Regional News

Double Assault On Deficit

ALAMEDA, Calif. — California’s budget deficit is so big, two governors are working on it.

At least for this week.

The state’s soon-to-depart governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, will present a deficit-reduction plan Monday — the same day lawmakers are sworn in for the new legislative session. And Governor-elect Jerry Brown is holding his own budget briefing Wednesday in Sacramento, to which all lawmakers are invited.

Schwarzenegger will proclaim a budget emergency and a special session, an event he signaled last month after the Legislative Analyst’s Office projected the California budget would be $6 billion out of balance in the current fiscal year, and $19 billion structurally out of balance for fiscal 2012, which begins July 1. The emergency proclamation is directed at the current-year budget gap.

“You should look forward to the governor talking about the importance of taking swift action to begin to make progress on the deficit that the legislative analyst has estimated at over $25 billion over the next 18 months,” said H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the governor’s Department of Finance.

“He’ll also talk about how the failure to take swift action will mean reduced savings and more difficult choices in the future.”

Schwarzenegger says that he hates to be called a lame duck, but his days in the governor’s office are growing short. Brown will be sworn in Jan. 3.

Monday’s proclamation will be the eighth budget special session Schwarzenegger has called during his seven years in office.

The leaders of the Democratic majorities in the Legislature have indicated they are more interested in waiting for cues from the Brown than in hearing again from Schwarzenegger, a Republican.

Brown has kept a low public profile since his easy win over Republican Meg Whitman. But he will begin to shape his own public response to the state budget crisis Wednesday, with a public budget briefing session for all state lawmakers, state elected officials and Department of Finance leaders.

“The goal of the meeting is to ensure that everyone is working with the same facts and understands the depth and breadth of the fiscal challenges facing our state,” Evan Westrup, a spokesman for the Brown transition, said in an e-mail.

 “The briefing will include a review of how California’s budget deficit has grown and the measures previously employed so that all parties can begin moving forward effectively.”

Brown reportedly has been busy in private meetings with other elected officials and state budget experts.

Whether or not lawmakers listen to Schwarzenegger this week, the limited tools provided by his budget emergency proclamation transfer to Brown when he takes office next month.

Monday’s proclamation initiates a 45-day financial countdown.

If lawmakers don’t act on the budget-reduction proposals within that period, they will be prohibited from adopting other legislation, or adjourning their regular session.

Brown is required to present his own budget proposal for fiscal 2012 on Jan. 10.



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