New GOP leader may complicate talks

February 18, 2009 9:04:11 AM PST
California may sink deeper into a financial hole with hope fading away for saving state jobs and public works projects. The result of an overnight political stunner out of Sacramento, as lawmakers struggled over a budget deal.

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With a budget resolution stalled - the state's $42 billion shortfall is pushing it into a chaotic situation. Since the state is running out of cash, layoff notices were sent to 20,000 workers yesterday, nearly 300 state-funded public works projects are poised to stop. And now a major leadership change at the state capitol.

Legislators worked in another all-night session in the senate's effort to get the one missing Republican vote it needs to pass the state budget. Sleeping bags, toothbrushes, even cots set up to help catch a bit of rest -- none of this has helped break a stalemate.

One move perhaps least expected was the senate Republicans' overnight ousting of their minority leader Dave Cogdill of Fresno. Upset over the GOP leader's agreement to tax increases, the 15 GOP members voted to replace Cogdill with the more conservative Senator Dennis Hollingsworth of Riverside County. Hollingsworth is strongly opposed to tax provisions in the budget and is expected to complicate negotiations.

The most controversial part of the budget package has been over the proposed $14.4 billion in tax increases. Negotiations to approve this tax package are what have kept the senate in session all-night. If the current budget plan gets the two-thirds requirement to pass both houses and is signed by the governor - Californians will face billions in borrowing and cuts to programs and services.

The tax hikes so vehemently opposed by Republicans include a surcharge on state income taxes; a boost in vehicle license fees; a one-cent per dollar increase in the state sales tax; and an extra 12-cents per gallon in gas tax at the pump.

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