Sure, there's a hole in our budget the size of the one in the ozone layer, but fear not! The Legislature is back, and they're here to help. Today begins what should be a year of partisan bickering, large rallies outside the Capitol, expensive television campaigns and ... more bickering.
Senate Leader Don Perata
got carjacked during his vacation, while Speaker Fabian Nunez
spent his campaigning for Hillary Clinton
in Iowa. Which one do you think had a better time?
Meanwhile, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
is preparing for a State of the State address that will feature pain and cuts
Who knew he was so kinky?
Michael Rothfeld, that's who.
"As Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger begins his fifth year at the helm of the state, he is hemmed in by the past, staring at a fiscal crisis much like the one he was elected to solve. That leaves little room for the "fantastic" ideas on which he has staked his reputation as a visionary," Rothfeld reports.
"Instead, political observers said, he will be forced to confront a basic and perennial question: whether California voters are willing to pay for the programs they want
Or at least the ones the governor wants.
"On Tuesday, Schwarzenegger, a Republican who in the last two years has been closer to Democrats, will use his State of the State address to lay the groundwork for a broad array of cuts to state services, according to his aides. He will call on everyone to share the pain of closing a budget gap the administration has projected at greater than $14 billion -- without raising taxes. And he plans to renew previously failed efforts to change the state budget process
One wonders if these new plans still involve Republicans in any way, shape or form.
For more doom and gloom, there's always The Chronicle. Tom Chorneau and Matthew Yi report this year's budget is the governor's "biggest problem yet
".Spoken like a Capitol Bureau that's never seen Red Sonja.
"The sagging housing market and the slowing overall economy have led to lower-than-expected tax revenues for the Golden State. The administration said last month that California will be $3.3 billion in the hole by the end of the current fiscal year in June unless cuts are made.
"That deficit, coupled with next year's anticipated budget shortfall, is expected to drive the total shortfall to as much as $14 billion. Schwarzenegger said he will call a fiscal emergency on Thursday, when he unveils his budget proposal for next fiscal year."
Doesn't anyone around here have anything nice to say?
Well, AP's Juliet Williams declares the Year of Education dead before it even begins
"Schwarzenegger told education advocates in November that his 'Year of Education' is essentially off
"The governor's backtracking was good news for some, said Scott Plotkin
, executive director of the California School Boards Association. He said school officials have been inundated with reforms and program changes in the last decade and many feared further tinkering."
To which we add: Thank goodness that's
Instead, 10 percent seems to be the number of the year. Or, at least the week.
The U-T's Ed Mendel reports: "Schwarzenegger and his aides have been meeting with representatives from high-profile groups -- schools, local government, health and social-service providers -- to warn them that he might propose cuts averaging 10 percent across the board
"'We made it very clear that we are going to have across-the-board reductions in virtually every aspect of the budget
,' said H.D. Palmer
, the governor's Department of Finance spokesman.
"As the Legislature returns to the Capitol this week, lawmakers will be preparing for what could be a lengthy battle.
"Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez
, D-Los Angeles, and other Democrats want tax increases to soften spending cuts. Republicans, who must provide a handful of votes for a tax increase, are drawing a line and signing a no-tax pledge.
"'The problem is you come down to the fact that there are very real differences about what is the appropriate role for government in society,' said Jean Ross
, executive director of the California Budget Project, an advocate for low-income residents."
The Bee reminds us
that "Schwarzenegger delivers his fifth State of the State address in the Assembly chambers. The event has been moved up from its traditional 5 p.m. start to 3:30 p.m., to minimize interference with coverage of the New Hampshire primary."
That, and, the fact that it doesn't conflict with the evening news, which might otherwise cover the speech.
Regardless, California voters can vote before New Hampshire's results come in
"California's Feb. 5 presidential primary has created one of the most compressed campaign seasons the state has ever experienced, a monthlong sprint essentially wedged between New Year's Day and the Super Bowl," reports Kevin Yamamura in the Bee.
"'Probably about 20 percent of the electorate are watching the campaigns with absolutely rabid fascination, but everybody else is still concentrating on the holidays and bowl games,' observed Dan Schnur
, a Republican consultant. 'That number is going to gradually increase over the next month as news comes out of Iowa and New Hampshire and other primary states. But it's only in that last week (before Feb. 5) that most voters will fully focus.'
"California voters can start voting absentee today by filling out ballots at their county elections offices. Those registered as permanent vote-by-mail participants will begin receiving their ballots later this week, if not sooner."
The Bee's Jim Sanders looks at the continued reach of the state's anti-smoking efforts
"Beginning this month, motorists can be fined $100 for lighting up a cigarette, cigar or pipe in their own car, even in their driveway, if one passenger is a child.
"The law marks a new frontier in more than two decades of state smoking restrictions that focused on workplaces, public buildings, restaurants, airplanes, tot lots and gathering spots.
"It also comes as cigar-smoking Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is teaming with Democrats to push a proposed ballot measure that would increase cigarette taxes by $1.75 per pack to expand health insurance.
"Lawmakers returning to the Capitol this week will consider pushing the state's smoking prohibitions even further.
"Sen. Jenny Oropeza
, the Long Beach Democrat who proposed California's new vehicle-smoking law to lower children's exposure to dangerous smoke, already has proposed legislation to ban smoking on state-owned beaches or parks."
And finally, from our Green Commuter Files
, "Police in Fullerton said they arrested a man who acknowledged digging holes on a park bike trail as payback for nearly being run down by a cyclist
"King said nearly 50 holes measuring about 1 foot by 2 feet have been found since June along a trail at Laguna Lake Park, and in some cases attempts had been made to hide them from cyclists. She said some riders went over their handlebars after hitting the holes, but none reported major injuries.
Detectives watching the trails questioned Wilson, who said he had nearly been run over by a mountain bike rider and began digging the holes in retaliation, King said."