Billions in new taxes, fees being considered
Facing a deepening financial crisis, California lawmakers will resume their session on Monday with a budget proposal that calls for $8.7 billion in new taxes, legislative aides said Friday.
The proposal has been approved in conference committee between the state Senate and Assembly, but Democrats have not brought a budget plan forward for a vote, said Bill Bird, spokesman for state Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley.
“It’s the first time it’s ever happened in my 10 years here,” Bird said. “This is completely out of character.”
But Democrats blamed Republicans: The proposal hasn’t been brought to a vote because “we don’t have enough votes to pass it,” said Pablo Espinoza, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles.
“The Republican side is committed to no new taxes. When we have a $15 billion hole, it’s just impossible to do that,” Espinosa said.
Lawmakers are struggling with a projected shortfall in state revenue, with a slowdown in income tied to the state’s economic woes.
In an effort to staunch the red ink, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a fiscal emergency and on Thursday eliminated thousands of part-time and temporary state jobs and put 20,000 more state employees on minimum wage.
Bass said legislators already are working hard to solve the crisis and face enough pressure to finalize a budget without such a move.
“But this action would speak to the need for all us ” including the governor ” to negotiate a balanced, responsible budget that protects our schools and the safety net before we run out of cash,” Bass said when the move was being discussed.
Last summer, Aanestad led a small group of Republicans who for weeks refused to join in approving a budget that embraced a $5 billion revenue shortfall.
This year, different budget plans propose tax and fee hikes from $5.4 billion to $8.7 billion, Bird said.
Monday’s work is expected to include Senate hearings on 300 spending measures. The hearings normally look at about 40 bills, Bird said.
“The last month of the session will start, and we have a flood of bills coming over from the Assembly. These are all bills that all have a fiscal impact,” Bird said.
“Sen. Aanestad has made his decision clear: He is not going to vote for a budget with tax hikes and fee hikes,” Bird said.
“He is not going to vote for an unbalanced budget,” Bird said. “He wants spending cuts and guarantees the state will not spend more money than it has.”
Monday’s session will resume after a recess called in mid-July, which is normal for the year, Bird said.
Aanestad has been out of town for part of that time, as legislators continue to work on a budget bill.
“Behind the scenes, is the senator involved? Absolutely,” Bird said. He “is ready to return at a moment’s notice,” but Democrats have not called for a special session to discuss the budget during the summer break.
To contact City Editor Trina Kleist, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4230.
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