No Mantra Deviation

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Well, get ready for Budget Drama Day Three.

With the necessary votes still elusive, the Senate adjourned tonight without acting on the full $42 billion deficit proposal that has been debated in public, and private, for more than 24 hours straight.

Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, in an emotional speech before adjournment, implored Republican senators to "deviate just a little" from their "mantra of 'no new revenue.'"

Steinberg's pointed floor remarks, responding to criticism of the process by Sen. Sam Aanestad (R-Grass Valley).

With only Senate GOP Leader Dave Cogdill voting this weekend to approve crucial parts of the budget deal, the package of bills sat in limbo all day and night Saturday and Sunday in search of two more GOP votes in the Senate. It's widely believed the package has the needed three GOP votes in the Assembly.

Three names have dominated the discussion for those last two votes: Sen. Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield), Sen. Dave Cox (R-Fair Oaks), and Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria).

With Ashburn largely considered a safe vote, that left one more. But when Cox emphatically told reporters in the wee hours today that he wasn't voting for the plan, the buzz and private lobbying turned to Maldonado.

(Even an unusual online plea from Sacramento's editorial writers couldn't sway Cox.)

And thus began an elaborate courtship of the Central Coast agricultural scion, including a long private meeting with Governor Schwarzenegger that "Maldo" described to reporters as cordial.

Maldonado's relationship with the governor was also mentioned more than once; the senator carried important legislation for Schwarzenegger in the past... but may not have gotten what he wanted when it came to other political aspirations.

The Capitol guessing game all day has been this: what does Maldonado want? As of tonight, one might suppose that game goes on.

Tonight's failure to launch means that the entire 27 bill package must begin its legislatie journey anew; apparently, legislative rules dictate that adjournment without completion meant that the bills already dealt with effectively had their votes wiped out. This means it's going to be another very long day... with nerves already frayed... and the state's finances still teetering. The stakes only seem to be getting higher.

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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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