End of Days

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The calendar on the wall in the CA State Senate... right before the big ending
It was an unusual ending to a long day, the final day of the 2008-2009 fiscal year. But there was no surprise ending: the conventional wisdom won out, as the state slipped into the new budget year with no solutions in place to a deficit that could be as large as $24 billion.

The final minutes certainly included some drama (you can backtrack some of it on my Twitter feed). Dems cajoling a final vote in their ranks from Sen. Leland Yee (D-SF). Everyone watching the lone abstention, Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria). And even if Maldo had broken ranks and voted for the $3.3 stopgap solution, would there have been a 27th vote... a second GOP senator? If so, we'll never know.

At 11:57 p.m., Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg shut things down. And that was that.

Of course, now the sobering news: the $3.3 billion in missed savings is now being estimated as adding $8 billion in problems for the state budget. For that, you only have to look to the voter-approved Proposition 98, whose complicated formulas are based on spending in the previous fiscal year. Because that school spending wasn't reduced by $3.3 billion, it comes out on the other side as much more.

(There were varying accounts by the end of the drama as to the ballooned size of the missed savings; the above came from comments on the floor by Sen. Denise Ducheny, chair of the upper house's budget committee. Some estimates call it a $7 billion problem. And then another question: does that mean the deficit is now... $28 billion? Too much math.)

Credit Governor Schwarzenegger with holding firm on his pledge to reject anything that wasn't a $24 billion fix, a stance that might have helped keep any GOP senators from grabbing the savings off the table before they disappeared at midnight. Remember that Republicans in the Assembly did just that last week.

"I can guarantee you, as much as I stand here right now," the Guv said to reporters earlier in the day. "The $3 billion partial solution will be vetoed without any doubt."

Where things go now... anybody's guess. The issuing of IOUs by the end of Thursday now seems a pretty likely scenario, barring some Hail Mary thrown by legislators later today. A spokesperson for Controller John Chiang said if the IOUs are necessary, 28.742 would be issued on day one... totaling $53.3 million, and sent largely in lieu of tax refunds.

Stay tuned.

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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