State budget expected to be tardy

first_imgSACRAMENTO – State lawmakers said Thursday they’re close to an agreement on a state budget, but predicted they’ll miss tonight’s deadline for passage. Among the sticking points are Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to cut funding for public transit and social services and to repay bond debt early. Assembly GOP Leader Mike Villines of Clovis said Democratic and Republican lawmakers differ on at least $1.4 billion in spending. “I think we’re all working toward getting something done in a reasonable time frame,” Villines said during an appearance before the Sacramento Press Club. With few penalties for a late budget, however, debate has at times stretched into August and even September in past years. The budget has been late seven times in the past decade. Schwarzenegger has proposed a $146 billion spending plan for 2007-08. His budget increases spending for education and infrastructure, but scales back funds for social services and cuts about $1.3 billion from public transit. It avoids tax hikes, but also allows a $1.4 billion operating deficit. H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the Department of Finance, said the Schwarzenegger administration remains optimistic that a budget can be signed by June 30, as it was last year, although some pundits had thought the two parties would not cooperate during a gubernatorial campaign. “The will is there,” Palmer said. “There are disagreements, but people are not being disagreeable.” In Los Angeles, transit officials are eagerly awaiting the budget results. Metropolitian Transportation Authority officials estimate that the governor’s proposal would mean at least $230 million less for Metro, which recently approved stiff fare increases throughout Los Angeles County. Metro CEO Roger Snoble said Thursday that if the agency gets the additional state funding, it would still have to boost fares next year, but the next round of increases in 2009 could be softened. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” Snoble said in a telephone interview. “We’re working really hard (to lobby Sacramento).” So far, the level of partisan rhetoric has been more muted than in the past, said Barbara O’Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and the Media at California State University, Sacramento. Ultimately, she believes the state will have a budget by July 1, mostly because the disputed items are relatively minor, and because legislators have other serious policy issues to tackle, such as health care and pension reform. “There’s enough of what everybody wants in (the budget) that you’re really arguing about stuff around the edges,” O’Connor said. [email protected] (916) 446-6723160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Assemblyman John Laird, D-Santa Cruz, chairman of the Assembly Budget committee, said Democrats are trying to restore at least $827 million that Schwarzenegger wants to cut from public transportation. Democrats contend some cuts may be illegal. They also reject the governor’s plan to spend at least $600 million to repay debt early from the 2004 economy recovery bonds. Instead they want to use the money for social service payments to children and senior citizens. “He’s choosing Wall Street over California’s kids and seniors,” Laird said. Still Laird believes that the issues can be resolved by the end of June. The California Constitution calls for the Legislature to pass a budget by June 15 and for the governor to sign one by June 30, in time for the start of the next fiscal year July 1. last_img read more