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Lawmakers bypass Brown on budget

Posted: June 16, 2012 1:30 a.m.
Updated: June 16, 2012 1:30 a.m.

Despite objections from the state’s Republicans, Democratic lawmakers on Friday approved a plan to balance California’s $15.7 billion deficit without Gov. Jerry Brown’s endorsement.

The Senate on Friday passed the main budget bill, which has fewer welfare cuts than the governor proposed, on a 23-16 vote. The bill was also passed by the Assembly on a 50-25 vote.

In introducing the Democratic spending plan, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno of San Francisco called it “a budget which is painful yet hopeful, sobering yet with vision.”

Republicans locally and across California called the budget incomplete and urged Brown to veto the budget bill.
Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, voted against the budget, legislative and communication director Sean Hoffman said Friday.

Smyth voted against the budget because it was “half-cooked” and did not address many issues facing California, he said.

Much like other Republicans, Smyth took issue with the Democrats plan to place a tax initiative before voters on the November ballot. Many aspects of the state budget hinge on the November taxes being approved.

“It’s speculative to assume it’s going to pass,” Hoffman said of the tax initiative. “And it’s speculative that it’s going to raise the amount of money that they say it’s going to raise.”

State Sen. Sharon Runner, R-Antelope Valley, and state Board of Equalization member George Runner shared many of the same concerns as fellow Republicans.

“Despite repeated assurances that the budget process would be public and transparent, the Democrat majority has been meeting behind closed doors, and it is clear that this budget is composed almost entirely of gimmicks and with the assumption that the proposed tax increases will be approved by voters in the November election,” Sharon Runner said in a statement released Friday.

Passing the main budget bill before midnight Friday meets the minimum requirement for lawmakers to get paid, however, the Legislature passed only a few of the companion bills needed to enact the entire budget. Many contentious issues, from welfare to the high-speed rail, still need to be worked out.

“This budget is full of borrowing and gimmicks,” said Sen. Bill Emmerson, the ranking Republican on the budget committee. He objected that the budget documents were kept secret until just hours before the vote.

The plan also assumes voters will approve Brown’s initiative on the November ballot to raise the sales tax by a quarter cent and increase income taxes for people who make more than $250,000 a year.

“This budget assumes passage of an unpopular tax initiative that is likely to be voted down,” Emmerson said.
Brown did not indicate Friday whether he would sign or veto the bill. Brown spokesman, Gil Duran, said negotiations are continuing.

“We’re still not there yet,” Duran said.

In passing the bill, lawmakers will continue to receive their base annual salary of $95,290, making them the highest paid legislators in the nation. They don’t get a pension but nearly all receive additional tax-free per diem payments of about $30,000 a year.

Last year, the governor vetoed the budget passed by Democrats, calling it unbalanced.

The state controller withheld 12 days’ pay but a judge has since found that the controller has no authority to block paychecks because it violated the separation of powers clause of the California Constitution.


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