Legislators aim for on-time budget

California lawmakers may have thousands of reasons to pass a state budget on time, something they have done only four times in the last 21 years.

Proposition 25, approved by the voters in 2010, docks the pay of state legislators for every day the budget is late.

“Most people in the Legislature are not wealthy, and this will create real pressure,” said state Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), whose district includes Montrose.

In the past, lawmakers were not paid during budget impasses, but were reimbursed once a budget was signed. But Huff said he is not sure Proposition 25 really will improve things in Sacramento.

“Holding a gun to the Legislature’s head to get a decision, even a bad one, isn’t necessarily what the voters thought they wanted. But it is what they will be getting,” he said.

New questions about the loss of pay arose late last week, when a state Senate administrative official told the L.A. Times that the Legislature’s passage of budget cuts in March qualifies as the triggering event for receiving pay, but that interpretation of Proposition 25 remains in dispute.

Robert Oakes, legislative director for Sen. Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge), said that the potential pay cut is a motivating factor, but that Gov. Jerry Brown's revised budget, issued May 16, also gives hope for a timely resolution this year.

The governor's plan provides fixes for the state's long-term financial imbalance while finding middle ground between Democratic and Republican budget priorities, he added.

“Sen. Liu thinks it is a pretty realistic take on trying to meet the challenge the state faces,” Oakes said. “Senate Democrats are committed to delivering a constitutional budget by the June 15 deadline.”

He also expressed confidence in the governor's ability to negotiate with Republicans.

“It's Jerry. He's been around the block a few times,” Oakes said. “The important thing is everybody is continuing to talk.”

Huff, a key Republican negotiator, sounded an optimistic note. While he said he has concerns about aspects of Brown's revised budget, he also said the governor has shown a willingness to address top GOP priorities — pension reform and placing a hard state spending cap on the ballot.

“It's not like we're starting at square one,” Huff said. “He seems to reaching across to the Republicans.”

Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Silver Lake) said he had “mixed feelings” about the best news in the governor's revised budget, the $6.6 billion in unexpected tax revenue that is easing the budget crunch. Gatto, who likened past legislatures that squandered budget surpluses to drunken sailors, said the windfall should not be seen as a new reason to take shore leave.

Gatto has introduced bills that bolster the state's rainy-day fund and require voter-approved initiatives to identify a revenue source to pay their costs.

“We still need to take the right steps,” he said.

State senators earn $116,000 annually and Assembly members earn $95,000, not including per diem reimbursements often worth more than $10,000.

Brown stays firm
on redevelopment

Gov. Jerry Brown hasn't changed his dim view of the state's 400 or so redevelopment agencies, including those in Glendale and Burbank.

The revised budget Brown unveiled May 16 calls for elimination of the agencies, just as his January budget did. The proposal would likely result in job and service cuts in Glendale and Burbank, where dozens of staffers are paid through redevelopment revenues to focus on eliminating blight, attracting private-sector jobs and building affordable housing.

Redevelopment agencies have been responsible for, among other things, building the Buena Vista branch library in Burbank and acquiring the land that is now the Americana at Brand mall in Glendale.

A compromise that would save the agencies while giving the governor control of some of the estimated $5 billion in property tax revenue the agencies receive is a likely outcome, said Sen. Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar), a key negotiator for legislative Republicans

Redevelopment agencies have offered a compromise in which they would free up about $900 million next year for schools and other purposes, and $2.7 billion over 10 years, but the governor has asked for more.

Huff, a supporter of redevelopment agencies, said the proposal will be on the table when the governor seeks GOP support for placing extensions of current income, sales and vehicle tax levels on the statewide ballot.

“I think he realizes he doesn't have the votes to kill redevelopment agencies,” Huff said. “He doesn't in the Senate, and you have to get it through both houses. I see that [proposal] as a placeholder until we can work it in with the rest of the budget negotiations.”

John Shirey, executive director of the California Redevelopment Assn., says he is counting on Republican lawmakers to drive home a deal.

“The governor has not opened the door to us to negotiate a compromise,” Shirey said. “It's quite the opposite; he keeps slamming the door. But he still is willing to talk to legislators, particularly Republican legislators, about getting votes for a tax extension. That's where we have a role, supporting those legislators that support us.”

Redevelopment agencies also are preparing to go to court to argue that cutting the agencies would be illegal. They gained support April 28 when the legislative counsel's office issued a letter finding the proposed repurposing of redevelopment funds to be unconstitutional.

Antonovich to speak in northwest Glendale

Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich — who has represented Glendale, Burbank and nearby areas on the board of supervisors for 30 years — will give a talk at a 43rd Assembly District Republican Central Committee event Saturday evening at a northwest Glendale home.

Antonovich is expected to address topics including immigration, transportation, the budget and legislative redistricting. Tickets are $20.

For reservations or information, contact Lenore Solis at LenoreSolis@
gmail.com or (818) 396-6840.

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