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California lawmakers expect a late night over budget deal

Senate and Assembly leaders were working to find enough votes to pass the package announced earlier this week. Details show parks are still at risk and oil drilling off the coast could be allowed.

July 24, 2009|Shane Goldmacher and Patrick McGreevy

SACRAMENTO — Legislative leaders worked late into the night Thursday to round up enough votes to pass a budget package that would close the state's $26.3-billion deficit.

Lawmakers passed several of the roughly 30 bills that make up the package but still faced votes on some of the biggest and most politically sensitive measures.

"Let's get our job done tonight expeditiously," requested Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) as the proceedings opened, but a long night was anticipated.

"It might take us until morning," said Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles).

Some lawmakers complained earlier that they'd barely had time to read all the bills. "There are some very controversial issues, and the language is important," said state Sen. George Runner (R-Lancaster).

More details emerged Thursday.

A new Assembly report said the state could close 50 parks because of an $8-million reduction in funds.

"It's a certainty some parks will close with these reductions," said Roy Stearns, a spokesman for the Department of Parks and Recreation. "What we don't know is what parks and where."

Other administration officials said the number of closures could be much smaller if public-private partnerships can be created to keep some open. Local governments and Washington also could take measures to limit closures.

Also Thursday, many Democrats and environmentalists were rallying against a provision to allow the first oil drilling in state waters off California's coast in 40 years. The state would receive $100 million in royalties from the company that takes the oil.

"Every member is free to vote their conscience on the bill," said Assemblyman Pedro Nava (D-Santa Barbara), "and I'm trying to make sure their conscience tells them no."

The budget agreement also says the state would borrow $1.9 billion in property taxes, raid local coffers for $1 billion in transportation funds and take $1.7 billion from redevelopment agencies. Cities have threatened to sue over the provision.


Times staff writer Evan Halper contributed to this report.

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