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Jerry Brown's history of rifts with state lawmakers over welfare

June 13, 2012 |  3:52 pm

Gov. Jerry Brown in 1976

The current squabble between Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown over proposed cuts to state welfare programs is not the first time the issue has caused rifts between the governor and his fellow Democrats.

Nor have his views always been consistent on the issue.

A Jan. 17, 1979, article by then-L.A. Times bureau chief George Skelton talks of Brown’s “cool welcome” at his State of the State address while Brown was preparing to mount a challenge against Democratic President Jimmy Carter.  

“Liberals objected to Brown’s call for a … $20.3 billion state spending proposal that contained only 6% increases for welfare recipients,” wrote Skelton. “Democratic legislative leaders are demanding 15.6% hikes, amounting to $28 a month.

“ 'Jerry Brown is using welfare rights to run for the presidency in 1979 the way George Wallace used civil rights to run for the presidency in 1964,' declared Assemblyman Art Agnos (D-San Francisco)."

A year later, welfare was once again a major sticking point. But this time, Brown was advocating for more generous benefits than his fellow lawmakers. In 1980, Brown proposed a 15.5% increase for the state’s 1.4 million welfare recipients, but the Legislature sent him a budget that hiked benefits by only 13%, according to another Skelton story.

This year, Brown is seeking to cut benefits by up to 27% for some parents on the state's CalWORKS program and tighten work requirements for people on the welfare rolls -- cuts Democratic lawmakers have rejected.

But public criticism from Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) lacked the bombast, and headline-worthiness, of Agnos’s 1979 criticism of Brown.

Pérez said Wednesday that Democrats in the Legislature were not only on the same page as the governor, “we’re in the same paragraph.”

Related links:

Democrats prepare to toss budget to Gov. Jerry Brown

Democratic lawmakers counter Brown budget

Gov. Brown demands legislators make deeper cuts

--Anthony York in Sacramento

Photo: Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. was applauded in the Capitol's Assembly chamber in Sacramento on Jan. 6, 1976, by Senate President pro tem James Mills, left, and Assembly Speaker Leo McCarthy where he gave his State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature. Credit: Los Angeles Times