Gov. Brown To Sign Pared-Down Calif. Budget Deal

fromKQED

Lawmakers in California have agreed to a new budget. The legislature has sent Gov. Jerry Brown a nearly $86 billion spending plan that begins Friday. The governor is expected to sign the measure.

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California Governor Jerry Brown has mended fences with his fellow Democrats and is now poised to sign a new state budget by the end of this week. This comes after he vetoed a budget two weeks ago that he said was full of accounting tricks.

As John Myers of member station KQED reports, finally getting a budget at all has brought no jubilation, but at least some relief.

JOHN MYERS: California faced a $26 billion budget hole when Jerry Brown took office in January. The hole was created by a long-term imbalance of taxes and spending and exacerbated by a floundering economy. But in the fiscal year that begins Friday, Brown and his fellow Democrats in the state's legislature are banking on hope that a recent uptick in tax revenues will bring in an unexpected seven-and-a-half billion dollars.

Governor JERRY BROWN (Democrat, California): We do expect more revenues in the budget year coming up. But in case we're overoptimistic, we have severe trigger cuts that will be triggered and go into effect.

MYERS: That proposal - optimistic revenue projections, but a backup plan of cuts - is why Governor Brown says he will sign the budget approved by the state legislature Tuesday night. Almost two weeks ago, he vetoed a budget that instead closed the final gap with gimmicks. One gimmick, for example, raided a protected fund of tobacco tax dollars, even though it's already been blocked by the courts.

Still, California's biggest budget solution is less spending, to the tune of $15 billion.

State Senator DARRELL STEINBERG (Democrat, California): This budget is the most austere fiscal blueprint California's seen in more than a generation.

MYERS: Democrat Darrell Steinberg is the leader of the California State Senate.

State Sen. STEINBERG: Spending levels are at historic lows. And every sector of society will feel the difficult choices we've made to bring the budget into balance.

MYERS: Colleges and universities will almost surely raise tuition in response to deep cuts. And some of the biggest cuts overall are being made in health and welfare programs. K through 12 schools, the largest part of California's budget, will have billions of dollars of their funding delayed. Nowhere in the new budget is a tax increase. Governor Brown tried all year to cajole out of Republicans an extension of temporary taxes, $11 billion worth that would be sent to a statewide ballot for voters to ratify. Over the weekend, he gave up.

Republicans, like state Senator Bob Huff, says the budget now in place proves those taxes were never really needed.

State Senator BOB HUFF (Republican, California): If we now have the revenue that we needed at the beginning of the year, why is it we keep going back to the voters and asking for yet more?

MYERS: Governor Brown insists those additional taxes are still needed to help pay off accumulated state debt and pay for a realignment of state and local government. To do that, Brown says he may go around lawmakers and take his plans directly to California voters through a ballot initiative in 2012.

For NPR News, I'm John Myers, in Sacramento.

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