Lawmakers pass Calif. budget bill; set to finish Saturday

dsiders@sacbee.comJune 15, 2013 

6W15BUDGET

Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, left, and state Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, confer Friday at the Capitol after the Senate passed the main budget bill. Lawmakers were expected to return this morning to finish voting on trailer bills required to implement the $96.3 billion spending plan.

HECTOR AMEZCUA — hamezcua@sacbee.com

Four days after Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders reached agreement on the state budget, rank-and-file lawmakers approved the $96.3 billion spending plan Friday.

The agreement, on which Brown likely will act before the fiscal year begins July 1, includes a modified version of the Democratic governor's proposal to shift more education money to poor and English-learning students, as well as commitments to expand mental health services, college student aid and other programs.

The measure's passage came a day before the constitutional deadline by which lawmakers must approve a budget or forfeit pay.

Lawmakers are expected to return to the Capitol this morning to finish voting on trailer bills required to implement the spending plan. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he would give any lawmaker – Republican or Democrat – 24 hours to read legislation that had not yet been in print for a day, and Republicans asked for the time.

Democratic lawmakers hailed the budget plan for its reinvestment – however limited – in social programs cut during the recession.

"California's back," said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. "I think this budget is a reflection of that fact."

Republican lawmakers, a super-minority all but irrelevant in budget talks this year, complained that the budget failed to sufficiently address state debt.

"We're not addressing the bigger financial issues that challenge California," said Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin.

The Republicans said they were shut out of budget talks and that the compromise was done without public vetting.

Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, disagreed.

"It's disingenuous to say they weren't involved," Blumenfield said. "The issue is if they don't get what they want, is that the definition of being involved? There are parts of this budget I don't like, but in totality, it's a good compromise."

The votes in both houses on the main budget bill fell along party lines, 28-10 in the Senate and 54-25 in the Assembly.

Republican support did materialize, however, for Brown's proposal to overhaul California's school funding system and to eliminate most of of the state's categorical funds – money that can be used for only certain purposes.

The measure passed in the Senate without opposition. In the Assembly, the vote was 64-11.

The budget agreement between the leadership and Brown was fairly complete, and votes Friday were taken with little of the drama that has accompanied prior years' budgets.

In a relatively minor matter, senators struck down an effort by the state Department of Toxic Substances Control to eliminate a hazardous waste fee exemption for recycled oil, voting against the measure on a bipartisan, 19-10 vote after oil recyclers complained.

Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, called the language "nonsensical and shortsighted" because, he said, it would create a disincentive for recycling and could hurt the industry's "very thin" profit margins.

In the lower house, Republican Assemblywoman Beth Gaines of Rocklin drew criticism in a floor debate when she wrote an amendment this week that asked for the word "underserved" be changed to "undeserved" in a bill about a program designed to prevent mental illness from becoming severe and disabling.

The program in Senate Bill 77 would emphasize improving timely access to services for underserved populations.

Democratic lawmakers huddled on the Assembly floor for several minutes before voting to prevent her from discussing other amendments she proposed to the mental health bill, while asking her to read the portion on the one-word change.

Then the Democrats took turns voicing their objections.

Blumenfield called the amendment "patently offensive."

Republicans came to Gaines' defense, arguing that the language was a bill-drafting error.

Speaker John A. Pérez of Los Angeles disagreed, pointing out that Gaines initially stood behind the amendment when forced to read it on the floor.

Gaines ultimately asked members to vote against her amendment.

Lawmakers obliged.

Call David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1215. Follow him on Twitter @davidsiders.

Merced Sun-Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service