Budget Nearly Two Weeks Late... What's Happening

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, July 14, 2008
Lots of meetings… That’s what legislative leaders have been up to according to top staffers. A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Karen Bass says she’s had at least seven meetings with leaders since Late May—mostly one on one. And other leaders say much the same. All four have met twice within the last month and they’ve had one meeting with the Governor. In the past week the Budget Conference Committee wrapped up its work. Its members come from both houses and work out a spending plan. It represents the Democrats’ agenda, which includes raising taxes—on the wealthy and corporations. Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines says the end of the committee’s work has jumpstarted discussions. “We’re not going to support tax increases. They’re not going to support more cuts. Well then how do we get together reasonably four people representing our caucuses but most importantly representing all of California when we solve this problem…” Villines says state spending must be reined in. Republicans also want a rainy day fund. And their votes are needed to pass a spending plan. Tim Hodson with the Sacramento-based Center for California Studies says it’s no wonder budgets are usually late. “But it also takes a long time for both sides to sort of get to the point where they’re willing to say, although my principles say no new cuts, my principles say no new taxes, maybe at this point we need to compromise.” Democratic Assembly Speaker Karen Bass says that compromise must come by August first—that’s because of a warning from the state Controller about a cash crunch. “I don’t mind the pressure, I don’t mind the pressure. I think that’s the pressure all of us should feel which is four more weeks ‘til we run out of cash.” But what if they blow past August first? Villines says then things could really drag out. “There will be no reason to close on a budget at that point. We will be spending millions of dollars extra—hundreds of millions extra—to borrow money just to cover ourselves and I don’t want to do that.” At some point there must be a vote. And Democrats have promised one by August first—whether Republicans are on board or not.