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Legislature Plans to Alter, Accelerate Budget Deliberation Process
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June 7, 2012

FROM:            Mike Dillon, CLA Lobbyist
                        Christina DiCaro, CLA Lobbyist
RE:                 News From the Capitol
Legislature Plans To Alter, Accelerate Budget Deliberation Process
Over the last two weeks, we learned that there will almost certainly be a significant shift in how the Budget process will proceed this year compared with past years. As has typically been the custom and practice in the legislature, the Budget subcommittees meet from March through late May, analyzing almost every component of the Governor’s January Budget and his subsequent May Revision to the Budget. Each house then presents their “version” of the Budget during their respective full Budget Committee hearings. Where policy and funding differences continue to exist between the two houses, a Conference Committee is established. The powerful 10 member Budget Conference Committee process is the annual rite of passage, wherein these legislative leaders of the Budget and Appropriations Committees, the Department of Finance and the Legislative Analyst’s Office work late into the evening, on weekends, etc. in order to reach an ultimate compromise to bring the Budget bill to the Floor for vote. However, with a June 15th date looming for the legislature to pass an on-time Budget, it appears that this year’s Budget process will be abbreviated, to eliminate entirely the Budget Conference Committee hearings. Additionally, because Proposition 25, approved by the voters 2 years ago, allowed for a Budget to be passed with a majority vote, Democrats should have sufficient votes to move the Budget forward to the Governor without needing Republican votes. 
This morning the Senate Budget Committee met to hear the presentations of the Budget Subcommittee Chairs on the work of their subcommittees, and then the Committee moved straight into deliberations on some “open” items relative to the Budget. The Senate Budget Committee Vice Chair, Bill Emmerson made opening comments on behalf of his Republican colleagues, expressing concern that the Budget Conference Committee would not be utilized this year, and he argued for a more fair and open process.  Senator Leno, the Chair of the Senate Budget Committee countered that he was, in fact, committed to a fair process and he highlighted the fact that the subcommittees had held approximately 48 exhaustive hearings on the Governor’s Budget. “We heard from Californians up and down the state, who traveled miles to be here.” Then he added, “There will still be significant, real, and painful cuts made. But we are trying to find alternatives to about 5% of the Governor’s cuts to soften the edges.” (In fact, in an article released around noon today by the Sacramento Bee, they indicate that Democratic leaders have been “meeting daily this week behind closed doors” with the Governor to “resolve about $2 billion in differences over budget cuts that would affect the poorest Californians.”  Many of the differences between the leaders and the Governor are centered around his deep proposed cuts to welfare programs, In Home Supportive Services, etc.) During today’s hearing, Senator Leno acknowledged that the conversation on the Budget was made more difficult as $8.5 billion in “solutions” to bridge the $15.9 billion deficit are reliant on the Governor’s tax package passing in November. 
While the Senate Budget Committee is closing out several items today, the public library funding issues are not part of today’s discussion. We anticipate that they will be contained in a package to follow next week. We have been actively working on your behalf to try to preserve funding for the library programs, particularly the California Library Services Act and the literacy services, in order to also hold on to approximately $15 million in corresponding federal funding. With very few discretionary areas in the Budget where the legislature can move or “borrow” money to save other programs, we are working harder than ever to try to protect the library funding the best we can. As you are aware, at this current time there is not one state dollar of funding in the Budget for public libraries, and thus our mission is to: 1)  insert funding and reactivate the Budget line items for the programs, and 2) protect the federal distribution to California.    
The Assembly Budget Committee is not planning on meeting until early next week, when they will presumably hold a hearing that is similar in format to the Senate Budget hearing. The Sacramento Bee indicates today that “Democratic leaders say they intend to send Brown a budget by next Friday, and preferably a budget that the Governor will sign.”