Calif. governor demands more cuts from Democrats
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Gov. Jerry Brown demanded legislative Democrats make deeper cuts to help close California’s $15.7 billion deficit even as state lawmakers rejected some of those reductions during two legislative hearings Tuesday.
“The Legislature has agreed to some tough cuts, but the budget before the committees today is not structurally balanced and puts us into a hole in succeeding years,” Brown said in a statement.
Signaling his willingness to veto the budget, Brown warned: “We’re not there yet.”
Democratic leaders are negotiating with Brown as lawmakers face a Friday deadline to pass a budget or risk losing their pay. Democrats have suggested they are not far apart in negotiating a new state spending plan with the Democratic governor and approved alternative cuts Tuesday that don’t save as much as the governor proposed.
Saying they have gone as far as they can on social programs for the poor, Democrats are resisting deeper cuts to the state’s welfare-to-work program known as CalWORKS; child care assistance for low-income families; in-home supportive services; and eliminating Cal Grants for students who attend private colleges.
“The Legislature will pass not only an on-time budget on Friday, but it will be balanced and it will be honest,” said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “There will be no additional borrowing beyond that which the governor has already proposed. And there will be no gimmicks.”
Brown has proposed $8.3 billion in spending cuts and fund shifts for the fiscal year that begins July 1. He wants to balance the rest with temporary increases in the sales tax and income taxes on the wealthy that he hopes voters will approve in November.
Democrats say they are less than 1 percent apart from Brown’s $91.4 billion state spending plan and they want to minimize the amount of cuts they have to make by lowering the state’s reserve fund from $1 billion, as Brown proposed, to about $600 million.
H.D. Palmer, the governor’s finance spokesman, said the state needs a prudent reserve to cover unexpected expenses such as fighting wildfires. The state has less than $100 million in emergency funding for the fire season and any costs over that would have to be covered by the general fund.
A budget vote by the full Legislature is expected by Friday and Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, vice chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, warned that there will not be enough time to review the Democratic spending plan. Republicans have been left out of budget negotiations as a result of Proposition 25, which allows Democrats to pass the budget on a majority vote.
“It’s clear now we’re not going to have 48 hours, as Republicans requested, to review the language,” Nielsen said. “This makes the process even more of a sham.”
At the same time, advocates for the poor are mounting pressure on the governor not to press for more cuts. They protested at the state Capitol and 10 people were arrested at the state building Tuesday. Those arrested locked arms and refused to move from the entrance to Brown’s office, prompting California Highway Patrol officers to move in and arrest them one-by-one.
Hundreds of supporters chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, these budget cuts have got to go,” as each arrested person was led away.
They were protesting the governor’s proposed cut of $225 million to the In-Home Supportive Services program. Brown wants to eliminate services for disabled or sick people who do not live alone and cut by 7 percent the number of hours of help they are eligible to receive. Democrats on Tuesday were only willing to extend an existing 3.6 percent cut.
Tammy Stiles, 47, and her husband Robert Stiles, 46, of Ukiah, were among the 10 people arrested. She said the program allows her to care for her husband, who suffers from Lou Gehrig’s Disease and is in a wheelchair, by paying her about $2,000 a month.
She said she would need to hire help if she were to work outside the home.
“It makes no sense why I would have to do that, when I could be the one home taking care of him properly the way he should be taken care of,” she said.
Democrats also continue to oppose the governor’s proposed cuts to CalWORKS. The governor wants to reduce grants for a family of three from $1,591 to $375 a month if the parents don’t meet work requirements after two years. Democrats would rather save the state money by delaying work training and assistance for parents in their first year of being on welfare.
Democrats, however, have indicated they will go along with much of the governor’s proposed cuts for Medi-Cal, California’s health care program for the poor. Lawmakers are expected to support a $15 emergency room co-payment and a maximum of $5 co-pay for prescriptions, pending federal approval.
Previously, the federal government rejected a $50 emergency room co-payment.
Associated Press writer Don Thompson and Juliet Williams also contributed to this report.
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