California meltdown

A weekly flyover of the state budget crisis

From the Big 5’s closed-door budget deal to the real budget deal, it was quite a week in the Capitol. Nobody’s happy with the compromise that resulted, but at least it has staved off insolvency—for now. Here’s the breakdown.

July 21: Assembly Republicans threaten to scuttle the Big 5’s newly hatched budget deal because, they say, it will allow the early release of 27,000 prisoners. Democrats’ idea is to move old and sick inmates out of prisons and into hospitals or care homes and not send some parolees back to prison for low-level offenses.

July 22: Assuring Assembly Republicans that any decision on early releases would be postponed until August, legislative leaders and Gov. Schwarzenegger calm them down sufficiently to put the budget back on track.

July 22 and 23: Fifty-three leading environmental organizations send letters to Gov. Schwarzenegger opposing the reported budget deal that would open offshore waters to oil drilling for the first time in 40 years.

July 22: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a former speaker of the Assembly, urges lawmakers to turn down the Big 5’s budget deal, saying its raid on city and county coffers will throw local budgets out of balance and employees out of work and negate any benefits of the federal stimulus program.

July 24: The California Faculty Association, which represents 23,000 California State University teachers, announces CFA members have voted, 54-46 percent, to approve taking two furlough days a month. The alternative would have been layoffs, mainly of untenured contract teachers, and fewer class offerings for students.

July 24: After pulling all-nighters, the state Senate and Assembly pass a final budget package, but not before the Assembly has killed the oil-drilling provision and one that would have taken $1 billion in gas-tax money from local governments. The package reduces the state’s general-fund budget to about $84.1 billion, 18 percent below what it was just two years ago. Cuts come largely from health care and education: $5.7 billion from K-14; $2.8 billion from the CSU and UC systems; $1.2 billion from social services; and $1.2 billion from the prison system. The package also suspends COLAs for many state employees, tightens welfare and In-Home Supportive Services eligibility, and proposes to sell off a number of state properties. And it includes about $8 billion in borrowing, raiding funds from local governments and accounting maneuvers.

July 27: The Governor’s Office announces that, although Schwarzenegger will be forced to cut more than $600 million from the compromise budget package because lawmakers failed to commandeer the gas-tax funds, he would not include a fourth state-worker furlough day.

July 28: In a ceremony at the Capitol, Gov. Schwarzenegger signs the compromise budget package that he says contains “the good, the bad and the ugly.” Earlier Schwarzenegger uses a line-item veto to slash an additional $489 million from Medi-Cal funding, Healthy Families, AIDS prevention and treatment, and state parks. He also eliminates funding for the Williamson Act, a move that will pull hundreds of thousands of dollars from Northstate counties’ coffers including $600,000 from Butte County and a whopping $900,000 from Glenn County. “These are ugly cuts, and I’m the only one that is really responsible for those cuts because the Legislature left; they didn’t want to make those cuts,” the governor explains