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Deadlock in Sacramento, Again

June 02, 2005

There is no point in analyzing the Democrats' proposed state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1, because it's not going anywhere.

The centerpiece of the plan presented by Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez (D-Los Angeles) is a $3-billion boost in education spending to be financed in part by a $1.8-billion increase in income taxes for the wealthiest Californians. It's not a bad idea as a temporary measure, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Republicans in the Legislature say they will not accept any tax increase this year.

Also, the plan is another "gotcha" proposal aimed at Schwarzenegger by Democrats and their supporters, primarily the California Teachers Assn., who claim that the governor shorted schools by $3 billion this year. Democrats think that they will gain points against a governor already sinking in the polls. They see schools as a popular issue and aren't even asking how the $3 billion -- added to a $50-billion education budget -- would be spent to produce a better education.

Democrats in the Legislature have been killing all Schwarzenegger initiatives on principle, including a plan to get fresh fruit into schools.

The governor, meanwhile, still threatens to call a special election for November, primarily to pass a measure that would vastly increase his budget powers at the Legislature's expense. The Senate Republican leader even talked about blocking passage of a budget until November, when Schwarzenegger might gain the power to cut spending unilaterally.

Schwarzenegger, Nunez and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata (D-Oakland) could theoretically sit down now and work out the skeleton of a budget deal, but don't count on it. Brinksmanship is the order of the day in Sacramento.

So much for the idea that voters rejected petty, ineffective government in the 2003 recall that put Schwarzenegger in office.

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