SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown signaled late Tuesday that he and Democrats remain apart on the budget, and chided them for continuing to insist on softening his cuts to the poor, elderly and disabled.
Legislators have rejected Brown's $880 million in proposed cuts to welfare-to-work programs, In-Home Support Services, and child care and health care, scaling down the governor's proposed rainy day fund to achieve some of the savings.
In all, they are calling for about $700 million less in cuts than Brown to close a spending gap of $15.7 billion. But that's not flying with Brown, who last year became the first governor in California history to veto a budget.
"The Legislature has agreed to some tough cuts, but the budget before the committees today is not structurally balanced and puts us into a hole in succeeding years," Brown said in a statement while the Senate Budget Committee worked nearly eight hours through its own budget proposal, which will go before both houses on Friday.
Earlier in the day, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, and Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, met with Brown but left without an agreement. Democrats have until Friday to send a budget to the governor, or they will begin losing their pay.
Legislators won't likely miss the Friday deadline, but they risk another high-profile rebuke from Brown if they deliver a budget that doesn't comport with his austere plan. Brown must calculate whether another veto would bolster his reputation as an independent force in Sacramento and improve his chances to gain voter approval of his tax proposal in November. He could, however, risk reaffirming voters' low regard for the Legislature, convincing them that the Capitol is too dysfunctional to deserve more tax revenue.
Brown is assuming $5.9 billion from tax revenue in his budget with the threat that if voters reject the November tax measure, $4.8 billion in school cuts would be triggered.
Brown said Democrats need to enact "additional structural reforms to cut spending on an ongoing basis, including welfare reform built on President Clinton's framework and focused on getting people back to work.
"Balancing the budget is critical to protecting education for the long term. We're not there yet."
Steinberg suggested Monday that if Brown didn't like the Legislature's budget, they could put the decision of the most difficult cuts in Brown's hands.
"The governor has the blue pencil here," Steinberg said. "I'm not encouraging him to use it, but it's an important fact. Vetoing a budget is a provocative move, but he has other constitutional tools as well. If he thinks on the margins that there are some things he should do different" then he should use the line item veto.
The administration also suggested that shrinking the budget reserve from $1 billion to $614 million, as Democrats have proposed, isn't a sticking point.
"Our expectation is that the reserve will be smaller than the May revision," Department of Finance official Michael Cohen told the Senate Budget Committee.
Democrats insisted their fight with the governor was over a small fraction of the budget -- less than $500 million of a $91.4 billion budget.
"We are really on track and I can assure you that the Legislature will pass not only an on-time budget on Friday but it will be balanced and it will be honest," said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, the budget chairman. "And there will be no additional borrowing beyond that which the governor has proposed and there will be no gimmicks."
The Senate's budget blueprints will be in print at least the day before legislators vote on Friday, Leno promised.
Republicans questioned whether the committee's votes would hold up, since the governor and legislative leaders were still working out details.
"Why are we voting on this plan today if it is just going to change tomorrow?" asked Sen. Bill Emmerson, R-Hemet, the vice chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
The Assembly budget committee did not hold any votes on their budget plan, calling them informational hearings. Sen. Bob Blumenfield, D-Van Nuys, the committee chairman, said that "as close as we are in lock step with the governor, we're still working with him to try and achieve consensus.
"The bottom line is that we've backed the governor's tough approach for balancing the budget, his architecture and the path to temporary revenues," Blumenfield said.
But, he added, legislative Democrats had "softer, more compassionate" alternatives to some of the governor's cuts to In-House Supportive Services, CalWORKS, health care and child care.
Before the hearings began, 10 people were arrested in the Capitol protesting proposed budget cuts of $225 million from the state's In-Home Supportive Services program, which provides care for the sick and disabled in their homes.
The protesters had locked hands in front of the governor's office, and were removed by the California Highway Patrol to the chants of "Hey, hey, ho, ho, these budget cuts have got to go."