Gov. Jerry Brown discusses his proposed tax initiative during his appearance… (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated…)
SACRAMENTO -- Gov. Jerry Brown demanded Tuesday that lawmakers cut deeper into state spending, and welfare in particular, before they move a budget to his desk.
As majority Democrats presented their spending plans in both the Assembly and Senate, the governor released a statement declaring, "We're not there yet, " and said the proposal being pushed through the Legislature is fiscally irresponsible.
"The Legislature has agreed to some tough cuts, but the budget before the committees today is not structurally balanced and puts us into a hole in succeeding years," Brown's statement said. "We need additional structural reforms to cut spending on an ongoing basis, including welfare reform that's built on President Clinton's framework and focused on getting people back to work."
Lawmakers have a June 15 constitutional deadline to pass a budget. Under a law approved by voters in 2010, legislators' pay will be docked for every day after that until a budget is passed.
Legislative leaders and the governor are also eager to show voters they can get their work done on time and responsibly in a year when they will be hitting up California voters for billions of dollars in tax increases on the November ballot.
The major difference between the two sides remains Brown's proposal to cut welfare benefits by $880 million. Democrats in the Legislature have balked at the governor's call to reinstitute and tighten work requirements for some welfare recipients with young children, which were suspended two years ago in a cost-saving move.
They also bristle at Brown's call to reduce some monthly welfare checks by as much as 27% for a single parent with two children.
Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) called Brown's focus on welfare "a surprising and odd choice of an issue to stake your ground on," and said the governor's proposed changes would devastate some of the state's neediest.
"Reform that encourages people to go back to work is great," he said. "But reform that hurts middle-class and poor people living on the edge is not what we should be doing."
Republicans, meanwhile, are siding with the governor.
"He's wanting to change the culture from just welfare to more of a culture of work," said Sen. Bill Emmerson (R-Hemet) of Brown. "I just don't understand Democrats for not supporting the governor on this one."
Steinberg reiterated Democratic lawmakers' pledge to pass a budget by week's end, whether or not they reach a deal with Brown. He said the state's books could be balanced without the welfare reductions.
"Over the last few years, cuts have been a necessity," he said. "They are not a virtue."