Deadline is Wednesday, but obstacles remain
Mike Cruz and Monica Rodriguez, Staff Writers
Created: 06/12/2011 10:10:16 PM PDT

Lawmakers will be faced Wednesday with passing a massive spending plan to fill a gaping deficit in the state’s budget, with serious cuts to everything from social services to education.

Local elected representatives are gearing up for a contentious vote on the first budget since Gov. Jerry Brown assumed office in January.

On the floor of the Senate on Friday, Sen. Bob Huff, R-Walnut, said the budget proposal had been characterized as the only responsible solution to California’s problems.

“What is responsible about having a sham budget with an $11 billion hole in it?” Huff asked. “We’ve only seen budgets this year with holes.”

Senate Republicans blocked a tax solution to the deficit Friday, prompting Democrats to respond with a countermeasure expanding local taxation powers, the Associated Press reported.

With a threat of lost pay hanging over their heads, lawmakers face a constitutional deadline Wednesday to balance the budget. The Senate made procedural progress Friday by passing a slew of budget alterations on a majority vote, but state leaders still lack a bipartisan agreement, according to AP reports.

The Legislature has made the budget deadline only once in the past 24 years. The threat of losing pay, though, is new this year because of an initiative voters approved in November.

The key divide remains taxation. Democrats want to solve the remaining $9.6 billion deficit with extensions of higher sales and vehicle taxes, as well as a return to higher income tax rates that expired last year.

Democrats say they’ve already taken hard votes by slashing universities and various programs for the poor in March. Brown has pushed all year for a tax election after vowing he would not raise taxes without a public vote.

Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, outlined a list of changes sought by Republicans in return for putting tax extensions before voters, including a cap on state spending; pension, tort and education reforms; and revisions of environmental law.

“We’re not trying to drag this out to the 15th so everyone loses their pay,” Dutton said. “But the fact of the matter is, we do feel we can solve this problem and get California moving in the right direction.”

In a quick break from Senate floor activities, Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Montclair, said Friday afternoon that work toward having a budget by the June 15 deadline was taking place. Would lawmakers make it?

“We’d better, but that doesn’t mean anything,” Negrete McLeod said. “We need to get a budget out.”

Negrete McLeod added “we’ve already voted on quite a few trailer bills. Republicans did a lot of talking, but they didn’t support bills.”

Huff said Republicans are hearing that reform on regulations can get people back to work. He said it takes 27

private-sector jobs to support one public-sector job.

“What are we doing to get people back to work?” Huff asked.

Missing from discussions were talks of pension reform, especially when some studies indicate the system is hundreds of billions of dollars underfunded, Huff said.

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