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Calif. lawmakers pass long-awaited budget

Gov. Schwarzenegger hails lawmakers for budget deal
February 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
California finally has a budget. However, there is something in it to displease just about everyone.It has been an agonizing process to get the budget passed. Lawmakers were marathon session for a record 45.5 hours. They were determined to find that one last Republican vote that could stomach the temporary new taxes.

In the end, it was state Senator Abe Maldonado who cast the final Republican vote needed to pass the bipartisan budget compromise. The moderate GOP lawmaker knows this could be the end of his political career for supporting new taxes, but it does prevent California from going bankrupt.

"My friends, this might be the end for me, but this vote ensures this is not the end for the state of California," said Maldonado (R-Santa Maria).

For his "yes" vote, Maldonado got constitutional amendments that will go before voters. One would prevent lawmakers from getting pay raises during deficit years. Another would change California's election system into an open primary, which would help more moderate candidates get elected. His wish list sealed the deal because the governor also wants an open primary.

"When he brought it up, I said, 'This happens to be something I'm very interested in and talking about for a long time,'" said Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-California).

But during floor debate some Democrats, who largely oppose open primaries, were clearly angered that they were being forced to vote "yes" on Maldonado's bill in order for the budget to pass.

"This is a disgusting process. This is not good government. This is not political reform," said state Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles).

As part of the deal with Senator Maldonado, the added tax of 12 cents per gallon of gas was removed, reducing the amount of new taxes Californians will have to pay. But, you'll still have to fork over another $12.5 billion to Sacramento. Lawmakers approved the following:

  • Another penny to the sales tax
  • Nearly doubled the vehicle license fee
  • Reduced your dependent credits

"It's not a win. The taxpayers of California are going to view this as a loss," said state Senator Dennis Hollingsworth (R- Murrieta).

The budget was passed just in time. Nearly 300 public works projects were going to be shut down on Thursday, along with massive layoffs. The governor is expected to sign the budget on Friday.


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