a plan and have started talks with Governor Brown.  The details of the Republican group’s plan are unknown but are reportedly said to include a spending cap, pension reform and some element aimed at reducing regulations on businesses in the state.  Senate Republican Leader Bob Dutton has also met privately with the Governor and says Brown should still count on all 15 votes for the budget and extensions being no.

There is still a lot of work to be done, but expect a vote late next week.