Update on State Budget, Ellen Tauscher and BART Contract Talks
Both houses of the California Legislature rejected the Democrats' budget proposal on Wednesday, June 24. The Democratic plan failed to get the necessary 2/3 vote in either chamber to pass the legislation, thus setting the stage for a possible protracted budget stalemate. The Democrats' plan called for a series of deep cuts combined with revenue enhancements. The Republican minority in both houses wants to balance the budget through cuts alone. Because of the 2/3 vote requirement, the final budget must receive votes from both majority and minority members. In an effort to meet the June 30 deadline, when the state runs out of money, the Legislature continued to work on the budget throughout the weekend. In a rare Sunday session, the Assembly passed a series of simple majority measures designed to raise revenue that do not need the 2/3 vote requirement. The governor has vowed to veto these measures. Additionally, state controller John Chiang authorized the state to issue IOUs once the state runs out of money on July 1. The state last issued IOUs during the budget stalemate of 1992. As a legislative assistant in 1992, I received the state warrants instead of a paycheck. Most banks will honor the warrants as the state, once a budget is passed, will reimburse the banks with interest.
While the budget rhetoric heats up, the Democratic majority and leadership continues to fight for essential state services and projects, including Cal Grants. Expect the rhetoric to escalate as the budget battle goes into July. If you have not yet done so, please contact your state legislators and the governor and urge them to maintain the Cal Grant in the final budget package. The governor may be reached at (916) 445-2841. You can find your assembly member and state senator.
The United States Senate confirmed Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-Walnut Creek) as assistant secretary of state for arms control on Thursday afternoon. As a result, her resignation from the House of Representatives is considered to be imminent. Once Tauscher resigns, the governor has 14 days in which to call for a special election and set a date to replace her. While no date for the election has been set, candidates have already begun campaigning for the seat.
Contracts for several employee unions for the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, BART, are set to expire on July 1. Negotiations between the unions and BART management continue, yet an agreement between both sides appears to be way off. As a result, talk of a transit strike looms. A temporary agreement to work without a contract has been reached by both sides and will be in effect at least until July 9. Staff members who rely on BART should be aware of this situation and should begin to make alternative commuting plans in the event a work stoppage occurs. For more information on transit alternatives please check out 511.