Budget... Suspended Animation

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"The answer is no."

Those were the words of Sen. Dave Cox, a Republican from the Sacramento suburbs who was widely believed to be the decisive third GOP vote for the $40 billion budget proposal.

But at 3:30 a.m. this morning, the veteran lawmaker was resolute, even after meeting with Governor Schwarzenegger and others throughout the night. In a way, he symbolized the general GOP consensus on the mammoth spending cuts and tax increase package: no thanks.

That being said, the minimum Republican votes were apparently lined up in the Assembly and ready to go. But when things failed to gel in the Senate, the lower house's budget debate came to a halt.

The package of bills included a few items not related to the budget at all, including a last-minute gift to rental car companies -- passing along a portion of each car's annual vehicle license fee to renters. More on that to come in another posting. But none of the package is headed anywhere until the tax proposals are approved. And that means a third GOP Senate vote; the early tally was 26-12, with Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersefield), a possible second vote behind Senate GOP Leader Dave Cogdill, abstaining.

So now what? Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg doesn't seem ready to throw in the towel. And with Cox uninterested in being vote number 27 (that being the two thirds needed in the Senate), the attention turned, albeit briefly, to Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria), who broke ranks for a budget vote in 2007 -- even though Maldo has already publicly said he isn't interested.

The sun will be coming up soon. As Scarlett O'Hara once said, "Tomorrow's another day."

(By the way, thanks to all who followed the Twitter escapade last night. It may be picked back up, depending on events.)

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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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