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Schwarzenegger criticized by Democrats for budget threats

June 11, 2009 |  3:03 pm

Democrats in the Legislature this afternoon condemned Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s vow to bring California government to a “grinding halt” if he and state lawmakers fail to balance the budget in time for the state to pay its bills this summer.

“To threaten to shut down the state is, in the governor’s own words, ‘hallucinatory’ and ‘irresponsible,’ ” Assemblywoman Noreen Evans (D-Santa Rosa), clearly frustrated, said during a session of the Legislature’s joint budget committee.

“That has so many serious ramifications and implications for our state’s economy, for our state’s long-term health, for our state’s residents -- and not only that, [but also] for the entire United States of America and, in fact, the world.”

Schwarzenegger told The Times editorial board Wednesday that he would refuse to take a high-interest loan that might be needed to keep the state afloat should budget negotiations stall. He wants to ensure that lawmakers do not dally, he said.

Finance officials say the California treasury will be bare by late July unless the projected $24-billion budget shortfall is resolved quickly.

"What we need to do is just to basically cut off all the funding and just let them have a taste of what it is like when the state comes to a shutdown -- grinding halt," the governor said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, he called the Senate Democrats’ budget outline “hallucinatory”; on Wednesday, he said it was “irresponsible.” Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) said during the committee meeting that the governor’s comments were overly negative.

“Come on, Governor,” Leno said. “We can do it and we can do it together. Don’t put out there that it’s not going to get done and we’re going to collapse the world. We can do this and I’d like to see his positive spirit return. “

--Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

More coverage:

Interactive: Can you balance the budget?

CALIFORNIA BUDGET BALANCER: Can you balance California's budget? Use The Times' interactive tool to make budget cuts, raise taxes and take other actions.

FULL COVERAGE: Follow Times coverage of California budget crisis.

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