Budget hearings leave big issues unresolved


SACRAMENTO — Last week, Gov. Jerry Brown said negotiations over the state budget would take place “a lot in private, and a little bit in public.”

Sure enough, many of the stickiest issues remain unresolved in public hearings aimed at reconciling divergent spending proposals.

The budget conference committee — consisting of four Assembly members and four state senators — has met for two days to discuss transportation, natural resources, healthcare, social services and the court system.


But they’ve delayed acting on some of the most contentious spending issues, such as a proposal to restore dental care for poor adults, a priority for Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

The Senate wants $131 million to fund the benefit, which the governor opposes and the Assembly did not include in its own budget plan. On Tuesday, the conference committee discussed the matter but opted to leave it unsettled.

Other items on hold include increasing the state’s welfare benefits, spending more on mental health services and tweaking the governor’s plan to borrow $500 million from cap-and-trade proceeds to cover other expenses.

The conference committee is scheduled to continue meeting Tuesday.

State Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), the committee’s chairman, said major decisions on health and welfare programs are on hold in part because the Legislature is still negotiating with the governor on the state’s overall revenue.

Democratic lawmakers are basing their budget plans on higher revenue estimates from the nonpartisan legislative analyst’s office, which has estimated $3.2 billion more in tax revenue than the governor’s administration.

The final figure used is subject to negotiation between the governor and lawmakers, which has worried the Wall Street ratings agency Standard & Poor’s. It expressed concern last year about political influence causing “unfounded revenue projections.”


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