It also marked the end of what might be called Act II of a three act saga. Act I was the weeks of negotiations between Governor Jerry Brown and legislators. And Act III? That's where things are going to get downright tough.
After Wednesday's arm twisting dramas and ultimate bipartisan votes on some of the spending cuts, Thursday seemed much more of an exercise in reality: Republicans weren't going to vote for a lot of these bills.
The package of proposals on Thursday -- cuts in funding for higher education, state parks, and more -- were crafted as majority vote bills, unlike Wednesday's supermajority vote proposals. And though earlier in the week it had seemed (to some of us) that perhaps the proposals needed a two-thirds legislative vote to take effect immediately, the higher threshold was really a demand from Dems that Republicans also be accountable for solving the state's $26.6 billion fiscal crisis.
The budget plan's drafters said that thanks to last fall's Proposition 25, both the actual budget bill and all joined "trailer bills" could be passed by a simple majority.
Even so, Senate Democrats went through the exercise Thursday of asking for a two-thirds vote on most every bill; then, when faced with GOP opposition, bringing each measure back up as a majority vote bill.
The most notable hurdle for that strategy also provided the day's biggest fireworks: one of the bills to implement a broad realignment of government services from state to local control -- in this case, the transfer of inmates from state prisons to local jails.
Debated first in the Senate, the proposal drew dire warnings from GOP senators about the miscreants headed to local communities lacking enough space and security to keep them all locked up.
After calling the measure a "vast social experiment," Sen. Sharon Runner (R-Lancaster) told Californians to "get a gun, buy a dog, and put an alarm system in."
That catch phrase was repeated by another Republican, finally leading Sen. Mark Leno (D-SF) to, no pun intended, unload on the minority party.
"Let it be known," said Leno, "that the party of 'no' is also the party of fear mongering."
And from there, things got testy (a demand for a formal apology), then lighter (jokes about dogs), and then moved on. But the anger on both sides was palpable. Later, Republicans challenged the legal authority to move the measure without a supermajority vote, but were rebuffed by both the Legislature's lawyers and, in the Assembly, by parliamentary procedure.
Testiness also permeated Assembly floor debate, where members from the two parties engaged in 'point of order' queries about house rules, etc.
For his part, Governor Brown had a much lower profile Thursday, not seen quite as often ducking into private meetings with legislators. But after a meeting with Senate Dems, Brown made it clear that he considers Republicans the problem -- especially those in the lower house, where his plan to abolish redevelopment agencies needs one more GOP pol to support it.
"I don’t believe they should just hide out and say, ‘We’re not talking, we’re not dealing, we’re not voting,'" said Brown to reporters. He then mused that perhaps the Assembly GOP caucus had found some kind of mystical talisman that would allow the budget to be balanced without cuts and without taxes.
No doubt Republicans would -- and did -- dispute that characterization. Several GOP members said if only Democrats would more strongly consider changes to public employee pensions, business regulations, and state worker compensation, then perhaps everyone could work together. Dems, however, argued that those ideas were just that -- ideas, and not drafted, fiscally scored proposals.
"Nothing you have suggested adds up," said Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg.
But even after $14 billion in solutions, the future of the Guv's budget plan remains very much in doubt. Left to tackle sometime soon are all of the proposals that require a supermajority vote, including the transfer of tobacco tax dollars away from 1998's Proposition 10, 2004's Proposition 63, the removal of the business tax break known as the elective single sales factor, and... the big kahuna... property tax dollars away (PDF) from almost 400 local redevelopment agencies (RDAs).
(The RDA battle, which dominated things on Wednesday, didn't even rear its ugly head in public on Thursday. That's how politically stuck it seemed to be.)
And then, the $11 billion pièce de résistance: Brown's 'take it to the people' extension of income, sales, and vehicle taxes expiring on June 30. Republicans will no doubt be bombarded by the party faithful's nervous chatter about the T word at this weekend's state GOP convention (being held across the street from the Capitol); whether that hinders negotiations through the end of the week is anyone's guess.
And somewhere deep in the recesses of either the gubernatorial suite of offices or those of Democrats upstairs, someone's surely now thinking about a plan B. If Republican demands for a special election are simply not acceptable to Dems... will the majority party go along with Brown's pledge for an 'all cuts' budget? Or will they, perhaps reluctantly, dust off that legal opinion (offered to them by the GOP) that says they can send the tax package to the ballot on a party-line vote?
If that last option is really being considered, there's not much time left to play that card. Friday is 81 days away from Brown's preferred June 7 election date -- and previous ponderings suggest they're getting into dangerous territory for local elections officials to pull it off.
Friday is 88 days from June 14 -- a much discussed backup date, and one that would suggest another week before getting to where we are now.
Later that that? Several observers have noted that each Tuesday after June 7 presents problems, from capturing voter attention to having enough time to craft an alternative budget if voters reject the taxes.
Deals often happen fast in Sacramento. That's a good thing for the Guv, because it looks as though he's going to need it.