Lawmakers Present State Budget Proposal

Gov. Schwarzenegger Opposes the Proposal, Which Increases Taxes, Keeps State Programs

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State lawmakers introduced a budget proposal last week aimed at offsetting California's budget deficit while retaining Cal Grants and health care programs.

Despite support from assembly Democrats, the legislature's revision to the state budget-which was adopted by the Joint Budget Conference Committee Wednesday-faces stern opposition from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said he would not sign off on a proposal that includes tax increases.

Unlike Schwarzenegger's revision to the budget, the legislature's proposal would not cut state programs such as Cal Grants, Healthy Families and CalWORKS, and would include $1.9 billion in new tax revenues that would go towards closing the state's budget gap.

"We're not supportive of any taxes," said Aaron McLear, spokesperson for the governor. "We understand Democrats want to further tax California while protecting the pay of state workers, but we simply disagree."

McLear added that voters have previously expressed their opposition to tax increases by overwhelmingly rejecting propositions during the May 19 statewide special election that proposed increasing income and sales taxes.

However, Democrats said the tax increases outlined in the legislature's budget revision will mostly apply to so-called "sin taxes" on cigarettes and oil.

The tax revenue would offset costs associated with keeping "safety net" programs-including Cal Grants-that were slated for the chopping block in Schwarzenegger's budget revision, said Hans Hemann, chief of staff for State Senator Loni Hancock, whose district includes Berkeley, Oakland and greater Alameda County.

"We did not agree to many of the governor's cuts that would have eliminated health care for almost one million kids (or cuts) that would have eliminated access to higher education for students who were academically qualified," Hemann said.

Campus and university officials have consistently expressed their opposition to the governor's proposal to eliminate Cal Grants.

While the legislature's revision would protect grants, the UC and CSU systems would still receive the same $2 billion in cuts that are currently outlined in the governor's revision.

However, higher education experts said cuts to the two systems should be expected, given that the state has also planned to reduce funding to health and human services and other programs.

"You can't look at the state deficit and realistically say that higher education ... isn't going to take its fair share too," said Patrick Callan, president of the San Jose-based National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. "It would be imprudent to operate on any (other) assumption right now."

Hemann said that the legislature will most likely vote on the proposed revision by Tuesday.

In order for the proposed tax increases to pass, two-thirds of the senate and assembly must approve the revision.

With full democratic support, the bill would require votes from at least five Republican legislators: two in the senate and three in the assembly.


Zach A. Williams is the news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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