CA Assembly passes most of $26B budget


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Session began Thursday night in both houses with the Senate finishing up in the morning. However, a very sleepy Assembly finished up their session on Friday afternoon. Still, the Assembly came up $1 billion short for the current fiscal year and some are asking where that money will come from.

The thought of more cuts to social services sickens California's more vulnerable citizens. There's already $15.5 billion in cuts in the budget revision that just passed.

"No. There's no more cuts to be made from our community. We can't do it. We can't keep cutting from the poorest," said Ana Acton, a disabled activist.

There's possibly more cuts coming because two of the 30 plus bills in the budget compromise leaders negotiated, were unsuccessful.

The assault local counties and cities mounted against Sacramento apparently worked. The proposal to siphon off gas tax money, totaling more than $1 billion in the current and next fiscal years, was taken off the table in the Assembly. It's the money local governments use for pot hole repair and other transportation needs. Leaders admit the pressure played a huge role.

"It's very difficult to get the votes, especially over these last few days when we had cities and counties all up and down the state declaring war on the legislature," said Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles.

The Assembly also voted down the proposal to allow oil drilling off the coast of Santa Barbara. That would have brought in $100 million in revenue for the state.

"What's wrong with oil drilling off California is that it threatens a $40 billion a year industry. Recreational fishing, commercial fishing, tourism, visitor serving, all of those sorts of services depend on clean beaches and on beautiful vistas," said Assembly Member Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara.

That means $1 billion the governor has to find, either by dipping into reserves or using his line-item veto power.

"I just want to assure everyone that we will build up our reserve, we will make the unnecessary cuts, I have the blue pencil authority to do that, and we will go carefully through all the numbers in the most sensitive way," said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, R-California.

The governor and his staff will continue to work throughout the weekend to finish up that last $1 billion. He's hoping to sign the budget revision early next week. If the California economy continues to tank, people could be back at the capital fixing the budget again in a matter of months.

Local leaders breathe a sigh of relief

"I just yelled and screamed!" said Oakland City Council Member Jean Quan.

Quan was thrilled when she heard the Assembly voted against taking the gas tax money from local governments. Thirty-five people in Oakland now get to keep their jobs -- people who fill potholes and fix sidewalks. Quan has been lobbying for her city for months.

"Every week I've been sort of pounding away at that. This is money they're literally stealing from the city of Oakland people who are going to be laid off," said Quan.

But there's plenty to complain about in the budget. Oakland resident Sheilacy Owens is just sick to hear that education will take $6 billion in cuts. She has four small children.

"Education is the thing that keeps the world going. Without that you can't get a job," said Owens.

She's especially confused by the Assembly's move to prohibit drilling for oil off the coast of Santa Barbara. That could have generated $100 million this fiscal year.

"OK, I understand about protecting the environment, but what about the kids?" asked Owens.

People in the oil industry also saw a missed opportunity.

"It just seems like a project that would allow us to reduce imports and add up to $2 billion of revenue over the next 13 years, would be a pretty good deal for California and help us economically," said Joe Sparano from the Western States Petroleum Association.

But whether to drill turned into one of the most controversial issues in the budget. Lawmakers spent more than an hour debating it.

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