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'Dire consequences' if voters reject state ballot measures

May 6, 2009 | 12:29 pm

Two weeks before the special election, the head of the state Senate continued to beat the warning drum today, saying Californians face dire consequences if voters reject budget-related measures he and other government leaders placed on the May 19 ballot.

The measures include a spending cap that would extend newly enacted tax hikes for up to two additional years and a plan to borrow up to $10 billion against future revenue from the California Lottery, according to Sen. Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. 

Even if the six measures pass, the state will face an $8-billion budget shortfall, according to recent projections. Steinberg said he is confident that can be fixed by borrowing from the lottery and tapping the $2-billion reserve fund set up in February when the state approved a budget.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday that rejection of the ballot measures could force layoffs of firefighters and up to $2 billion in cuts to local governments, which opponents of the ballot measures have called "scare tactics."

"Is it a scare tactic? No. It’s reality. The numbers are the numbers,’’ Steinberg told reporters at a Capitol news conference today. "I would not take anything off the table."

Steinberg acknowledged that talks are already underway on how to plug a budget hole of $18 billion or more if voters say no on May 19.

Contingency talks with Republicans are "just starting, and they will intensify next week," Steinberg said. "We will be prepared.’’

Steinberg said he would like to consider such proposals as devoting half of every two-year legislative session to bills and half to oversight and evaluation of existing programs.

-- Patrick McGreevy