California Seal

By Jessica Calefati
jcalefati@bayareanewsgroup.com

Posted: 06/10/2014 06:51:33 PM PDT
Updated: 06/10/2014 08:04:40 PM PDT

SACRAMENTO — The knockdown, drag-out partisan fights, stretching on for months, are history. These days, state budget negotiations are downright cordial.

According to Capitol sources briefed on closed-door budget negotiations, the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic lawmakers have quietly reached deals on funding prekindergarten, pumping more money into the state’s beleaguered court system and funding levels for the state’s controversial bullet train.

Suddenly robust state finances and voter-approved measures that made it possible to pass a budget with a simple majority and dock lawmakers’ pay if they don’t meet the June 15 deadline to pass a budget are responsible for much of the civility. But this year’s discussions also showed that Brown and the Democratic-controlled Legislature that some had predicted would want to spend wildly are pretty much on the same page.

“They have a lot of differences, but at the end of the day, the differences are not so great that they can’t find a way to compromise and get the budget done on time,” said Bill Whalen, a research fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and top aide to former Republican Gov. Pete Wilson.

Previously, legislative leaders had already struck deals with the Brown administration on some key issues, including a new “rainy day fund” and a plan to fund teacher pensions. And they’re expected to spend the rest of the week ironing out several other deals ahead of the midnight Sunday deadline.

Deciding whether to allow home aides who work for the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program to earn overtime pay could prove to be the most thorny issue in this year’s budget talks. Meetings on the topic have been “heated,” said sources with knowledge of the discussions.

New federal rules require America’s in-home workers to get overtime pay starting next year, but Brown says it will be too costly for California and instead wants to limit aides to 40-hour work weeks.

After proposing a $160 million increase in spending for California’s courts, Brown has reportedly agreed to another modest bump in funding for the judicial system, whose budget was hit hard at the height of the state’s financial crisis.

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