In a rare Sunday night session the California State Assembly managed to pass a bill closing the state’s budget deficit, albeit by means that the Governor and state Republicans disapprove of.
Should the Senate use its Democratic majority to push it through as well, it will land on the Governor’s desk just in time for him to veto it.
According to Democrats, the latest budget offering retains social programs like CalWORKS, Cal Grants, and Healthy Families, although they inflict cuts. The Governor had proposed nixing the programs all together.
The Democrat-backed plan also raises new revenue for the state by adding an additional $1.50 per-pack tax on cigarettes and including a 9.9% “severance” tax on oil companies who use the state to pump oil. An additional $15 increase to the vehicle license fee is also proposed in the plan, and the money is directed towards state parks. In return, the plan calls for state parks to offer incentives like free parking or free admission to the public.
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said that the plan is good for California.
“We accept all of the Governor’s realistic proposals, we protect the safety net and the real California families who depend on it, we prevent additional harmful cuts to education and we protect middle class families who are depending on Cal Grants for college in two months,” she said. “In this budget there is shared pain all around. In the interests of fairness we are asking oil companies and voluntary users of tobacco products to share in that sacrifice.”
Republicans scoffed at the plan, which they say is unconstitutional because it bypasses the required 2/3 vote to raise taxes. While Democrats hold a strong majority in both houses, they lack the ability to provide a 2/3 majority without a few Republican votes.
“We go down a slippery slope when we make the argument that the hurt to the people is so great that we can just ignore the constitution this time,” said Assembly Republican Leader Sam Blakeslee.
Republicans said that the legislation ignores the will of the voters, who shot down a host of tax increases in November, and that its cuts don’t go deep enough to close the $24 billion budget deficit.
“The public deplores gimmicks,” Blakeslee said. “The public wants Republicans and Democrats to work together.”
Shortly after the Assembly Democrats passed the bill, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger released a statement indicating that the legislation would die on his desk.
“I will veto any majority vote tax increase bill that punishes taxpayers for Sacramento’s failure to live within its means. The legislature will have a difficult time explaining to Californians why they are running floor drills the day before our budget deadline. We do not have time for any more floor drills or partial solutions. It’s time for the legislature to send me a budget that solves our entire deficit without raising taxes.”
With one day left before California officially runs out of money and starts issuing IOUs, it seems apparent that the state leadership will remain at an impasse.
To let the Governor know how you feel about the State budget, you can send him a message by clicking here.
If you do take the time to express your thoughts, you would be well served to copy and paste your message into an email and also send it to the legislature leadership, and to our representatives Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, Senator George Runner, and Senator Tony Strickland. Their email addresses and/or contact websites are listed below.
Karen Bass (D) – Speaker of the California State Assembly
Senator Darrell Steinberg (D) – President pro Tempore of the California State Senate.
Dennis Hollingsworth (R) – Senate Republican Leader
Sam Blakeslee (R) – Assembly Republican Leader
Assemblyman Cameron Smyth
Senator George Runner
Senator Tony Strickland