Thursday is the last day of the fiscal year, and the last day for Gov. Jerry Brown to sign an on-time, balanced budget that closes the state government’s $9.6 billion deficit. But Democratic and Republican lawmakers are still fighting over the details, and with the governor, too.
Republican leaders have accused Brown of lying about the budget. They insist they support the Democrats’ plan to ask voters to pay higher taxes for five more years.
"I know it’s been widely reported that we are unwilling to do that. That is not true," said Anthony Cannella, who joined fellow Republicans at an impromptu press conference last week to “set the record straight.” Cannella says he’s ready to vote for Brown’s budget, but there is a price.
"There are votes to put this tax measure before the people of California, out of the Senate, as long as they also get to vote on good government reforms which include common sense pension reform and a common sense spending cap which will pay down the budgetary debt," Cannella said.
The governor’s press secretary, Gil Duran, says Republicans could have had the reforms they want months ago.
"Those aren’t their reforms. They aren’t smart enough to write reforms. They don’t know the first thing about the details of reforms. We have to do the work. Those are our reforms," he said.
Duran says he’s baffled by the Republicans’ behavior. He says they’re just running out the clock. The higher taxes that Democrats want to extend for five years will expire at the end of the month. Republicans have refused to enact a temporary extension of the taxes until voters can decide whether to extend them for five more years. And Duran says that’s going to force deeper cuts to education and law enforcement.
"The Republicans in Sacramento are basically moronic. But we’re hopeful that they can realize we’re on an unsustainable trajectory here, one that is not fiscally responsible and one for which they are at least partially responsible," he said.
Even if the temporary taxes expire Thursday night, Duran hinted there’s a way to bridge the tax gap — retroactively. Duran says the governor will keep negotiating with Republicans. He’ll have to smooth things out with legislative Democrats, too. For his part, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says it’s not his call when to call it quits.
"Is 'Plan A' dead? I’ll leave it to the governor to announce the wake and the funeral services. But we are proceeding to try to develop the best majority vote plan we can with the governor," Steinberg said.
Democratic leaders are meeting with the governor to flesh out the details of what that plan would look like. They say they’re willing to give the governor more time to negotiate.
Correction: This story originally said that the Thursday was the last day for the legislature to pass the budget, but it's the last day for the governor to sign the budget.