California Democrats wrap up budget, flex supermajority power

dsiders@sacbee.comJune 15, 2013 

California Budget

Gov. Jerry Brown discusses the budget compromise reached with Democratic leaders, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento left, and Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, right, during a Capitol news conference in Sacramento, Calif.. Tuesday, June 11, 2013. The compromise budget plan reached largely mirrors the governor's proposal for a fiscally restrained spending plan that assumes conservative revenue projections. (AP Photo/ Rich Pedroncelli)

RICH PEDRONCELLI — AP

As the state Senate finished voting today on a bill to extend a tax on managed care plans, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told reporters at the back of the room, "That is what's called a supermajority."

The measure was a relatively modest part of the annual budget package wrapped up by the Legislature today, but it required a two-thirds vote and afforded Democrats an opportunity to flex the supermajority power they gained in November elections.

Democrats in the Assembly mustered two-thirds not only for the managed care tax, but also for a bill that would ask voters to lower from two-thirds to 55 percent the voter-approval threshold for a local government to incur bonded indebtedness for certain public improvements. It is one of several Democratic proposals to lower the voter-approval threshold on local tax and revenue measures.

Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, said the measure would give local agencies "tools so that they can make the choices and the investments in the infrastructure that they need to grow their economics and make their cities livable."

Assemblyman Don Wagner, R-Irvine, said, "You know and I know that bond is just a four-letter word for tax."

After every Assembly Democrat voted for the bill, Assembly Constitutional Amendment No. 8, Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said on Twitter, "All Dems went up on ACA 8. Let's just say that, for a few of them, the targets on their backs just got a little larger."

Steinberg called the Assembly's vote a "good sign" and said he personally supports the measure. However, he said the upper house will not consider voter threshold issues until early next year, which is still in time to place them on the 2014 ballot.

After voting Friday for the state's main, $96.3 billion budget bill, lawmakers today finished voting on all but one of the numerous trailer bills required to implement the annual spending plan. Senators were expected in committee Monday to discuss the final measure, involving a coordinated care program for "dual eligibles" - people enrolled in both Medi-Cal and Medicare.

For the most part, however, the budget is done.

"I'm just very pleased," Steinberg said.

Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to sign the spending plan before the next fiscal year begins July 1. After the Senate and Assembly adjourned for the day, he issued a statement on Twitter.

"After two and a half years of struggle and difficult times," Brown said, "California's budget is balanced and sustainable into the future."

The Bee's Jim Sanders contributed to this report.

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