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Legislators aim for on-time budget

May 19, 2011|By Bill Kisliuk,

California lawmakers may have thousands of reasons to pass a state budget on time, something they have done only four times in the last 21 years.

Proposition 25, approved by the voters in 2010, docks the pay of state legislators for every day the budget is late.

“Most people in the Legislature are not wealthy, and this will create real pressure,” said state Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), whose district includes Montrose.


In the past, lawmakers were not paid during budget impasses, but were reimbursed once a budget was signed. But Huff said he is not sure Proposition 25 really will improve things in Sacramento.

“Holding a gun to the Legislature’s head to get a decision, even a bad one, isn’t necessarily what the voters thought they wanted. But it is what they will be getting,” he said.

New questions about the loss of pay arose late last week, when a state Senate administrative official told the L.A. Times that the Legislature’s passage of budget cuts in March qualifies as the triggering event for receiving pay, but that interpretation of Proposition 25 remains in dispute.

Robert Oakes, legislative director for Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge), said that the potential pay cut is a motivating factor, but that Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget, issued May 16, also gives hope for a timely resolution this year.

The governor's plan provides fixes for the state's long-term financial imbalance while finding middle ground between Democratic and Republican budget priorities, he added.

“Sen. Liu thinks it is a pretty realistic take on trying to meet the challenge the state faces,” Oakes said. “Senate Democrats are committed to delivering a constitutional budget by the June 15 deadline.”

He also expressed confidence in the governor's ability to negotiate with Republicans.

“It's Jerry. He's been around the block a few times,” Oakes said. “The important thing is everybody is continuing to talk.”

Huff, a key Republican negotiator, sounded an optimistic note. While he said he has concerns about aspects of Brown's revised budget, he also said the governor has shown a willingness to address top GOP priorities — pension reform and placing a hard state spending cap on the ballot.

“It's not like we're starting at square one,” Huff said. “He seems to reaching across to the Republicans.”

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