No Break in Bickering On California Budget


It's a rare summer in Sacramento when lawmakers aren't in town, skirmishing and squabbling amid a protracted budget stalemate.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the budget on June 30, calling it "an honest but painful budget" that included deep cuts to programs for the elderly and disabled and to higher education. 

Those cuts could go even deeper later this year, to education programs at all levels, if revenues fall short of projections.

The governor's signature freed lawmakers to head out of town on a month-long recess for the first time in years.

But wait! 

Their absence doesn't mean an end to the partisan warfare. 

Republican lawmakers, who blocked tax extensions meant to ease spending cuts, complain that those cuts unfairly target schools. 

They sent a letter Wednesday to Attorney-General Kamala Harris (D), asking her to weigh in on whether schools were short-changed on Prop 98's funding guarantees.

"It appears that Democrats used budget trickery," offered Assemblyman Jim NIelsen, R-Gerber, by shifting sales tax money to counties, allowing for a reduce formula for schools.

If that were undone, it would blow a $2 billion hole in the budget.

On top of that, Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Roseville, is seeking to overturn a new fire protection fee for rural homeowners. That would mean another $150 million hole.

Democrats, of course, find these complaints enormously ironic. 

Republican resistance to temporary taxes, they say, left cuts and fees as the only alternative.

"The rule should be you can't complain about budget cuts unless you have alternatives and votes to implement it," Nathan Barankin, communications director for Sen. President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, tweeted today.

School funding should be higher, said Chris Woods, budget director Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles.  "But without Republican votes to extend tax rates, school funding could not be increased."

Lawmakers return to the Capitol next week to wrap up their session, but wrapping up the budget bickering? 

There's no end in sight.

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