State's Top Financial Officials Hold Public Hearing On Deficit

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(Sacramento, CA)
Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Two of the state’s top financial officials are weighing whether some of the spending cuts and tax hikes in the new state budget can be eliminated.  The State Treasurer and Director of Finance held a public hearing on the subject at the capitol today (Tuesday, 3.17).   

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer says it’s a matter of arithematic… 
“It’s not making a policy decision that the governor and legislature make…it’s but just to try to implement the specific math of the statute before us…” 
It’s up to Lockyer and Finance Director Mike Genest to decide whether the state is getting enough federal deficit relief to eliminate 950-million dollars in cuts and two-billion in tax hikes.  Under the budget agreement, the state needs ten billion dollars to do that, but the department of finance says California is two billion shy.
Lockyer and Genest listened patiently to more than three hours of public testimony…mostly from people concerned about cuts in state health care programs for low-income patients.
Genest says he’s weighing all options before making any conclusions… 
“Our minds are open, we’ve asked people for public comment, we’ve asked them for specific numerical equations from the ones that we’ve been presenting…”
But, time is running out.  Genest and Lockyer only have until April first to agree on whether the state can meet that ten-billion dollar threshold.  Lockyer says changes in state health care programs are part of it…but he says it’s possible more federal education dollars might also be available.  This was the first and only hearing for the public to weigh in on the issue.  Overall, California is expected to get tens of billions in federal stimulus dollars…but most of that is designated for specific programs.