Dan Smith reports that we're nearing a deal on the work-around budget which would cover half of the state's projected deficit between now and mid-2010.
"The areas of negotiations have significantly narrowed, and on those issues we're very close," said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.
Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, talked via videophone to Schwarzenegger, who is vacationing in Idaho. Talks will continue over the weekend, with leaders hoping lawmakers can be called back to Sacramento by the end of next week to approve a final deal.
Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said Democrats are "moving closer" to the governor's demands for deeper spending cuts and an economic stimulus package. "But we don't have any agreements," McLear said.
We know that the main sticking point issues were: 1) eliminating CEQA for certain infrastructure projects, 2) privatizing a lot of those public works contracts and 3) cutting state worker holidays and overtime. So the fact that Democrats are "moving closer" to those positions isn't exactly heartening, although it's contradicted somewhat later in the piece.
Bass said Democrats are trying to meet the governor's desire to stimulate private investment in public projects without hurting public employees by shifting their jobs to contractors.
The Democrats believe changes to state employee pay must be hashed out at the bargaining table between unions and the administration. "There's no question that state workers know that they're going to be part of the solution as well, but we also think it's very important to respect their ability to have a say in how that is done," Steinberg said.
Privatization is simply not the answer, it has no relevance on budget savings (cost overruns exist in the private world, too) and is just a way for Arnold to reward his Chamber of Commerce pals.
But what's notable here is that these are meetings between the Governor and the Democratic leadership, and the Republicans have been completely frozen out due to their inability to play nice with others. The byzantine plan for a majority vote on fee increases and tax shifts is still operative, and if it survives the subsequent legal challenge, suddenly the Yacht Party would be powerless. The Very Serious pundits have already turned against Yacht Party rhetoric on spending as the source of the problem, and even the most casual observer understands that the 2/3 rule is destroying the state. There ought to be a formal voting down of 2/3 (even this work-around will be insufficient to approve a new budget in June, which requires a 2/3 vote) but this is a creative solution to a crisis largely created by the rulemaking structure of the body and Republican intransigence (not to mention Arnold's vehicle license fee slash, the dumbest first act by a Governor in many a year).