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Assembly still poring over California budget package

July 24, 2009 | 11:39 am

The budget package approved by the state Senate early this morning that would close the state’s $26.3-billion deficit remains stalled in the Assembly, as lawmakers balk on casting votes in support of raiding local government funds and a plan to guarantee funds cut from education are later repaid.

Assembly members are still meeting after working through a grueling all-night session.

The holdup appears to be centered in the Assembly GOP caucus, which met privately for three hours this morning as its leader, Sam Blakeslee, of San Luis Obispo, struggled to round up votes for the budget plan he helped negotiate.

"Were going to get this done today,” said Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles). “We have to."

By 6:30 this morning, the Senate had moved in a slow and painstaking fashion through about 30 separate pieces of legislation in the package to close the historic budget shortfall that has forced the state to send IOUs to residents and businesses.

At one point before dawn, it appeared the package was in danger of failure, as legislative leaders struggled for votes on provisions to raid local government funding. But after some arm-twisting by Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Minority Leader Dennis Hollingsworth, of Murrieta, a number of lawmakers from both parties voted for those provisions and the Senate was able to finish its work.

“We don’t know whether or not we will be back at this,” Steinberg told his colleagues, looking visibly relieved. “We probably will, but I must tell you, we can change California …. We can find common ground more often than not …. Let’s turn this place around.”

A potential sticking point in the Assembly was a bill that deals with how schools would be repaid some of the money the state is cutting. Assembly Republicans do not want to approve the version that passed in the Senate, which has now adjourned until August. If the Assembly does not ratify the same version, the bill can’t become law.

-- Michael Rothfeld and Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento