Battle Over California Budget Begins

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In Sacramento Tuesday, state senators convened their first hearing on next year's budget. No matter what, they'll have to cut, and cut, and cut. If they don't, California could slip into a $16 billion deficit. Nobody in government wants that. KPCC's Julie Small reports that Democrats and Republicans are proposing very different plans to prevent it.

Julie Small: Governor Schwarzenegger says California's got no problem pulling in revenues. The problem's on the spending side. So he's proposed 10%, across-the-board cuts to spending, and no new taxes. But Senate Democratic leader Don Perata says he'll use budget hearings to spell out what the Governor's cuts would do to the state.

Don Perata: He gave us a cuts-only budget, so what we're going to do is analyze what that means. What would the state of California look like if we chose to say this is a spending problem, not a revenue problem?

Small: Of course that's a rhetorical question. Perata, a former high school teacher, predicts the governor's plan to cut 4 and half billion dollars from Kindergarten through 12th grade and community college could turn into layoffs for tens of thousands of teachers. Perata says the additional $1 billion Schwarzenegger wants to cut from state universities undermines the golden state's golden economy.

Perata: If we can't do any better than this in education and with our university system, we will not compete in the world economy. ... We won't have to worry about the ports of call, because there won't be anything around here to spend on.

Small: Schwarzenegger may want to duck from this opening salvo in the budget battle. The Governor asked lawmakers to pass his budget proposal before the revised economic forecast comes out in May. But from the sound of it, Democrats will spend most of that time panning his plan.