Legislature bickers over $15 billion budget

June 18, 2008 7:39:31 PM PDT
Democrats and Republicans in the State Legislature aren't any closer to resolving their differences over a how to fix a $15 billion dollar deficit.

The budget is supposed to go into effect July 1st, and if they don't quit fighting and come up with a solution soon, a lot of people won't get paid this summer.

Bans on the dirtiest diesel engines from California highways, curbs on greenhouse gas emissions to ease global warning, and regulations dictating when employers must give lunch breaks for workers are standing are in the way of many Republicans for balancing the budget.

Republicans have made it clear easing those environmental and labor laws would make them more receptive to a budget compromise. Otherwise, they'll be cranky.

"If that means we will be here to November, we will be here to November," says State Senator George Runner.

Democrats said it's not fair to inject issues that have nothing to do with the budget into the discussions.

"Holding up the people who depend on the California state budget is unconscionable," says Assembly Speaker Karen Bass.

And so the posturing begins.

The budget is one of the few places where Republican votes actually carry some weight because two thirds of lawmakers are needed to pass one.

In recent years, they've been using that power as leverage to try and gain ground on issues dear to the GOP.

"It is wrong for the Republicans to be holding the budget hostage," says Bill Magavern of the California Sierra Club.

Republicans insists the environmental and labor rollbacks will stimulate the economy by allowing companies to spend money on job creation, instead of regulations.

That will, in turn, put money into state coffers.

The Democrats say raising taxes will accomplish the same.

"The problem is Californians don't want a tax increase. So we are willing to represent California here," says Runner.

"They are suggesting we move backwards. The protections and policies in place now is a step forward and we are not willing to move backwards," says Bass.

Can you say 'long, hot summer?'

Without a budget in place, things like schools, roads, social programs and roads don't get funded. Only Rhode Island, Arkansas and California require a 2/3 vote to pass a budget.


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