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Governor's 60-Day Budget Deadline Arrives – Brown Extends Negotiations

By Sean P. Farrell and Jeff Hudson - March 10, 2011

It appears that Gov. Jerry Brown’s self-declared 60-day deadline for adoption of a new stage budget will come and go without much action as  the Governor announced he needs more time for negotiations to reach a budget agreement.

In a statement released by the Governor’s Press Office at the end of the day on Wednesday, press secretary Gil Duran said “Governor Brown has continued to engage in positive and productive budget discussions with legislators on both sides of the aisle. For this reason, he has asked the Pro Tem (of the California Senate, Darrell Steinberg) and the Speaker (of the California Assembly, John Pérez) to temporarily delay any vote on the budget in order to allow more time to find common ground and to put the state’s finances back in balance.”

The passage of the Governor’s 60-day deadline is purely symbolic. There was no statutory deadline to pass a budget by Thursday. But the delay could impact the proposed statewide ballot measure that the Governor wants to place before California voters in June.

Where any “overtime” discussions between the Governor and legislators of both parties will lead on Thursday, Friday and the week to come is almost anyone’s guess.

The “budget dance” went on all week in Sacramento.  On Monday, a group of five Republican senators – Senators Tom Berryhill (Oakdale), Sam Blakeslee (San Luis Obispo), Anthony Cannella (Ceres), Bill Emmerson (Hemet), and Tom Harman (Huntington Beach) – released a a letter, with all five senators expressing dissatisfaction with the outcome of their meeting with the Governor. They acknowledged that Governor Brown shares their “concern over the challenges facing California,” but went on to say that their proposals “were either rejected or so watered down [that they had] no real effect on future spending or the economy.”

Brown appeared to take the letter by the five Republican senators in stride, quipping on Monday that “it might take a few more days” than he had originally anticipated to get a budget passed. Brown also stated that he has yet to have some additional cuts placed in front of him in recent days, and that Republicans seem to be focusing primarily on “collateral matters.”

Significantly, Brown and the five Republican senators did not cut off their discussions, even though the Republicans’ letter on Monday seemed to point toward that outcome.

The Democratic governor's plan would close the state's budget gap, estimated at more than $25 billion, with a mix of spending cuts and tax extensions.

Democrats and Republicans in the Senate are expected to support Brown's spending cuts. But Brown will need a handful of Republican lawmakers to join with Democrats to vote to put an extension of existing sales and income taxes (due to expire this year) before California voters in a special election sometime in June. If those sales and income taxes are not extended, there would be further cuts in K-12 education funding by the state.

Editor's Note: Jeff Hudson is the editor of EdBrief and an award-winning education reporter and writer in print, radio and television media. Sean P. Farrell is the Capitol Reporting Intern for EdBrief.