Here are just some of the latest California budget
developments from the past 24 hours: A new proposal from
legislative Democrats. A mock funeral mourning the death of
higher education funding. The arrests of in-home care workers
and their clients. And not a peep from Governor Jerry
Brown. All this as the midnight Friday constitutional
deadline for the legislature to pass a budget grows nearer.
The Capitol budget drama played out Wednesday in three
different acts. Act One: mid-morning. Democratic
legislative leaders put out their latest spending plan, which
they'll bring up for a vote on Friday if there's no deal with the
governor. But Assembly Speaker John Pérez says the
differences are bridgeable:
Pérez: "We're not only on the
same page as the governor; we're in the same paragraph."
In that plan, Democrats reject Brown's cuts to welfare, child
care, in-home care and college financial aid - and substitute their
own cuts, which in each case don't save as much money.
Pérez: "Yes, we have an
obligation to find solutions in terms of the math - in terms of
making sure that the budget balances. But we also have an
obligation to make the smartest choices for the long-term
well-being of the state of California."
To offset the extra spending, Democrats would, among other
things, cut the governor's proposed billion-dollar reserve in
Act Two: late morning. A black hearse pulls up
alongside the Capitol. Community college students from Los
Angeles, dressed in black, act as pall bearers, carrying a coffin
onto the Capitol grounds. They're mourning what they call the
"death" of higher education funding in California. Bernard
Hanamichi is among them:
Hanamichi: "A lot of students
are like myself. We come from low-income backgrounds.
It's through financial aid that we can continue to work on our
schooling. It's through low-cost education that we can
continue to go to school and that we can actually try to make a
difference in our community."
The governor wants to raise the grade-point average required
to qualify for state financial aid grants. The Democratic
budget leaves that alone.
Act Three: early afternoon.
Protesters chanting: "No
more cuts! No more cuts!"
Reporters at a background briefing on the third floor of the
Capitol hear chants from the first floor Rotunda shake the entire
singing: "This little light of mine / I'm
gonna let it shine…"
Hundreds of in-home care workers and their clients, in purple
and green shirts, stage some highly-coordinated but peaceful civil
disobedience. In a rare moment of quiet, speakers help a care
worker explain why she's willing to go to jail:
Rally Leader: "So our clients
won't be homeless on the street!"
In-Home Care Worker: "So our
clients won't wind up in nursing homes."
Leaders: "So our clients don't
wind up in nursing homes!"
In the end, several dozen people are arrested. As for
the cuts they're protesting, the Democrats reject most of what the
governor is calling for, but allow an expiring in-home care cut to
Not everyone who could have a part appears in this drama - at
least, not on this day. For legislative Republicans, that's
not exactly by choice. Majority Democrats don't need their
votes, leaving Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway
Conway: "We represent the state
of California, and we believe we should have input into it.
So to be shut out and have everything done under cover of darkness
and behind closed doors does not serve the people of California
Meanwhile, one of the most important players of all has stayed
silent. All we've heard from Governor Jerry Brown this week
is a statement emailed Tuesday night, saying "we're not there yet"
and calling the Democratic budget "not structurally
balanced." On Wednesday, his office would only say that
"discussions are ongoing." Senate President Darrell Steinberg
says a deal could be reached as late as Friday - and still be voted
on by that day's midnight deadline.