California state Sen. Robert Dutton (R-Rancho Cucamonga) holds his head in his hands during a budget negotiating session of the state Senate on Feb. 17, 2009 in Sacramento.
With California continuing to wrestle with a budget deficit of nearly $20 billion, one might be surprised to find out that the state's lawmakers missed the June 15 deadline to pass a state budget. Then we are reminded that last year's was the only time in the past 20 years when it was passed on time. Even so, that one didn't fly because of the ocean of debt where California continues to tread water.
When it comes to getting a budget passed, timing isn't everything. Just ask Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg who seems to sum up the mood of the members of his party. While he says he takes deadlines seriously, he thinks it's more important to pass a budget that preserves what he calls "key programs". Which takes us back to where we've been all along. Many Republicans, including Governor Schwarzenegger lean toward fixing the budget problem by eliminating funding for in-home health care for the elderly and blowing up the state's welfare program all together.
The Dems lean the other way. Home care for the elderly and welfare fall into the "key programs" Mr. Steinberg referred to. Their plan wouldn't interfere with programs they say deny the most needy in the state. Instead they propose borrowing $9 million by committing future revenue from the state's container recycling program. They also want to hang a tax on oil production and hold off on $2 billion worth of corporate tax breaks. They also suggest another $4.9 billion could be realized through additional taxes on vehicles, corporations, income, and alcohol.
A spokesperson for the governor said Tuesday, "Our deficit grows every day we don't act and the governor has been clear that the Legislature's inaction will not be solved with more taxes or risky borrowing schemes." Democratic Senator Denise Ducheny of San Diego points out that the June 15th deadline is unrealistic because the state doesn't get solid revenue figures until after May 15. Whatever the case, the math equation begins with a negative sign and is followed by $20 billion. The new fiscal year begins July 1. If there's no budget by then, payments will be delayed to vendors, local governments, Cal Grant student aid, and legislators.
Legislators? We may have suddenly found a sense of urgency.