A Wobbly Budget Balancing Act

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The famous Flying Wallendas have nothing on Governor Jerry Brown as he tries to walk a tightrope between the towers of political paralysis in Sacramento.

Of course, Brown still hasn't pulled off the stunt... and, depending on who you believe, may ultimately realize that it simply can't be done.

Wednesday looks to be a test of not so much the chances of a deal... but rather of where the various players stand. Both the Assembly and Senate have scheduled votes on the budget package that was was came out of the joint conference committee... one that didn't have the support of Republicans.

While most Republicans are stridently opposed to a linchpin element of Brown's plan -- a special election for voters to consider extending $11 billion in taxes -- a handful of GOP lawmakers have been angling privately for a deal that trades a statewide election for GOP desires on government spending, regulations, and public employee pensions.

The eponymous 'GOP 5' admitted their existence by declaring said talks an impasse, then seemed to hint talks were still going, then apparently went their separate ways on talks as of Monday, then announced this afternoon that they "remain united as a team" in their demands.

All of which means that the budget proposal to send the tax extensions to a statewide ballot is D.O.A. when it comes up for debate in the Legislature Wednesday afternoon. That's not necessarily the end of the story, but the chapter we can expect to see tomorrow.

The $12 billion in spending reductions, however, are another story. Staffers say those spending cuts are not linked to the tax proposal -- and Democrats insist they'll vote for them, which means (Proposition 25, anyone?) that the measures would then head to the governor's desk.

Neither Democrats in the Legislature nor Republicans on the outside seem to think GOP pols will pony up any votes for the cuts tomorrow... which will no doubt lead to a long and testy floor debate between partisans, probably in the Assembly.

The vote also takes place some 48 hours before the kickoff of the year's first California GOP convention, which is being held just about a 10 minute walk away from the Capitol. There, at least one group is pushing to punish any Republican legislator who agrees to a June statewide election on taxes.

KQED/John Myers

Meantime, education groups continue to ratchet up their anger about a budget that would be all spending reductions -- one that could, depending on the scenario, take as much as $7 billion out of schools and colleges (the expired taxes plus suggested LAO cuts). Earlier this afternoon, it was reported that some 16,000 preliminary pink slips went out today to teachers and school staffers, advance notice of a possible layoff later in the year.

All of this leaves Governor Brown about where he began this quest -- trying to walk the tightrope between the left and the right. He conceded in remarks to reporters Tuesday that the floor votes might not really offer definitive proof as to where things will ultimately settle.

So a friendly piece of advice from the Capitol cockpit: there's a lot of fog ahead and we can't see the runway just yet. So we'll be circling for a bit... as long as we've got fuel.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new California Politics & Government Desk. He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades, serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and most recently as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. In 2014, he was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.
  • http://thebardofmurdock.blogspot.com thebardofmurdock

    Budget: Act III, Scene II

    With apologies to William Shakespeare, author of Julius Caesar

    Friends, Members, Senators, lend me your ears;
    I come to praise Obama, not harm him.
    The deficits men leave live on for years,
    The life of surpluses is very slim;
    So it is with Barack too. The noble Reid
    Hath told you that Barack’s a budget hawk:
    If it were so, we should in truth pay heed,
    And frequently we all have heard that talk.
    Here, under leave of Harry and the rest –
    For Harry is an honorable man;
    So are they all, as I can sure attest –
    Come I to ask for a new master plan.
    Obama gave us all Obamacare,
    But Harry said he is a budget hawk;
    And Harry is a gentleman foursquare.
    And have we not all heard Barack’s sweet-talk?
    Did he not say that we should spread the wealth?
    Does this Obama seem to penny-pinch?
    When everyone receives free care for health?
    I think the fists of thrift should have more clinch.
    Yet Harry calls him parsimonious.
    And Harry is a truthful man for sure.
    Obama signed the stimulus excess,
    With payoffs for his unions to secure,
    With other organizers: Minginess?
    Yet Harry sees only a budget hawk.
    And Harry’s honor seeps with all largesse.
    I speak not to engage in just small talk,
    But here I am to speak what I do know.
    You all did love Barack, not without cause:
    But now is time to deficits forgo.
    O spending! Thou art fled to blind applause,
    And men have lost their reason! Bear with me;
    My heart is in decline much like our land,
    And I must pause till it come back to me.

    thebardofmurdock.blogspot.com

  • surfon

    switch to a hot air ballon, there should be no shortage of that fuel.