Calif. GOP: Slash Education, Health Care to Fix Budget

GOP goal: to avoid new taxes

Republican lawmakers on Monday proposed large cuts to education and social service programs, as well as raiding other funds to close part of California's massive budget shortfall.

"We believe there's a way to do this without taxes," said Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines, R-Clovis.

Villines and Senate Minority Leader Dave Cogdill, R-Modesto, released a plan that they said would free up more than $22 billion in state spending.

It includes cuts to education totaling more than $10 billion in the next 18 months and about $6.5 billion largely by taking funds designated for children's and mental health programs. The proposal to take money from California's First 5 and Mental Health Services Act would require voter approval.

Republicans also proposed a 5 percent salary cut for lawmakers and are seeking to ask poor families enrolled in the state's welfare-to-work program to accept a 10 percent reduction.

California faces a 10 percent shortfall in its $144.5 billion budget for the fiscal year that ends in June. The forecast will get a lot worse next year unless lawmakers can reach a compromise.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office projects the deficit will grow to $41.8 billion by July 2010.

Already, the state is unable to borrow money and is expected to run out of cash by February, possibly forcing California to use IOUs to pay its electricity bills and gas for highway patrol vehicles.

Schwarzenegger had proposed $4.7 billion in tax increases and $4.4 billion in program cuts, as well as an economic stimulus plan, as a starting point for negotiations back on Nov. 5 when he declared the first special session for the fiscal year.

That session ended without success after Republicans rejected a Democratic proposal for $8.1 billion in cuts and $8.1 billion in tax increases, and failed to include the governor's request for some type of economic stimulus.

Schwarzenegger declared a second special session Dec. 1, forcing the Legislature to address the current-year budget deficit within 45 days or else be prevented from acting on any other bills until they solve the problem.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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