Gov. Paints Dark Picture for State Budget

May 12, 2009 8:12:07 PM PDT
The new numbers are staggering; Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger now says California's budget deficit has grown to more than $15 billion in the past few months. That number will grow to $21 billion if the budget balancing measures on the ballot do not pass next week.

Tax dollars are not rolling into Sacramento like they used to. For the first time since 1938, California income taxes are on track to drop from year to year, setting the stage for yet another budget mess.

The deficit is already projected to be $15 billion, but if voters reject the budget-helping measures next week, like every poll say they will, the red ink will balloon to more than $21 billion.

To improve the proposals' passage, Schwarzenegger will roll out specifics Thursday on what the next round of budget cuts would look like using both scenarios.

"People should know both of those things, both of those numbers, legislators should know and everyone, so when they go out and vote, they keep that in mind," Schwarzenegger said.

Opponents of the budget measures are crying foul about the timing of that spending cuts list.

"Releasing the numbers one week prior to the election is an obvious attempt to scare voters into voting for these failing measures," No on Prop 1A spokesperson Mike Roth said.

Assembly Speaker Karen Bass knows Republicans do not have an appetite for raising more taxes. So, the only options left to close the gap are borrow and cut some more.

"I don't think it's scare tactics, I think it's reality tactics," Bass said.

$16 billion in cuts were already made in February.

"People are already upset at the cuts that have been done so far, so the idea that we do $21 billion more in cuts...," Bass said.

Releasing 38,000 inmates early is on the table. So is eliminating 1,700 firefighter positions just as wildfire season is beginning. Education will surely be on the chopping block again, frustrating scores of teachers.

"We are short-funded, how much more can we take," teacher Donna Milton asked. "How much more cutting can we take with the children? I understand, but this is our future right here."

State leaders will have to be careful about how much they cut from education and healthcare. California could lose federal stimulus dollars if too much is lopped off.

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