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Day 43: California budget standoff now state's fifth-longest [Updated]

The gridlock in Sacramento reached a new height – or low – on Thursday, as the standoff among state lawmakers became the fifth-longest in modern California history.

It is day 43 of the fiscal year, and no budget agreement is imminent. No complete spending plan has even been debated on the floor of either house of the Legislature.

Rank-and-file lawmakers fled Sacramento for a summer recess for much of July. Since they returned last week, much of their energy has been focused on a flurry of more minor bills moving through the Legislature.

Democratic legislative leaders unveiled a united budget proposal last week. The plan would raise income tax rates and the car tax while slashing the state sales tax. Democrats have pitched the proposal as a tax break, because income and car taxes are deductible from federal taxes. But the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said Wednesday that the plan would amount to a tax hike for the middle class – on everyone earning from $20,000 per year to $200,000.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative Republicans, meanwhile, have not publicly ceded any ground since the governor in May outlined a draconian budget proposal that would leave California as the only state in the nation without a welfare program and that would eliminate day care for 142,000 children in low-income families.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg met privately with Schwarzenegger at length last Thursday. But precious few other bipartisan conversations – let alone negotiations or concessions – have taken place in recent days.

“The silence is deafening,” Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said Wednesday.

The longest budget stalemate in state history was in 2008, when the Legislature passed a budget on Sept. 16.

[Updated: 3:46 p.m.: An earlier version of this post said the latest state budget was signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger on Sept. 16. That was actually the date the Legislature passed the budget. It was signed a week later, on Sept. 23.]

-- Shane Goldmacher
twitter.com/ShaneGoldmacher

 
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