Ending with a marathon all-night session, the state Assembly gave final legislative approval early Wednesday to Gov. Pete Wilson’s $57-billion budget after Wilson persuaded several antiabortion Republicans to support the spending plan.
Wilson announced that he will sign the budget today, calling the spending plan that is 34 days past due an “excellent budget, one people can be very proud of.”
But as Wilson proclaimed victory, Orange County lawmakers and local officials bemoaned the governor’s simultaneous veto of legislation that would have funneled $1 billion in transit taxes to the county’s recovery effort.
The governor said he rejected the bill only because it also gave $75 million a year for five years to help plug the budget shortfall in Los Angeles County, and that he would support new legislation to divert the funds to Orange County.
He also accused Assembly Democrats, specifically those from Los Angeles, of “irresponsibility.” Democrats charged that he “insulted” them by vetoing the transit-diversion legislation.
“He never cared whether Los Angeles County solved its problems,” said Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar), one of 24 Democrats who voted for the budget. “All of our attempts were stonewalled.”
The 56-19 vote--two more than the required two-thirds majority--came at 3:30 a.m., after a long and strange day in which Speaker Doris Allen (R-Cypress) locked the Assembly doors to make certain recalcitrant members would approve California’s 1995-1996 fiscal year budget before they left.
Wilson’s spending plan includes $1 billion more than he originally proposed for the state’s $28-billion public school system, no tuition increases at state universities and colleges, no tax increases, and a $395-million cut in welfare, meaning that a mother with two children would receive $566 a month in most of urban California.
“This is a banner year for education,” Wilson said. “This is a major investment in education, in public safety, and it could have been an even happier story to tell, frankly, if it had not been for the inexplicable actions on the part of Assembly Democrats.”
The $57-billion budget reflects an increase from the $55 billion spent last year. The increase results in part from greater tax revenue as the California economy slowly recovers. The state Senate passed Wilson’s budget Saturday by a 31-9 vote, four more than the minimum required.
The Assembly vote came only after the main players--Wilson, Los Angeles Democrats, antiabortion Republican legislators--compromised on basic principles and major issues, having said previously they would never give in.
Wilson ended up agreeing to sign the budget even though Democrats killed five budget-related bills, including one pushed by the governor to cut $58 million for prenatal care of pregnant women who are illegal immigrants. Wilson had said he would not sign the budget until all the so-called trailer bills were on his desk.
Many antiabortion Republicans--28 by one count--ended up voting for the budget even though the pro-abortion-rights governor insisted that he would not eliminate $40 million for abortions for poor women or $75 million for family planning.
Democrats ended up voting for $395 million in welfare cuts, continuing a Wilson Administration trend of decreasing aid for poor mothers with children and disabled people.
Nine of 16 Los Angeles County Democrats voted for the budget, after holding a news conference Tuesday saying they would hold out until Wilson came to Los Angeles’ aid.
“I would like to have gotten more for Los Angeles County,” Assemblyman Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles) said after finally giving the budget its 51st vote at 3 a.m. Wednesday. “But we run the risk of hurting the people we are trying to help by holding out.”
As the Assembly mulled over the budget Tuesday night, Wilson announced that he would veto a bill, which the Los Angeles Democrats and Orange County Republicans had attempted to link to the budget, that would have allowed Los Angeles County to take $75 million a year for five years from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Orange County to receive at least $70 million for 15 years in funds now going to the Orange County Transportation Authority.
“The governor’s response is shocking, irresponsible and pathetic,” said Assemblywoman Barbara Friedman (D-North Hollywood), among the leaders of the fight to get aid for the county.
The effort by Los Angles County Democrats resulted in little other than more delay in passing the budget, and the death of minor bills legislators said might have cost the county money. One sought to transfer to Los Angeles County the title for state beaches, and one would have given the county $19 million for its 19 camps for juvenile delinquents.
Democrats opposed the probation camp bill, fearing that another part of it would cost the county money by increasing to $150 per month the amount the county pays to send young criminals to California Youth Authority facilities. The current charge is $25 a month, which has been in place since 1961.
Los Angeles legislators were hampered in their efforts by Los Angeles County supervisors, who were lukewarm to Sacramento’s offer to transfer money from the subway project to the county, and Mayor Richard Riordan, who opposed the transfer. Legislators, who left Sacramento after the early-morning budget vote, pledged to take up aid for counties upon their return Aug. 21.
But the governor did offer to sign as yet undrafted legislation to let Los Angeles County take $50 million for one year from the MTA, so long as Orange County gets its entire request--more than $1 billion over 15 years.
Wilson justified giving Orange County more money than Los Angeles County because Orange County is in bankruptcy and needs a flow of cash to pay its many debts. He also said he will tie any aid to Los Angeles to legislative approval of some of the budget-related bills which the Assembly Democrats rejected on Wednesday.
Wednesday was another one of many strange days in this most fractious of Assembly sessions. For several hours, the budget languished with 44 votes, 10 shy of the two-thirds majority needed.
Assembly members milled, read, chatted, and watched the movie “Forever Tango” in a lounge. Two Republicans wore Army helmets. A Republican legislator who is a rancher gave Assembly Democratic Leader Willie Brown a glitter-embossed muck shovel.
Assembly Republican Leader Jim Brulte and his allies had garnered almost all the votes they could--28. Then Allen tried to persuade her few allies to vote for the budget, with mixed success.
At one point, Allen proceeded to the Speaker’s dais to demand that Assembly members vote for the budget, or else the spending plan would fail, the Senate would have to return and the process would start again from the beginning.
At least one Republican responded by switching his “yes” vote to a no. When Allen persisted, warning the house that it would be in sweltering Sacramento “until the cows come home,” several members mooed.
Wilson finally took a hand in the end-game in the early morning when two of his aides started buttonholing antiabortion Republicans in a hallway off the Assembly floor and asking them to take phone calls from Wilson.
He spoke to at least three of them, spending 10 minutes or more with Larry Bowler of Elk Grove, Tom Woods of Shasta and George House of Hughson. All had said that they were morally opposed to voting for the budget because it included $40 million for abortions.
After taking 10-minute turns on the phone with the governor, each hung up looking shaken. “Any time you get a call from the governor, it’s persuasive,” Bowler said. He was shepherded into a room with Woods and House, and emerged a few moments later, with Assemblyman James Rogan (R-Glendale).
As the men took their seats, the vote count was at 51 for the budget. Rogan stood at the front of the chambers. Catching each of their eyes, Rogan picked up a telephone, and held it to his ear.
That was the signal for them to, in unison, press the green buttons on their desks, reflecting their “yes” votes on the electronic scoreboards in the chambers. The reason for the drill was that none of them wanted to be the final, 54th vote.
Woods’ button malfunctioned. But Assemblywoman Marguerite Archie-Hudson (D-Los Angeles) had added her vote, giving it the final two-thirds needed.
Woods and another antiabortion Republican later added their votes to the “yes” column and the budget ended up with 56 votes. Four Assembly members did not vote and one seat is vacant.
“It is to their credit that they recognize the necessity for the state to have a budget and they voted for it,” Wilson said of the abortion opponents. “There is far more that we agree on than disagree in terms of the thrust of programs aimed at preventing the necessity, the occasion, for someone to seek an abortion.”
The lack of a budget had little direct impact on state programs, although paychecks were delayed to Wilson, legislators and 2,500 political appointees. Payments to private companies that do business with the state also were delayed. They will be paid in lump sums once the budget is signed.
As the politicians saw it, there was plenty of blame to go around for the delay. Several times, Allen accused Wilson of delaying the budget deal by not taking a more direct role. Brown accused Wilson of a “flat-ass lie” after Wilson charged that Democrats had “welshed” on the budget deal.
Asked what role Allen played in the budget process, Wilson replied, “Not much.” Wilson said the delay had most to do with Brown’s declining power in the Assembly and inability to control the Democrats.
“We decided,” said Wilson, “not to match irresponsibility on the part of the Assembly Democrats with irresponsibility in holding up needed relief for deserving Californians.”
The governor and most legislators emerged with parts of the budget they can claim as victories. Democrats could claim victory for the education spending increases. To please Republicans, there were no tax increases but there were welfare cuts. Most important for Wilson, the presidential candidate, he got a budget he can sign, allowing him to head for the primary states--and he plans to take such a trip this weekend.