20,000 layoffs loom as stalemate drags on

February 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Tuesday morning, Gov. Schwarzenegger will make good on a threat to send layoff notices to 20,000 state employees because state legislators have failed to come to an agreement on a budget.

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If Senate Democrats cannot persuade one more Republican to vote in favor of the proposed budget, the 20,000 layoff notices will go out to state workers paid from the general fund, including educators, social workers and prison guards.

"And we all know that come Wednesday morning, 20,000 people are going to be laid off, thousands of other people are going to lose their jobs and we have it within our power to do something about it," Senate President Darrell Steinberg said.

It all comes down to Tuesday, 10 a.m., when the California state Senate votes on an attempt to close $42 billion budget gap. Monday night there were passionate arguments on the Senate floor.

"The ones that are e-mailing me right now, probably 25 to one, saying, 'don't take any more money away from me,'" Republican Sen. George Runner said.

But the senator largely believed to be the one Republican vote needed to pass the budget, Abe Maldonado, stood up with the words many did not want to hear.

"The votes aren't there for that budget of the big five, they're not there; and tomorrow when they put up the votes at 10 a.m., the votes are not going to be there," Maldonado said.

Maldonado, who represents constituents from Santa Maria to Los Gatos, has said he will not vote for the budget unless it includes government reform.

"If the budget is in a deficit, legislators shouldn't get per diem increases, legislators shouldn't get pay raises, and that goes the same to constitutional officers in the state of California," Maldonado said.

Assembly Democrats say they have the votes needed to pass the bill.

"I don't think it's really acceptable to make such a fundamental change in policy in the next 48 hours; maybe it's something we should consider through the legislative process," Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said in response to Maldonado.

It now appears Democrats and the governor will have to eye another Republican to get that one vote needed to avoid laying off 20,000 state workers.

The Republicans who will not budge on the budget say it is all about the more than $14 billion in proposed tax increases. Many of them believe voting for the budget as it stands would amount to political suicide.

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