California Lawmakers Struggle With Budget Deadlines

The California Senate shut down at midnight Tuesday after failing to approve a stopgap plan to stave off the need for IOUs and ease the state's $24.3 billion budget deficit.

Voting along party lines, the Senate rejected three bills designed to save $5 billion, including $3.3 billion in education funding cuts that had to be enacted by Tuesday. The new fiscal year started Wednesday.

The measures fell two votes short of the two-thirds majorities needed to send them to the governor's desk, but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would not sign any bill short of a complete solution to the deficit, San Jose Mercury News reports.

“What an irresponsible position,” Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said commenting on Schwarzenegger’s refusal to back the cuts he himself had proposed unless a larger agreement on other issues had been reached. “Don’t be party to this irresponsibility,” Steinberg urged his Republican colleagues, whose opposition deprived the measure of the required two-thirds majority support, The Ventura County Star reports.

It must be added that California lawmakers struggle with budget deadlines practically every year. But this year's budget fight is taking place amid the state's worst drop in revenues from personal income taxes since the Great Depression as recession and rising unemployment pile on to the damage done to the state's economy from its long housing slump, Reuters reports.