Senate schedules vote on budget, even with approval unlikely | SierraSun.com

Senate schedules vote on budget, even with approval unlikely

Don Thompson
Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO (AP) ” The state Senate scheduled a vote Thursday on California’s tardy budget, even though the four-week stalemate seemed likely to continue amid partisan wrangling over attempts to balance the $145 billion spending plan.

Minority Republicans promised unanimous support for a package of $840 million in budget cuts they said are needed to reduce the state’s budget deficit this year and in future years.

Among other changes, they also want a bill prohibiting Attorney General Jerry Brown from taking environmentally related action against local governments. Brown, a Democrat, wants to require cities and counties to take immediate steps to lessen the effects future development might have on global warming.

Both the spending and local government proposals faced seemingly insurmountable opposition in the Democrat-controlled Senate, suggesting there would be few prospects for a deal.

Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, planned to block votes on the spending cuts unless all 15 Republicans first supported a budget that was approved by the state Assembly after an all-night session last week.

“If that vote is not forthcoming, the Senate will proceed no further,” Perata, D-Oakland, said in a letter Wednesday to Minority Leader Dick Ackerman, R-Tustin.

“That wasn’t the deal,” Ackerman responded. “He is _ as they claim we did _ moving the goal post.”

Ackerman told reporters he could gather perhaps 10 votes on the budget bill _ and then only if other Republican-supported bills had already been approved with Democratic support.

Two Republican votes in the 40-member chamber are needed to reach the two-thirds majority required to pass the state budget.

The Senate delayed its scheduled morning floor session so the parties could try to find common ground.

“Both leaders are working hard to avoid a disruptive floor fight that could make coming to a final agreement more difficult,” said Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for Perata.

The Republicans’ proposed budget cuts center on $300 million in savings from CalWORKS, the state’s welfare program, by pushing recipients into the work force. Democrats have rejected sanctions that would punish parents who don’t work at least 30 hours a week by reducing their monthly checks and other benefits.

Democrats said they also are unlikely to support other Republican demands.

“Then we go back to the negotiation table,” Ackerman said. “We would like to get a budget as soon as we can, but it has to be a responsible budget.”

The Senate’s Republican caucus is the only group opposing the spending plan passed in the Assembly. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has urged senators to approve a budget so lawmakers can start debating health care, water projects and other major policy issues.

Perata called on Schwarzenegger to use “the weight of his office and the strength of his personality” to persuade two Republicans to support the Assembly plan.

An overnight session last weekend failed to convince Republicans to break ranks, leaving the state without a spending plan nearly four weeks into the new fiscal year.

Schwarzenegger placed calls to Perata and Ackerman on Wednesday, urging them to find middle ground. But despite Schwarzenegger’s public statements supporting the Assembly’s budget, Ackerman said the governor had not asked Republicans to give in.

“He would like to get the best budget he can. He has not said, ‘Take the Assembly budget,'” Ackerman said. “I think the responsibility is ours.”