Thursday, March 17, 2011
California lawmakers have begun chipping away at the state’s nearly $27 billion budget deficit and they’ll be back at work again Thursday. But, the toughest issues are still unresolved.
After hours of waiting and debating, the legislature passed eight bills worth about $7 billion in budget savings. They include cuts to Medi-Cal and the developmentally disabled. All bills had Democratic and at least some Republican support, though a few barely squeaked by in the Assembly. There, many Republicans didn’t vote for the cuts, including Assemblywoman Shannon Grove
“What we want is real reforms and real solutions brought to this body, so that we can address the structural problems that are going on,” Grove said. “So to give us these cuts that address the most vulnerable in our state is pathetic.”
That attitude has frustrated Democrats, like Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg.
“It does not make sense for one party – or the majority of members of party – who say under no circumstances will we give people the right to vote to extend taxes to stand in the way of other solutions, including cuts,” Steinberg said.
Gov. Jerry Brown spent hours meeting with lawmakers in an effort to twist GOP members’ arms on his proposal to eliminate redevelopment agencies. But that measure fell one Republican vote short in the Assembly and didn’t make it to the Senate.
“There is some politics being played,” Brown said. “They feel that doing nothing is very good for their objectives which they don’t always tell me about. But there’s some plan that the more things are derailed, the better it is.”
But some Republicans have said the cuts proposed by the Governor aren’t the ones they would choose. They said cutting pension benefits and limiting future state spending is a better way to go.
Along with redevelopment, lawmakers have yet to tackle the most contentious issue of all: Gov. Brown’s plan to extend tax increases for five years. Given that, it’s unlikely the budget will be wrapped up for at least several more days.