Negotiations Continue on California Budget

February 17, 2009

After a decade of spending beyond tax revenues, California inched closer last week to a budget deal, as we covered here and here. The deal would raise the income, sales, gasoline, and vehicle license taxes across-the-board, put a spending limit on the ballot, and cut the budget. However, the deal hasn’t garnered enough support in the State Senate, and hardball tactics don’t seem to be helping:

Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, speaking from the floor at 8 p.m. Monday, said that if one more Republican vote can’t be secured by 10 a.m. today, he will lock the entire Senate in the State Capitol until a Republican agrees to the plan.

“We will stay on this floor until we get it done,” said a clearly frustrated Steinberg, who is generally known as the Legislature’s nicest member. “Bring a toothbrush. Bring whatever necessities you need to bring because I will not allow anyone to go home and resume their lives.”[…]

The leaders have been appealing to two senate Republicans to try to get them to switch their votes: Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria and Dave Cox of Fair Oaks. On Saturday, Cox was thought to perhaps close to voting for the budget but when the 70-year-old senator asked Democrats to let him go home and sleep on it, they demanded a vote immediately and he refused.

Maldonado, meanwhile, is demanding a long list of concessions that are not likely to get Democratic support: changing state primary elections to non-partisan contests, forbidding salary increases for legislators during a budget crisis and taking away lawmakers’ pay when a budget is late.

Governor Schwarzenegger announced that he will begin laying off 10,000 employees today unless a deal is reached by 10AM Pacific.

As painful as it is, this is all an important part of creating a budget that has popular consensus. California is one of three states that requires a two-thirds vote to pass its budget, and that prevents it from essentially becoming a one-party steamroller. As the article notes, California’s taxes are already among the highest in the country, but its budget situation has long since gone out of control.

Read about California and other states in our report on state budget shortfalls.

Read blog posts about California here.


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