Not wasting any time, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed an executive order declaring the state in a fiscal emergency. It requires the Legislature to take action within 45 days, leaving California little breathing room before it runs out of money in February.
The governor likened the state's dwindling cash flow to an accident victim.
"We wouldn't spend hours debating which ambulance we should use, or which hospital we should use or which treatment the patient needs," Schwarzenegger said. "No, we would first stop the bleeding. And that's exactly the same thing we have to do here."
In some ways, it could get a little easier to solve the budget crisis. Democrats did gain a few seats in both houses, meaning fewer Republican votes are needed to pass a spending plan and raise taxes.
Still, it will be a challenge to get that handful of GOP lawmakers to cross over and vote with Democrats and the governor on raising taxes.
Meanwhile, the state controller warns California has no safety net.
"Because our budget is so out of balance, we have the inability on Wall Street at this present moment to borrow the money like we were able to do so in October," State Controller John Chiang said.
In these trying times, it is hard to believe more than 200 capitol staffers got pay raises.