Legislature Defeats Bond, Spending Limit Proposals
In the "first major legislative defeat" for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), lawmakers on Friday rejected proposals that would have put on the March 2004 ballot measures to cap state spending and use a $15 billion bond to restructure state debt, the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Gledhill, San Francisco Chronicle, 12/7). The measures, which required a two-thirds majority vote of legislative approval by Friday to appear on the ballot, had faced opposition from Democrats, who feared that the spending limit would have led to budget reductions of billions of dollars in state health and social programs (California Healthline, 12/5). Democrats had introduced an alternative state spending limit; that measure also was defeated (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/7). The spending limit was the divisive issue in negotiations between Schwarzenegger and Democratic lawmakers, according to the Los Angeles Times. While GOP leaders wanted a baseline spending limit of $72 billion, Democratic leaders preferred one set at $83 billion (Halper/Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, 12/7). The Washington Post reports that the Schwarzenegger administration could still call for another special legislative session to address the ballot measures, but it would be "difficult" to gain a two-thirds majority required for approval (Booth, Washington Post, 12/7). Instead, Schwarzenegger aides said that he would try to gain enough signatures to place the bond and spending limit measures on the state ballot in November 2004, the Los Angeles Times reports (Nicholas/Mathews, Los Angeles Times, 12/7).
With the state still facing a budget deficit, Schwarzenegger "will face another showdown with lawmakers this week," as the Legislature considers proposed spending cuts in programs, according to the Chronicle (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/7). Schwarzenegger has proposed $3.8 billion in state budget reductions over the next 18 months, which includes a $440 million budget reduction in fiscal year 2003-2004 for the Department of Health and Human Services. In addition, over the next two years, he has proposed to limit enrollment in Healthy Families and other state programs; end state wage assistance for employees of long-term care facilities; reduce by 10% Medi-Cal reimbursement rates to physicians, in addition to the 5% reduction approved earlier this year; end nonmedical therapy for state residents with developmental disabilities; and eliminate in-home services that help elderly state residents and residents with disabilities live in their homes rather than nursing homes (California Healthline, 12/5). Schwarzenegger's aides also have said that he will launch an 11-month campaign aimed at voters in which he may promote plans, including workers' compensation system reform and a referendum to fund health care (Nicholas/Mathews, Los Angeles Times, 12/7).
With the defeat of the ballot measures, some lawmakers said that both Democrats and Republicans "have achieved precisely what [they] wanted from the impasse," according to the New York Times. Schwarzenegger can now "mount his bully pulpit and accuse the Democrats of being 'spending addicts,'" while Democrats can argue that they "protected programs serving children and the poor from the new governor's indiscriminate budget ax," the Times reports (Broder, New York Times, 12/8). Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D-San Francisco) said that the budget talks might have been more successful if Schwarzenegger had been present in the Legislature during debate (Vogel et al., Los Angeles Times, 12/6). Senate Minority Leader Jim Brulte (R-Rancho Cucamonga) said that some Republicans had voted against the proposals to express support for an even stricter spending cap (Gladstone/Marimow, San Jose Mercury News, 12/6). Sen. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough, said the governor's budget proposals are "about reducing funding to people -- whether it is senior citizens seeking nursing homes, [or] poor people seeking health care" (San Francisco Chronicle, 12/7).
The following broadcast programs reported on the budget proposals:
- KQED's "Forum": Guests on the program will include Sen. Dick Ackerman (R-Irvine), vice chair of the Budget and Fiscal Review Committee; Treasurer Phil Angelides (D); Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy; Vince Sollitto, deputy press secretary for Schwarzenegger; and Dan Walters, political columnist for the Sacramento Bee (Krasny, "Forum," KQED, 12/8). The full segment will be available online in RealPlayer after the broadcast.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": NPR's Ina Jaffe reports on the budget proposals (Jaffe, "All Things Considered," NPR, 12/5). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "All Things Considered": NPR's Steve Inskeep interviews Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political scientist from the University of Southern California, about the legislature's rejection of Schwarzenegger's proposals (Inskeep, "All Things Considered," NPR, 12/6). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.
- NPR's "Weekend Edition Saturday": The segment includes comments from Brulte, Burton, Sen. Don Perata (D-Oakland), Schwarzenegger and Schwarzenegger spokesperson Rob Stutzman (Jaffe, "Weekend Edition Saturday," NPR, 12/6). The full segment is available online in RealPlayer.