- The Washington Times - Monday, September 2, 2002

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The California Legislature approved a $99 billion budget yesterday, ending the state's longest impasse between Republican and Democratic leaders about whether to raise taxes or cut spending to plug the budget deficit.
Lawmakers also approved a last-minute array of bills on issues including construction defects and driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants.
The vote ended more than 60 days of standoff with a package that includes about $9 billion in spending cuts and about $2.4 billion in revenue increases.
The overdue deal reached in the final hours of the legislative session omitted proposals to raise taxes on smokers and drivers to help fill the $23.6 billion shortfall.
The Assembly voted 54-26 in favor of the budget early yesterday just enough for the required two-thirds majority generating applause and high fives.
"Although it is not a perfect bridge, it allows us to find some ground where we can at least, for a moment, stand together," said Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson, a Democrat who brokered the deal.
The state Senate then concurred with the Assembly's plan and bills needed to enact it, and the budget was sent to Gov. Gray Davis two months into the fiscal year.
Mr. Davis, who is running for re-election, issued a statement commending lawmakers for adopting a budget "in these difficult times."
"Their dedicated efforts led to the adoption of a budget that reduces spending while protecting public education, public safety, vital programs for seniors and health insurance for children," Mr. Davis said.
Four Republicans who refused for months to supply the votes needed to pass a budget by the required two-thirds majority said Saturday that they could accept concessions made by Democrats, including scrapping vehicle- and cigarette-tax plans.
John Campbell, the Assembly Republicans' main budget negotiator, said Republicans consider the deal a victory in the area of taxes.
"The straight-up tax increases have been taken out of this," he said.
A "right-to-repair" bill under negotiation for nearly a decade was sent to the governor Saturday, after home builders and lawyers compromised on ground rules for fixing construction defects in single-family homes and attached condominiums.
Legislators say they hope the measure will keep unhappy home buyers out of court and return insurers to a construction industry they have largely abandoned in the past decade.
A long-debated and heavily lobbied issue limits on companies' abilities to sell customers' financial information died in the session's final minutes.


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