The sun is out and the birds are chirping in Sacramento this morning. Yes, California, we have a $40 billion budget deal. We’re crediting it to our efforts yesterday to accelerate the mockery of the legislators.
In the hours just before dawn Thursday, the state Senate and Assembly finished work on 34 bills designed to plug the deficit — and to get enough Republican votes to pass a tax increase.
Lawmakers, staff, analysts, lobbyists and reporters were still sifting through the bills’ language post-sunrise and post-vote. (Bill language was being written on the fly Wednesday and Thursday; the public had no chance to study it beforehand and frankly it’s not widely available now.) But here’s what we know so far.
What we know would fit below this jump:
The bill allowing counties to continue offering benefits to local judges is headed to the governor’s desk. So is the bill authorizing the Administrative Office of the Courts to spend $5 billion in bond proceeds on 41 new courthouse construction projects. Those are big wins for the judiciary.
The budget fix also cuts $100 million from the judiciary budget but there’s a big asterisk attached to that line item — at least there was before Legal Pad fell asleep some time early this morning. If the federal stimulus package provides California with at least $9.1 billion then the courts won’t have to take the $100 million hit. And they may get $71 million for 100 new judgeships through June 2010.
State lawmakers say they’re optimistic that amount of federal money will come through, but no one is sure. And some time this morning lawmakers passed AB 16XXX, dubbed the “trigger increase” bill (our editor thought the designation meant a special sin tax on the entire San Fernando Valley. Alas, no …). We haven’t been able to confirm whether that will change the amount the state has to receive before the courts escape the $100 million cut.
The deal doesn’t restore money the judiciary lost in last year’s budget. And it eliminates the courts’ annual automatic budget inflator, also known as SAL, this year. But it could have been worse.
“It’s not good by any stretch, but it’s also a really tough year,” Curtis Child, the AOC’s chief lobbyist, said this morning. “We will certainly do the best we can without reducing services to the best of our ability.”
— Cheryl Miller