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California legislators pass placeholder budget to keep collecting their pay

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(The Center Square) – California legislators passed a placeholder budget bill as negotiations continue with the governor’s office so they can continue to get paid.

Legislators must pass a balanced budget, even if it is an incomplete, non-final budget, before June 15 to continue to get paid. California Assemblymember salaries start at $128,215 per year, while State Senators salaries start at $122,694 per year. With the new fiscal year starting on July 1, however, this gives legislators up to a couple extra weeks to work out a final deal with California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Legislators’ budget makes greater cuts to prisons, and produces an extra $5 billion by initiating a suspension of business deductions and tax credits one year earlier than the governor proposed.

California Republicans opposed the budget, and until over a decade ago still would have had input in the budget process as a ⅔ vote was required to pass budgets until 2010, when voters passed Proposition 25. Prop. 25 lowered the budget voting threshold to a simple majority, and required that budgets be passed by June 15 for legislators to keep getting paid. In 2011, former California governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, vetoed the 2011-2012 budget for creating too much debt, resulting in legislators’ paychecks being docked.

Legislators sued, and a judge ruled that so long as legislators pass a budget by June 15 that meets the state’s constitutional requirements for a balanced budget, even if said budget is rejected by the governor, they can continue to get paid.

The California Department of Finance estimated the legislature would need to adopt about $45 billion in “budget solutions” for the 2024-2025 budget and $30 billion for the 2025-2026 budget, which the legislature seems to have met with its proposal to move and reduce spending by $46.9 billion for 2024-2025 and $29.8 billion for 2025-2026.

The budget would take approximately $2.3 billion from reserves for 2024-2025 and $11.7 billon for 2025-2026.

Republican legislators, meanwhile, say Democrats’ “budget solutions” mischaracterize the state’s financial position and that more cuts are needed to put the state on sustainable footing.

“This so-called budget is little more than a shell game meant to hide the bleak truth of our financial situation,” said Senate Minority Leader Brian W. Jones, R-San Diego, in a statement. “Legislative Democrats continue to spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need or want, and that’s how we see a $162 billion swing from surplus to deficit in just two years. Today’s budget allows them to continue perpetrating this fraud and represents a massive miscarriage of government’s duty to the people of this state.”

Negotiations between Democratic legislators and Newsom are set to continue in the coming weeks before the fiscal year ends on June 30.