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Democrats hope to present united front in meeting with Schwarzenegger

Assembly Speaker John Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) will meet with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger this evening to discuss the state budget, just hours before the constitutional deadline for the state to have a spending plan in place.

Sources in both Steinberg's and Pérez's offices say the two Democrats have reached an agreement on a broad framework for a budget plan that incorporates elements of the separate proposals put forward by Steinberg and Pérez over the last month.

"Darrell and the speaker have been working very hard, not to blend the two proposals, but to come up with the right architecture for a budget solution," said Steinberg spokesman Nathan Barankin.

In an interview Wednesday, Pérez said jobs were central to his thinking on the budget and were justification for trying to limit the most severe budget cuts.

"This budget could create a worse unemployment rate if we adopt all the cuts the governor has outlined," he said.

Some of the central tenets of the Democratic proposal include offering about $54 billion for public schools and ensuring the state remains on the hook for more than $11 billion that education advocates say the state is constitutionally obligated to pay to schools.

The Democrats' plan includes proposals to create a new tax on oil production and to roll back about $2 billion in tax breaks for corporations set to go into effect in the new fiscal year, which begins Thursday.

The proposal will call for what are known as "one-time solutions" in Capitol parlance -- proposals that will likely include billions in new borrowing. But it will not specifically mention the plan put forward by Pérez to borrow billions of dollars in revenue from the fees Californians pay on recyclable bottles. That proposal remains on the table but is being tweaked to ensure it passes constitutional muster.

A Steinberg plan to restructure some government services and turn state responsibilities over to counties and cities will also be part of the proposal.

Democrats will continue to repeat the mantra started by Pérez that the budget should be viewed through the lens of job creation and job retention.

Pérez and Steinberg maintain that Schwarzenegger's budget plan would cost the state up to 430,000 jobs.

The Democratic outline also states that California should not make the budget problem worse in future years. The state's legislative analyst has said Pérez's budget plan would create a $16-billion shortfall in the 2011-12 budget year.

-- Anthony York in Sacramento

 
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