Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Assembly Moves Key Budget Items Forward

The Assembly Budget Committee met today to hear three pending items in the special session relating to cash management, social services, and the environment. All three bills were passed out of committee on a bipartisan vote and referred to the Assembly Floor for a vote.

Most of the hearing focused on ABx8 5, which provides cash solutions for both the current year and the budget year. State Treasurer Bill Lockyer testified that the state cannot sell GO bonds until this bill is passed. Inaction on this bill has delayed a $2 billion GO bond offering previously scheduled for next week.

We need to pass this bill in order to bolster market confidence in California’s bonds as investments. This will help us to create jobs by rolling out state infrastructure projects. The committee passed ABx8 5 with a 19-3 vote, conditioned with the expressed intent to author any necessary cleanup legislation.

ABx8 7 restores financial solvency to our state’s recycling program – or the California Beverage Container Recycling (Bottle Bill) Program – for the next sixteen months. It also makes the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Program, which provides low interest financing for water quality projects, eligible for federal funding. The committee passed ABx8 7 with a 24-0 vote.

SBx8 4 provides statutory changes in developmental services and foster care. The committee passed SBx8 4 with amendments focusing on caseload ratios at regional centers with a 15-3 vote.

As urgency legislation, passing ABx8 5 and ABx8 7 will require a two-thirds vote of the Assembly. So, they cannot pass without Republican votes. I hope that my Republican colleagues join me in supporting these bills, along with SBx8 4 which makes tough but necessary cuts to reduce our budget deficit.

This conclusion simply reinforces the fact that difficult and painful cuts are basically all that are left for us to consider as we continue working to close our budget gap. Therefore, we must proceed with great caution and care in the months ahead.