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California Legislature Passes Record $117.5B Budget

SACRAMENTO (AP) — California lawmakers approved a $117.5 billion Democratic spending plan Monday that would send more money to public schools and establish a new tax credit for the working poor, as legislative leaders continue to negotiate a final deal with Gov. Jerry Brown.

The Capitol's top Democrats called their budget a responsible approach that sets aside money for a rainy day, pays down debt and boosts spending on schools. The state Senate and Assembly passed AB93 by wide margins within minutes of each other Monday, with Republicans casting votes against it.

But Brown, also a Democrat, has been reluctant to go along with new spending commitments for welfare, health care and child care. He and Republicans are concerned that the state won't collect as much in taxes as Democrats are projecting, leaving the state vulnerable if the economy dips.

The spending proposal adds another $749 million in spending above Brown's plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.

"Our state is on firm financial footing, and that stability gives us an opportunity which has been rare in recent years," said Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.

Without signoff from the governor, Monday's budget vote is viewed by some as a political exercise so lawmakers can continue getting paid. Under Proposition 25 passed by voters in 2010, state lawmakers have to pass a balanced budget by June 15 or forfeit pay.

But Republicans objected to the package relying on higher revenues, calling Monday's vote a move ensure their automatic paycheck deposits didn't stop.

"Is this a real budget we're voting on today? Or is this just a sham budget?" said Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula.

According to the controller's office, passing the main budget bill, AB93, will satisfy the Proposition 25 provision even though lawmakers do not plan to take up most of the companion legislation needed to implement the budget.

Enough progress was made in talks between Brown administration officials and the Legislature over the weekend for Brown's finance spokesman, H.D. Palmer, to say the governor looks forward to reaching an agreement with lawmakers in the next few days.

Asked Monday at a climate change event in Los Angeles if he might use the line-item veto to cancel some of the added spending by the Legislature, the governor said, "No, I can't tell you that, because we're in conversation with the Legislature as you type, discussing these various matters."

Brown proposed his own $115.3 billion budget last month and the two plans are similar in many ways. Both call for billions in additional spending for public schools, set aside money in the state's rainy day fund, pay down debt and adopt a new earned income tax credit to help as many as 2 million Californians.

In-state tuition at the University of California won't rise for most undergraduates for two years. And both support additional funding for the California State University system and community colleges.

However, Brown does not want to expand child care or social programs for the poor. It's also unclear if he would endorse $40 million included in the Democrats' plan to make California the first state in the nation to extend health coverage to children who are in the country illegally.

Senators recently advanced a bill that would allow between 195,000 and 240,000 children under 19 from low-income families to qualify for state-funded Medi-Cal, regardless of their legal status.

(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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