UPPING THE ANTE…Squid’s been watching a lot of World Series of Poker these days. Squid’s not a huge fan, and prefers flipping channels between Under the Tuscan Sun and Notting Hill, but Squid’s Sweetie has stronger tentacles and usually wrestles the remote away from Squid and Julia Roberts and back to poker. The upside: Squid’s getting good at reading human faces. So Squid was all eyes when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger hosted a budget roundtable discussion earlier this week. During the talk, Arnie said he will release two versions of the revised budget on Thursday, May 14, just days before the May 19 special election and its budget-related ballot measures.
“You will see two May Revises,” Schwarzenegger said, “so that the people see what the difference is. If on May 19 it passes, here is one scenario; this is what we need to do in order to balance our books.”
And the deficit has grown. It’s now $21.3 billion.
“The result of the propositions failing on May 19 will mean $6 billion in additional severe cuts…the state will be forced to reduce essential services when that happens. That could include schools, health care, prisons, fire stations and local services.”
It’s important to note: Schwarzenegger wasn’t wearing dark sunglasses, or a cap, or listening to his iPod, all of which leads Squid to believe the governor wasn’t bluffing.
But will staggering stats like reducing CAL FIRE’s budget by 10 percent and laying off 51,000 teachers, or shutting down every school in the state for 18.5 days, or increasing class sizes by 17 percent be enough to convince voters to support 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D, 1E and 1F?
And if/when they fail, Dems in Sacto will be ready. Former Central Coast Assemblyman Fred Keeley says Democratic legislators are already drafting a budget package that won’t require GOP support with the help of creative language and loopholes, replacing revenue-raising taxes with “fees.” (State law requires a two-thirds vote to raise taxes, and although Dems convinced three Republicans from both the Assembly and the Senate to vote yes on the February budget, which included new taxes, it’s unlikely they’re gonna get a single yes vote from the GOP this time around. So there won’t be any tax hikes, just higher fees.)
The Dems tried to pull a similar end-run late last year, sending a majority-vote budget package to the Governor in December 2008. Schwarzenegger vetoed the plan—but not because it was an end-run around Republican votes. In his veto message, Schwarzenegger said the Democratic budget should have included more spending cuts and looser environmental regulations to allow highway projects to go forward. Squid expects to see a similar combo of spending cuts and higher taxes, errr, “fees” on the governor’s desk by June.