Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said today that Gov. Jerry Brown's recommended $12 billon-plus in budget cuts - including huge slashes in social services - are different from Brown's Republican predecessor's because they are more "across the board" and include restructuring state government.
"I hate these cuts," Steinberg said at a Capitol press conference. But, he said, "I think this is a realistic budget."
As Steinberg spoke, interests defending childcare and social welfare programs began circulating to react to cuts in Brown's proposal, which also would ask voters to extend tax increases expiring this year.
"There is a recognition in this proposal that we have run out of patches," Steinberg said. "And we have been criticized, understandably so, for the various patches over the years. Our motive was to try to save as much public investment as possible, for education, for health care, for the needy."
"Well," Steinberg said, "the federal funds have run out. The temporary taxes are ending. There are no more patches."
He said Democrats will review the proposals Brown put on the table and may "quibble" with some. But in general, he said, Brown is asking for "sacrifices across the board - including with some of the corporate tax breaks."
The Senate Budget Committee will meet Thursday to begin deliberating the recommendations, Steinberg said.
"While I'm not ready to endorse any particular cut," Steinberg said. "I'm also very clear that I can't in good conscience reject any proposal out of hand."
Steinberg also predicted Republicans, in the end, would be reluctant to allow a tax deal to collapse and trigger deeper cuts than the more than $12 billion Brown proposed.
"If the existing taxes are not extended (by ballot approval) then double that (the $12 billion)," Steinberg said. "And no one will stand for doubling that. They (Republicans) won't stand for doubling that in their districts. So let's get real together."
"No doubt there is going to be huge resistance on our side to the level of cutting," the Senate Democratic leader added.
Steinberg hedged when asked about Brown's statement today that he would like at least two-thirds of legislators to vote to put the tax extensions proposal on the ballot. The legal question could be murky.
"I think it's very, very important that we do this on a two-thirds basis," Steinberg said, explaining he thought the chances of victory at the ballot are enhanced with bipartisan support.
"At the same time," he said, "if we don't have partners, which I'm not assuming, then we'll look at any and every way we have at our disposal to help save California."
Steinberg said he wasn't going to talk about his "potential legal strategies" related to getting a measure on the ballot.
Currently, there are 14 Republican and 24 Democrats in the Senate. Two seats are vacant until special elections are held.
This post was updated with more comments by Steinberg at 2:25 p.m.