Capitol Alert

Monday’s budget will reflect Legislature’s priorities, not agreement with Brown

Lawmakers will pass a budget bill by Monday’s constitutional deadline but, unlike last year, it won’t be something that will win the support of Gov. Jerry Brown.

Talks between Democratic legislative leaders and Brown will continue after Monday’s scheduled vote, with a final deal emerging by the July 1 start of the 2015-16 fiscal year, state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, told colleagues on the Legislature’s joint budget-writing panel late Tuesday.

“We have a constitutional requirement that we pass a balanced budget to the governor by June 15. That is Monday. That will occur,” Leno said. “There are still some disagreements with the administration. That’s what those two weeks will be for and we will have a signed budget by the governor by July 1.”

Approved by voters in fall 2010, Proposition 25 requires the Legislature to pass a budget by June 15 for the coming fiscal year or lose its pay. In two of the last three years, the Democratic-controlled Legislature approved a budget bill by the deadline amid ongoing talks with Brown, later revising the package to reflect a final deal.

Keely Bosler, one of Brown’s top budget aides, said late Tuesday “there is significant common ground” between the governor and the Legislature’s proposal but that the administration has “significant concerns” with parts of the plan heading for the Legislature’s approval.

In particular, the Governor’s Office objects to the Legislature’s acceptance of higher revenue estimates by the Legislative Analyst’s Office, numbers that Bosler called “speculative.” The governor’s revised budget assumes $115 billion in general fund revenue through June 2016 compared to $117.3 billion in the Legislature’s plan.

The Legislature’s plan includes an estimated $749 million in general fund spending above the governor’s revised budget proposal. More than a third of that reflects $261 million more in general fund money for child care and preschool slots, along with $147 million for additional state preschool already covered by Proposition 98, the state’s constitutional school-funding guarantee.

The money would add 5,000 full-day preschool, 10,000 part-day preschool and 12,000 voucher slots, and raise reimbursement rates for providers. The ongoing annual cost would be $563 million. Home providers also would have the ability to unionize and bargain contracts. Bosler said the administration has “major concerns with this package” and the collective bargaining proposal is “not a policy we support at this time.”

By mostly paying for the expansion out of the general fund instead of Proposition 98, the Legislature’s plan largely rejects a Senate proposal to cover a greater share of the expense under the school funding guarantee. But the California Teachers Association and other school groups strongly opposed that idea, warning that it would reduce the amount of money for the classroom.

Other additional general fund spending in the Legislature’s package would restore hours for home-care workers, remove the cap on welfare-to-work family grants, and give $70 million more to the California State University system than proposed by the governor. Brown has warned that more spending would put the state back into the red if revenue falls.

“The Legislature is well aware of the administration’s concerns with the budget as it stands,” Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said.

The pass-and-continue negotiating approach to crafting a final budget also happened in 2012 and 2013. The Legislature passed a budget on June 14 and June 15, respectively, in those years, and followed up with “budget bill juniors” that reflected subsequent agreements with Brown. Brown signed budgets on June 27 in both of those years.

In 2014, though, the budget-writing committee produced legislation that largely reflected a deal with Brown. Lawmakers approved the package June 15 and Brown signed it June 20.

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