Budget debate done, spending plan nowhere in sight
"What we are doing is not real," said Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield). "This budget will not pass."
Ashburn's comment pretty much summed up the action that consumed the Assembly and Senate all morning in the final day of the legislative session Tuesday. A budget requires bipartisan consensus. The plans debated on Tuesday did not have that. There was a GOP plan that cut deep into state services. And a Democratic plan that assumes the state would raise billions of dollars in new revenue, which likely means tax hikes. But the deadline for passing a state budget blew by two months ago and lawmakers felt compelled to take some kind of action – however token – before heading back to their districts with their heads hanging low. Tuesday's votes were the first taken on a spending plan. Every other state got their budgets in place weeks, even months ago. California appears to be striving to break its record for the latest state budget ever.
California's record, for those of you keeping score, is Sept. 23, set in 2008.
Now budget discussion moves back into the back rooms. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will likely call legislative leaders into his office for yet more talks immediately. Another emergency legislative session may be called once a deal is reache, but probably not before the state controller announces the state is out of cash and IOUs are on the way.
The final vote took place in the Senate at 1:40 p.m. on the Democratic plan. It went down 21 to 14. Democrats Leland Yee of San Francisco and Lou Correa of Santa Ana were present but declined to cast votes on their party's plan.
Senate leader Darrell Steinberg asserted that Tuesday's debate was more than just a political drill. "This calm rational discussion hopefully will lead to a more intensive phase of negotiations," he said.
--Evan Halper in Sacramento