Another budget showdown expected in California
California proposes new taxes and budget cuts as it struggles to tame its $24.3 billion deficit.
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Still, they did not know exactly how close they were to plugging the entire deficit even after they finished their work Tuesday evening.Skip to next paragraph
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The panel voted to cut $4.5 billion from public schools, giving districts the option of shortening the school year by five days, rather than the governor's proposed 7.5 days, to absorb the loss. Districts may retain the traditional 180-day school year if they want to cut expenses in other ways. Regardless, California would have one of the shortest school years in the nation.
Lawmakers rejected the governor's call to eliminate CalWorks, though they cut the welfare-to-work program by $270 million. And the commmittee refused Schwarzenegger's bid to reduce by 5 percent the pay of the state's heavily unionized workforce, prompting an angry response.
The governor called it "outrageous" that Democrats would ask Californians to pay higher taxes while refusing to decrease state wages.
"This is exactly why so many Californians have lost faith in Sacramento's ability to solve problems," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.
Democrats defended the move, noting that state workers are already must take two unpaid furlough days a month, equivalent to a nearly 10 percent pay cut.
Democrats countered with some budgetary sleight of hand. They voted to delay one month's payroll for all state workers in June 2010, pushing the expense into the next fiscal year. That accounting move would reduce the state's deficit by $1.2 billion, according to legislative aides.
"It sounds kind of cute, but it works," said Assemblywoman Noreen Evans, a Democrat from Santa Rosa and chairwoman of the budget committee.
The group shaved $117 million from the state-subsidized network of home-care workers who tend the elderly and disabled, a roughly 10 percent reduction. Schwarzenegger wanted to cut the ranks of those workers - most of them represented by unions that contribute heavily to Democrats - by 90 percent to save $765 million.
The legislators also voted to cut $102 million from state courts, which equals the amount the state could save by closing every trial court for one day each month.
Prisons would be cut by more than $1.1 billion, but the panel did not provide details on how that would be accomplished. Schwarzenegger had proposed lighter sentences and less costly custody arrangements for inmates serving time for lesser crimes, and early release and deportation of illegal immigrant felons.