Dan Walters

Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Tuesday, Jun. 4, 2013 – 5:20 pm
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jun. 5, 2013 – 7:50 am

Anyone who would tune into the Legislature’s budget conference committee sessions this week expecting to learn how the 2013-14 budget is shaping up would be disappointed.

The committee is going through the budget item by item, at least those items where the Assembly’s Democrats and the Senate’s Democrats differ, but anything more than slightly controversial is being “left open.”

That’s political speak for those items that will not be resolved in public but rather behind closed doors, with the largest left to Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature’s top leaders.

The committee’s public sessions are aimed at maintaining the fiction that writing the budget – more than $200 billion in all forms of spending – is an open process. Their major value, really, is to provide clues to the many conflicts that linger just 10 days before the constitutional deadline for enactment.

Once, that June 15 deadline meant virtually nothing. But three years ago, voters passed a constitutional amendment that lowered the two-thirds vote requirement for budgets to a simple majority, thus giving Democrats total control. It also said legislators’ salaries would be cut off if they didn’t meet the deadline.

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