Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

Updated at 3 p.m. by Kevin Yamamura

Gov. Jerry Brown signed 13 budget bills today that reduce the state deficit by $11.2 billion mostly through spending cuts, according to his estimates.

But the Democratic governor said he's still looking for Republican votes to place extensions of higher taxes on the ballot, even as time is running out to call a mid-June election.

Signing a flurry of bills in rapid succession at the Capitol, the Democratic governor approved higher community college fees, smaller welfare-to-work grants and the elimination Adult Day Health Care. Other bills take money from First 5 childhood development and borrow from special funds.

"These are painful cuts," Brown said. "It hits vulnerable people. It's not the kind of thing I like doing. I don't think it's the kind of thing any of the legislators like doing. But when you have a deficit, you have to do something."

The governor tried to avoid answering questions about a potential November initiative or placing taxes on the ballot with only Democratic votes, paths that circumvent Republicans in the Legislature. But he said he's "not excluding any pathway to give the people the right to vote."

Brown's finance director, Ana Matosantos, said the bills included $8.2 billion in spending cuts, $300 million in revenues and $2.6 billion in internal borrowing and transfers. Republicans dispute that calculation of spending cuts, asserting that at least $2.8 billion of the reductions should be classified as fund shifts since they reduce local government expenditures rather than state general fund spending.

Many of the cuts will not take effect until July. The Medi-Cal reductions, which include lower payments to doctors and patient copays, require approval from the federal government.

Lawmakers approved the health and welfare cuts last week on bipartisan votes, but Democrats passed cuts to education and public safety without Republican support. Their package of bills contained $14 billion total in solutions. The governor claimed credit for taking that much out of the $26.6 billion deficit, saying the state only has $12.6 billion left to solve.

But Brown did not sign three bills - two related to redirecting inmates to local jails and the main budget bill, Senate Bill 69. The Democratic governor is waiting to sign the budget bill, containing all general fund appropriations, until after he knows whether the state will receive taxes. The budget bill, Matosantos said, contains about $2.8 billion in additional cuts.

Senate aides provided a different estimate earlier today, saying that the main budget bill actually had $5 billion to $6 billion in cuts, while the bills Brown was signing contained between $8 billion and $9 billion in savings. One of the main differences was that Matosantos said Brown had enacted $1.1 billion in cuts to the University of California and California State University, while the Senate said those cuts were in the main budget bill Brown did not sign.



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