A record 100 days late, the state Legislature approved a budget early Friday that Californians will have to live with all year — or at least until lawmakers are forced to take up the issue again, which may be much sooner rather than later.
The lubricant enabling at least two thirds of legislators to swallow this bitter pill was a host of last-minute favors for special interests that we hadn't fully digested by our deadline.
What we know for sure is that by 8:25 a.m. Friday the state Senate passed the final piece of the spending plan, three hours after the Assembly finished its business. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would sign the budget after vetoing about $965 million in spending.
The $87.5 billion general fund is said to avoid "broad new taxes," according to press reports. We're always leery when the straightforward term "taxes" is modified with ambiguous phrases such as "broad new." We await the bad news as details are learned over the coming days.
In some ways this budget resembles another legislative nightmare, Obamacare, the horrendous, 2,500-plus page restructuring of health care.
A budget process running 100 days beyond its constitutional deadline should have been well-vetted, giving the public and constituencies plenty of time to analyze details and chiming in for or against. Not so in Sacramento, where one legislator was heard to lament: "I simply can't vote under these circumstances."
We already know enough to be disappointed.
This underscores the problem with a process that almost entirely occurred behind closed doors among four legislative "leaders," two from each party, and the governor, the result of which is then sprung on the rest of the 120 legislators and rammed through in the dark of night. This is democracy at work? We don't think so.
Predictably, this nonsense appears to have resulted in a budget that, according to the Los Angeles Times, "would defer many hard choices until the future and employ optimistic revenue assumptions and accounting maneuvers to paper over the deficit. It assumes, for example, that the state would receive billions more in federal assistance than most experts believe is realistic." It occurs to us this tried-and-failed-many-times-before approach could have been accomplished on time, 100 days earlier.
Here's a kicker: The state controller's office says that the budget may be too late to avoid issuing IOUs for the second year in a row as $8 billion in invoices are due immediately.