Legislative leaders have mixed reactions to governor’s budget

Connie Conway, Bob Huff
Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare) and Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff R-Diamond Bar) applaud the election of Toni Atkins as a new Assembly speaker on Monday. On Tuesday they had mixed reactions to the governor’s budget revision.
(Associated Press)

Republican legislative leaders on Tuesday said Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed revision to the California budget provides a welcome improvement to the state’s rainy-day fund, but criticized other plans for spending state revenue on programs including a high-speed rail system.

Democrats said the budget does not spend enough on social service programs cut in the past.

“The rainy-day piece is important,” said Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare). “The governor is talking about fiscal restraint, which is always good for me.” However, Conway said she was concerned about the growth in spending on MediCal and pensions.

“I believe I understand what the governor is trying to do, but if you don’t have money, you don’t have money,” Conway said.


GOP Senate Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) called the governor’s plan “a good start.”

“I’m glad that he’s still calling for fiscal austerity, although this isn’t really an austere budget, considering it’s $12 billion more than last year’s general fund,” Huff said.

The governor “deserves credit because he’s created a prudent and responsible framework to deal with a very difficult budget this year,” said Assemblyman Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo), vice chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee.

He said one challenge would be the “huge spike in healthcare spending for the state.”


Gorell predicted difficult negotiations between Democratic legislative leaders and the governor.

“There’s going to be a clear conflict between the Legislature and the governor — the governor being more fiscally prudent and the Legislature wanting to spend more on pet projects and programs,” Gorell said.

Gorell disagreed with the governor’s proposal to spend money from the cap-and-trade program on the high-speed rail system. “The governor continues to focus money from the carbon tax auction to the high-speed rail project, and it’s an inappropriate and probably unconstitutional use of those resources,” Gorell said. “The governor needs to give up on high speed rail.”

Added Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto): “While I’m very pleased that our negotiated rainy day fund is included in the governor’s revised budget, I was surprised and disappointed that he didn’t address other important priorities — water storage and drought relief, higher education and other investments to help grow our economy.”

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) signaled the majority party will want to spend more on programs that were cut in the past. “It is time to consider thoughtful and careful reinvestment in areas such as the courts, education, healthcare, mental health, early childhood education and infrastructure that will have an immediate, positive impact on the entire state,” Leno said.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) signaled that  legislative Democrats will question some assumptions about revenue and costs, and seek to put more money into programs cut in the past.

“I think there is a lot to talk  about,” Steinberg said. “It’s a status quo budget.”

“All the concepts about rainy days funds and paying down debt are sound but there is also a lot of unmet need in California and a lot of important investments,” Steinberg said. “I want to talk about some of the different dynamics and assumptions that he makes in his May revision  that I think will form the basis of a good discussion in the next couple of weeks.”


Meanwhile, California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye said the governor’s budget was “encouraging because it identifies additional funding and recognizes the need for fiscal stability with a creative proposal for a two-year budgeting formula for the trial courts.”

However, she said, the trial courts will require new investment to adequately serve the public in the future. “I look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature before the adoption of the Budget Act to ensure that all Californians have access to justice,” she said.

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