Lawmakers approved budget cuts this week that will hit college students, low-income families and disabled residents, all intended to help bridge a $26.6 billion deficit.
In combative floor sessions Thursday, the Legislature completed half of the budget equation, approving most of the spending cuts and special fund transfers in Gov. Jerry Brown's plan, as well as a main budget bill that assumes the rest of his package succeeds.
But what remains are some of the thorniest items in Brown's budget eliminating redevelopment agencies and asking voters to extend higher taxes. Without the additional $13 billion those solutions could provide, state leaders will have to cut deeper or find other pots of money to balance the budget.
Given lawmakers' reluctance in passing more than $10 billion in cuts this week to state and local programs, it remains to be seen what appetite they have for another round with the carving knife.
Already, the University of California and California State University will each lose $500 million in funding. The two systems must determine by June 1 how they will cut or make up that loss. At the same time, community college students will pay $36 per unit instead of $26.
Low-income families struggling to find work will receive lower grants as early as June, while parents will lose aid after four years instead of five. Children will also receive less money if their parents remain in the CalWORKs program for more than five years.
The California State Parks system must begin identifying sites for closure based on low visitation and lack of historical significance.
Doctors and hospitals can begin charging the state's 7 million Medi-Cal patients for services, ranging from $5 for office visits to $200 for two days of inpatient care. Low-income parents will pay higher Healthy Families premiums and co-payments for their children.
And the state intends to cut reimbursements for Medi-Cal providers, potentially reducing access to care.
"It's a brutal budget for health care," said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California. "Because of these health cuts, California is a less healthy, less secure place. The cuts would place both administrative and financial barriers for millions of Californians to get the care they need."
All told, lawmakers approved about $14 billion in cuts, internal borrowing and transfers from outside state accounts this week. That included the main budget bill, which normally doesn't get approved until months later.
"I think we did what we set out to do today, which is to make another significant dent in the budget deficit," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. "We obviously still have work to do, but it's momentum to get this done."
Thursday served as proof that the partisan divide in the Capitol remains as wide as ever.
Republicans in each house sought formal apologies from Democrats for perceived offenses in the midst of rhetorical sparring. Lawmakers were able to pass the budget bill and associated cuts to schools and prisons only by relying on Proposition 25, which allows Democrats to approve budget items on a majority vote.
Republicans said they objected to the budget bills Thursday because Democrats haven't agreed to long-term reforms on future spending and pensions and haven't incorporated GOP ideas.
"We believe it's just pointed and premised on a tax vote, which we do not agree with, which we are not going to vote for," said Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare.
All five of the Senate Republicans who had been negotiating with Brown joined their colleagues in opposing the main budget bill.
The most rancorous debate came in the Senate on a bill that would redirect low-level inmates from prisons to local jails and would make counties more responsible for supervising offenders after release.
Republicans suggested the criteria for "low-level" was too lenient and that dangerous criminals would return to the streets earlier and with less supervision. Democrats said the proposal has sufficient protections and has been endorsed by major law enforcement agencies as safe.
Sens. Sharon Runner, R-Lancaster, and Joel Anderson, R-Alpine, encouraged Californians to "get a dog, buy a gun and put an alarm system in" to protect themselves. Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, responded, "Let it be noted, the party of 'no' is also the party of fearmongering."
Leno's comment prompted Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, to ask for a formal apology on the floor of the Senate, which Leno granted for those who felt offended.