Down to the wire on California's budget crisis
As voters face ballot measures, critics say Governor Schwarzenegger is using scare tactics.
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There has also been a barrage of TV ads around the state, with one firefighter mentioning that 23,000 firefighters could be cut, and another ad saying, “we could lose 43,000 teachers, see class sizes increase, and more schools close.” The cuts from education will be $5 billion if the measures fail, forcing a possible seven-day reduction in the school year, on top of billions the state cut in February.Skip to next paragraph
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But Barbara O’Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media, at California State University, Sacramento, doesn’t fault Schwarzenegger and instead says the public may not really understand the choices.
“I don’t think [voters] have a magnitude check of what these cuts will look like if the propositions don’t pass, and that’s the need for the fear appeal,” she says.
Though state officials say the education cuts could be mitigated by federal stimulus funds, Kevin Gordon, president of School Innovations and Advocacy, says the US government may not allow California to simply replace its own funds. That would violate “the spirit of what leaders in Washington, D.C. intended,” he said.
“If voters fail to approve the propositions, our schools will undergo another round of massive cuts – further unraveling public education in this state and hurting our kids,” said David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association, in a statement.
The state also would ask the federal government to assume responsibility for an undetermined number of the 19,000 illegal immigrants held in state prisons. Ultimately, that would result in most of those prisoners being deported, according to state Finance Director Mike Genest.
The second of the two plans involves borrowing $7.5 billion from financially strapped local governments and a vastly depleted investment market. Some 225,000 children could lose healthcare coverage.
Schwarzenegger also proposes raising $1.8 billion by approving an oil lease off Santa Barbara County, a project recently rejected by the State Lands Commission. The lease would allow the first oil-drilling project off the state's coast in 40 years.
Lands Commissioner and State Controller John Chiang objects to the proposal because he feels it would open the door to offshore oil leases, which haven't been approved since the Santa Barbara oil spill of 1969.
Schwarzenegger said new taxes are “out of the question.” Nevertheless, if voters reject his budget package Tuesday, he will be seeking some higher fees.