Budget Deal Details Emerge
Details are still a little sketchy on the new state budget agreed to by legislative Democrats and Republicans today. Closed-door caucus meetings laid out the overview for rank and file members late today, and we're told the actual bill will be in print tomorrow with a vote in the evening.
But here's what's been described so far, with more tomorrow morning on The California Report:
* Full funding for K-12 education under Proposition 98 was never really at issue. What was debated was money Governor Schwarzenegger had wanted earmarked for arts, music, and other programs. Long story short: some money will be designated for these kinds of programs, but some of the money will be given to schools with fewer strings attached, as Democrats had demanded. Also included are new education monies for English language learners and research into "best practices" for teaching non-English speaking students. On this subject, check out a special series of stories we've been running the last few weeks from my colleague Kathryn Baron.
* In higher education, the cost per course unit will go down by $6 at community colleges. An interesting but small component of the deal is full and reportedly permanent funding for two UC institutes that study labor issues. The governor line-item vetoed funding for the departments last year, angering labor organizations.
* In social services, some of last year's delays in cost-of-living increases for aid recipients appear to have been retroactively reinstated. And all sides seem to have good things to say about money for foster care programs, including more money for foster care caseworkers.
* Transportation funding continues to be in vogue in the new budget, with full funding for 2002's gas sales tax-related Proposition 42 and more repayment of previous borrowing from Prop 42 accounts.
* On public safety, many of Governor Schwarzenegger's proposals appear to remain intact, something Democrats had removed from budget talks earlier.
* And on the hot button issue of illegal immigration, it appears Republicans have won... for now. GOP legislators had threatened to hold up the budget over both a Democratic plan for health coverage of uninsured children, and a more modest plan on the issue from the governor. Both proposals would have allowed coverage of children who are not legal immigrants. As a result, neither plan is reportedly in the budget; however, Democrats say they will send the issue in a bill to the governor later this summer (such a bill only takes 41 votes, i.e. only Democrats) and, given his support for some kind of program, the governor may sign it.
In a broad sense, however, what might be really notable about this budget deal was the lack of fabled "Big Five" meetings. In fact, Senate President Don Perata (D-Oakland) told reporters today that the governor-plus-legislative-leader-meetings may soon be a "footnote" in Capitol history if the Legislature can continue to do the job its supposed to do.