Deal Reached on Ailing California's Budget
California Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic leaders reached agreement Thursday to finalize the budget for the financially strapped state. A vote of the Legislature will take place next week.
The plan protects education, reforms welfare and includes tough ongoing cuts, Brown said in a statement announcing the framework of the agreement with Assembly Speaker John A. Perez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg.
"This agreement strongly positions the state to withstand the economic challenges and uncertainties ahead," Brown said in the statement. "We have restructured and downsized our prison system, moved government closer to the people, made billions in difficult cuts and now the Legislature is poised to make even more difficult cuts and permanently reform welfare."
Although Democrats passed the main budget bill on a majority vote last week, the governor pressed for deeper cuts to welfare and other social services amid a projected $15.7 billion shortfall. Brown has until Wednesday to sign or veto the main bill.
The Legislature passed a $92 billion budget Friday but several companion bills must still pass before the state's spending plan can take effect. Many deal with some of the most contentious issues, including aid to the poor. The whole package hinges on voters approving an initiative in November to raise taxes.
In passing the main budget bill, lawmakers met the minimum requirement to keep their paychecks flowing under a voter-approved measure that blocks lawmakers' pay if a budget is late.
Democratic leaders reached agreement with the governor on welfare programs, college aid and other social service cuts.
Brown, a Democrat, wanted to emphasize getting people back to work, while reducing aid for parents who aren't meeting requirements under CalWORKS, the state's welfare-to-work program. But Democrats say it's foolish to pay for job training when there aren't enough jobs to go around. They would rather preserve cash grants.
California's new fiscal year begins July 1. Without a budget in place, the state will not be able make certain payments to school districts and vendors, or pay the salaries of elected officials and staff.
Both Brown and Democratic lawmakers are depending on the tax initiative to balance the state deficit. If the ballot measure fails, automatic cuts will be triggered, drastically reducing funding to public schools.
The initiative to raise the state sales and income taxes for some California residents qualified Wednesday along with a rival initiative that would raise income taxes on nearly all Californians.
Brown's proposal would backfill the state's general fund and guarantee funding to local governments for public safety. It would raise income taxes on a sliding scale on incomes over $250,000 a year for seven years and raise the state sales tax by a quarter cent for four years.
The rival proposal, backed by Los Angeles attorney Molly Munger, would raise income taxes on nearly all Californians on a sliding scale for 12 years, with the biggest increase on the wealthiest Californians.
Revenue from her proposal would go directly to public schools, while Brown's measure would use the money to prevent deeper cuts to schools and guarantee money for local public safety.