New Legislature, Same Budget Problem

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(Sacramento, CA)
Sunday, November 30, 2008

When the new legislature is sworn in, some faces will be different.  But the problem will be the same:  A 28 billion dollar hole in the state’s budget over the next 19 months.  And Governor Schwarzenegger has an early holiday gift for the new class of legislators:   An emergency special session to force them to tackle the problem.  He says there’s no time to waste:

“There’s an urgency.  That we don’t have the time for debates until next June – until next budget negotiations.  It has to be done now, because we are running out of cash by the end of February.

Schwarzenegger is expected to call a fiscal emergency.  That means lawmakers must hold a special session.  That’s of course on the heels of the last one – which began just after the election and ended in failure.  Republicans rejected a Democratic plan just before Thanksgiving.  Here’s the debate in a nutshell:  Democrats don’t want to cut programs.  They’d rather raise taxes to close the shortfall. 
Republicans oppose raising taxes at any time – but particularly in a down economy.  They want more cuts and other solutions, such as selling off surplus property.  And the GOP wants an economic stimulus plan to create jobs:  Assembly Republican Leader mike Villines:

“You’ve gotta have an economic incentive package that puts people back to work, that makes sure we have things being built, that is moving bond dollars out if we can, that is moving all those rules and regulations out that stop people from getting jobs.”

Incoming Democratic Senate Leader Darrel Steinberg says Democrats are open to an economic stimulus plan – but there’s a more immediate pressing concern:

“No economic stimulus package will change the fact that we’re going to be issuing warrants to people as opposed to paychecks as opposed to the money to local governments and health clinics if we don’t make a dent in this budget deficit.”

Governor Schwarzenegger is also pushing for an economic stimulus plan.  And both he and Democrats have said they’re hoping for some federal help, too.  For now, it’s back to the negotiating table.  But thanks to term limits, there will now be more than three dozen new lawmakers who will have to get up to speed very quickly.