The Central California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce had hoped board members could meet briefly with the governor. But their request led to a town hall-like meeting in central Fresno.
Governor Schwarzenegger told members of the chamber the state loses $52 million each day the budget is late. Schwarzenegger said, "That means in the last month we have wasted a billion and a half dollars just because not having a budget on time."
The governor took several questions from chamber members. He insisted state workers have not taken on an extra burden during the budget crisis and said he is not going after state workers. "Everything's the same except, oh yes I forgot, they got three furlough days last year. Well excuse me. Does that mean they are the only ones being hit with making some sacrifices?"
Chamber members said they appreciated the governor's candid responses. Chamber President Jose Plasencia was "Very pleased with the informality about the way the governor was answering many of the questions."
Chamber Executive Director John Hernandez wondered, "Why can't we pass a budget on time? It's just that politics seems to trump necessity."
Governor Schwarzenegger called the economic downturn a stress test for everyone. Schwarzenegger said, "We have a 20-billion dollar deficit and the only way you're gonna solve this is by making cuts in programs and not increase spending."
The governor also had a message for lawmakers in Sacramento. He said, "I will never sign the budget if it has tax increases in it."