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Tuesday, June 25, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

California Legislature passes $293 billion budget

Top lawmakers will now work with Governor Gavin Newsom on a final budget, which could reach a vote next week.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — California lawmakers on Thursday passed the state budget for fiscal year 2024-25, meeting a key legislative deadline after months of facing a massive deficit.

While meeting this constitutional deadline, work on the budget will continue into next week.

The budget, which calls for $293 billion in spending, comes after months of lawmakers staring down a deficit that, depending on the person making the estimate, swung from between $38 billion to $72 billion. Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom in his own budget proposal made drastic cuts, some of which the Legislature added back.

The Legislature’s budget included $1 billion for a housing and homelessness program local leaders have called critical. It also reduced funding for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation by about $1 billion.

The budget, in the form of Assembly Bill 107, fills an anticipated deficit of $46.9 billion for the coming fiscal year, and an expected $29.8 billion shortfall in fiscal year 2025-26.

“The budget is balanced,” said state Senator Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat and chair of his chamber’s Budget and Fiscal Review Committee.

Republicans in both the state Senate and Assembly blasted the budget, though there was never doubt about its passage before Saturday’s deadline.

State Senator Roger Niello, a Fair Oaks Republican and vice chair of the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, cast doubt on the balanced budget. He pointed to a delay in implementing the $25 minimum wage for health care workers, saying there’s not enough funding for it in the future. He anticipated this as well as other budgetary moves will be felt when Newsom reveals his 2025-26 fiscal year budget in January.

State Senator Brian Dahle, a Bieber Republican, opposed some $1.1 billion for the state’s high-speed rail project, an undertaking approved by voters in 2008 that's intended to connect San Francisco to Los Angeles. Democrats chose to fund the rail while cutting $75 million from veterans housing. He also slammed the majority party for including $4 billion in health care funding for undocumented residents.

Arguing the state implements policies that negatively affect businesses, Dahle pointed to five Senate districts — all represented by Democrats — which he said experienced the highest levels of business flight.

“It’s very difficult to do business in California,” he added. “If we don’t have businesses, we don’t have a tax base.”

State Senator Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican, said the state has spent $24 billion on homelessness over the past several years only to see the problem grow. Echoing Dahle, she also lambasted funding for the high-speed rail project.

Democrats roundly lauded the budget.

“I’m proud that we’re putting forward a balanced budget,” Senate President Pro Tempore Mike McGuire said.

McGuire pointed to the $1 billion in homeless housing assistance and prevention program the Legislature added, as well as restoring proposed cuts to domestic violence programs.

Wiener said he was proud the state was providing health care funding for everyone, including those who are undocumented — people who pay taxes and help put food on Californians’ plates. He also supported the $1 billion in cuts to the state’s corrections department, noting it had $9.3 billion in funding in 2013 when the state had a prison population of 135,000. In 2023-24, the department had $15 billion in funding with a prison population of 92,000.

The bill, which passed the state Assembly in March, returned to that body Thursday morning after the Senate vote.

Republicans like Assemblymember Bill Essayli, of Corona, slammed the budget. He said Democrats claim to support public safety, but then enact cuts to corrections and trial courtrooms.

“It is no wonder that Californians are fleeing this state,” he said. “This body is out of touch. This budget is out of control.”

Like in the Senate, there was no question about the budget passing. Two trailer bills, which affect funding for education and revenue sources like tax credits and the elimination of oil and gas subsidies, also passed both chambers.

Despite the passage of the budget bills, work remains. The Legislature, while meeting its constitutional deadline, passed its own version of a budget. Now, top lawmakers must work with Newsom on a final version, with a potential final vote happening next week.

Categories / Financial, Government, Regional

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