Schwarzenegger: Dem budget bill doesn’t cut deep enough |

Schwarzenegger: Dem budget bill doesn’t cut deep enough

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he vetoed the largest piece of legislation in a package of budget bills because it did not take immediate steps to cut spending.

Democratic lawmakers said the bill would have shaved $2.1 billion from the $20 billion shortfall projected for California’s budget through June 2011. So far, the Legislature and governor have agreed to just $200 million in spending cuts.

“It’s extremely important that we immediately jump into action and make midyear cuts,” Schwarzenegger told reporters on Tuesday. “We’re spending, right now, $600 million a month more than we’re taking in. It’s irresponsible.”

Schwarzenegger vetoed the Assembly bill Monday evening. He explained Tuesday that the bill targeted potential cuts in the fiscal year that begins in July, but he wants those cuts to be made in the current fiscal year.

“I know this is very tough,” Schwarzenegger said. “I know this is difficult for some of the programs that we have – education, higher education, health care and so on – but we have to make those cuts, because we don’t have the money to pay for those things.”

In January, Schwarzenegger called the Legislature into a special session to slash the state’s deficit by $8.9 billion, primarily through cuts to public schools, higher education and social services. But Democrats refused to make the deeper cuts he requested.

As part of the special session, the Legislature was required to focus on budget bills. If lawmakers did not send the governor a budget solution for the current fiscal year by Feb. 22, they would not be allowed to take up regular session bills. The Legislature met that requirement when it passed a measure authorizing payment deferrals that would ensure the state has enough cash to pay its bills.

Schwarzenegger’s spokesman Aaron McLear said the governor met last night with leaders of the Legislature to discuss the budget, but no agreements were reached.

“It’s baffling the governor would veto $2.1 billion in real budget solutions which were part of his own proposed package,” said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. He added that of the $2.1 billion in cuts the Legislature proposed, approximately $1.8 billion were identical to the governor’s proposal.

“He keeps saying he wants cuts, but when we give him $2.1 billion in cuts, he won’t take it,” Steinberg said.

The governor has not yet decided whether to sign the Legislature’s gas tax proposal, McLear said. That bill would end a 6 percent sales tax on gasoline and replace it with a 17.3 cent per gallon excise tax on gas, freeing up $1.1 billion in general fund money.

Assembly Speaker John Perez called the governor’s veto unfortunate, and said that the budget savings would be achieved when the Legislature passes next year’s budget in a few months.

“The Legislature acted responsibly and proactively to impose spending restrictions on the 2010-2011 budget bill,” Perez said in a statement.

Schwarzenegger also said some of the bill’s savings estimates were unrealistic. He explained that he does not want to commute the sentences of some undocumented immigrants who committed severe crimes. The Legislature had proposed deporting them to save $182 million in prison costs.

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