Top lawmakers, Schwarzenegger meet on eve of budget deadline
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On the afternoon before California’s constitutional deadline for lawmakers to pass a state budget, the Legislature’s four leaders gathered with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in his Sacramento office for the first time to discuss California’s spending plan –- or lack thereof.
There is little hope that lawmakers will meet Tuesday’s deadline, which has passed unheeded by the Legislature in 22 of the last 23 years. Schwarzenegger called Monday’s meeting, according to Senate GOP leader Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murrieta).
“It was a good opportunity for us to lay down the groundwork,” Hollingsworth said. Asked how June 15 –- the constitutional deadline for a budget to be passed by the Legislature –- was looking, he retorted, “Like tomorrow.”
Hollingsworth blamed yet another late budget on the Legislature’s “pretty strong resistance to dealing with reality.” The state faces an estimated $19.1-billion deficit, after trimming billions of dollars from state spending last year and temporarily raising some taxes.
The unannounced “Big Five” meeting was the first of the 2010 budget season and came as lawmakers have shown little progress in bridging the gap between three competing spending plans proposed by Schwarzenegger, Assembly Speaker John A. Perez (D-Los Angeles) and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento). Republican lawmakers have offered no detailed road map for how to balance the state’s books.
The Times caught up with the two GOP leaders as they left the governor’s office Monday afternoon. “I’m disappointed more action hasn’t taken place,” said Assembly Republican leader Martin Garrick (D-Solana Beach).
-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento