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Program Cuts, Tax Extensions at Forefront of California Budget Talks

Gov. Brown seeks a mixed-bag approach to make up the state's $25.4 billion shortfall

The California Legislature struggled Wednesday to find common ground over a budget package, and will take up the issue again Thursday morning as it continues talks over more cuts and extending taxes.

Gov. Jerry Brown announced in January that he’s taking a mixed approach to making up the state’s $25.4 billion budget deficit. In addition to asking for tax extensions, he called for large cuts to Medi-Cal, welfare, and the University of California and California State University systems.

“It’s better to take our medicine now and get our state on balanced footing,” he told the media.

Redevelopment agencies are also on the chopping block, and going forward, Brown said the state will be looking at ways to eliminate back-filling the property taxes involved.

Wednesday’s votes first came from the state’s Assembly, which approved four bills of cuts toward welfare and in-home care, but the Senate has yet to sign off on the legislation.

Perhaps the most contentious issue has yet to find a compromise. Brown’s plan to place ballot measures before voters would ask them to approve an extension of income, sale and vehicles license taxes, and it’s likely to have problems garnering support from Republicans.

In that vein, a Field Poll was released Wednesday revealing some interesting thoughts on the mood of voters. The poll surveyed nearly 900 people, showing that 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.

Six out of 10 people prefer calling a special election to allow voters to decide rather than the Legislature, according to the report.

Though a majority of voters agree with Gov. Brown’s approach of a mix of cuts and increases to revenues, “voters have a hard time identifying which specific state program areas they would be willing to cut,” the report said.

Voters were asked about 14 areas of state spending, but a majority could agree only that cuts for the courts and state judiciary along with state prisons and correctional facilities should go through.

Just two years ago, lawmakers were rebuffed on tax increases when Proposition 1A failed 65.9 percent statewide and 64.9 percent in Santa Barbara County. The measures would have increased the state’s rainy day fund, which would have come from increases in sales and use taxes, vehicle license fees and personal income tax.

Click here to view Thursday’s budget talks.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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