[note update on state worker pay at bottom of this posting --JM]
Add another unusual event to an already unusual year: Governor Schwarzenegger said today that he will deliver a speech to a joint session of the Legislature on the state's $22 billion budget deficit.
The governor made the announcement in a Q&A with reporters after an event promoting an electric version of the gas guzzling Hummer, and said the speech will be followed by a 'Big 5' meeting with legislative leaders.
"We will talk not only about [spending] cuts," said Schwarzenegger about next week's meeting, "but how do we make government run more efficiently, because I think it will be one dimensional if you only talk about cuts."
Of course, to be truly three dimensional the governor would have to also enterain the idea of some kind of tax increase to help close the gap.
In January, Schwarzenegger said that the budget deficit back then could not be solved on cuts alone. "Anyone that thinks that you can do all of this with just cuts," he said in a speech to the Sacramento Press Club, "doesn't know math and they should go back to Math 101 where they learn a little bit about numbers, because there is only so much you can do."
Today, I asked him about what had changed with his own internal calculator. And he seemed to place the decision for massive cuts squarely on the shoulders of voters who turned out on May 19.
"It's not my choice," he said. "I despise all of those kind of cuts." And then added: "It's also important for the people to know that they left $22 billion on the table [on election day]." He says that includes the $6 billion in immediate cash (through Propositions 1C, 1D, and 1E) and the $16 billion in tax increases in the near future.
His full answer, including a follow-up from me, is below.
One of the biggest question marks inside -- and outside -- the state Capitol at this juncture is whether Schwarzenegger's proposed dismantling of parts of the social safety net is an opening gambit for negotiations... or a line in the sand. It's doubtful that we'll get much more of a clear picture until next week at the earliest... even after he unveils an additional $3 billion in budget reductions tomorrow morning.
[UPDATE 5:00pm - Late word that, as part of his $3 billion in solutions unveiled tomorrow, Schwarzenegger will propose a 5% pay cut for most state workers. That would be in addition to the two day a month furlough now in place, and would save the state (across both the general fund and special funds) about $885 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1. A spokesman for the governor says the proposal requires legislative approval, and would amount to (pay cut plus furlough) a 14.2% reduction in pay for about 235,000 state employees.]