Schwarzenegger says he will declare fiscal emergency | SierraSun.com

Schwarzenegger says he will declare fiscal emergency

Aaron C. Davis
Associated Press Writer

SACRAMENTO (AP) ” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger says he will declare a “fiscal emergency” in January to give him and the legislature more power to deal with the state’s growing deficit.

Schwarzenegger made the announcement Friday after meeting with lawmakers and interest groups this week to tell them California’s budget deficit is far worse than economists predicted just a few weeks ago.

The shortfall is no longer expected to be $10 billion, but more than $14 billion ” a 40 percent jump that would put it in orbit with some of the state’s worst fiscal crises, those who have met with him have said.

Declaring a fiscal emergency would trigger a special session and force lawmakers and the governor to begin addressing the shortfall within 45 days.

“What we have to do is fix the budget system. The system itself needs to be fixed, and I think that this is a good year, this coming year, to fix it,” Schwarzenegger said in Long Beach, where he was promoting his plan for health care reform.

California is struggling with shrinking state tax revenue from the meltdown of the subprime housing market and the credit crunch on Wall Street. State spending also has increased by more than 40 percent since Schwarzenegger took office after the 2003 recall of then-Gov. Gray Davis.

Schwarzenegger in August signed a $145.5 billion budget that increased spending 11 percent due largely to the increased cost of bond repayments and special funds. General fund spending for day-to-day operations increased less than 1 percent, from $101.7 to $102.3 billion for the budget year that began July 1.

In August, Schwarzenegger’s office projected the state would end its current budget year with a $4.1 billion reserve. Last month, the state’s nonpartisan legislative analyst reported that the state would instead end the year in the red, and was on pace to rack up a staggering $10 billion deficit over the next 18 months.

Schwarzenegger and his top aides this week have privately told lawmakers and interest groups that the gap could top $14 billion and warned cities, counties and health and welfare agencies to expect cuts.

Last month, Schwarzenegger ordered agency leaders to draft plans for across-the-board cut as high as 10 percent.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press.