GOP budget plan ripped by gov, Democrats

Almost as soon as Republicans unveiled their $22 billion budget proposal – with more than $15.6 billion in budget cuts, and about $6.5 billion in new revenues – Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic leaders blasted its details.

“It was not  a solution. It was simply a rehash of all of the cuts that have been on the table for months,” said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear.

The Republican plan – unveiled Monday in a press conference that included both Senate Republican Leader Dave Cogdill, R-Fresno, and Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines, R-Clovis, — relies on more than $10.5 billion in cuts to education over the next 18 months. The plan would also suspend cost of living increases for welfare recipients, as well as the disabled and people on Medi-Cal.
The vast majority of new revenues — $6 billion worth – would come from redirecting funds already approved by voters. The plan would divert $3.9 billion from Proposition 63, which taxes the wealthiest Californians to pay for mental health coverage, and $2.1 billion from Proposition 10, which uses tobacco tax money for early childhood development.

It is worth noting that Sen. Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, was the chief architect of Proposition 63, which was approved by California voters in 2004. The GOP plan also goes out of its way to mention that it would take $550 million from Proposition 49 funds. That was the 2002 initiative backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to pay for after-school programs for at-risk youth.

The diversion of funds from Propositions 10 and 63 would have to be approved by voters – likely in a June special election, and would do nothing to close the budget gap for the current budget year. But Villines and Cogdill said the savings from cuts could get the state out of its immediate cash crunch for the 2008-09 fiscal year.

Steinberg’s office dismissed the Republican revenue proposal as “phantom money,” and downplayed the seriousness of the proposal. Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, said she would put the plan under the microscope Tuesday.

“While at first glance it appears this proposal is not the serious response this crisis requires, especially because it pushes new revenues off into the future with no guarantees, I have asked the Assembly Budget Committee to hold a thorough hearing tomorrow to hear from the Department of Finance, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst and others about the Republican plan,” Bass said in a statement Monday.

Bass has also scheduled a floor session for 1 p.m. Tuesday, reportedly to debate the governor’s tax hike proposal. But details of the floor session agenda were still being hammered out, and nothing had been put into bill form as of Monday evening. And Bass and Steinberg are on track top unveil a new package of revenue increases later this week that could be passed without Republican support.

The governor’s office said while the GOP proposal is unlikely to be adopted, it did amount to progress in the stalled budget negotiations.

“Finally, Republicans have let us know what it is that they want,” said Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear. “But if they are not willing to negotiate and compromise, it’s nothing but a drill.”

And he reiterated the need for both parties to begin serious negotiations. “The Democrats put something up a month ago that did not include an economic stimulus and other things they knew the governor and Republicans needed to support, so it’s on both sides,” said McLear.They need to compromise.”

McLear did not say whether or not the governor would be open to tapping funds earmarked for early childhood development and mental health to help balance the budget.

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