Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
July 31, 2016 – 6:00 AM

Writing a new state budget in June turned out to be, in an old saying, easy-peasy.

However, it was easy not only because the state has reaped a bounty of revenues from economic recovery, but because the budget package didn’t address three major Jerry Brown priorities: housing reform, transportation financing and the state’s cap-and-trade program of reducing carbon emissions.

The Legislature will return to Sacramento on Monday for the final month of its biennial session and work on all three.

This time it won’t be simple. The politics of all three are confoundingly complex, involving scads of “stakeholders” – Capitol jargon for narrow interest groups – the usual interparty rivalries, plus discord within the dominant Democrats and election-year sensitivities.

The short versions:

Housing: With the state facing a wide gap between supply and demand and skyrocketing costs, Brown wants the Legislature to give projects that meet certain criteria a regulatory fast track.

His proposal is aimed at overcoming fierce local opposition to housing – the not-in-my-backyard syndrome. But local governments don’t want to lose land use authority, environmental groups don’t like watering down the much-criticized California Environmental Quality Act, and service unions are opposed because they often use, or misuse, CEQA as a unionization tool.

Construction unions, meanwhile, are demanding that any action on housing deregulation include a “prevailing wage” requirement usually reserved for public works.

Administration officials have been traveling the state to build support for housing action, but it will be a tough political nut to crack.

Transportation: Brown wants a new, multibillion-dollar financing package to chip away at a huge backlog of deferred highway maintenance. But new taxes would require at least some Republican votes, local governments want a share of the proceeds for their roads, and mass transit providers also want in on the action.

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