Democrats unveil cloudy state budget document

5:28 PM, Jun 11, 2012   |    comments
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Democrats in the state Assembly are poised to formally reject some of Governor Jerry Brown's social services cuts and instead create a smaller cash cushion, while directing more local property tax dollars to help fund public schools.

A 108-page budget outline (PDF) was released late Monday afternoon after a day of private negotiations between Brown and Democratic legislative leaders.  But whether the blueprint represents a firm budget offer or a wish list remains unclear.

"Overall, the Legislature's budget diverges from the governor's plan by less than 1 percent of the total spending," reads the preamble to the document.  But the proposal never provides a comprehensive list of those changes from what the governor proposed, choosing instead to mention its rejection of Brown's budget ideas in piecemeal fashion.

The list is hardly surprising: rejection of Brown's new cut to in-home supportive services (IHSS), his 10 percent cut in child care provider payments, a portion of his cuts in the welfare-to-work program CalWorks.

But where the money for that additional spending comes isn't completely clear.

The one obvious source: the governor's desired $1 billion reserve fund.  Assembly Democrats have cut that by about 40 percent to $614 million, according to Monday's budget overview.  Whether Brown is willing to accept this remains to be seen, and while Democratic legislators have been promising for weeks to support a "prudent" reserve, they've all along hinted that their definition would likely be different (read: smaller) than Brown's.

After that, the new budget document's a bit hit and miss.  While it appears that Assembly Democrats might be scoring more financial help for schools from property tax dollars that used to go to redevelopment agencies, it's also possible the document is lumping together two fiscal years and, thus, not that different than what the governor is estimating.

And that topic -- dollars formerly earmarked for redevelopment -- is an important one, because the calculation of what's assumed to be left over has been updated since Brown's revised budget came out on May 14.  And it's often been pointed out in Capitol circles that the more property tax dollars that state officials believe can be sent to schools, the more general fund cash left for other programs.

So what's next?  Governor Brown's spokesman only offered a "discussions are ongoing" comment via email, and budget committees in both houses are expected to vote on a fiscal plan tomorrow... though exactly what plan remains unclear.


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