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March 18, 2011 The Sacramento Bee
PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown talks to reporters at the state Capitol on Thursday, March 17, 2011. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee
Both houses approved the main budget bill, Senate Bill 69, but they plan to hold onto the legislation until they know whether they can get additional revenues to pay for it. That likely means until June.
However, the two houses will send 15 other budget "trailer" bills with cuts to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Which raises this question: How can the governor sign budget trailer bills before signing the actual budget bill? As the word "trailer" suggests, trailer bills are hitched to the main budget bill.
The answer lies in Senate Bill 84, which specifies the new trailer bills are tied to last year's 2010-11 Budget Act, not the 2011-12 Budget Act that just passed. It's a clever maneuver; some of the new trailer bills were approved on a majority vote using Proposition 25 powers that didn't exist when the 2010-11 Budget Act was approved.
Of the $14 billion in solutions approved this week, $9 billion are in the trailer bills, according to fiscal details provided by the state Senate. Most of the savings won't start until July, but some cuts in health and welfare programs can begin 90 days after Brown signs them.
Holding the main budget bill means the Legislature will not yet satisfy its requirement to send a spending plan to the governor by June 15. But having the bill in their back pocket means lawmakers have the ability to avoid Proposition 25's legislative pay penalty -- which kicks in June 16 -- anytime they wish.
Brown has said he does not want to sign the budget bill until after the revenues are known. That may be responsible budgeting, but it also gives him more leverage to force lawmakers to accept additional cuts should the revenues fail to materialize.