State leaders predict budget deal by week's end

July 13, 2009 6:54:43 PM PDT
There was a break on Monday in state budget negotiations, but both parties indicate a deal looks promising by week's end. To get there, though, tough cuts must still be made to bridge the $26 billion deficit.

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The California legislature went on with other business, after a weekend of meetings among the governor and top lawmakers left some predicting a budget deal was close.

"I'm very optimistic that although we have a lot of work to do, I believe we're on a path where we'll reach a deal before the week is over," said Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles.

On Sunday, Bass and other leaders spent seven hours looking at ways to cut welfare, child care and job training programs. They also discussed how to cut fraud in home-based care for the elderly and disabled.

Next, Governor Schwarzenegger is expected to take aim at suspending Proposition 98, a voter-approved measure that guarantees minimum funding levels for schools.

"I would say suspending Proposition 98 is still under serious consideration. It may be frankly the only way to balance the budget," said Assembly Republican Leader Sam Blakeslee, R- San Luis Obispo.

Any change to Proposition 98 would require two-thirds approval by the legislature, but that is something the Democrats call unlikely.

"I continue to say that an alcohol tax and a tobacco tax are supported broadly by the public and could indeed be part of the solution. I would hope we could look at that, instead of cutting schools by another $2 billion or suspending Proposition 98," said State Senator Tom Torlakson, D-Concord.

California school workers arrived at the Capitol by the busload to oppose any further cuts to education.

"They're looking at making these cuts to transportation and they're not taking into consideration how much of an effect it's going to have on everyone. No meals, you're going to have kids wandering the streets," said Jennifer Adams, with the California School Employees Association.

Top lawmakers will be back in the governor's office Tuesday for more closed door meetings. If they do reach a deal this week, the full Legislature could have a budget package to consider over the weekend.

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