The state Legislature plowed through a package of majority-vote budget bills this afternoon, approving a plan to close the $9.6 billion deficit with more than seven hours left until the deadline for both houses to pass a budget.
The package includes deeper cuts to higher education and the courts, the elimination of redevelopment agencies with plans to create an alternative funding system, a quarter-cent increase to the sales tax and a $12-per-vehicle increase to the vehicle registration fee. It also relies on higher revenue projections and maneuvers like bringing back an abandoned proposal to sell state buildings and tapping into funds meant for health and educational programs for young children.
The plan now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, whose own budget proposal is centered on extending higher tax rates set to expire through a vote of the Legislature and later statewide election.
Majority Democrats, facing today's deadline and the threat of no pay if a budget was not approved by midnight, said they were forced to resort to the alternative package without Republican votes needed to approve the governor's plan.
"This was very, very tough. But we've been given the responsibility and we certainly have done I think a very good job with the tools at our disposal," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said after the Senate finished its work today.
Republicans, who had sought a spending cap and changes to the pension and regulatory systems as part of a deal to put taxes on the ballot, blasted the plan as filled with gimmicks, one-time solutions and legally questionable tactics for raising revenues.
"This Democrat budget is an irresponsible package that has no real pension reform, no hard spending cap, no plan to put people back to work and no change to government as usual," Senate GOP leader Bob Dutton, of Rancho Cucamonga, said in a statement. "It clearly demonstrates that legislative Democrats would rather pander to their special interest allies than adopt the long-term budget solutions that Californians demand and deserve."
Brown has 12 days to sign or veto the budget approved today. Steinberg said he is still hoping an agreement on approving so-called tax bridge and later election on the taxes can still be reached. Unlike the budget in the wake of the successful 2010 ballot measure Proposition 25, the tax solutions require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature.