Bud­get heads to gover­nor

Plan would in­crease spend­ing on ser­vices for the poor and fo­cus on the drought.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Chris Mege­rian and Pa­trick McGreevy chris.mege­rian @latimes.com pa­trick.mcgreevy @latimes.com Times staff writer Me­lanie Ma­son con­trib­uted to this re­port.

SACRA­MENTO — Cal­i­for­nia law­mak­ers passed a new bud­get Fri­day that would in­crease spend­ing on gov­ern­ment ser­vices for the poor and make a range of pol­icy changes in­tended to ad­dress the drought and im­prove po­lice ac­count­abil­ity.

The changes would al­low faster con­struc­tion of wa­ter re­cy­cling projects, in­crease fines for wa­ter wasters and em­power the state to force fail­ing wa­ter agen­cies to con­sol­i­date. It would also cre­ate a pi­lot pro­gram to equip Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol of­fi­cers with body cam­eras.

The bud­get, which in­cludes to­tal state spend­ing of $167.6 bil­lion, now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his sig­na­ture be­fore it takes ef­fect on July 1.

Although Brown could veto items he doesn’t like, the spend­ing plan is the prod­uct of ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the gover­nor and top Demo­cratic law­mak­ers, and it mod­i­fies a blue­print ap­proved by the Leg­is­la­ture on Mon­day.

The ear­lier plan in­cluded $2.2 bil­lion more spend­ing than Brown wanted, and the re­vised bud­get hews much closer to the frame­work he out­lined in his orig­i­nal pro­posal.

How­ever, some ad­just­ments were made in the $115.4-bil­lion gen­eral fund to free up ad­di­tional money sought by Demo­cratic law­mak­ers for child care, den­tal care and state univer­si­ties. The bud­get also would fund public healthcare for im­mi­grant chil­dren who are in the coun­try il­le­gally.

“There is much to be proud of,” said Se­nate Bud­get Chair­man Mark Leno (D-San Fran­cisco). “Yes, there is much to be dis­ap­pointed about as well. But that is the process.”

The bud­get was op­posed by al­most all Repub­li­cans in the Assem­bly, but there was more bi­par­ti­san sup­port in the Se­nate.

“I think we have made a step here for a re­spon­si­ble bud­get,” said state Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Ger­ber).

Some of the strong­est crit­i­cism came from Democrats, who wanted more fund­ing for gov­ern­ment ser­vices and chafed at the spend­ing lim­its forced by Brown. “We have a fi­nal bud­get that’s a crime,” said Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose).

Sen. Holly Mitchell (DLos An­ge­les) with­held her vote, the only Demo­crat to do so. “It con­tin­ues to ig­nore the most vul­ner­a­ble in our state,” she said. “We con­tinue to say next year, next year, next year. I’m not sure the next year will come.”

More is­sues in­volv­ing fund­ing for trans­porta­tion and public healthcare need to be worked out in spe­cial leg­isla­tive ses­sions called by Brown. Demo­cratic law­mak­ers said they planned to seek ad­di­tional fund­ing for pro­grams for the de­vel­op­men­tally dis­abled.

“Our re­al­i­ties are you can’t al­ways get what you want or need given the lim­ited re­sources that we have,” said Se­nate leader Kevin de León (D-Los An­ge­les).

Be­sides the bud­get it­self, a range of re­lated bills also were passed on Fri­day. The leg­is­la­tion in­cluded pro­pos­als in­volv­ing the drought, such as new fines for wa­ter wasters. The first penalty is capped at $1,000, lower than Brown orig­i­nally wanted, but could even­tu­ally rise as high as $10,000.

One of the most hotly de­bated is­sues in­volved the pro­posal to al­low the state to force the con­sol­i­da­tion of cer­tain wa­ter agen­cies.

Assem­bly Repub­li­can Leader Kristin Olsen of Modesto called it a “hor­ri­ble bill.” Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Te­mec­ula) de­scribed the pro- posal as “noth­ing more than a state coup on wa­ter dis­tricts.”

Democrats said the bill is nec­es­sary to help state of­fi­cials step in when dis­ad­van­taged com­mu­ni­ties suf­fer a chronic lack of drink­ing wa­ter. “This is very, very lim­ited,” said Assem­bly­man Richard Bloom (D-Santa Mon­ica).

Another bud­get-re­lated bill asks the Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol to de­velop a pi­lot pro­gram for of­fi­cers to wear body cam­eras.

“This tech­nol­ogy is so new that I think some de­part­ments want to im­ple­ment it, see how it works and based on that ex­pe­ri­ence and that ev­i­dence, we’re able to have a more in­formed pol­icy dis­cus­sion on what should be a statewide stan­dard,” said Assem­bly­man Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville).

Nielsen op­posed the body cam­era bill, say­ing it re­quires more study.

“We’re go­ing to lose of­fi­cers be­cause of that mo­ment of hes­i­ta­tion be­cause they are wor­ried about the cam­eras,” he said.

Justin Sul­li­van Getty Im­ages

POL­ICY CHANGES to speed wa­ter re­cy­cling projects and in­crease fines are in­cluded in the plan.

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