AM Alert: SacBee CapitolAlert | Mon Sept 22
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger could sign the state budget as early as today, a record 84 days into the fiscal year.
But state lawmakers are already looking at a multibillion-dollar deficit next year. And the year after that. And the year after that.
"I don't see much of a signing ceremony," Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared Friday, "because there's nothing to celebrate."
The next year's state budget will start out $1.5 billion in the hole.
And that includes $5 billion in funds borrowed from future state lottery earnings. If those don't materialize (the money depends on passage of a ballot measure that the education community is leery about), the state starts off in a $6.5 billion hole.
And that's if the economy holds up, which, well, who knows.
"We have simply rolled the problem into the next year," Senate President Pro Don Perata said last week.
Minority legislative Republicans, meanwhile, have been emboldened by the 2008 impasse, as they fended off calls for tax hikes from a GOP governor and from majority Democrats.
"So it's a W for the reps," wrote ex-Assemblyman Ray Haynes, a conservative Republican, on the FlashReport. "They should go home proud of their accomplishment, apologize to no one for what they have done, and gird their loins for next year's fight. It is going to be even nastier."
For their part, Democrats are ramping up the rhetoric to turn the Big Five into the Big Three, pushing a potential ballot measure to eliminate the two-thirds vote for passage of new taxes and budgets.
Such a measure could go on the 2009 special election ballot.
There's also the matter of the 800-plus bills lawmakers are dumping on Schwarzenegger's desk. He has until the end of the month to sign or veto them.