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Legislative Dems Want to Restore Budget Cuts, but Priorities Differ

As budget talks head into their final weeks, supporters of programs suffering from years of cuts are asking for help. Gov. Jerry Brown opposes any new spending. But Assembly and Senate Democrats have different programs in which they'd like to invest.

Photo credit: Ben Adler, Capital Public Radio

Calif. State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) speaks at a rally to restore funding for after school programs at the Capitol Tuesday.

The steps of the State Capitol have hosted rally after rally in recent weeks, including one Tuesday that drew a high school marching band and flag squad. Each group wants to draw attention to a program that's taken deep budget cuts in recent years: child care, health care, and after school programs.

Many Democrats have been hoping state revenues would improve enough to restore at least some of those cuts.

"To the degree that we have a little bit of additional money - yes, we want to pay down debt and yes, we want to put some money away, appropriately, for a Rainy Day, but then we need to reinvest where we can," Senator Leno said at the rally.

But Democrats in the Senate and Assembly have different priorities. The Senate hopes to increase money for mental health programs, adult dental coverage and career technical education. The Assembly is focused on child care programs, courts and child poverty grant increases for the state's welfare-to-work program.

But Governor Jerry Brown made very clear as he released his updated budget proposal last week that he's not interested in any of that.

"Everybody wants to see more spending," Brown said. "That's what this place is - it's a spending machine. You need something? Come here and see if you can get it! Well, but I'm the backstop at the end, and I'm gonna keep this budget balanced as long as I'm around here."

And so the negotiations begin. The Senate and Assembly budget committees will release their opening proposals in the next few days.

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