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      Legislative Leader Says State Budget Deal Is Near

      By JUDY LINAssociated Press

      SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg says Democratic leaders and Gov. Jerry Brown are close to a state budget deal that maintains fiscal balance.

      Steinberg emerged from a meeting Monday with Brown and Assembly Speaker John Perez. He said of the budget, ``it's almost there, but not yet.''

      A legislative conference committee was expected to meet in the evening to approve outstanding issues, but Steinberg says no significant sticking points remain.

      Brown and the Legislature's Democratic leaders had been negotiating over revenue estimates and the governor's proposed changes to education funding. Democratic lawmakers want to restore dental care for the poor, welfare assistance and other programs cut during the recession.

      Lawmakers have until the end of the week for a full vote.

      Brown has proposed a $96.4 billion spending plan.

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