Bass threatens to lock in lawmakers

December 16, 2008 8:00:31 PM PST
State lawmakers could be spending the holiday break locked in the Capitol. That's what Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D) of Los Angeles, is threatening if Republicans and Democrats can't come up with a way to solve California's massive budget deficit soon.

A state panel is set to vote on Wednesday on whether to cut state infrastructure projects. Doing so would help the state conserve its cash. The Assembly has thrown a Hail Mary by holding session right now.

"We have an immediate emergency," said Bass.

On the line is nearly 2,000 road, bridge, and other infrastructure projects throughout the state. Cutting off funding would eventually kill 200,000 jobs.

Assembly Democrats are trying to avert that disaster by putting up another package of cuts and new taxes for a vote. They hope to raise more than $11 billion in revenue by: temporarily raising the sales tax another 1.5 percent, taxing oil companies nearly 10 percent for drilling in the state or off its coast, and adding $.05 to alcoholic drinks.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass says she is prepared to lockdown session if not enough Republicans support it.

"I'm certainly hoping that we don't need to lock the doors and lock people in. But I will tell you that I'm so concerned about the situation we're facing today. If I'm worried some of the members might run away off the floor, it just might have to get to that," said Bass.

"Our position on new taxes is clear. Common ground becomes very difficult to find ," said Assembly Roger Niello, (R) the Budget Vice-Chairman.

It's unlikely any Republicans will vote for new taxes, given what they had said in a budget committee hearing earlier in the day.

They're pushing for a cuts-only solution, slashing $22 billion from education and social services. It's day 41 of the impasse, and each day the state is getting deeper in the hole. State Treasurer Bill Lockyer (D) has little hope anything will be solved this session and is inclined to vote to cutoff infrastructure funding.

"If they don't do it, it's a cliff they're just going to drive the car off of, and shame on them if that's the result," said Lockyer.

Loosing infrastructure projects will be a huge blow to the state's economy because that was one sector that was hiring.


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