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Assembly Panel Goes on 2-Hour Spending Spree

Times Staff Writer

The Assembly Ways and Means Committee broke a log jam of potentially budget-busting bills Tuesday, approving up to $170 million in spending proposals in just over two hours.

Acting on bills at the rate of about 95 an hour, the committee sent legislation to the Assembly floor calling for new spending on child care, education, health and other programs.

The bills had been bottled up by the committee pending legislative approval of the proposed $35.3-billion state budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The Senate Appropriations Committee, which has about $3.4 billion in major spending proposals awaiting passage, will vote Monday on its own batch of fiscal bills.

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Fear of Vetoes

Originally, the bills before the Assembly committee carried a price tag of $1.9 billion. Legislators from both parties agreed that approving the entire amount would have invited certain vetoes by Gov. George Deukmejian.

Assemblyman John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara), the Ways and Means Committee chairman, said lawmakers agreed after a series of private meetings to limit the amount of spending approved to between $150 million and $170 million.

Vasconcellos pronounced himself pleased by the series of votes, even though the cost of the bills approved by his committee is more than twice the $75 million budgeted by Deukmejian for new spending proposals from the Legislature. “It was a success,” Vasconcellos said. “We didn’t put out $2 billion in bills like we did last year.”

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Appropriations for some of the committee-approved bills are contained in the proposed $35.3-billion budget that was sent to the governor by the Assembly and Senate on June 13.

These include:

- $30 million sought by Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) for expansion of child-care services.

- $48 million for increases in mental health programs contained in a bill by Assemblyman Bruce Bronzan (D-Fresno).

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- $50 million to go into programs for the medically indigent in a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Burt Margolin (D-Los Angeles).

The committee heavily amended a bill by Assemblyman Byron D. Sher (D-Palo Alto) that would have allowed state taxpayers to deduct contributions made to individual retirement accounts, as they do on federal tax returns. The bill would have meant a $400-million annual loss of revenues to the state. As amended, the bill would make minor changes in the tax law at a revenue loss of $700,000.

The committee also approved a landmark personal income tax proposal by Assemblyman Elihu M. Harris (D-Oakland) that would put California on a so-called “flat tax” system. The proposal would eliminate itemized deductions on state income tax returns and eliminate the current graduated system of tax rates, replacing it with reduced flat-tax rates based on income. The bill is expected to encounter stiff opposition in the Senate.

School Dropouts

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Among the new education spending proposals was a $6.9-million bill by Assemblywoman Gloria Molina (D-Los Angeles) that would establish a program to reduce school dropout rates. She had originally sought $19.2 million.

In addition, the committee approved a bill by Assemblywoman Teresa P. Hughes (D-Los Angeles) that would increase a $20-million budget appropriation for the Gifted and Talented Education program by $8 million.


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