(Dec. 5, 2003, initial post @ 10:25 p.m. with updates) -- With time elapsing in which to put items on the March 2004 ballot, an 11th hour session of the CA Senate collapsed tonight amid partisan recrimination after Senate Democrats refused to support a bond measure and spending cap sought by newly elected Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Senate Republicans abstained over lack of Democrat support from a Schwarzenegger administration favored spending cap...then in a dramatic move voted against their own plan...and threatened to bring a tougher spending cap by voter initiative.
Senate Dems brought forward their own bond measure and spending cap...but Republicans blasted the Democrats' spending cap as filled with loopholes, warning it would allow evasion by future legislators and Governors. Republicans signaled a willingness to accept the Democrats' proposed bond measure if it were tied to the Schwarzenegger administration's proposed spending cap.
When Democrats refused the deal, Senate Republican leader Jim Brulte (R., Rancho Cucamonga) publicly urged Republicans themselves to vote down the Republican spending cap on the floor...and press instead for a ballot initiative (via petition signatures) to put an even tougher spending cap on the ballot than Republicans had previously advanced.
Senate President Pro Tem John Burton (D., San Francisco) ridiculed Brutle's move, saying Republicans were prepared to hand Governor Schwarzenegger his first defeat, but Senate Republicans made good on their threat, voting down their proposed spending cap and indicating a willingness to seek an even tougher one from voters.
A few hours earlier, Assembly measures authored by LB area Assemblywoman Jenny Oropeza (D., LB-Carson), which paralleled the Democrats' Senate measures, passed the Assembly Budget Committee. (For separate LBReport.com coverage of the Assembly developments, click here.)
The Senate Republican hardball move on the spending cap leaves future developments uncertain.
Among other things, the Schwarzenegger administration has said it will argue in court for the constitutionality of two bond financing measures enacted by Democrats during the final days of the Davis administration. Neither of these two bond measures, on which the current year budget is nominally "balanced," was put to a public vote...and (as previously reported by LBReport.com, both are now being legally challenged by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
One of the bonds has already been struck down...and if that happens to the other measure and no alternative plan is in place, CA could run out of money by June, administration officials have previously warned.
Further coverage via Reuters: CA Lawmakers Reject Schwarzenegger Budget Plan