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Newsletter: California lawmakers will vote on a budget this week. But it’s not the end of the story

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Essential Politics
(LAT)

Before the workweek is over, California lawmakers will have done their constitutional duty to send a bill enacting a new state budget to Gov. Gavin Newsom. But make no mistake, it’s unlikely to be the end of the story.

California budgets are like a long novel where we often only know the beginning and end at first, and only later do we see the inside chapters. That’s one way of thinking about the framework of a plan lawmakers approved in Sacramento on Sunday night.

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NO WATER TAX, IMMIGRANTS ELIGIBLE FOR HEALTHCARE

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The proposal that now heads to the full state Senate and Assembly, probably on Thursday, sets the stage for a fiscal plan totaling at least $213 billion. Here are some key takeaways:

• Newsom finally abandoned his plans for a $140-million tax on water users to pay for clean water supplies in disadvantaged communities. Instead, those needs will be met primarily with money from the state’s cap-and-trade climate program.

• California will become the nation’s first state to offer some adults in the U.S. illegally access to government-funded healthcare. But legislative Democrats agreed to limit the expansion only to those immigrants up to the age of 25, as the governor had proposed.

• The state would impose a fine on those who don’t purchase healthcare, a California version of the federal individual mandate that was rendered inert by Congress last year. Meanwhile, more middle-class citizens will be eligible for insurance premium subsidies on the Covered California exchange.

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• A closely-watched effort to align state tax laws with the recent federal tax overhaul, which could bring in some $1.7 billion, remains in limbo. Newsom wants to use the money for an expanded tax credit for low-income Californians. At least a few Democrats have feared voting for what will hit some residents as a tax increase.

Remember that the reason these agreements get done on time but in small steps — broad framework first, fine print later — is largely because of Proposition 25, the 2010 ballot measure that docks legislative pay if the budget bill doesn’t land on the governor’s desk by the final seconds of June 15. But the actual fiscal year for state government begins on July 1, which means the work can continue after this week’s threshold action.

THE HOPEFULS AND HOMELESSNESS

When new figures released last week showed a jarring rise in homelessness around Los Angeles, the response throughout Southern California was shock and indignation.

The reaction from the crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates: silence. Even as presidential candidates pay greater attention to California, mindful of its early March 3 primary, none has seized on the crisis as a rallying cry.

READY, SET, GO IN IOWA

The presidential equivalent of speed dating played out over the weekend in the state that kicks off the 2020 election cycle next January.

Nineteen candidates. Five minutes each to speak at a fundraiser for the Iowa Democratic Party.

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Several of the hopefuls seemed to take a swipe at the guy who wasn’t there, front-runner and former Vice President Joe Biden.

“We’re not going to win by playing it safe or promising a return to normal. We are where we are because normal broke,” said South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

NATIONAL LIGHTNING ROUND

President Trump is hailing another deal he says he has extracted from a reluctant foreign government. But did Mexico really cede much, and what will change?

Sen. Kamala Harris offered perhaps her most strident justification yet for her California prosecutorial career on Saturday in South Carolina, saying she sought to reshape a criminal justice system that many minorities consider fundamentally biased against them.

• For many black voters, 2020 isn’t about pride or making history. It’s about beating Trump.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

• California gun shops are seeing a run on ammunition ahead of a new state law that takes effect July 1 requiring background checks of those buying ammo.

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• Gov. Newsom, who recently criticized parts of a state legislative plan to tighten immunization exemptions, was quickly lauded by vaccine opponents including Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

• A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California says more than 60% of adult Californians support ending single-family-only zoning near mass transit.

• By region, wealth and race, Californians are seeing the state’s economy and their own finances much differently. Can statewide leaders bridge those gaps?

• The California Senate welcomes two new members this week: Democrat Lena Gonzalez won last Tuesday and will fill one Los Angeles County vacancy. Up north, Republican Brian Dahle won another open seat after his opponent conceded.

LOGISTICS

Essential Politics is written by Sacramento bureau chief John Myers on Mondays and Washington bureau chief David Lauter on Fridays.

You can keep up with breaking news on our politics page throughout the day. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

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john.myers@latimes.com

Follow me on Twitter at @johnmyers and listen to the weekly California Politics Podcast


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