Dems looking to build budget agreement without conference panel

Democratic leaders have decided on an aggressive schedule for negotiating a budget over the next 30 days that does not, at this point, include convening a conference committee.

Capitol sources said Wednesday that a plan has been circulated among the two caucuses that emphasizes work behind closed doors leading up to a floor vote on a budget as early as June 8.

Gov. Jerry Brown presented his revised May budget plan Monday that - although lifted by $6.6 billion unanticipated revenue - is still based on the Legislature extending a slate of tax measures before the end of the fiscal year as well as agreeing to put a ratification of the taxes before voters at some later date.

According to insiders Democrats will concentrate on two key areas in hopes of finding the Republican votes needed to swing the plan.

One area of focus involves easing regulatory oversight as well as potential changes to the state's environmental laws long sought by the development industry. The other is the spending cap question.

Both are issues that have divided the state house for years, if not decades, and have again in the negotiations over this year's budget plan.

While the unanticipated revenue has been welcomed, it has also scrambled the politics of the budget.

Some observers have noted that Republicans as well as many voters may not be inclined to support the tax extensions given the magnitude of the inflow in the current fiscal year and the administration's expectation that it will largely continue in 2011-12.

But Democratic sources said Wednesday that the majority party remains committed to following much of what the governor has laid out. The threat to public schools remains a major motivation given the all-cuts budget could require a suspension of Proposition 98 and cuts of as much as $5 billion.

The non-partisan Legislative Analyst is expected to release today its review of the governor's May proposal, which should trigger some discussion among the players.

The budget committee- which would not include the conference committee - is set to begin their work toward the end of the month. more