California meltdown

A biweekly flyover of the state budget crisis

Congress manages to pass a massive health-insurance bill, but the State Legislature still can’t resolve its budget deficit.

Weds., March 10: Sacramento Bee political columnist Dan Walters reports, on Capitol Alert, that, according to a study by the California Postsecondary Education Commission, California’s colleges and universities will face an enrollment demand of nearly 400,000 more students by the end of the decade, up from 2.36 million to 2.75 million. They will need another $1.5 billion a year in operating revenue to handle the growth, Walters writes.

Weds., March 10: In February, for the third month in a row, state revenues came in above projections, state Controller John Chiang says in his monthly financial report, exceeding Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget expectations by $480 million, or 8.7 percent.

Thurs., March 11: Democratic legislative leaders propose a wide-ranging overhaul of the state budgeting system. Among other things, it calls for budget passage by a simple majority vote and lawmakers to forfeit pay if they fail to pass a budget by June 25. It also would require them to identify a funding source for any bill increasing costs by $25 million or more. Although it would require a two-thirds vote to approve fees that would replace an existing tax, Republicans quickly denounced it.

Thurs., March 11: In the Law of Unintentional Consequences Department, the Sacramento Bee reports that Gov. Schwarzenegger’s controversial furlough system resulted in only a 4 percent savings in 2009. In addition, many furloughed workers put off vacations, deferring costs to the state until later.

Mon., March 15: The Los Angeles Times reports that California’s public schools have sent out more than 23,000 pink slips to teachers and other school employees, in response to the loss of some $2.4 billion in stimulus funding this year. How many will actually lose their jobs will depend on the final state budget. In 2009, 16,000 teachers and other school employees lost their jobs, state schools Superintendent Jack O’Connell says.

Tues., March 16: Capitol Alert reports that Gov. Schwarzenegger has announced he will veto a bill lawmakers sent him to swap a gas-tax increase with elimination of the sales tax on gasoline. The bill would have cut $1.1 billion from the deficit but left the cost of gas unchanged; the governor wanted a bill that would have reduced slightly the amount consumers pay at the pump.

Tues., March 16: The Ventura County Star reports that, in what may be a taste of things to come, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has declared that lawmakers and the governor are at a “mini-budget impasse” following a largely unsuccessful emergency session to reduce the budget deficit.

Thurs., March 18: A state Senate subcommittee rejects Gov. Schwarzenegger’s plan to eliminate many social and health services, including the CalWORKS and in-home-care programs, if the state doesn’t receive $6.9 billion in requested federal aid.

Mon., March 22: In a mini-deal on the budget, the Legislature sends the governor a compromise transportation funding bill that includes the gas-tax swap as well as a home-purchase tax credit of up to $10,000 for first-time buyers as well as a sales-tax exemption on the purchase of manufacturing equipment by “green” companies. The governor has said he’ll sign it.