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California lawmakers set to pass on-time budget

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers began passing the state’s budget Friday.

State Assembly Bill 110 was approved on a 28-10 party-line vote in the Senate, and it had enough support to pass during an initial vote in the Assembly, which was expecting a final vote later in the day.

The $96.3 billion Democratic spending plan includes $140 million in new spending on mental health treatment programs and funding for dental care for 3 million low-income adult Californians.

The proposal also contains a $1.1 billion reserve and pays down some of the “wall of debt” the state accrued during a series of budget crises marked by multi-billion dollar deficits.

The budget was negotiated by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders benefits from California’s recovering economy and a tax increase approved by voters last fall. Lawmakers have until Saturday to pass a balanced budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

Democrats, who control the Assembly and Senate, need only a simple majority to pass a budget and can do so without Republican support.

Brown will get to claim success in holding the line on spending by demanding that his fellow Democrats use his more conservative revenue projection, rather than what he says are volatile capital gains revenues. “Look, we have boom and bust; money comes in, money goes out,” Brown said this week as he announced the compromise with legislative Democrats. “And I’m trying to be a good, prudent steward of the people’s money.”

Brown said he will not reopen the budget for negotiation but Democratic leaders are hoping to secure additional spending in the new year, when they expect higher tax revenues.

“If there is additional revenue, we can either pay down debt more aggressively or look for other targeted investments to try to, again, make up for some of what has been lost over the last four or five years,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said Tuesday.

While Brown and fellow Democrats have touted their plan for restoring financial stability, Republicans criticized the package for failing to address many of the state’s long-term obligations, such as paying down pension and retiree health care liabilities, or setting aside money in a rainy day fund for the next bust.

They also say the state is no position to resume spending on mental health treatment or dental care for the poor, or to increase welfare grants.

“We need to invest in growing the economy, not in growing welfare,” Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Marysville, said in a statement.

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