Budget break down in California

March 30, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
There's no solution in sight to California's looming $26-billion budget crisis. So what's next now that Governor Jerry Brown and Republican lawmakers have reached a standoff in their budget talks?

Brown cut off talks on Tuesday after Republican leaders handed him a list of 53 demands in exchange for supporting a special election on tax extensions.

Before the impasse, the legislature had slashed $14 billion from the $26 billion deficit through budget cuts.

"There are issues that are impossible to resolve at this time. One of the most glaring is a billion-dollar tax break to giant companies that keep jobs out of California. I don't think we should take money from school children, public safety and universities and give it to companies that don't want to create jobs in California," said Brown.

After budget talks broke down Tuesday, dozens of disabled patients are now scared.

With no hope for a June special election asking voters to renew temporary tax hikes that might save their care homes and other government services, another $13 billion or more in budget cuts have suddenly become very real.

"We're just asking the basic food and shelter for people who can't provide it for themselves," said Martin Weil, the father of a disabled daughter.

Teachers across California were nervous Wednesday too. Public schools are expected to take the brunt of the budget ax in an "all-cuts" scenario, making it unlikely thousands of pink slips will be canceled.

"We'll increase class sizes at all levels. We'll lose librarians. We'll lose counselors. Athletic programs will be cut further. Our district will be unrecognizable," said Tom Gardner, a first-grade teacher from Elk Grove.

Democrats say they'll find a way to avoid an all-cuts budget, but all of the options are problematic, including one that tests legal waters.

Voters approved a ballot initiative allowing state budgets to be passed by simple majority vote. But anything requiring taxes is still supposed have a two-thirds majority vote. The state legislature's attorney, though, says that's not true, that Democrats can go around Republicans.

Brown is reluctant to take that route.

The California Labor Federation is thinking about a citizen initiative asking for taxes on a November ballot.

""We're not going to stand idly by while the rest of the state falls apart. We have to figure out a way to keep the state of California from imploding," said Art Pulaski, chief officer of the California Labor Federation.

By November, though, the taxes might be a tough sell. The temporary taxes will expire by then, and they'll have to be called "new" taxes.

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