The big immediate news in California these last few days has been the devastating wildfires burning through the Southland. Even so, the inferno that is the state budget crisis appears ready to rekindle here in Sacramento.
The state Senate has now scheduled floor session for this coming Sunday, ostensibly for a vote on some kind of fiscal crisis solution. As you know, the state is staring down an abyss that's $11.2 billion deep in the short run. The 4:00 p.m. session was announced this afternoon, thus giving incumbent lame duck senators ample notice for their travel back to the state Capitol.
You'll remember that Sunday is the deadline mentioned by outgoing Senate President pro Tem Don Perata for legislative action before the new Legislature is seated on December 1.
The real question, of course, is whether there will be a deal in hand by week's end? It's become clear that Democrats want a list of new revenues GOP legislators are willing to raise... in exchange for a list of items they are willing to cut. And given the severity of the problem, it seems that both lists need to be substantive. And serious.
Meantime, Governor Schwarzenegger's budget office has released the latest revenue data. The report shows that October revenues were about $2 million better than expected in the analysis Schwarzenegger unveiled just 11 days ago, while the fiscal year revenues are now about $20 million worse than expected. Relatively speaking, those are small numbers. Of course, when you match up actual revenues with the projections contained in the official budget signed into law back in September... the gap is much, much larger. Hence the call for immediate action.
It would be an oversimplification to say that nothing's happened since the governor called the special session; legislative leaders have met several times, and the Assembly Budget Committee debated Schwarzenegger's proposals last week. But there's also not what you'd call a palpable buzz inside the Capitol. Instead, the odds makers would probably say the safe money is on limited action now, with more substantive issues postponed until the newbies take office next month.