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Jerry Brown cites budget woes in veto of child care, welfare bills

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2011 - 12:00 am | Page 1A

In a blow to organized labor, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation Tuesday that would have let unions organize child-care providers who work out of the home.

Brown also vetoed a Democratic-carried bill to eliminate California's $4,650 vehicle asset limit for welfare recipients.

On a rare day conservatives cheered him, the Democratic governor cited the precarious condition of the state budget in both cases.

"Today California, like the nation itself, is facing huge budget challenges," Brown wrote in his message vetoing the child-care bill. "Given that reality, I am reluctant to embark on a program of this magnitude and potential cost."

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, vetoed similar legislation three times. Though Brown's own history with labor is mixed, activists seeking the right to organize California's more than 40,000 family child-care providers thought Brown more likely to sign it.

"I thought I would have a better shot with Brown than with Schwarzenegger, definitely," said Tonia McMillian, a Bellflower child-care provider and activist for Service Employees International Union. "I'm very disappointed in him."

For once, Republicans weren't. Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway of Tulare publicly praised the veto. Even Randy Thomasson, president of the conservative, issued a statement.

"This is a relief for many child-care providers – mothers, grandmothers, and others – who, for financial concerns or conscience reasons, do not wish to be forced to pay union dues," he said. "This money-grabbing proposal would have required child-care providers who care for kids receiving state subsidies to pay out more, thus raising costs for working parents, and ultimately raising the cost of state government."

Assembly Bill 101, sponsored by SEIU and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, was amended at the legislative deadline to include language by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.

Pérez expressed his disappointment in a brief written statement.

"This bill would have given child-care workers a voice in their workplace, and I will continue to fight to give them a seat at the table," he said.

The bill would have affected both licensed family child-care providers, who provide care in their homes, and certain license-exempt providers, including relatives and neighbors who receive state subsidies to provide care.

The bill would have allowed unionized providers to negotiate increased reimbursement rates for state-subsidized child-care assistance starting in 2014. The bill's supporters said low wages and benefits have forced many home child-care providers out of business, limiting supply. The bill's opponents said higher, negotiated rates could drive up child-care costs statewide.

Brown's stated concern about costs was repeated in his veto of a bill that would have eliminated California's vehicle asset limit for welfare recipients. In a veto message, he suggested the uncertainty of the state's finances just months after the latest budget passed.

"This bill would allow a person applying for welfare to have one car, or possibly more, of any value, rather than a maximum value of $4,650 under current law," Brown wrote. "In the last year, the state has been forced to make steep reductions in many programs, including the state's welfare-to-work program. As we go into the new year, we may have to make additional cuts. Until we better understand the fiscal outlook, we should not be making changes of this kind."

Brown, who is expected to ask voters next year to raise taxes, also vetoed legislation Tuesday by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, that would have allowed San Francisco to place on the ballot a measure to increase vehicle fees on local residents.

"Before we embark on a piecemeal approach for one city, we should try to fashion a broader revenue solution to our state's fiscal crisis," Brown wrote.

Leno said the veto was "confounding." His bill, he said, would have had no impact on the state budget.

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said Brown may be concerned a tax increase in San Francisco could complicate a broader tax campaign next year.

"I'm not sure whether there is a great deal of rhyme or reason to his vetoes," Coupal said. "On one day he seems to be, as we are sometimes deeply concerned, a complete tool of labor. On other days he does not bend to their wishes."

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

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