Lawmakers Take First Swing at Governor Schwarzenegger's Budget Cuts

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In Sacramento Thursday, lawmakers began hearings on Governor Schwarzenegger's budget proposal. California's facing a $3 billion deficit this year that could swell to $14 billion next year unless legislators slash state spending or boost revenues. KPCC's Julie Small reports.

Julie Small: Governor Schwarzenegger wants to cut 10% off state spending starting this year. And he wants to amend California's constitution to require the state to save money in flush years, and automatically cut in lean ones.

Senate Budget Chair Denise Ducheny said, "Slow down there, Governor." The San Diego Democrat first wants to shake out any loose change from California's pockets.

Senator Denise Ducheny: Particularly in schools, there is always some money at the end of the year that is not spent – on specific programs, number of students who show up. And in the bureaucracies as well. There may be ways that we can reduce current year expenditures for people without huge program impacts. If it's, you know, "Well, we were proposing to travel these and such places the next four months," and now we don't have to do that. 'Cause we haven't actually done it yet; we have haven't spent the money yet. We haven't done the encumbrance.

Small: Next, Ducheny wants to stop payment on funds for new programs.

Senator Dennis Hollingsworth: Well, we definitely agree with that.

Small: Republican Vice Chair Senator Dennis Hollingsworth.

Senator Dennis Hollingsworth: When you're in a tight of a budget situation, you've got to make sure that you're being essentially fiscally responsible or tight with the money that you do have.

Small: Republicans and Democrats agree that many of the governor's proposals are major policy changes dressed up like savings. Such as the plan to let 22,000 inmates out of prison early. Senator Ducheny said lawmakers need more information on the proposals. She warned the heads of state agencies to prepare to testify about them in the next couple of weeks.