SACRAMENTO (AP) — Democrats in the state Legislature said Tuesday that they are less than $500 million apart from Gov. Jerry Brown in negotiations over proposed cuts to help close California's $15.7 billion deficit, even as advocates for the poor protested at the state Capitol.
Ten people were arrested at the state building during a protest over the Democratic governor's proposal to cut $225 million from the state's In-Home Supportive Services program, which provides care for the sick and disabled in their homes.
The protesters locked arms and refused to move from the entrance to Brown's office, prompting California Highway Patrol officers to move in and arrest them one-by-one.
Hundreds of supporters chanted "Hey, hey, ho, ho, these budget cuts have got to go," as each arrested person was led away.
The state Senate and Assembly were meeting Tuesday to take up budget proposals from legislative Democrats who continue to resist Brown's proposed cuts to programs that serve the poor. Lawmakers face a Friday deadline to pass a budget or risk losing their pay.
Senate Democrats on Tuesday said they are now less than 1 percent apart — about $500 million — from Brown's $91.4 billion state spending plan, but they declined to specify what the differences are. Legislative Democrats also want to reduce the size of the state's reserve fund from $1 billion, as Brown proposed, to about $600 million.
H.D. Palmer, the governor's finance spokesman, said the state needs a prudent reserve to cover unexpected expenses such as fighting wildfires. The state has less than $100 million in emergency funding for the fire season and any costs over that would have to be covered by the general fund.
Brown's spokesman, Gil Duran, declined to characterize the status of budget talks and said "talks are ongoing."
Brown has proposed $8.3 billion in spending cuts and fund shifts for the fiscal year that begins July 1. He wants to balance the rest with temporary increases in the sales tax and income taxes on the wealthy that he hopes voters will approve in November.
"The Legislature will pass not only an on-time budget on Friday, but it will be balanced and it will be honest," said Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. "There will be no additional borrowing beyond that which the governor has already proposed. And there will be no gimmicks."
Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, vice chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee, objected to leaving the budget to a Friday vote by the full Legislature. Republicans have been left out of budget negotiations as a result of Proposition 25, which allows Democrats to pass the budget on a majority vote.
"It's clear now we're not going to have 48 hours, as Republicans requested, to review the language," Nielsen said. "This makes the process even more of a sham."
While Democratic lawmakers support the tax proposal, they had opposed the governor's cuts of about $2 billion to the state's welfare-to-work program known as CalWORKS; child care assistance for low-income families; in-home supportive services; and cutting Cal Grants for students who attend private colleges.
For example, the governor has proposed cutting $225 million to the IHSS program by eliminating services for disabled or sick people who do not live alone and cutting by 7 percent the number of hours of help they are eligible to receive. Democrats were only willing to extend an existing 3.6 percent cut.
Tammy Stiles, 47, and her husband Robert Stiles, 46, of Ukiah, were among the 10 people arrested outside the governor's office Tuesday. Tammy Stiles said she was there to protest proposed cuts to the program that allows her to care for her husband, who suffers from Lou Gehrig's Disease and is in a wheelchair.
She said the approximately $2,000 a month she receives from the state is the main source of income for the couple and their 18-year-old son. She said she would need to hire help if she were to work outside the home.
"It makes no sense why I would have to do that, when I could be the one home taking care of him properly the way he should be taken care of," she said.
Assembly Democrats continue to oppose the governor's proposed cuts to CalWORKS. The governor wants to reduce grants for a family of three from $1,591 to $375 a month if the parents don't meet work requirements after two years. Democrats would rather save the state money by delaying work training and assistance for parents in their first year of being on welfare.
Democrats, however, have indicated they will go along with much of the governor's proposed cuts for Medi-Cal, California's health care program for the poor. Lawmakers are expected to support a $15 emergency room co-payment and a maximum of $5 co-pay for prescriptions, pending federal approval.
Previously, the federal government rejected a $50 emergency room co-payment.