Lawmakers to fill $1 billion budget gap

By Alexa Haussler, The Associated Press
Wednesday May 29, 2002

SACRAMENTO — A preliminary budget plan that restores some health care cuts proposed by Gov. Gray Davis but still leaves lawmakers the chore of filling a $1 billion gap stalled at least briefly Tuesday in the Senate. 

The measure fell five votes short of the two-thirds majority needed for approval on a first roll call, but Democratic leaders delayed announcing a final vote as senators worked through the afternoon on other bills. 

The vote was among a series of legislative tests faced by the budget blueprint proposed by Davis that combines tax increases, program cuts and heavy borrowing to try to fill a $23.6 billion budget hole. 

The Senate’s version of the budget passed through the Senate budget committee earlier in the day with a sprinkling of objections — small rumbles of larger battles to come. Republicans have said they will not support a plan that raises taxes. The Assembly’s budget committee also approved a draft of the budget Tuesday and the full Assembly was expected to vote on it Thursday. 

Tuesday’s work by the committees is considered “the easy part,” said Senate budget chairman Steve Peace, D-El Cajon. 

Once each house approves its version of the budget, a two-house, six-member conference committee will try to put together a compromise that can reach Davis’ desk. 

Davis proposed a $98.9 billion spending plan that uses tax increases, borrowing and $7.6 billion in program cuts to fill the expected shortfall. Health programs and county governments would bear the brunt of the cuts. 

The plan would raise taxes on cigarettes and car registrations and would suspend a program that allows businesses to deduct losses from their income taxes. It also would shift more than $1 billion from current year spending to the next fiscal year to avoid suspending state education spending requirements. 

“Above all else, this budget is faithful to public education in this state,” said Sen. Jack O’Connell, D-Santa Barbara. 

Republicans, however criticized the plan, blaming the Legislature’s Democratic majorities and Davis for mismanaging the state’s finances during a fiscal boom and causing the current crisis. 

“If you spend every dollar that comes in during the good years, you are going to be in big trouble in the bad years,” said Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Northridge. 

Although Democrats control both chambers of the Legislature, they need the votes of at least four GOP Assembly members and one Republican state senator to approve the budget by the required two-thirds vote. 

Once approved by lawmakers, the budget goes to Davis for his signature and for “blue-pencil” vetoes that remove certain items from the budget. Last year, Davis vetoed about $600 million in spending. 


On the Net: 

The Davis budget plan can be found at http://www.dof.ca.gov