Thursday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger unveils this year's budget. He's already warned Californians it will be a tough one. The state's facing a $14 billion deficit, and the governor will propose across-the-board cuts to government programs to close that gap. KPCC's Julie Small says it's an idea that falls to one side of a deep ideological divide.
Julie Small: In his State of the State address, the governor said he's not trying to be cruel. He's trying to be responsible.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: I mean, talking about fiscal responsibility sounds so cold when you have a representative for AIDS patients, or poor children, or the elderly sitting across from you. It's one of the worst things about being governor. Yet, fiscal responsibility, like compassion, is a virtue, because it allows the necessary programs in the first place.
Small: Assembly minority leader Mike Villines favors cuts to all state programs. The Republican from the San Joaquin Valley says that's the fairest way to share the pain.
Assemblyman Mike Villines: I think it's very important that we look at everything across the board equally, including the legislature, so that you're not picking winners and losers. Once you start to do that, the special interests will be involved, and they will get their hooks in everything, and it all falls apart.
Small: But Senate leader Don Perata says legislators need to be able to change their spending priorities as circumstances change. He doubts, for example, that Southern Californians would welcome a 10% cut to state emergency services right now.
Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata: I think if he went around San Diego right now and said, "Would you like me to cut your fire service, or your police service, or any other of the emergency services by 10% – you want 10% fewer inspectors to see if you can go back in your home?" they'd say, "What, are you out of your mind?"
Small: Democrats figure to fight hard to block cuts in education, too. They'll argue it's vital for California's economic growth. And despite his warning, the governor's expected to leave some programs alone. He won't cut the budgets of state agencies that collect revenue, and he won't delay any of California's debt payments. That'll help keep the state credit rating from taking a plunge.