Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

Happy New Fiscal Year to all you Capitol Alert readers out there.

For the 19th time in 25 years, lawmakers have reached July 1 with no budget in place.

The budget fight so far has featured three separate proposals for closing the $19.1 billion deficit -- one from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, one from Assembly Democrats and one from Senate Democrats.

But Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said yesterday as they headed to budget talks with Schwarzenegger that they have agreed on the "framework" for a unified proposal that would reconcile their dueling plans.

Kevin Yamamura has more on the framework here.

What the "new year" appears to have in store: no shortage of get-togethers between Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders.

That's right, the "Big Five" is back. Pérez had pledged to get rid of the behind-closed-door budget negotiations, but he acknowledged yesterday that, now that the Budget Conference Committee has wrapped up its first budget run-through, the major and minor details will be hammered out in the meetings.

"It signals the next step of negotiations, so obviously that's going to require us to engage in 'Big Five' discussions with the governor and Republican leaders," Pérez said.

Meanwhile, legislators got the OK to hit the road tomorrow for their monthlong vacation, provided they're prepared to come back to the Capitol if a deal is reached.

BARE MINIMUM BATTLE: Schwarzenegger has pledged that he will have to cut state worker pay to the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour without a budget that includes a state payroll appropriation. That move is the subject of a court battle spurred state Controller John Chiang's refusal to make such cuts in the past. So will state workers actually see their July pay drop? The State Worker columnist Jon Ortiz doesn't think so.

UNDER THE DOME: Lawmakers in both houses have 9 a.m. floor sessions scheduled to get in final votes before the July Fourth weekend. Policy committees also continue work before the Friday deadline for passing bills out of policy committees.

RIVERSIDE BALLOTS: The Riverside Press Enterprise reported yesterday that the Riverside County Democratic Party is suing to get 12,500 uncounted ballots included in the final results. Those ballots could factor big in the 40th Senate District Democratic primary, where former Assemblyman Juan Vargas leads Assemblywoman Mary Salas by 11 votes out of more than 48,000 votes cast. A judge is scheduled to hear the case this morning.

RALLY: National labor and civil rights leaders will join transit workers at a noon "Save Our Ride" rally at the federal courthouse downtown to call for protection of public transit funding. The group wants more federal funding directed to cover operating costs for cash-strapped transit systems instead of paying for purchasing equipment.


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