Friday, June 26, 2009

102 Hours to the Edge

Over the last three days, the Legislature has been voting on elements of a budget revision package. The Assembly has taken up four bills totaling nearly $12.4 billion in cuts and savings towards our $19.5 billion deficit. Today, the Senate attempted to go even further toward closing the deficit, voting on other components of the budget package but obtaining no Republican support.

With just a little over 100 hours until the state plunges into financial ruin, I wonder when at least the bare minimum of Republicans will come out of their corners and do the business of governing that this state so desperately needs. We only need 4 Republicans in the Assembly and 2 in the Senate to pass these budget revisions, and, of course, 1 governor to sign it.

I am encouraged by the Assembly Republican leadership’s interest in working over the weekend to find common ground and reach an agreement. I was proud of our bipartisan approach taken yesterday when we passed three bills enabling the State Controller to pay the state’s bills this summer. These bills were not passed with a bare minimum of support, but in a nearly unanimous bipartisan effort. Nevertheless, the governor and Senate Republicans quashed yesterday’s fledgling bipartisan effort.

But here’s the real rub. Neither the governor nor Senate Republicans are offering solutions toward an agreement.

As the old saying goes, it’s deja vu all over again. The governor makes threats on an almost daily basis. Today’s threat is a third furlough day each month for state workers if we don’t send him a $24 billion budget solution all at once.

And, Senate Republicans are in tow. They apparently voted down the budget bills over the past three days because they were not solving the entire budget deficit all in one day. They also say that they want up to another $8 billion in cuts to reach any budget agreement but refuse to say where and how such cuts should be made. Recognizing their refusal to cut public safety or prisons, cuts of this scale can only come from education and eliminating the health and human services safety net.

The bottom line remains the same: we need to pass a budget package within a matter of hours. That means the governor and Senate Republicans must rise to the occasion and work with Democrats and Assembly Republicans to guide our state through this financial crisis. This is not a game. This is not a drill. The cost of their bravado is the financial ruin of California.