With a Wednesday deadline bearing down on lawmakers, California’s budget dance is taking on new twists and turns. Democrats are pledging to have a budget on time, the Governor’s increasing the pressure and Republicans are revealing more about where they stand.
Standing before a crowd that included business, education and law enforcement leaders, Governor Jerry Brown urged GOP lawmakers to temporarily extend a series of tax increases – then allow voters to weigh in on them in a fall election. The Governor’s been negotiating with a group of four Republican Senators. “And it’s not as though the Republicans I’ve been taking to have a term sheet with specific provisions and they push it across the table and say, here are ten issues,” said Brown.
Not true, say the four Senators. They say Brown and the Democrats are fully aware of their proposals and they’ve released a list. It includes a state spending limit, reductions in pension benefits for state workers and changes to environmental laws. Joe Justin is Chief of Staff for Republican Senator Bill Emmerson – one of the four. “The fact of the matter is, this is four, five months of work. We didn’t approach it lightly,” said Justin. “We gamed most of it out. And frankly, we’re very, very close with the governor on a lot of these issues.”
Despite that, a deal remains elusive – and Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg says his house will pass a budget this week no matter what. “June 15th at midnight is the deadline. We will meet our deadline” said Steinberg.
Without GOP votes, that could mean a spending plan that relies on gimmicks. GOP Senator and budget chair Bob Huff says that should concern the public. “Budget deals that are done in the dark of night without transparency – we have no language at all – so whatever coming is coming fast down the pipe and it’ll be one of those that has a lot of ugly stuff in it cause it just hasn’t had scrutiny,” said Huff.
An added element to this year’s budget politics is voter-approved proposition 25. It says that for every day after June 15th without a balanced budget, lawmakers permanently forfeit their pay.