SACRAMENTO -- Moments after legislators were sworn in to office Monday, Democratic leaders rebuffed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal for more sweeping cuts in social services as his remedy to tackle the state's $6.1 billion deficit that lingers from last month's budget agreement.
In creating a special session to deal with what he declared to be a fiscal emergency, most of the budget cuts that Schwarzenegger proposed surprisingly are geared toward the next fiscal year, when Gov.-elect Jerry Brown will be in charge. The outgoing governor offered only $1.9 billion in cuts to address the $6.1 billion current year deficit, and another $8 billion for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
The last-ditch effort by the lame-duck governor and the brusque response of the Senate leader and Assembly speaker converged jarringly with the pomp and circumstance and niceties of the ceremonial activities that pulsed through the Capitol.
Even before Schwarzenegger could make his case for the $9.9 billion budget-cutting plan, the Assembly already had adjourned until Jan. 3, when Brown will be sworn in. The Legislature has 45 days to address the special session, though they have wide latitude in how they do so.
Most lawmakers were busy hosting swearing-in receptions with family and friends as Schwarzenegger unveiled his proposal.
When told that the Assembly had left for the rest of the year, Schwarzenegger said "maybe they come back."
That is unlikely to happen. Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said the Legislature will certainly "go to work" under newly named Budget Chairman Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, who will hold hearings and begin to put together a plan this month.
"The fact we'll get to work is different from whether we'll actually take formal votes in the month of December," he said. "The truth is Gov.-elect Brown and the new Legislature are the ones who will live with the results of work we do."
Steinberg said he prefers to work on a midyear correction "in the context of a clear direction that is developed by both the new governor and the Legislature for how we resolve the larger problems."
Schwarzenegger, however, said he has seen his own persistence pay off before. He recalled how it took a sixth effort to win redistricting reform, and he pointed to hard negotiations on tax increases that he eventually won as examples of his ability to get things done when few thought it possible.
"I always said I will go and jog through the finish line, and I took the oath to serve as California's chief executive until Jan. 3 and that I would serve the people of California until the last second until the next governor is sworn in," Schwarzenegger said. "So, there's a lot of work that still can be done, so why would I stop in December? It wouldn't make any sense."
Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said he would take the governor's proposal "under advisement." But, he said, Schwarzenegger "will have a difficult time convincing the Legislature to approve his proposal given the fact that it doesn't address the entire problem, doesn't create jobs and is in fact a rehash of proposals we have already considered and rejected."
Schwarzenegger had no apologies for finding significant savings from the next fiscal year, saying he didn't think he was encroaching on Brown's turf.
"He can make any decision he wants," Schwarzenegger said. "He can make those changes. He may look at it differently, but I guarantee you, no matter how he looks at it, he will find no more money. There is no more money unless the economy comes back."
Once again, Schwarzenegger found most of his savings -- $7 billion -- in health and human services, partly by eliminating wholesale the CalWORKs welfare-to-work program with a $1.4 billion cut starting July 1, the first day of the 2011-12 fiscal year.
He proposed only $3.2 million in cuts from Medi-Cal for the current year but another $980 million for 2011-12.
He proposes cutting SSI/SSP (Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payments) by $43.9 million in 2010-11 and another $123.8 million in 2011-12; food stamp and Child Welfare Services programs by $301 million in 2010-11 and $602 million in 2011-12, and eliminating the Food Assistance Program by April 1 by cutting $84 million total.
He also proposed saving $761.5 million over the next 18 months in corrections by shifting the responsibility for nonviolent inmates and probationers to local jurisdictions.
In addition, he calls for the elimination of all remaining general fund support of subsidized child care programs, except for the state Preschool Program and CalWORKs Stage 2.
He also proposes eliminating vision coverage and freezes monthly premiums for Healthy Families, a program that provides health coverage for children of low-income families.
Schwarzenegger also wants the state to limit prescriptions and cap physician visits to 10 a year for Medi-Cal recipients.
When asked whether, in light of the devastating effect on the poor and disabled that would come from his proposed cuts, he should continue with a lavish bash -- called the Wrap -- being put together by rich donors and business backers, Schwarzenegger said he had no misgivings.
"The Wrap party sends the message that I want to say thank you to the people who worked very hard over the last seven years," he said. "It doesn't use tax money; we use money from donations. And whatever else needs to be taken care of, I will personally pay for that, and it's the appropriate thing to do."
Earlier Monday, in yet another sign that the transition between governors is fully underway, Brown attended a Republican breakfast, in which some Republicans remarked that he sounded like a Democrat in name only. He'd attended a Democratic caucus dinner the previous night.
Contact Steven Harmon at 916-441-2101.