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The state Senate passed three minor budget-related bills on Saturday, but Democrats remain short of the two Republican votes needed to pass the one major component Democrats and the governor are seeking--a tax bridge.

"There's obviously one significant issue left to resolve and a bridge is essential," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, referring to a proposal to extend sales and vehicle license tax increases past their expiration on June 30.

"The so-called bridge is real money for public schools and public safety," he added.

The Democratic and Republican caucuses plan to meet separately Saturday afternoon before those involved in the budget discussions resume talks. With Wednesday's deadline to pass a budget looming, the Senate could reconvene at any point through Sunday night should some sort of deal be struck.

Senate Republicans blocked a one-year tax bridge to close the remaining $9.6 billion deficit Friday. Democrats responded by passing a countermeasure expanding the taxation powers of local authorities.

Steinberg said to reporters Saturday that the "length of the bridge was negotiable."

On Saturday, there was bipartisan support for measures to pay back funds owed to several state agencies, reinstate a program that allows low-income seniors to defer property tax payments and maintain a payment structure for nursing homes to stay open.

Steinberg said though Friday's release of the first draft of new legislative district boundaries surely created "a lot of buzz," they had not changed the "dynamics of the negotiations."

Asked if anything had changed since Friday, Steinberg said, "One day closer to the deadline."


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