Thursday, May 21, 2009
It didn’t sound like a tweet of defeat: “A big thank you to the pollworkers who are still finishing a long day in service of democracy! (I was a pollworker before I ran for office.)” So tweeted Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who used the microblogging site to post election results on Tuesday night – a first for California.
Despite the chipper chirp, all but one of the May 19 budget-related measures failed. Gov. Schwarzenegger and legislators had insisted that Propositions 1A-1F were vital to solving the state’s financial fiasco. Nevertheless, voters – the few who showed up at the polls, anyway – rejected the measures, except for 1F, which will freeze state-elected officials’ salaries in deficit years. Voters really liked this one, with 73.9 percent voting yes.
The rest, however, overwhelmingly fell short, with less than 38 percent yes votes across the board.
These propositions would have represented a $6 billion solution to the state’s huge money shortfall, according to lawmakers. Their failure means California’s facing a $21 billion gap.
“The challenge we face, staring tomorrow,” said Central Coast Assemblyman Bill Monning on election night, “how do we balance the budget that is the worst case scenario we feared? No program will be spared. Nobody will be spared pain. There will be massive cuts.”
Leaders from the state Senate and Assembly began meeting May 20 to talk budget solutions.
While the package adopted in February included both spending cuts to state-funded programs and new tax revenue, it’s unlikely that any Republicans will vote for tax increases this time around. Democrats say they will try to send the governor a majority-vote budget plan, which won’t require any GOP support. But that won’t be enough to keep education, health care and other social services off the chopping block.
“A majority-vote option allows us to redirect fees, but it doesn’t allow us to raise any new taxes or revenue,” Monning said. “I think we will try to raise some revenue through majority-vote options, but a very small amount, a maximum of $3 billion to $3.5 billion.”
While lawmakers take steps to stop the fiscal bleeding in the short term, Dems also continue to push long-term budget reform, allowing the state to adopt a spending plan with a simple majority (as opposed to the existing two-thirds support requirement).
“Perhaps the most important long-term issue is the rate and timing of recovery of our economy,” Monning said, adding the step will be budget reform. “It’s a little longer term than these next few weeks,” he added. “We’ll continue to look at possible reform options [on the ballot] in 2010.”