California state budget deal struck, compromises abound

3:49 PM, Jun 21, 2012   |    comments
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We've all too often resorted to observations that a state budget deal in California is a an agreement no one exactly likes -- and so such a quip should be avoided in the deal rolled out Thursday afternoon.

And yet...

The budget compromise struck between legislative Democrats and Gov. Jerry Brown has all the hallmarks of a deal of necessity -- not just unpopular cuts, but a proposal that both sides hope convince voters to ratify billions of dollars in new taxes come November.

"We were able to find a middle ground with the governor," said Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, "that we believe minimizes the impact on people in need, while at the same time ensures significant ongoing savings for the state budget."

Cuts to welfare assistance were the biggest sticking point over the last couple of weeks, and the deal seems to have offered a bit of a half loaf on both sides: more stringent work requirements but some flexibility in how they're implemented... a deeper cut in funding than many Democrats wanted, but not as deep as Brown had proposed.

The welfare agreement also seems to leave intact a bit of the governor's political arsenal for the fall: namely, that he's instilling more 'tough love' for welfare recipients, a homage of sorts to the federal 1995-1996 changes (ones that also paid off for a Democratic incumbent needing voter support).

Democrats abandoned their idea of taking $250 million in local property taxes away from county governments -- a sign of the power that county officials seem to have with Brown, and a reminder of the governor's commitment to those partners when it comes to the financing of local services.

And, even as Capitol negotiations end, there's still work to be done -- most notably, the $402 million in cuts to state worker compensation, a cut Brown is currently trying to hammer out with labor unions at a different bargaining table.

Brown will no doubt get the final budget implementation ('trailer') bills by early next week, and will likely need to sign the full fiscal plan into law by June 27.


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