Calif. Senate Reconvenes in Bid to Fix Budget
The Senate was called back into session during the morning after the delicate compromise proposal crafted by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders suffered a setback when Senate Republicans ousted their own leader over opposition to tax increases.
The change could derail the already strained budget talks by requiring the governor and lawmakers to restart negotiations with a new Republican leader.
The state Assembly appears to have the votes to pass the budget plan, but the Senate has fallen short by just one GOP vote as Republicans have refused to support the package's tax increases, worth some $14.4 billion.
Senate leader Darrell Steinberg said Wednesday his fellow Democrats intend to stay until they secure passage of the plan to fix the $42 billion budget deficit through June of 2010.
"The budget framework is the budget framework we negotiated for about three months and no change in leadership in the midst of it is going to change that," Steinberg told The Associated Press before Democrats called lawmakers back into the chamber about 7 a.m. "We just continue to press forward to secure one vote to end this crisis in California."
The pressure on lawmakers to pass a spending package intensified Tuesday as layoff notices went out to state agencies and hundreds of public works projects were on the brink of losing state funding. At stake is the financial stability of the nation's most populous state. Tax revenues have plunged by billions of dollars as the recession has left the state without sufficient cash to pay its bills.
Republicans voted late Tuesday to remove Sen. Dave Cogdill with Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth, R-Murietta, whom they saw as more capable of resisting tax increases.
"I don't want to see a tax increase passed," Hollingsworth said Wednesday shortly after assuming the leadership post. "I think the majority of my caucus doesn't want to see a tax increase passed in the package."
Cogdill, who served just 10 months representing a caucus that has grown increasingly conservative, said he negotiated a spending cap, which the Republicans had been working for, and did all he could under the confines of the political system.
"I felt sincerely when we took the budget to the floor the votes were there," he said. "Obviously, that wasn't the case. But that wasn't my belief when the budget went to the floor."