SACRAMENTO — Like triple-digit heat, a stalemate over the state budget is virtually an assured summer event at the state Capitol.
And with shaky state finances and political tempers frayed by a statewide power crisis, the deadlock is about to begin again over a $101 billion state budget that is supposed to take effect Sunday.
Senators are to debate the budget Tuesday evening.
Republican lawmakers are demanding a handful of terms, including a constitutional amendment on transportation funding and a quarter-cent sales tax cut.
Without those terms, they say, they will withhold the one Senate and four Assembly votes that place the fate of the budget of a Democrat-controlled state in the hands of the GOP minority.
“We haven’t reached agreement on the priorities,” said Assembly Republican Leader Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks.
A special legislative budget committee approved a $101 billion spending plan early Saturday, after three weeks of intense negotiations among Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Gray Davis’ office.
Senate President Pro Tem John Burton, D-San Francisco, said the Senate plans to take up the budget Tuesday night, followed by the Assembly on Wednesday. Department of Finance officials say they plan a bill signing by week’s end.
Legislative leaders say at least one of the GOP issues – the transportation compromise – may be quickly resolved.
Davis and a legislative budget committee agreed to defer for two years a plan to use gas tax revenues for transportation programs. Instead, $2.5 billion over the next two budget years would flow into the general fund to help make up for sagging revenues.
Republicans say they will only agree to diverting the fund if Democrats agree to ask voters to require that the gasoline tax revenues be used for streets, highways and transit projects in the future.
“That transportation issue could be worth discussing,” Burton said.
More divisive, however, is the quarter-cent sales tax cut that is automatically triggered when the state’s treasury is full.
GOP lawmakers said they will not vote for a budget that fails to preserve that quarter-cent sales tax cut, which went into effect in January.
State law automatically triggers the cut if the reserves remain above 4 percent of the state budget for two years in a row.
The budget approved by the committee assumes the quarter-cent cut will end in January and bring in $600 million to the state in the 2001-02 fiscal year.
Another of the Republicans budget issues, the level of the state’s rainy-day fund, has been resolved. GOP lawmakers called for larger reserves than the $1.1 billion Davis called for in his May budget revision.
Davis increased that request to $2.5 billion to $3 billion after analysts reported that the state could be strapped with billions in deficits in two years.
In response, the committee trimmed new spending proposals in education, foster care and health programs to set aside $2.2 billion.
On the Net: See various budget summaries at www.lao.ca.gov and www.dof.ca.gov