A Budget Solution In 3 Weeks: Fantasy Or Possibility?

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, November 7, 2008

State lawmakers have just over three weeks to agree on a plan to plug the eleven billion dollar hole in the state budget – a result of the Wall Street and housing meltdowns and higher unemployment.  Time’s so tight because the new batch of lawmakers will show up for work December first.  Governor Schwarzenegger believes the current legislature is more likely to make progress because they’re no longer distracted by an election – and many are termed out of office:

“Remember we are still in a profession here where getting elected sometimes is more important sometimes than really doing something that is right.  I mean, it’s just the way it works in politics, sadly, but that’s the way it is.  And so I think that after the election there’s more will there and there could be – we have a much better shot of getting this done.”

This is, remember, the same group of lawmakers that fought all summer long, only to come up with a record-late spending plan that’s already in the red.  And Schwarzenegger has given them a tall order:  Balance the budget with cuts and taxes, pass an economic stimulus package, come up with solutions to the foreclosure crisis, and keep the state’s unemployment fund solvent in the future. 

“The trouble for Arnold Schwarzenegger is that on both sides the members positions are rooted in principle.  

Jack Pitney is a Professor of Government at Claremont-McKenna College.

“Democrats, regardless of whether they’re facing re-election, really do oppose deeper cuts in spending.  Republicans, whether or not they’re running for re-election, really do oppose increases in taxes on principle.  And that’s where he’s going to run into a good deal of difficulty.”

Pitney notes that the Governor’s stock with Republicans isn’t high – and Schwarzenegger had little luck getting his GOP colleagues to vote for tax increases over the summer.  So if lawmakers don’t come up with something by the end of November, it will likely be déjà vu in December – but with a whole new group of lawmakers.