With deadline looming, California budget talks continue
California state senators held a three-hour hearing covering more than 50 topics on Thursday, but some of the biggest questions surrounding the state budget remain unanswered just over a week before the deadline for lawmakers to approve a spending plan.
Capitol sources say the key players –- Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Pérez –- have been meeting to hash out the details. Republicans have not been involved in the conversations.
There were hopes that a rough deal would have been reached by now, and Democratic lawmakers have indicated they'll accept much of what the governor proposed. But Steinberg and Pérez have been unable to reach an agreement with Brown on roughly $2 billion in proposed cuts to welfare, child care and home care for the elderly and disabled, the sources said.
“There are some cuts that are, in my view, too deep,” Steinberg told reporters last week.
Lawmakers are required by the state constitution to pass a budget by June 15, and the governor must sign a spending plan into law by the end of the month. The next fiscal year begins July 1.
“They’re really taking this down to the wire," said Mike Herald, lobbyist for the Western Center on Law and Poverty. "We’re going to have a lot of very important decisions made in a compact amount of time.”
Hammering out a state budget has become increasingly difficult this year because of the rising deficit. Brown pegged the budget gap at $9.2 billion in January, but said last month that it had grown to $15.7 billion.
The Legislative Analyst's Office, which provides nonpartisan budget advice to lawmakers, said the deficit could actually be even higher because of miscalculations about redevelopment money and tax revenue.
-- Chris Megerian and Anthony York in Sacramento
Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown, center, at a news conference with Assembly Speaker John Pérez, left, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, right, last year. Credit: Hector Amezcua / Associated Press