Guarded Optimism For State Budget Deal; Education Big Sticking Point

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, July 13, 2009

Hundreds of bus drivers, groundskeepers and other school employees rallied at the state Capitol yesterday:

“Arnold, Arnold, can you hear.  Don’t make buses disappear!”

The California School Employees Association put the protest together.  The union opposes cuts to education and school transportation that the Governor and lawmakers are considering.  Diana Martinez has been driving a school bus for 15 years in the San Joaquin Valley city of Visalia.  She’s worried she’ll lose her job:

“I would be in the unemployment line just like everybody else.  The state’s already in a deficit.  It would just make it worse, you know, so I don’t understand why legislation (sic) doesn’t get their butt in gear and do their job and balance the budget for us.”

Legislative leaders met with Governor Schwarzenegger for hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  They emerged from talks upbeat – but noting there was still a lot of work to do to close the 26 billion dollar gap.   School funding is a likely sticking point.  Governor Schwarzenegger has proposed suspending the voter-approved minimum guarantee for education – known as proposition 98.  That’s something that Democrats have said they oppose.  But Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear says there are limited options given the size of the deficit:

“I don’t think anybody wants to cut prop. 98, and the Governor has said, you know,  if they can find cuts elsewhere, that’s fine, he’s happy to talk about that, but as best we can tell there’s really no where else to go.”

Meantime, Governor Schwarzenegger has launched a new TV ad that outlines exactly what kind of budget he won’t sign:

“I’m standing firm for a balanced budget that does not raise our taxes.  I’m asking you to stand firm with me.  Stand for California.”

The ad comes about a week after the California Teachers Association began airing its own TV ad.  That one blasts Schwarzenegger for his proposal to cut school funding.  Dr. Barbara O’Connor is a Professor of Communications at Sacramento State University.  She says the Governor’s ad is timed carefully:

“Well the timing is to ensure that the public keeps the pressure on the legislators who are negotiating to get a budget deal by the end of the week and it sounds like they’re on track.”

Lawmakers are scheduled to go into summer recess at the end of this week – and O’Connor says that’s one reason she believes there will be a budget deal before then.  However, lawmakers have blown through many a summer recess in the past.