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Schwarzenegger Places Budget Blame On Voters, Lawmakers

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(credit: AP)

(credit: AP)

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SACRAMENTO (AP) — Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Friday pointed the finger at lawmakers and California voters for the $6 billion deficit in the state budget he signed just a month ago.

The Republican governor sought to deflect blame for the deficit, even though the rosy revenue assumptions he and lawmakers used were widely reported when they approved the $86.6 billion spending plan and Schwarzenegger signed it on Oct. 8.

“I think that the Legislature, as you know, did not finish their job the last time,” he told reporters Friday. He said he proposed $12.5 billion in cuts, but they agreed to cut only $7.5 billion.

When asked why he signed a budget that was inadequate, Schwarzenegger denied that he knew a deficit would open up almost immediately.

“Sorry to correct you, because we did not know when we did the budget that the people of California would vote in favor of not being able to take $2 billion from local governments,” he said, referring to voter approval on Nov. 2 of Proposition 22, which prohibits the state from borrowing from local governments.

“We also today, we don’t know if the federal government is going to give us the money that they owe us or not,” Schwarzenegger added.

Schwarzenegger and lawmakers had counted on receiving a total of about $5.3 billion in federal money in the current fiscal year. The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said this week that California is unlikely to get about $3.5 billion of that.

The analyst forecast a $25.4 billion budget shortfall through June 2012, a figure that includes the deficit in the current fiscal year.

Schwarzenegger made his comments a day after calling a special legislative session to tackle California’s growing budget gap. The session would start when the new Legislature is sworn in on Dec. 6.

Some Democrats have said they would rather wait until Gov.-elect Jerry Brown, a Democrat, is sworn into office in January.

Schwarzenegger said he talked with Brown about the special session on Thursday.

“He’s all for it,” the governor said. “He knows that the faster we make these decisions, the better it is and the less he has to deal with. It’s natural.”

Brown is vacationing out of state. A spokesman said Thursday the governor-elect intends to work with the Schwarzenegger administration and the Legislature on the budget crisis.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said short-term solutions must be combined with a serious statewide conversation about what state government can and should provide.

“What Gov. Schwarzenegger doesn’t acknowledge is that the meat-cleaver approach to cutting not only harms people but harms the prospect for economic recovery as well,” Steinberg said. He said he remains unwilling to totally eliminate programs Californians count on, such as work assistance and child care.

“If he’s going to present us with nothing more than a package of massive cuts, my view is that we will get started in December, but we will work with the governor-elect, Jerry Brown, to make cuts because they’re necessary, in combination with a long-term approach to fix what we know is broken,” he added.

John Vigna, spokesman for Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said the deficit can’t really be solved until job prospects improve; California’s unemployment rate has been stuck above 12 percent for more than a year.

“We’ll see if there are some solutions we can adopt in December … but the important thing is to not make matters worse with the cuts we do make,” Vigna said.

Spokespeople for the GOP Assembly and Senate leaders did not immediately respond to requests for comment Friday.

The Republican governor said he warned lawmakers repeatedly since February to make deep cuts to state programs and make them early. Instead, he says legislative delays cost the state an extra $7.8 billion.

The legislative analyst warned about problems in the budget even before Schwarzenegger signed it. On the day it was passed by the Legislature, the analyst’s office issued a report saying two-thirds of the budget solutions were based on one-time or temporary money, some of which may not materialize.

For example, the budget contained an assumption that there would be $1.4 billion in additional tax revenue if the state economy improved more than expected.

Before Schwarzenegger signed the budget, the analyst warned that it would leave California facing “sizable annual budget problems in 2011-12 and beyond.” At the same time, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, called the budget an “embarrassment” that was filled with “false assumptions.”

(© Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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