Schwarzenegger may spread a little more money around, Sacto sources say.
Thursday, May 12, 2005
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s revised budget, scheduled to be released on Friday, May 13, could contain significantly more spending than the proposal he offered at the beginning of the year, according to Sacramento lawmakers. It will likely include millions of dollars in added spending for transportation, they say.
“We’re still hearing rumors and leaks, and they seem to be about three themes,” says Democrat John Laird, who represents the Monterey Bay Area and chairs the Assembly Budget Committee. “[Schwarzenegger] wants to put more money back into transportation. He considers a lot of the revenue one-time and is being cautious. And he generally thinks there’s about $2 billion in new revenue.”
Laird’s talking about extra crash that has been flowing into state coffers as the economy picks up. The governor will have about $2 billion additional tax revenue to close the $8.6 billion budget gap. And he could close the 2005-2006 shortfall even further if he decides to use some of the $4.2 billion that flooded into the state through a tax amnesty program last month.
(However, much of the amnesty money came from businesses involved in tax disputes. The companies are filing legal appeals to get it back. Last month, Finance Director Tom Campbell warned the governor against using more than $300 million of the money to balance the budget.)
Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers in Monterey County say they want to see more funding for schools and social services, and they are hopeful that their efforts to bring pressure on the governor over the past few months may pay off.
“We’re looking to Friday,” says Assemblyman Simón Salinas (D-Salinas), who says Democrats will continue to fight the governor “if he hasn’t changed his tune.”
Back in January, Schwarzenegger rolled out a budget proposal that would have axed billions of dollars earmarked for schools, traffic projects, welfare recipients and health services. That proposal would cut $140 million in renter’s and homeowner’s assistance payments made to seniors. Shortly afterward, Salinas, Laird and other Democrats attacked the governor’s proposed “tax on seniors and students.”
The January budget proposal would also have given schools $2.3 billion less than they are owed under Proposition 98, the voter-approved measure that guarantees about 42 percent of the state general fund for K-12 schools and community colleges. The proposal also hiked university fees and cut pensions of teachers and other state workers.
In the weeks that followed, both the Assembly and the Senate budget committees hosted a series of hearings about the governor’s proposed cuts. And teachers, nurses and firefighters—all labeled “special interests” by Schwarzenegger—took to the streets to protest the hits.
Now, months later, it’s time to see if Schwarzenegger listened, Laird says.
“In the Assembly, we have been emphasizing funding for transportation, Prop. 98 for education, and restoring some of the most draconian cuts to seniors—and doing it in the context of a balanced budget with almost no debt going to the future. So to the extent that he does any of those things in his budget: that’s good. To the extent that he falls short of our goals: that is where the debate will be.
“I see where a Leon Panetta-style budget is doable,” Laird says, referring to a pay-as-you-go spending plan. “We could have a balanced budget with the reserve and meet California’s priorities.”
Shortly after the governor announces his revised plan on Friday, Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez and budget committee chair Laird will offer an analysis from Sacramento. Within 10 days, the Democrats will unveil their own plan for balancing the budget.
“It just depends on what’s in the governor’s proposal,” Laird says. “I’m cautiously optimistic. In January, he was flying high in the polls. But now…we have the benefit of public support.”
In recent polls, 47 percent of likely voters surveyed approve of Schwarzenegger’s job performance—down from 60 percent in January.