Quick veto earns stern rebuke from SCV officials

Cameron Smyth News

Gov. Jerry Brown angered members of both parties Thursday by vetoing a budget plan approved by Democrats in the Legislature then blaming Republicans for a fiscal impasse that threatens to strip more money from education and vital public services.

The developments made a balanced state budget appear more elusive than ever, even though Brown said he would once again try to reach a compromise with GOP lawmakers over whether to extend a series of tax increases set to expire June 30.

Brown warned, however, of dire consequences in the form of more cuts if Republicans don’t yield on the tax extensions and authorize a special election to put the question to voters.

“If they continue to obstruct a vote, we will be forced to pursue deeper and more destructive cuts to schools and public safety — a tragedy for which Republicans will bear full responsibility,” the governor said in his veto message.

“I think, like most people, we were surprised,” said Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, R-Santa Clarita, referring to his colleagues in the Assembly. “He vetoed the budget in its entirety, and he did it in less than 24 hours of its release.

“That’s pretty unprecedented,” he added. “It’s going to take some smart historian to find out when that last happened.”

Brown’s swift dismissal of the budget proposal and his ensuing finger-pointing raised serious questions about where things go from here as the clock winds down to June 30, a date that has become the new unofficial deadline for approving a plan to close California’s remaining $9.6 billion deficit.

Locally, officials expressed frustration that despite Wednesday’s tentative budget approval, the state is not actually much closer to passing a finalized spending plan for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1, or addressing the state’s economic issues.

“Democrats propose a budget; Democrats kill a budget — what can you say?” said Tony Bell, spokesman for Los Angeles County Mayor Michael D. Antonovich on Thursday.

“They clearly are heading in the wrong direction,” he said. “Plainly, they need to go back to the drawing board and instead of raising taxes they need to reduce bureaucracy, cut spending, move forward and get the economy growing again and create jobs.”

GOP lawmakers challenged Brown’s claim that the current standstill was their fault.

“In fact, it’s the Democrats who are holding California hostage by refusing to allow the voters to weigh in on meaningful structural reforms — not just Gov. Brown’s tax proposal,” a group of four Republican senators who have been involved in budget talks with the governor said in a joint statement.

Republicans are seeking reforms to public employee pensions, a spending cap and regulatory changes to help California businesses.

At a news conference Thursday afternoon, Brown offered little insight into how he planned to break the long-running stalemate with the GOP but said it could include arm-twisting and concessions and “everything within the law I will pull out of my gubernatorial briefcase.”

“We need four Republican votes and in the next several days I’m going to do everything I can — I’ll move heaven and earth — to get those votes,” he said.

Brown wants the Legislature to extend expiring sales and vehicle tax hikes for several months and authorize a special election this fall in which voters would be asked to extend those increases and an already expired increase in the personal income tax rate for up to five years.

The Democrats have majorities in both the Assembly and the Senate, but need at least two GOP votes in each house to pass tax increases or place measures on a ballot.

In approving the budget package, Democrats in the Legislature exercised their newfound ability to pass a budget plan — but not tax increases — on a simple-majority vote, a power granted by voters last year.

Had lawmakers missed a June 15 constitutional deadline to send a balanced budget to the governor, they would have forfeited $261 a day in salary and $142 in payments for daily expenses under a voter initiative passed last year.

The state controller said his office is still trying to determine whether the package approved Wednesday met the constitutional definition of a balanced budget.

Originally posted http://www.signalscv.com/archives/46599/