Democrats to bring California budget up for vote
August 14, 2008
SACRAMENTO – In a desperate maneuver and with negotiations at an impasse, Democrats said they would put a budget up for a vote Sunday without support from Republicans or the governor.
Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata said Thursday that talks with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger failed this week to produce a compromise they could persuade some Republicans to support.
Instead, Sunday’s vote likely will fail, continuing the costly delay for taxpayers on the overdue state budget for the fiscal year that began July 1.
“We’re not making any progress,” said Perata, D-Oakland. “We’re actually going backwards.”
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said Democrats will propose to raise income taxes on high-wage earners to bridge California’s $15.2 billion deficit rather than rely on a 1 percent sales tax Schwarzenegger proposed last weekend.
The Democrats’ plan is expected to contain a rainy-day fund, but not a hard spending cap Republicans would like.
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“It is critical that we take action before Monday, because the Democrats have taken budget reform very seriously,” said Bass, D-Los Angeles. Democrats need voter approval for their plan, and they believe they need to meet a Monday deadline to get the measure on the November ballot.
Although details of the plan had not been drafted, Republican lawmakers said they won’t support the Democrats’ latest proposal.
“I certainly don’t believe there are votes in either Republican caucus,” said Senate Minority Leader Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto.
Schwarzenegger continues to emphasize that lawmakers should work together on a compromise but wants reform to end the boom-and-bust cycle of the state budget.
“The governor has said he will not sign a budget that does not include budget reform,” said gubernatorial spokesman Matt David.
Schwarzenegger has tried to add pressure to the talks by laying off more than 10,000 state workers and trying to roll back wages for about 175,000 other employees. Some would receive the federal minimum wage of $6.55 per hour under Schwarzenegger’s order, which is being challenged by state Controller John Chiang.
Republican and Democratic lawmakers differ about how to address the deficit and have been struggling to find common ground since the start of the fiscal year.
Talks broke down earlier in the week over various issues, including the use of the sales tax. The governor floated a temporary sales-tax increase for up to three years, and billed it as a cut because it would then decrease it to an amount lower than it is now.
Democrats oppose a permanent sales-tax decrease. Democratic leaders said they planned to offer a proposal to raise taxes similar to the one they previously proposed, which would raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations to generate $8.2 billion.
But Bass said the overall package would be smaller and incorporate changes requested by the governor and Republicans.
“If people have better ideas, they can come forward and share them,” Perata said. “In some ways, the Republicans have been able to play pretty cheap. They’ve been highly critical of everything that we’ve done, yet they’ve never provided anything except, ‘We want to borrow.’ “
Some Republicans have said they would rather borrow from special funds than increase taxes. Republican lawmakers also continue to demand a spending cap.
Assembly Minority leader Mike Villines, R-Clovis, said Democrats have not negotiated with Republicans on a compromise and instead have tried to work with the governor to pick up a handful of GOP votes they would need to secure two-thirds of the vote in the Assembly and Senate.
He said he hope talks can resume after Sunday’s vote.
“I know their conversations with the governor have been falling apart,” Villines said. “My sense is that Democrats are going to put up a vote on $9 billion in taxes. They would rather tax upper incomes.”
Assembly Republicans were expected Friday to present proposal to restrict the state’s growth on spending to about 5 percent per year by tying spending to population growth and inflation.
Bass said she felt compelled to put a spending package up for a vote before a filing deadline to get measures on the November ballot.
The Secretary of State says technically, that deadline is Saturday, but lawmakers hope she would accept measures on the next business day, which is Monday.
Under state law, lawmakers have the authority to publish a supplemental ballot pamphlet, which could push the deadline even later.
“If lawmakers want to spend millions more dollars and get information about the election into voters’ hands later, they have that power,” said Secretary of State spokeswoman Kate Folmar.
– Associated Press Writer Samantha Young also contributed to this report.