California state lawmakers pass budget

February 19, 2009 7:32:00 PM PST
In the end, it was Central Coast Senator Abe Maldonado who cast the final Republican vote needed to pass the bi-partisan budget compromise. The moderate GOP lawmaker knows this could be the end of his political career for supporting new taxes, but it does prevent California from going bankrupt.

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"My friends, this might be the end for me, but this vote ensures this is not the end for the state of California," Maldonado said.

For his 'yes' vote, Maldonado got Constitutional amendments that will go before voters.

One would prevent lawmakers from getting pay raises during deficit years. Another would change California's election system into an open primary, which would help more moderate candidates get elected.

His wish list sealed the deal because the Governor too wants an open primary.

"When he brought it up, I said, 'it's something I'm very interested in and talking about for a long time,'" Schwarzenegger said.

But during floor debate, some Democrats, who largely oppose open primaries, were clearly angered that they were being forced to vote yes on Maldonado's bill so the budget could pass.

"This is a disgusting process, this is not good government, this is not political reform," Sen. Gloria Romero said.

As part of the deal with Maldonado, the added 12 cents a gallon gas tax on was removed, reducing the amount of new taxes Californians will have to pay. But taxpayers will have to pay another $12.5 billion to Sacramento, as lawmakers approved another penny to the sales tax, nearly doubled the vehicle license fee, raised the income tax rate another half a percent and reduced dependent credits.

Click here to read more about what the budget means for California taxpayers.

It's not a win; the taxpayers of California are going to view this as a loss," Minority leader Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth said.

The budget vote came just in time as 300 public works projects were scheduled to be shut down Thursday if the budget had not passed.

Schwarzenegger is expected to sign the budget Friday.

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