18 Month Deficit: $40 Billion

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That's the bleak news you can expect to hear more about today.

An administration official, speaking on background, says that Governor Schwarzenegger will tell legislative leaders today that the new deficit estimate through June 2010 is a whopping $40 billion.

That's up significantly from the last official estimate for the 18-month gap, which was $28 billion from Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor.

As we found out yesterday, almost $15 billion of the $40 billion shortfall is in these final six months of the current fiscal year. And for the first time, the estimates now include both missing revenues and higher-than-expected expenses.

While it still isn't as deep as the 2003 deficit, which at the time was pegged at about $38 billion (estimates varied, and still do), that gap was closed with a lot of one-time gimmicks that are no longer viable, either for policy or political reasons.

The bad news comes on the heels of Schwarzenegger's jabs at legislators in a news conference yesterday. One wonders how the juxtaposition of those two factors will affect the mood inside today's planned Big Five meeting.

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About John Myers

John Myers is Sacramento Bureau Chief for KQED Public Radio and "The California Report," heard daily on 23 public radio stations across the Golden State.

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