California meltdown

A biweekly flyover of the state budget crisis

The longer the state fails to solve its structural budget deficit, the harder the job becomes—as events of the last two weeks suggest.

Weds., Feb. 24: U.S. District Court Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong issues a preliminary injunction blocking scheduled eligibility cuts for California’s adult day health-care program, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The cuts were set to be implemented on March 1. They would have saved the state about $12.2 million annually.

Fri., Feb 26: The California Budget Project, a Sacramento-based think tank, issues a report stating that more than 1 million children would lose affordable health coverage under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to cut all funding for the Healthy Families Program. The governor has promised to eliminate the program if the state does not receive the $6.9 billion in federal aid it has asked for. The cuts would save the general fund $222 million but also mean the loss of $826.3 million in federal matching funds.

Tues., March 2: Gov. Schwarzenegger asks the California Supreme Court to consolidate and review seven cases related to his furlough authority, saying lower courts have issued conflicting rulings on the matter, according to the Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert.

Tues., March 2: The Field Poll issues a report that 61 percent of voters want taxes to be part of a budget-deficit solution, while just 31 percent want cuts only. In January the Public Policy Institute found that two-thirds of Californians would pay higher taxes if the money went to education.

Tues., March 2: Gov. Schwarzenegger’s line-item budget vetoes last July reducing funding for several programs were legal, a state appellate court rules. Plaintiffs—various social-service advocates, unions and Democratic legislative leaders—had failed to show the governor had overstepped his executive authority, according to a report in Capitol Alert.

Thurs., March 4: Continuing to whittle away at the deficit, lawmakers send a measure to Gov. Schwarzenegger changing the state’s gas-tax system, the Sacramento Bee reports. The maneuver would allow the state to use gas-tax revenues to close the $20 billion general-fund deficit by about $1.1 billion.

Thurs., March 4: A San Francisco Superior Court judge rules that Gov. Schwarzenegger acted within his power when he mandated furlough days for employees of the California Medical Board, Capitol Weekly reports. The decision will jeopardize public safety, the president of the California Medical Association states.

Fri., March 5: The number of jobs went up by 32,500 in January, the state Employment Development Department reports. But it also has to acknowledge that a recalculation of last year’s jobs data revealed that the state lost 338,000 more jobs than previously reported.

Mon., March 8: The Legislature votes to exempt state employees whose incomes don’t come from the general fund—about 35 percent of the total—from furloughs. The governor has vowed to veto such a measure.

Mon., March 8: Gov. Schwarzenegger vetoes a bill that would have made $2.2 billion in spending cuts starting this summer. The language in the bill wasn’t definitive, making the cuts “intended” rather than actual appropriations, he argues.