The squabble over how to spend around $1.3 billion in new tobacco tax revenues in California was one of the most prolonged standoffs of the budget season. But on Thursday, the compromise plan easily cleared the Legislature.
Under the spending plan, $465 million will go toward increased payments for doctors and dentists who see patients in the Medi-Cal program. Those healthcare providers had envisioned getting more money when they backed Proposition 56 last year, but Gov. Jerry Brown had resisted upping reimbursements at all for most of the budget season.
Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans sided with the medical groups, arguing that voters had backed the tax in order to expand access to Medi-Cal and that higher payments to doctors and dentists would encourage them to participate in the program.
Three months ago, Democratic legislators unveiled a bold "debt-free college" plan that sought to eliminate the need for nearly 400,000 students to take out loans to finance their UC and Cal State degrees.
Now, they're poised to approve a budget that includes more modest efforts to chip away at the spiraling costs of attending college.
"We didn't get into this problem overnight and we're not going to get out of it overnight either," said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), who helped lead the proposal. "This is a long-term conversation ... that I think the Assembly and frankly the Legislature is totally committed to."
Lawmakers convene Thursday afternoon to sign off on a package of bills that comprise California's state budget, and by day's end will have extended a streak once thought impossible in Sacramento: eight years of on-time budgets.
From 1987 through 2010, the Legislature consistently missed its constitutional deadline to ratify a state budget no later than June 15. In most years, debate over a spending plan stretched well into the summer. In 2010, lawmakers didn't send a budget to the governor until Oct. 10.
In addition to the strain of crafting budgets during deep recessions, the annual logjam was a function of California's long-standing requirement that a budget be approved by supermajority votes in both the state Assembly and Senate. That meant bipartisan cooperation in the Legislature, in addition to striking deals with both Republican and Democratic governors. The state was one of only three in the nation with such a legislative hurdle to pass a budget.
An internationally known stem cell scientist and entrepreneur will join the ranks of candidates trying to unseat Republican incumbents in contested House races next year when he announces Thursday his challenge of 18-term Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.
Keirstead’s candidacy has been sought by some national Democratic figures, who see his science and business background as a good fit for the district. It runs along the Orange County coastline from Laguna Beach to Seal Beach and includes some nearby inland cities.
Attorneys for a Democratic state senator targeted for possible removal from office accused the lawmaker's political opponents on Wednesday of "knowingly and willfully misleading voters" in their effort to force a special election.
Complaints were filed on behalf of state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) with the secretary of state, attorney general and local district attorneys, all seeking an investigation of the recall campaign being waged by Newman's opponents.
The complaint alleges that voter signatures are being gathered for a recall election by promoting a repeal of the upcoming increase in California's gas tax. Newman voted for the transportation plan, which is why a political campaign partly funded by the California Republican Party seeks to remove him from office before his four-year term ends in 2020.
Close to 200 Democrats in Congress filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday alleging President Trump has illegally profited from foreign payments to his worldwide business interests. But the list of plaintiffs was missing a few notable names.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein and four other Democrats in California’s congressional delegation, including some representatives of districts with a strong Republican or evenly divided electorate, did not sign onto the lawsuit.
Feinstein, who appears likely to run for reelection in 2018, has taken heat in recent months from liberal activists who have criticized her for not taking a more aggressive stance against Trump.