California

When a budget isn’t the budget: Calif. lawmakers avert losing pay, approve budget skeleton.

The California Legislature passed a massive $300 billion budget on Monday, but negotiations over key sticking points with Gov. Gavin Newsom – including billions of dollars in financial relief payouts – are still at the center of heated negotiations.

Monday’s vote approves a placeholder budget sometimes derided as a “sham” budget, which allows the Legislature to meet a June 15 deadline and keep getting paid as they hammer out the thorniest appropriation issues ahead of the July 1 fiscal year.

The budget blueprint overwhelmingly approved by Democratic supermajorities in the Senate and Assembly is expected to be amended in the coming weeks to reach a compromise with Newsom, who can veto any item he doesn’t like.

“We’re still negotiating all aspects of the budget,” Phil Ting of San Francisco, who chair’s the Assembly’s budget committee said in a phone call. “I anticipate having a budget that’s going to get signed in the coming weeks.”

Among the divisions between lawmakers and Gov. Newsom is how best to spend the state’s record budget surplus – with over $49 billion under Sacramento’s discretion – and help Californians with skyrocketing gas prices, which reached a statewide average of $6.44 a gallon on Monday.

Democrats, who hold a supermajority in the Legislature, want to send $8 billion back to taxpayers in the form of $200 checks to people at lower and middle-income levels with an additional $200 for each dependent. A family of five that meets the income requirements would get $1,000.

However, Newsom has his own plan. The governor wants to give Californians $400 back for each vehicle they own, capped at $800 for two vehicles, totaling $11 billion in rebates. For people who don’t own cars, Newsom wants to spend $750 million to pay for free rides on public transit for three months.

But the state’s Democratic leaders in the Senate and Assembly oppose the governor’s plan because it excludes people without cars from receiving payments and also sends money back to wealthy Californians.

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Staff reports from The San Joaquin Valley Sun staff.