Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Friday, Jun. 8, 2012 – 12:00 am | Page 3A

There was no chance that Democratic legislators would fashion a new state budget before last Tuesday’s primary election, since budget votes could have become campaign ammunition.

However, that leaves just a week before the June 15 constitutional budget deadline – with legislators’ salaries at risk if they don’t make it. And with at least a $16 billion deficit to close, they can’t skate by merely assuming voters will pass new taxes in November.

They will plug in that assumption, certainly, but that still leaves about $7 billion in income/outgo shortfall to be covered.

Democrats are balking at Gov. Jerry Brown’s plans to slash $2 billion-plus in health, welfare and child care services to the poor, disabled, elderly and young.

Brown says he wants permanent cuts in those services not only to balance the budget, but to establish credibility with voters who will cast judgment on his income and sales tax package.

Democrats are scrambling for alternatives, such as reducing or eliminating the billion-dollar reserve Brown has built into his budget or adopting more of their infamous gimmicks that have backfired in the past.

Brown and Democratic leaders are talking about all of that, but it would appear that they’re coming at the issue from markedly different standpoints.

Brown is looking at the big budget picture and strategy for the November election while Democratic legislators are facing protests from those who would be affected by the service cuts and the unionized workers who dispense those services.

If the Democrats send an obviously gimmicked-up budget to Brown, or one that reduces the reserve to little or nothing, would he veto it, as he did last year?

That veto, declaring the Democrats’ budget to be unbalanced and incapable of drawing cash flow financing from Wall Street, led to Controller John Chiang’s decision to cut off legislators’ salaries.

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