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High-speed rail funding to be key budget issue, Senate leader says

PoliticsFinanceEconomy, Business and FinanceBudgets and BudgetingJerry BrownDarrell Steinberg

SACRAMENTO -- A proposal to use money from the state’s cap-and-trade system of pollution credits to help fund the proposed high-speed rail system “is going to be one of the central issues in the budget,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) predicted Thursday.

“I’m open to the issue,” Steinberg said, but he added that Gov. Jerry Brown will have to provide a “credible plan to fund the next extension” of the rail system so that the Senate leader knows there is a financial plan beyond using cap-and-trade funds.

Steinberg told reporters at the Capitol that he is “mostly encouraged” by the governor’s budget because the state no longer faces having to make deep cuts.

However, he said he will press for more money to go to targeted programs in the social safety net, including early intervention for those with autism, and for restoring money cut from the CalWORKS welfare program and In-Home Supportive Services.

Steinberg predicted that the budget finally approved by the Legislature will be “largely consistent with the governor’s overall framework but will push more toward the investment end.”

“There is always a danger of overreach, but there is also the danger of under-reaching,” he said.

Steinberg noted that the governor’s budget did not include one of Senate Democrats' “signature priorities” -- transitional kindergarten for all 4-year-olds. He said he hopes to work out an agreement with Brown to make that happen.

The Senate leader said he was especially pleased that the budget proposes $210 million for programs to reduce prison recidivism. He added that he wrote a letter Thursday to the federal judges overseeing California's prison downsizing, asking for a two-year extension in the period set to meet prison population reduction mandates.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com

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