California Legislature passes budget; Republicans urge veto

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State lawmakers in both houses passed the main budget bill Friday afternoon, well before their midnight constitutional deadline. Their plan balances California's $15.7 billion deficit — without Gov. Jerry Brown's endorsement.

The majority Democrats sent Brown a budget before they’d sealed a deal with him, as they're still negotiating over welfare cuts. Republicans say the plan is incomplete and are urging Brown to veto the bill. The governor hasn't indicated what he will do.

The Senate passed the main budget bill Friday on a 23-16 vote, and the Assembly also passed the measure, 50-25.

The chair of the state Senate budget committee introduced the $92 billion spending plan.

"I am pleased to present to you a budget that is painful yet hopeful, sobering yet with vision," said Bay Area Democrat Mark Leno

Why sobering? Because the budget cuts $8 billion from state spending. That includes cuts to Cal Grants, help with welfare-to-work and child care for low-income families.

Democrats found ways to cut less than the governor’s proposed. That’s where Leno finds hope in the budget, because it zeros out an $8 billion structural deficit that’s plagued California since former governor Arnold Schwarzenegger lowered taxes.

"This budget is not only balanced, honest and with no additional borrowing compared to the governor’s May revision, it’s projected to remain balanced for four years," Leno said.

But Republicans call this budget less hopeful than wishful, because it relies largely on persuading Californians to approve an $8 billion tax hike in November. Republican Tom Berryhill of Fresno doubts that voters will go for it.

"This budget is a slow-motion train wreck and you’re driving the bus," Berryhill said. "If you think the voters are going to give you your tax increases come November, and all you offer them is this sham, you are sadly out of touch."

If voters reject the taxes, the budget triggers $5 billion in cuts to public schools. Leno defends that choice, and blames Republicans for signing no-tax pledges that he says hamstring state government.

"The fact is balancing the budget is second-grade arithmetic, addition and subtraction," Leno said. "We can’t do our job honestly without addition."

Assmblyman Sandre Swanson of Oakland was one of the few Democrats who voted no. He calls the budget cuts to welfare programs “just too deep” and adds, “I can’t take that home to my district.”

Assemblyman Budget Chairman Bob Blumenfield said lawmakers tried to soften the most severe cuts to social services and proposed "more compassionate alternatives to some of the governor's proposals."

While the Legislature voted on the spending plan the state treasurer responded to a Republican’s requests to analyze the plan. The treasurer announced that the budget is “financeable.”

The Democratic-led bill includes all the appropriations and spending cuts in this year’s budget. The Legislature also passed a fraction of the 29 bills related to the budget. Democratic leaders say they’ll get to the rest before the end of this month — and the end of the fiscal year.

The bill heads now to the governor. A spokesman for Brown says, “We’re still not there yet.”

By passing the bill Friday, lawmakers beat a midnight deadline to pass a balanced budget, which means they can keep collecting their paychecks.

This story has been updated.

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