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Democrats moving on budget without governor's OK

Posted: June 14, 2012 2:46 p.m.
Updated: June 14, 2012 2:46 p.m.
 

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Democrats in the state Legislature held committee hearings on the California budget a day before the constitutional deadline to approve it, despite ongoing disagreements with Gov. Jerry Brown over their plan to make smaller welfare cuts to help balance a $15.7 billion deficit.

Republican lawmakers, whose votes are not needed to approve the budget, boycotted a Senate Budget Committee hearing, complaining that negotiations were being held in secret and they had not been given any time to review the budget bills, most of which were published online Thursday morning.

"We have made repeated requests for an honest and open budgetary process and for the budget measures to be in print for 48 hours, to allow public review," Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Redlands, said in a statement. "We can't in good conscience vote for bills we have not seen."

Democrats passed the main budget bills out of committee without GOP votes Thursday.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said the Legislature on Friday planned to take up bills with which the governor agrees, but put off voting on the more controversial parts. Passing the main budget bill by Friday's midnight deadline will meet the constitutional requirement and ensure that lawmakers do not go without pay, Steinberg said.

The Senate leader emphasized that Democrats are largely in agreement with the governor on most aspects of the plan. But lawmakers are at odds with the Democratic governor over about $1.2 billion in cuts to CalWORKS, the state's welfare-to-work program, child care, in-home support and college aid.

More than three dozen people have been arrested at the state Capitol this week in protests over cuts to home health care and other programs for the needy.

Brown is proposing to cut $880 million from CalWORKS by creating three different levels of support and imposing tougher eligibility requirements. His proposal would reward parents for working and give less aid to families where only the children qualify or if the parents are no longer eligible.

Democratic lawmakers and advocates fear that would drive families into homelessness. They say a family of three in which only the child is eligible for benefits would be cut from a $516 a month benefit to $375 a month, an amount equal to 24 percent of the federal poverty level.

Democrats only wanted to cut $428 million by extending existing cuts to counties to provide work training and child care.

"We are continuing to talk to see if we might find middle ground," Steinberg said, "but we maintain our same strong position that the people in the middle, the people who are poor, the people who had been middle-class but now find themselves on the edge because they've lost a job, these are the people we are talking about when we talk about CalWORKS."

He added that they are not just a number on a page, "but it's real lives."

Steinberg said Brown has not commented on the Democrats' latest version of the budget.

Both versions of the budget close the deficit by relying on about $8.5 billion in revenue California would only see if voters approve Brown's proposed temporary income and sales tax increases in November. The governor has submitted signatures for the initiative, which would ask Californians to add a quarter-cent to the 7.5 percent statewide sales tax for four years and increase income taxes on those who make more than $250,000 for seven years.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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