Budget committee passes spending plan; now the real talks can begin

March 3, 2011

By Daniel Weintraub

Democrats on the Legislature’s budget-writing committee passed a budget Thursday that largely reflects Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to close a $25 billion shortfall with a combination of spending cuts and extensions of temporary taxes.

The budget bill passed on a party-line vote and now goes to the Assembly and Senate for approval. Democrats control both houses, and, thanks to the passage of Proposition 25 last November, they now have the ability to adopt a budget by majority vote rather than the two-thirds super-majority that was required until this year.

But they still need a two-thirds vote to raise taxes, and, by most accounts, even to put a tax increase on the ballot, as Brown has proposed. And so far, most Republicans in the Legislature have said they will not vote to send the governor’s tax plan to the voters in a special election in June.

Thursday’s committee vote, then, should be seen as the beginning of negotiations in earnest among Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature and Brown. If any Republicans do vote for the tax plan, they will likely demand major concessions in return, including rollbacks in employee pensions and some kind of spending limit.

The budget shifts billions of dollars in programs from the state to county governments along with the revenue to pay for them. That money would come from the extension of $11 billion in temporary taxes first approved two years ago. The plan also eliminates local redevelopment agencies and shifts their tax revenue to the state for one year before sending it to cities, counties and schools.

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