Tuesday, March 27, 2012

California Democrats balk at budget cuts

In a show of good faith one year ago, legislative Democrats slashed Medi-Cal, cut universities and reduced welfare grants to slice the state deficit 13 weeks before the constitutional deadline.

But this year Democrats are refusing to go along with Gov. Jerry Brown's most controversial reductions, spurning his demand to have cuts in place by March.

They oppose Brown's plan to halve the amount of time that unemployed adults can receive welfare-to-work benefits and to slash grants to children. Assembly Democrats have voted against his proposal to cut scholarship aid for 26,000 low-income students through higher grade requirements for Cal Grants.

Brown wanted lawmakers to fast-track his cuts again because he said the state can save more money the earlier it reduces programs. But Assembly Democrats have rejected welfare and Cal Grant cuts, while Senate Democrats say they will wait until at least May before making any real decisions.

"It's just March, it's just March," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, emphasizing that it remains relatively early in the budget calendar.

Despite warnings by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office that Brown's fiscal forecast is too optimistic, Steinberg hopes tax receipts will be higher in April than the governor predicted and that a Facebook stock sale will boost state coffers.
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