Budget: Key Players

The director of the Department of Finance, Genest is responsible for writing the governor’s budget proposals, both the initial version in January and the revised version in May. Genest’s department is one of the most powerful offices in state government, with approval review and auditing power of the bureaucracy. Genest, a veteran fiscal staffer in the Capitol, replaced Donna Arduin, Schwarzenegger’s first finance director, who had a brief and checkered tenure. Genest is a former aide to Senate GOP leader Jim Brulte.

Ducheny, an attorney and San Diego-area Democrat, is the chairwoman of the Senate Budget Committee and a key player in crafting the Senate versions of the state budget. She serves on the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, the powerful body that authorizes state audits and fiscal investigations. Ducheny served six years in the Assembly, where she also worked on fiscal issues, before moving to the Senate five years ago.

Jean Ross is the executive director of the California Budget Project, a nonprofit group that analyzes budget problems and recommends answers aimed at improving the lot of low- and middle-income Californians. The CBP, in Sacramento since 1995, is funded through foundation grants, subscriptions to its publications and individual donations. The project annually provides the most significant, non-governmental analysis of the state budget.

John Laird, a Santa Cruz Democrat, heads the Assembly Budget Committee. Like his counterpart in the Senate, Laird, appointed by the speaker, is the Assembly’s principal budget writer, and is involved in negotiations on virtually every major part of the Assembly’s budget. He likely will serve this year on the six-member, two-house budget conference committee, which resolves differences between the Senate and Assembly. Laird, first elected in 2002, is in his final term in the Assembly.

Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill heads an office of nearly five dozen experts in offices across the street from the Capitol who examine the state budget in detail on behalf of the Legislature, to whom she reports as a nonpartisan fiscal adviser. Each February, Hill prepares a major analysis of the budget, the bible used by lawmakers as the go through the governor’s spending plan line by line. Members of both major parties say they rely on Hill and her staff for objective fiscal information.

Diane Cummins is Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata’s principal budget expert, and is involved in writing or negotiating key pieces of the spending plan. Highly regarded in the Capitol but virtually unknown to the public, Cummins has worked for both Republicans and Democrats.

Cornett is Cummins’ counterpart in the Assembly, serving as budget director to Assembly Speaker Fabian N

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