California budget deadline nears, lawmakers still unsure on trailer bills

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California state senate president Darrell Steinberg (R) looks on as California governor-elect Jerry Brown speaks during a briefing. Steinberg wants to re-vamp the state's century-old process for getting initiatives on voter's ballots.

One of the snags in the ongoing California budget talks is over how to spend $250 million in property tax money. While the money currently goes to counties, the spending plan passed last week by Democratic lawmakers would shift it to the state.

Counties have used this money for years under agreements with newly-dissolved redevelopment agencies, the California Capitol Network reports. Paul McIntosh with the California State Association of Counties says it would be extremely difficult to lose those funds at the last minute.

“Many counties have already adopted their budgets," McIntosh explains. "So they would have to go in and rip out general fund money — and that general fund money, unfortunately, is going to support public safety, libraries, the things that the counties do with their general fund.”

Counties have an ally in Governor Jerry Brown, who strongly opposes the property tax change. And several Democratic lawmakers who voted for the budget last week did so only after a promise that the counties would keep the money. So budget talks are currently focused on finding the $250 million somewhere else.

Lawmakers also still have to act on more than a dozen so-called “trailer bills” before their budget work is complete.

Legislative Democrats and Governor Jerry Brown continue to haggle over the $92 billion spending plan lawmakers sent to the governor’s desk last week.

Budget-related trailer bills yet to pass include differences the two sides have over how to treat the state’s welfare to work program CalWORKS.

But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says he hopes to finish the budget bills this week.

“We’re very close," says Steinberg. "We’re only a couple of hundred million dollars apart and when you consider past budgets and the gulf that existed in those negotiations, long into July August and September this is different and I think it is better.”

Republicans say the budget isn’t balanced and is full of gimmicks.

Lawmakers had to pass the budget bill itself last week to avoid losing their pay and expense money.

Brown has until June 27 to act on that spending plan.

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