Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

budgetphoto.jpgby David Siders and Jeremy B. White

California lawmakers passed the state's main budget bill Sunday, less than six hours before the constitutional deadline.

The vote comes after Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders last week reached a compromise on a $156.4 billion budget package for the fiscal year beginning July 1. The spending plan includes more money for Medi-Cal and welfare-to-work and an expansion of child care and preschool programs for poor children. It also begins to pay down an estimated shortfall of more than $74 billion in the teachers' pension fund, puts about $1.6 billion into a special rainy day fund and holds about $460 million more in reserve.

Lawmakers in both the Senate and Assembly were beginning late Sunday to take up the first of 18 related "trailer bills," legislation attached to the budget.

The Senate approved the main budget bill 25-11. Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, broke ranks with Republicans to cast a vote for the budget.

The vote in the Assembly was 55-24.

"This is a much brighter day than what we've seen in years past," said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, adding that only recent years have lawmakers been able to begin restoring cuts made during the recession.

Among trailer bills lawmakers took up Sunday were items inserted with little public review in recent days, including controversial language capping the amount of money school districts may set aside for economic uncertainties if state-level reserves reach certain levels.

The measure, backed by California's influential teachers unions, was opposed by school administrators, and some Democrats who supported the proposal criticized the late hour at which it appeared.

"My main concern truly is with the process," Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, said before the measure cleared a budget committee Sunday. "This is clearly a major policy deviation from the way we've done business, and this is something that could have been discussed over the last several months."

Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, said, "To say that this process is inconsistent, I think, is somewhat of an understatement and is the politest word I can think of."

The budget's main points, however, were settled by late last week. In a prepared statement Friday, Brown called the spending plan a "solid and sustainable budget that pays down debt, brings stability to the teachers' pension system and builds at long last a reliable Rainy Day Fund."

In debate in the Assembly on Sunday, Democrats and Republicans split on both the main budget bill and several trailer bills. Members of the majority party praised what they called a balanced approach to spending, while Republicans decried plans to spend carbon-reduction funds on high speed rail and said spending on education is inadequate.

"We do not live up to the promises of Prop 30 in this budget," said Jeff Gorell, vice chair of the Assembly Budget Committee, referring to the tax measure Brown and others promoted in 2012 as a new funding stream for schools.

The budget and it's $108 billion general fund are a product of negotiations between the Democratic governor and majority Democrats in the Legislature. Republican support was required for a two-thirds vote on a reserve fund measure in May, but the minority party was largely sidelined in budget talks.

Hours before lawmakers took up the budget, Senate Republican leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said on Twitter, "Usually on Father's Day, I barbecue meat. I wish I could roast a few Dem priorities."

PHOTO: State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, right, receives congratulations from Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, after the Senate approved the state budget at the Capitol Sunday. Associated Press/Rich Pedroncelli



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