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Tentative budget agreement reached

Three months overdue, the governor and state lawmakers tentatively reached agreement Friday on a state budget that includes only two-thirds of the cuts demanded by Republicans and requires voter approval in two years to set aside money in a so-called “rainy day fund” – a proposal rejected recently by voters.

Votes in both houses of the Legislature could come as early as next week. The document requires a two-thirds vote of the Senate and Assembly. The budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year was supposed to be approved by the Legislature by June 15 and sent to the governor by July 1, but has remained in limbo since then. Apparently, the delay only reinforced the public’s unhappiness with the Legislature and governor, according to recent polls. Indeed, the Legislature’s approval rating dipped to 10 percent, the lowest ever.

Details of the budget agreement, which is intended to close a $19 billion shortfall, were expected to be disclosed next week. But it was all but certain to include cuts in social services and education, delayed tax breaks and other unpopular actions. Political leaders said the document does not include new taxes.

The question now is whether the leadership in the Legislature can sell the budget agreement to members of their own party in order to round up the votes for passage.

Another question is whether having a budget vote three weeks before the November election will affect propositions on the Nov. 2 ballot, including one measure that would allow a simple majority vote for state budgets – but not new taxes – and another that would redefine fees as taxes and require two-thirds votes.

California’s requirement for two-thirds votes on budgets and taxes – only three states have such a rule – is viewed as a critical piece of the state’s dysfunction.


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