If you're just tuning back in to budget news from the long holiday weekend, fear not: you haven't missed much on what appear to be the two real fronts of the 2010 budget war: legislative action and state employee paychecks.
But both fronts are full of minor skirmishes... which seems to be a sign that we're still a ways off on any real breakthrough as we enter the second week of July.
On the legislative front, the leaders of both houses are meeting this afternoon to discuss the state of negotiations. Several budget sources, speaking on background, seem to believe that the $19 billion shortfall is really more like a $7 billion negotiation. Assume, they say, that common ground can probably be found on the least painful solutions contained in Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's May budget revision -- federal assistance, fund shifts, and the like -- and then count the more optimistic overall state tax revenues projected by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst's Office... and add budget cuts of at least $3.5 billion (which Democrats may begrudgingly go along with) and you get somewhere close to $12 billion in proposals that can be called 'fixes.' But even so, the final $7 billion of solutions seem much harder to find, with Democrats demanding more tax revenues and Republicans demanding more cuts.
Meantime, the Arnold Schwarzenegger-John Chiang battle is probably the first place where we'll see real action. This afternoon, the governor's personnel director asked a state judge to force Chiang to begin the process of lower worker pay -- arguing that without judicial intervention, the controller will "unlawfully issue full salaries to state employees on or about July 30, 2010." (PDF of the filing is here.)
No word yet on Chiang's response; earlier today, a spokesperson says there's still no decision as to what the controller will do in response to last week's appellate court decsion -- appeal to the California Supreme Court? Ask a separate state court to consider the one question Chiang believes has not been directly answered so far -- what he should do if the minimum wage order can't be carried out by the state's archaic computer system? Or ask a federal court to intervene on the issue of whether the delayed payment of full wages is a no-no under federal law?
In the meantime, no one seems to be budging. Case in point: Chiang's office says the letter sent last week by the Guv's team to begin lowering the pay of some 200,000 state workers was a draft without the necessary 'codes' needed to enact the changes. A spokesperson for the state Department of Personnel Administration counters by saying that it's Chiang that supplies the needed codes, not them.
To which Chiang's spokesperson responds by saying that "we need their feedback on our in order to finalize" the paycheck order.
And keep in mind, this is all outside the court battles mentioned earlier.