California Senate recesses at impasse over $145 billion budget | SierraSun.com

California Senate recesses at impasse over $145 billion budget

Laura Kurtzman
Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO (AP) ” Unable to persuade Republicans to support the state budget, the Senate Democratic leader allowed bleary-eyed legislators to leave the capitol Saturday morning, after locking them in the chamber overnight.

Senate President Don Perata, of Oakland, ordered the Senate to reconvene Wednesday morning. He told his Republican counterpart, Dick Ackerman, of Tustin, to come up with his own version of the budget.

“We have no freakin’ idea where you want to go,” Perata said to Ackerman, shortly before he called a recess around 10 a.m. “We’ve done all we can do.”

The two parties have been at loggerheads over whether to cut a tiny fraction of the proposed $145 billion state budget.

Republicans are demanding a balanced spending plan, but they have refused to say what programs they want to cut. Perata’s move was intended to force them to spell out what they want to cut and take the resulting political heat.

Republicans rejected a spending plan passed by the Assembly that reduces the state’s operating deficit to about $700 million, about one half of 1 percent of the overall budget.

Democrats and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger say meeting the Republicans’ demands would mean cutting K-12 education, which they refuse to do.

But Republicans say the state’s future revenue picture looks grim, and they must take action before things get worse.

“We’ve been in a budget crisis for the last three or four years, and we’ve been digging ourselves out one year at a time,” Ackerman said. “If we don’t do as much as we can now, we will have more serious financial problems than anyone will want to deal with.”

Economic data released Friday indicated job growth had stagnated in California. It was the latest in a string of pessimistic economic news. The state also has collected $800 million less than expected in recent months.

The state faces an operating deficit of more than $5 billion for the 2008-09 fiscal year, according to analysts’ predictions.

Democrats hold large majorities in both houses, but not enough to pass a budget without at least some Republican support. Two Republican votes are needed in the Senate, but none of the Senate budget votes has garnered a single Republican vote.

The budget already is long overdue, with the state’s 2007-08 fiscal year having begun July 1. Lawmakers also were scheduled to begin their summer recess on Friday, but late in the evening Perata ordered senators locked in the chamber until they reached a deal.