Last week I chastised state lawmakers – including members of the budget committees – for deciding to carry on with out of state trips to places like China and Hawaii rather than get down to the business of crafting a solution to the state’s budget disaster. Governor Schwarzenegger, never one to hold back when he’s thwarted, let the same sentiments slip to capital reporters after yesterday’s failed budget vote.
The governor, who signed a $103 billion general-fund budget in
September that is projected to be more than $11 billion out of balance,
had harsh words for lawmakers who took international trips in the last
"So I’m disappointed that they never took it seriously
from the beginning," he said. "We could see that they never came home
from their vacations to get in there and study."
Of course, a big reason for the budget shortfall in the first place is the gov’s own 2003 executive order rolling back the auto registration fee as his dramatic first act as governor, cutting $6 billion in revenue from the state budget with a stroke of his pen. The governor is just as (ir)responsible as the legislature for deferring the budget problem year after year with tricks and gimmicks. Despite countless press conferences claiming to be ‘cutting up the state’s credit card,’ Arnold never got at the imbalance in revenue and spending either.
A new class of lawmakers takes office Dec. 1. A moratorium on out-of-state junkets until the budget is fixed should be their first order of business, but something drastic is needed to really force their hand. There’s the old ‘no budget, no pay’ scheme, but I’m afraid that would give them just one more incentive to pass a spending plan that won’t hold up in a strong breeze. An interesting alternative: have the legislative analyst’s office submit a budget to the legislature. If lawmakers can’t pass something on their own that the LAO will certify as balanced, LAO’s budget is enacted in its place.