Monday, August 18, 2008
Assembly Republicans rejected a Democratic budget proposal last night. It was the first floor vote on a spending plan that's now nearly 50 days late. Even so, there's optimism that the debate may have moved things forward. Marianne Russ reports.
Lawmakers argued for more than four hours about how to fill the $15 billion hole in the budget. Democrats put forward a more moderate proposal. But it wasn't enough to get the GOP votes needed. Democratic Assembly Speaker Karen Bass :
Bass : This is truly a compromise budget . It includes all of the elements that the Governor said that he needs in order to sign. It includes budget reform, it includes more cuts and it includes a lottery proposal.
The Democratic plan calls for more cuts and a bigger rainy day fund. It also allows the state to borrow against future lottery profits. But it still includes a non-starter for Republicans: Billions in income tax hikes on wealthy Californians. GOP Assemblyman Roger Niello said it would hurt the economy, and the real problem is overspending.
Niello: It is time for Democrats to take their heads out of the sand. We've tried it this way for years and we stand on the brink of bankruptcy. What are we doing here?
The heated debate also touched on a key provision for Republicans: A hard limit to future state spending growth - something Democrats don't support. Despite the hours of name-calling the night was not without its humor. Democratic Assemblyman John Laird :
Laird: We have had 49 speakers and I, speaking I think on behalf of all Californians would like to thank those who didn't speak.
Many lawmakers ended their speeches by expressing hope that the public venting of the issues might allow legislative leaders to now move forward on a compromise. At least two of the proposals being debated would require voter approval - and lawmakers are nearly out of time to make the November ballot.