Budget Talks on Education Set for Today

Capitol Weekly is reporting that it’s make-or-break day in the California state budget neogtiations, as the governor and party leaders resume talks today, some of the thorniest issues surrounding how to balance a $26.3 billion deficit remain unresolved. Meanwhile, IOUs from the cash-strapped state continue to pile up in mailboxes across the state: As of Monday, California had issued 129,786 IOUs this month, totaling $435,706,583.33, to vendors, taxpayers awaiting refunds, local governments and others, according to Controller John Chiang.

Things will get no easier when the five legislative leaders prepare to talk about education funding in a round of meetings set for today. School funding is the largest portion of the state budget, and the decisions over whether to pay back schools billions in lost funds over the next several years, and whether to suspend the Proposition 98 guarantee, are two of the central questions in the ongoing budget talks and debate.

The Chron’s Matthew Yi reports, “Schwarzenegger wants to suspend Proposition 98 , a 1988 voter-approved law that guarantees funding levels for K-12 schools and community colleges. Suspension of those rules would allow the state to make deep cuts to education spending.

“But the Republican governor’s proposal has provoked sharp criticism from Democrats and the California Teachers Association.

The politically powerful teachers union began a statewide TV ad campaign last week criticizing the governor, and Schwarzenegger is firing back with a TV spot that will begin airing today arguing he will not sign any budget deal that includes taxes or does not eliminate fraud, waste and abuse in government.”

 Meanwhile, as the tone seems to have been changed around the budget talks, yesterday saw a strange upping of the ante, as the governor took to the airwaves with commercials of his own promoting no new taxes and a quick budget solution . John Myers reports,

“Sacramento is asking me to sign a budget that raises your taxes and spends money we do not have,” says the governor in an ad that’s reminiscent of the old days. Also known as 2003.

Yes, the ad (a throwback as much as the ad against him) comes across as Schwarzenegger the candidate promising to “clean house” at the state Capitol. “I’m asking you to stand firm with me,” implores the governor in a 60 second ad that’s full-screen Arnold with an almost eery crescendo of music at the end.

“The timing of the ad seems somewhat at odds with the warm and fuzzy vibes oozing out of this weekend’s eponymous Big Five meetings, a sense that all sides were finally getting close to reaching accord.  It will be interesting to see if the ad hastens a resolution or simply further distances legislative leaders.   Following is the ad:

Mike Zapler reports that despite the ad, the mood remains optimistic . “When it comes to California’s perpetually dismal state budget, good news is relative. So the fact that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders spent much of the weekend huddled in Schwarzenegger’s office talking about how to fix the gaping budget shortfall may well pass for cause for encouragement.

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