SACRAMENTO -- Amid ongoing talks with Republicans over his tax extension proposal, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed 13 measures trimming $11.2 billion from the state's $26.6 billion deficit.
Among what he called budget solutions, $8.2 billion are considered actual spending reductions, while the rest were funding shifts and internal loans.
Social services lost the most money -- $5.8 billion, including $1.7 billion in MediCal reduction and $1 billion from CalWORKs, the state's welfare-to-work program.
The University of California and California State University took a total cut of $1.075 billion.
Another $3 billion in cuts in public safety programs await the governor's signature. He said he is still meeting with law enforcement leaders to iron out any misgivings.
"The Legislature has done some very heroic work," Brown said after a subdued ceremonial signing at the governor's news conference room. "These are painful cuts that hit vulnerable people. It's not the kind of thing I like to do. I don't think it's the kind of thing any legislator likes to do. But when you have a deficit you have to do something."
With another $12.6 billion in reductions needed to close the deficit, Brown said, "we are only halfway to the goal line. And we need to find more revenue or make more and more drastic cuts, and certainly the next round of cuts will be much more painful and much more disruptive."
Earlier Thursday Brown said he told county
Brown was joined by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, Senate budget chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, and Assembly budget chairman Bob Blumenfield, D-Van Nuys.
"Usually a signing ceremony with a governor is cause for celebration, but this isn't a cause for celebration," Steinberg said. "This is necessary. It's governing. It's what the people expect us to do."
Brown had meetings with a handful of Republicans scheduled for later Thursday and said he is "willing to go as far as I can" to reach agreement with them on rollbacks they are seeking in pension benefits, reducing business regulations and on spending curbs.
"But I don't think we can solve all the disputes in California on all these subjects in the next week or two," he said.
Talks stalled last week when some Republicans said Brown had not moved enough on their demands. One complaint was that they believed the governor was using them as "cover" for Brown's political campaign to seek extensions on the 2009 tax increases on sales, income and vehicles.
Brown said that having Republican support will make "voters feel better about a bipartisan solution rather than just one party saying this is what we like. So, there's no doubt if Republicans join in it's better. ... The wider the consensus, the more likely it is that the proposal has credibility and can win voter support."
He acknowledged that his goal of a June 7 special election is no longer viable, though he is still shooting for one by the end of June.
"At some point, we will miss a June possibility and that would be very tragic," Brown said, "but I will do everything I can to get a vote before the people and if I can't do that I will try to make billions of dollars of cuts as gently as I can but it will be quite disruptive."
He said he is not "excluding any pathway to give the people the right to vote. I find it shocking that elected representatives can so cavalierly say to people shut up, you have no right to weigh in on this. We know the people do not want these cuts. I'm pretty convinced of that. ... These cuts are unacceptable to the mass majority of people."
"Why not let the people weigh in?" he asked.
He said he'd feel a lot better about making $12 billion more in cuts if the people said that's what they want. "I believe that's a very important precondition to devastating so much of public service," Brown said. "It's not to be taken lightly."
An all-cuts budget, he said, would be an "irreversible path forward that will leave a lot of tears in its wake."
Brown was more definitive than he had been earlier this week in confirming he is considering alternatives such as a ballot initiative campaign for the fall. Democrats are also considering approving a special election on a majority vote, though legal challenges would be sure to follow.
"I have to look at a majority vote, initiatives, anything else, but all of them are fraught with real difficulties," he said.
He warned Republicans that their negotiations over the special election may be the last chance they have for relevance in the state. Some Capitol observers are speculating that Republicans may drop below one-third of the votes in the Legislature when legislative district boundaries are redrawn this summer.
Because of the new law that allows a majority vote on budgets, "Republicans don't have the hammer of holding up the budget, so this is their chance to hammer the Democrats," Brown said.
"Unfortunately, if they don't reach an agreement and I proceed forward with cuts there will be a lot of moans and gnashing of the teeth and there may be great delays, but at some point the cuts will get adopted and Republicans will become irrelevant then because there'll be nothing more they can do to damage the state or to advance their interests."
Steinberg said earlier Thursday that his "mood meter" was better than on Wednesday and he continues to hope that Democrats and Republicans will come to an agreement allowing a special election on taxes.
At the same time, Steinberg said, Democrats "have to prepare ... for other options, other possibilities. It's no secret. We're looking at every option because we have to. But the preferred way to go is to make a bipartisan agreement."
Only one thing matters, Steinberg said.
"That's doing everything we can to avoid an addition $13 or $14 or $15 billion worth of cuts to education, public safety and to services to people in need," he said. "Whatever pathway maximizes our chances to avoid that, that's what we're pursuing.
Social services $5.8 billion including
$1.7 billion from Medical
$1 billion from CalWORKs, the state's welfare-to-work program.
University of California, California State University $1.075 billion.