Brown stands by veto, will confer with state controller on lawmakers' pay
Gov. Jerry Brown said Thursday that he vetoed a rare on-time state budget passed by his fellow Democrats because the proposal as a whole did not meet his expectations for a spending blueprint.
Brown, speaking to reporters in Los Angeles, said that he ultimately may support elements of the budget plan, but refused to answer questions about specific things he liked in the plan passed Wednesday.
Still unanswered is whether lawmakers met their constitutional obligation to pass a balanced budget by June 15. Failure to do so would result in lawmakers’ pay being forfeited until a budget is in place.
Brown declined to give his opinion on the matter. He said he planned to call state Controller John Chiang on Thursday afternoon, and that a decision on whether to pay lawmakers was “really the controller’s call.”
After Brown spoke in Los Angeles, Chiang released a statement saying he would "move quickly to complete our analysis of whether the budget bills passed Wednesday meet the constitutional definition, or fall short."
He reiterated that his office would be required under Proposition 25 to forfeit lawmakers' pay if it is determined that requirements were not met.
“We are awaiting the final budget bill language before we begin our examination," Chiang said.
Brown said he told Democratic leaders of his intention to veto the budget at a meeting in the Capitol late Wednesday. He derided the Democratic plan as being full of “legally questionable maneuvers” and said the plan “adds to our wall of debt.”
Brown said his action marks “the first time in history a state budget has been vetoed.” But Brown made it clear that he placed the blame for the budget delay squarely on Republicans -– four of whom would be needed to pass Brown’s plan, which includes a fall referendum on higher sales, vehicle and income taxes.
“I hold the Republicans responsible for this,” he said. “We had a plan that was balanced and they blocked it.”
The governor first announced his veto in a press release Thursday.
"Unfortunately, the budget I have received is not a balanced solution," his statement said. "It continues big deficits for years to come and adds billions of dollars of new debt. It also contains legally questionable maneuvers, costly borrowing and unrealistic savings. Finally, it is not financeable and therefore will not allow us to meet our obligations as they occur."
The plan was pushed through Wednesday by Democrats under new authority to pass a budget on a majority vote. It returned to old strategies that have contributed to chronic deficits in the state, with provisions to hike car registration fees and local sales tax rates and force online retailers, such as Amazon.com, to collect sales tax.
The plan would also cut more deeply into higher education, the courts and local law enforcement.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) on Wednesday called the approved budget “not perfect” but still worthy of Brown’s signature.
After Brown’s veto, Steinberg said, “we are deeply dismayed by the governor's decision," calling it “apparently part of some elaborate strategy to force a confrontation."
Photo: Gov. Jerry Brown leaves the podium Thursday at a news conference announcing that he vetoed the state budget passed by lawmakers on Wednesday. Credit: Lucy Nicholson / Reuters