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Budget battles resume Monday

State Senator Bob Margett said he and his Republican colleagues who are blocking passage of the state budget are trying to get the state to deal with ongoing budget imbalances.

“We’re concerned about the out years,” he said. “We’re facing a potential $5 billion deficit in 2008-2009.”

The legislature will return to session Monday, and Senate President Don Perata said all other business will be put aside until the budget is adopted.

Margett and his Republican colleagues in the Senate have deadlocked the budget on a 26-14 vote. Democrats are complaining that the GOP members keep moving the target for a solution to a crisis which has harmed community colleges, hospitals and nursing homes.

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Margett served three terms in the Assembly and is completing a second term in the upper house.

Jack Scott, a leading figure among the majority Democrats, said, “The Republicans keep presenting a moving target. We make concessions, and they put different issues on the table. The 14 are holding up the work of 120 members of the legislature.”

The state budget, which requires a two-thirds majority, is perennially late, but not usually this late. Five years ago, the budget slipped into September.

The Republican caucus has ordered members to vote no unless they have majority approval from the 14. One, Abel Maldonado, broke ranks but the elusive 27th vote for the budget is not likely to come from the holdouts.

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The original issue was a $700 million budget shortfall which Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger promised to make up in line item vetoes. The concerns have moved on to other issues, Margett said.

“We want to address the ongoing budget deficit,” he said. “Future revenues are an issue, too.”

The Republicans are also focusing in on an old target, Attorney General Jerry Brown. “He’s filing suits to enforce clean air standards when the state hasn’t even adopted rules to govern business,” Margett said.

Margett said he and his colleagues are concerned about those hurt by the budget stalemate, and a continuing resolution was brought in to retain funding until a budget is adopted. “It went nowhere,” he said. He predicted a solution will be found when lawmakers returned, though he had no suggestion what it would be.

Meanwhile, the deadlock has damaged two issues close to the Senators’ hearts, vacation and job security.

The usual summer vacation was virtually eliminated this year, as Senators stayed on call; and a February ballot measure to extend term limits past two terms isn’t expected to do well with voters. The lawmakers also have to deal with staff members not being paid and per diem cut off for their time in Sacramento.

California is one of a handful of states requiring two-thirds approval. Scott said he expects the two-thirds rule to be addressed again, possible with a proposal for a smaller, super majority such as three-fifths.


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