The longest budget impasse in state history could be ending with a combination of spending cuts and some creative accounting. The budget is now set for a vote on Thursday in the Capitol.
It is not easy to zero out a $19 billion deficit and details on how state leaders did it finally emerged Wednesday. Like previous budget compromises, it is heavy on cuts, funny math, and a prayer that more money comes in.
Nearly 100 days into the fiscal year without a budget, a vote is finally imminent. Among the losers are public schools with $3 billion dollars less than last year, state workers with a $1.5 billion cut to employee compensation, and corporations who will deal with $1.2 billion in suspended tax breaks.
The deep reductions in education are a surprise considering that this brings the total cuts to classrooms over the last couple of years to $18 billion.
"When you take a look at the disproportionality of the cuts over the last few years as well, it's just a startling disinvestment in education," says public schools lobbyist Kevin Gordon.
Among the winners in the budget are some social services like CalWorks, the Welfare to Work program, and subsidized daycare, both of which are spared total elimination. Taxpayers too can breathe a sigh of relief because no new taxes are in the budget.
The wealthy and politically-connected Fisher family gets a $30 million tax break while UC and CSU campuses will receive an extra $300 million to boost enrollment. The Fisher's tax break is raising eyebrows. They own retailers like the Gap.
A 2008 deal to buy a lumber company up north apparently "uniquely damaged" them under new tax rule changes and the budget compromise eases the pain for them.
"$30 million to one family for one project in a special interest tax break is totally inappropriate for the budget," say Lenny Goldberg with the California Tax Reform Association.
Clearly, this is a budget nobody likes not only because it relies on cuts, but also on "funny money."
"I'm frustrated by the fact that this budget looks at trying to solve a problem without actually having to solve the problem," said Assm. Anthony Adams. "There's too many gimmicks in here. There's too much overestimation of revenues that are never going to come in."
However, the Democratic-led Legislature says when they need Republican votes to reach a two-thirds majority, budgets cannot help but be unrealistic.
"It is the product of a two-thirds vote that you get the gimmicks and fake instead of the real," says Democratic St. Sen. Denise Ducheny of San Diego.
Rank and file lawmakers will spend the night pouring over the details. It is unclear at this point whether there will be enough votes to end this record long budget impasse.