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No celebration with new budget

September 19, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The longest budget stalemate in state history appears to be over. California lawmakers approved a new $143-billion spending plan. The Senate got first crack at the overdue budget. However, after all the bickering and partisanship, no one is happy about the end result.

The thing is, it is the only result on which Republicans, Democrats and the Governor could agree. So most of the "yes" votes were cast without enthusiasm.

"No, I'm not proud of it. I'm not happy about it at all," said State Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Incoming Senate President). "But we do have to care about the people who are suffering as a result of no budget."

The cuts in the budget were very deep to often necessary programs and services. The huge budget deficit was papered over with accounting maneuvers and is likely to re-appear next year.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California) said this budget is so bad, he probably won't hold the annual budget-signing ceremony.

"I don't see that much of a signing ceremony because there's really nothing to celebrate that much," said Governor Schwarzenegger.

The education community agrees. While the budget gives public schools all of their constitutionally guaranteed funding, it doesn't give them a dime for cost-of-living increases, which is an estimated $3 billion. They were hoping the Governor would follow through on his promised veto earlier this week.

"The Governor got all these accolades across the state for vetoing our threatening to veto a budget because it was a sham and kicks the can down the road, and that it was this awful terrible budget," said Kevin Gordon, public schools lobbyist. "What he's going to be signing will be exactly that same kind of budget."

Children's advocates also say new requirements for state-funded health care mandated under this budget will result in as many as 300,000 kids losing coverage over three years. However, for programs that haven't seen any money since July 1, they are relieved the checks will start coming in soon.

"But in terms of today and right now, people are getting what they need and the attention and the services that they need, that's needs to be happening," said Jennifer Crosetti, adult day care provider.

Governor Schwarzenegger thinks lawmakers need to suffer consequences if a budget is not passed on time in the future. Although he hasn't said what kind of punishment that should be, he has criticized, in the past, lawmakers' $170 tax-free per Diem.

 

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