By DEREK MOORE
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
The North Coast’s legislative delegation is in the unusual position of opposing Gov. Jerry Brown over his proposed budget cuts to California’s social safety net and to higher education.
It’s not just that Brown and North coast lawmakers are all Democrats. Brown’s proposed cuts also go to the heart of what Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, called the party’s “core values.”
In budget hearings held Tuesday, Democrats outlined their opposition to the governor’s proposed cuts to welfare-to-work, In-Home Supportive Services, child care and Cal Grant scholarships.
Democrats also are seeking a $614 million state budget reserve, $434 million less than what Brown called for in his May budget revision.
Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, said Brown’s proposed cuts to social welfare programs are no different than those proposed by previous administrations.
She said such programs are “critically important” not only to the people that rely on them, but also to California’s long-term economic recovery. And she said California will not be able to compete with a global economy if the state doesn’t invest in education.
But Evans said without a willingness on the part of Republicans to support new revenues, “all Democrats can do is cut.” The Democratic legislators’ budget proposal calls for more more modest cuts than the does the governor’s budget.
Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa, said it would be “unconscionable to make the deeper cuts that the governor has proposed at a time when we still have other, less destructive options available to us.”
He and Assemblyman Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata, downplayed the differences with Brown, saying the two sides are in agreement on about 99 percent of the issues.
“To people who depend on home care and child care,” Chesbro said, “the stance we are taking is extremely important.”
The governor, however, issued a statement Tuesday saying the Legislature’s budget is “not structurally balanced and puts us into a hole in succeeding years.”
Democrats have been more muted in their criticism of Brown than when former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed similar cuts.
Aside from party loyalty, that’s because Brown’s plan would satisfy Democrats’ long-standing calls for the state to seek more sources of revenue, in this case through a tax measure that Brown is backing for the November ballot.
“He’s made a better effort to do right by our most vulnerable Californians,” Huffman said of Brown.
Chesbro said he would prefer a larger rainy-day fund but that the state is “in a downpour right now.”
Lawmakers said the threat of having their pay docked if they don’t pass a budget by Friday’s constitutional deadline is not a motivating factor to get the job done.
“I can assure you that the Legislature is on track to pass an on-time budget on Friday, and that it will be balanced, and it will be honest,” said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who is chairman of the Senate’s Budget Committee and whose district encompasses southern Sonoma County.