Lawmakers begin months-long review of Gov. Jerry Brown's budget
Now that Gov. Jerry Brown has unveiled his budget proposal, it’s time for lawmakers to pull out their red pens.
The Senate Budget Committee held its first hearing Thursday, and its Assembly counterpart will do the same Tuesday. Until the governor releases an updated proposal in May, lawmakers will be poking and prodding his budget plan – and spinning it for political purposes.
With the state’s budget deficit shrinking, Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said lawmakers can take their time reviewing Brown’s spending plan this year.
“It’s something we were not able to do given the state of emergency a year ago,” said Leno, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
This year’s deficit is estimated to be $9.2 billion, a far cry from last year’s $26-billion gap. Senate Democrats have balked at the governor’s request for about $2 billion in cuts to welfare and medical programs.
California's spending plan won't be finalized until it's approved by a majority vote in both houses of the Legislature and is signed by the governor. The deadline is June 30.
During Thursday’s hearing, lawmakers prodded an official from Brown’s budget office about the governor’s proposed tax increases, which he hopes voters approve in November.
If the proposal is voted down and billions more dollars are cut from the budget, Sen. Elaine Alquist (D-Santa Clara) said, California’s reputation could be harmed.
“What kind of place would we be living in?” she said.
Sen. Bill Emmerson (R-Hemet) rejected the argument for higher taxes, saying he’s worried state government lacks discipline to rein in spending.
“It’s excessive taxation the governor is asking for,” he said.
Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown speaks with Senate Budget Chairman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco, center) and Assembly Budget Chairman Bob Blumenfield (D-Sherman Oaks, right) during a hearing last year. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press
-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento