The state budget process is over. Sort of.
On this week's Capital Notes Podcast, we shift gears and hit the gas towards the May 19 special statewide election, where six proposals from the long budget debate must be ratified by the voters.
Capitol Weekly's Anthony York and I examine the early political maneuvers in regards to the alphabet soup propositions. And we take a quick look back the loud grumbling last weekend at the winter convention of the California Republican Party.
Election Day across California is only 83 days away. Can you feel the excitement?
Tuesday, May 19 is what might as well be called 'Big Budget Ballotapalooza.' Six ballot measures, all part of the newly minted budget deficit deal, will be in the hands of California's 17 million voters... or at least as many of them who show up.
If there's any issue facing state government that's not quite reared its ugly head... but will... it's the price tag for retirement benefits of state employees. And today, a new estimate of those costs may only reinforce the notion that the issue is a ticking fiscal time bomb.
Controller John Chiang has released a new report, conducted by outside researchers, that pegs California will have to shell out some $48.2 billion to cover its current state worker retiree obligations on medical and dental care.
With a nonchalance that no doubt will elicit a collective groan from some California Republican faithful, Governor Schwarzenegger told a national TV audience today that it doesn't matter what your party affiliation is.
The deficit clock outside Arnold Schwarzenegger's office has been unplugged.
Early this morning, the Legislature finally struck a deal on a way to wipe up almost $41 billion in budgetary red ink. It marked the end of a more than eight week epic battle over cuts, taxes, and the specter of fiscal calamity.
In this week's sleep deprived Capital Notes Podcast, we take the big picture view of the budget deal and the process that made it happen. Capitol Weekly editor Anthony York and I walk away from our two twittering projects of the week to consider what happens next.
It was a long night.
But all bills related to the state's $40 billion deficit are now on their way to the desk of Governor Schwarzenegger. There's some blow by blow on the Twitter postings... hope to have more via podcast later.
For now, though, some zzz's.
You know that old saying about the "elephant in the room"? The thing on everyone's mind but not being mentioned?
In Governor Schwarzenegger's hastily arranged budget news conference, the elephant in the room... was the elephant-logoed party members who sit upstairs in the state Capitol, refusing to budge on a tax increase.
One way to gauge the icy nature of the governor's demeanor, consider the following Harper's-inspired factoid.
Number of times Schwarzenegger mentioned the name of dethroned Senate GOP leader Dave Cogdill: 3.
Times he mentioned the new guy, Senate GOP Leader Dennis Hollingsworth: 1.
Drama is nothing new in politics, and certainly not in state budget standoffs. But you've got to take your hat off to Republicans in the state Senate after the midnight massacre, where now former leader Sen. Dave Cogdill was unceremoniously shown the door. In his place, the caucus chose Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, the vice-chairman of the upper house's budget committee and a senator termed out of office in 2010.
We're still waiting for substantive news on the budget front. The Senate, after a spirited tax increase debate earlier, has been in recess now for several hours; session is currently scheduled for 10:00 p.m.
A lot of private negotiations, shuttle diplomacy if you will, appear to be ongoing. And as we know, it's all about finding the 27th vote in the upper chamber.
Small morsels of updates will be "twittered" (a term I'm becoming all too familiar with). More substance here when it happens.
As the budget drama drags through a third day (and likely soon to be night), the collective Capitol cacophony sounds out with only one question: what does Abel Maldonado want?
Maldonado, the veteran Central Coast legislator, remains in the center of the budget storm -- the Republican who many believe is most likely to be the deciding vote in both the Senate, and the Legislature, on the $42 billion deficit package now under consideration.
"Maldo," to use Capitol parlance, remains the odds-on favorite of most to be vote number 27. And not surprisingly, folks have wanted to know what he needs to be that guy.
This afternoon, Maldonado spoke to a scrum of reporters outside his Capitol office. And as you can hear below, his interests are just about every proposal rumored or gossiped about over the past 24 hours.
Before he left, I asked him to respond to what's now become an attack on Maldonado in this process: critics saying that he's angling for another run at statewide office, and the PR over this can't hurt.
We'll have to wait to see how this plays out. Both houses are now not scheduled to convene until tonight.