Budget Battle Under Way in California

 

Two days after California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) delivered an optimistic state of the state address that called on both political parties to work together, he released a budget plan that the Los Angeles Times said paves the way for "another year of paralysis in Sacramento." 

In his speech to lawmakers Jan. 6, Schwarzenegger said that "California has the means and the mind power to solve all of its problems." But the no-new-taxes budget blueprint he delivered on Jan. 8 — aimed at closing a fresh $20 billion deficit after legislators made $60 billion in cuts in 2009 — was met with fierce criticism from majority Democrats, who dislike the deep cuts to areas that already have seen sharp reductions. 

"With regard to the bulk of the budget proposal, I have one reaction: You've got to be kidding," the Democratic leader of the state Senate said, according to The Los Angeles Times . The Democratic speaker of the state Assembly called the governor's proposal a "big pile of denial."

Among the areas targeted for cuts in Schwarzenegger's budget plan, according to The Times , are "the CalWorks program for welfare recipients; the In-home Supportive Services program intended to keep the elderly and disabled out of nursing homes; Healthy Families, which provides healthcare to children; prisoner rehabilitation; Medi-Cal, the health program for the poor; and Cal Grant awards for college students."

Some federal lawmakers also don't like Schwarzenegger's budget. Taking an aggressive new approach to what he considers an unfair distribution of federal funds to the states, Schwarzenegger is relying in his budget on $6.9 billion in as-yet-unapproved new federal money, The Washington Post reported .

"Schwarzenegger is asking Washington to reimburse Medicaid expenses at the national average of 57 cents on the dollar, up from 50 cents (worth $1.8 billion). He is also pleading to make permanent certain federal stimulus outlays set to run out at year's end ($2.1 billion)," The Post reported.

Meanwhile, The New York Times called attention to a groundswell of voter anger in California that could result in a series of dramatic, budget-related ballot initiatives in November, even as it noted that voter input "helped get California into its budget crisis (by) forcing spending in some areas while limiting taxation in others."

"The number of initiatives so far, while high, is not the largest in history," The Times said. "But the rage that underlies them has not been seen in decades, said lawmakers, pollsters, political consultants and the proponents."

 
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