After a day of cuts on Thursday, the California Legislature still has yet to issue final votes on some of the most controversial issues in Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget package to make up a $25.4 billion deficit. Eliminating redevelopment agencies as well as placing a tax extension on the June ballot are part of his plan, but most likely will be taken up when lawmakers reconvene Monday.
As budget talks wound to a close Thursday, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, urged Republicans to reach consensus with Democrats. Otherwise, he said, voters would start to question their presence in the Capitol.
“The people rightfully ask, ‘What are you doing up (in Sacramento)?’” he said.
Steinberg also said that nothing the Republicans had proposed add up to the $12.5 billion in cuts asked for by the governor. Republicans repeatedly asked throughout the day for structural reforms in California’s budget, such as pension reform, and said Brown’s cuts didn’t go far enough.
Steinberg conjured up the results from a recently issued Field Poll that found voters aren’t eager to increase taxes, but a majority support the idea of extending the temporary tax increase put into place with the state several years ago. In addition, six out of 10 people prefer calling a special election to allow voters to decide rather than the Legislature, according to the report.
“The Field Poll indicated very strongly that the majority of Californians believe that this should be on the ballot,” he said, adding that Republicans should vote on behalf of their constituencies.
But the next speaker, Sen. Sam Blakeslee, R-San Luis Obispo, disagreed heartily with Steinberg.
“This is not a question of how to move the state forward,” he said. “This is a question of whether we’re going to working in a bipartisan fashion.”
He said Republicans would step up, and even be willing to risk their political careers, but not for a solution “that does not fix the problems of the state of California.”
Blakeslee lamented the budget process and the “half-baked nonsubstantive fix that helps us limp along from year to year.”
The Senate ended up passing the main budget bill on a 25-15 vote, cleanly along party lines. It’s the first majority budget to be passed since Proposition 25, in which voters approved that lawmakers could pass a budget by a majority rather than a two-thirds vote.
Locally, the Chambers of Commerce Alliance of Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties praised Assemblymen Jeff Gorell and Cameron Smyth for voting against the elimination redevelopment agencies earlier in the day.
“Redevelopment agencies represent our region’s economic recovery, so to eliminate them is penny-wise but pound-foolish,” said Suzanne Scar, chairwoman of the Chambers of Commerce Alliance of Ventura & Santa Barbara Counties.
She said the group was in Sacramento two days ago to stress “the value of our redevelopment agencies in terms of job creation and tax revenue generation. The Chamber Alliance applauds Assemblymembers Jeff Gorell and Cameron Smyth for voting against total elimination of the entire program.”
Closer to home, the City of Santa Barbara stands to lose $12 million per year in revenue if lawmakers axe RDA funding, according to Robert Samario, Santa Barbara’s finance director.
“Of the $12 million, approximately $4 million currently goes toward the funding of low- and moderate-income housing projects,” he said. “The remaining $8 million is used to finance improvements within and adjacent to the boundaries of the RDA (roughly the downtown corridor and the waterfront).”