Gavin Newsom and top Democrats decide California’s budget behind closed doors

By Alexei Koseff, CalMatters | Sacramento Observer

(CALMATTERS) – After legislative leaders failed to reach an agreement with Governor Gavin Newsom on how to close California’s projected multi-billion dollar deficit, the Legislature passed a temporary state budget just ahead of a mandatory deadline.

With just weeks to go until the start of the new fiscal year on July 1, both sides are refusing to publicly discuss what specific issues stand in the way of a deal.

Newsom’s office did not respond to an inquiry into remaining disagreements with the Legislature that have yet to be worked out. Representatives for Senate President Pro Tem Mike McGuire and Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, who are responsible for negotiations with the governor, declined to make them available to the media after their members approved a spending plan that almost certainly will not be the actual budget.

“There is a shared set of priorities,” Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, an Encino Democrat who leads the Assembly budget committee, told reporters after the vote. “It’s more about what the most effective solutions are, what programs and services we think are the best way forward versus others.”

His counterpart on the Senate Budget Committee — Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat — did not respond to an interview request.

Newsom last month laid out a plan to address what he estimates is a remaining $56 billion funding gap over the next two years, including using reserve accounts, delaying school funding, cutting government jobs and cutting spending or delaying of money for infrastructure, healthcare and healthcare. climate programs.

Democratic leaders in parliament, where the party has a supermajority in both chambers, came up with a counterproposal a few weeks later. One of the key discrepancies is the push for more substantial cuts in prison funding to reverse some of Newsom’s proposed cuts to scholarships for middle-income students, public health programs, subsidized child care and housing construction.

The governor and Legislature must also decide whether to reallocate the billions of dollars earmarked for increasing payments to health care providers who treat low-income patients, as Newsom has suggested, and whether to approve minimum wage increases for health care workers will delay even further. could potentially save the state billions of dollars, but faces strong opposition from unions.

Gabriel defended the process as “exceptionally transparent,” citing dozens of legislative budget hearings in which he said “there has been a very public vetting of these issues” and “opportunities for Californians to voice their opinions.” He said he didn’t think the eventual solutions would come as a surprise.

“I think Californians have a good understanding of the key issues at stake in this process,” he said.

Despite ongoing negotiations over undisclosed provisions, Democratic lawmakers voted to pass their version of the spending plan because they must pass a balanced budget at midnight Saturday to get paid. The bill passed by a vote of 29-8 in the Senate and 59-14 in the Assembly, largely along partisan lines.

Republicans criticized the proposal as out of touch with the needs of Californians. They raised objections to provisions that suspend certain tax deductions for companies to generate additional revenue, and to previous commitments to expand health care spending. Several members called for including billions of dollars for the state’s troubled high-speed rail project and expanding access to health care for undocumented immigrants, while other programs are being cut.

“This is a shameful budget,” Assemblymember Kate Sanchez, a Republican from Rancho Santa Margarita, said during the floor debate. “This budget is heartless, divisive, and completely disconnected from the reality and struggles Californians actually face.”

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