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Fate of budget in voters’ hands

California’s plan requires the approval Tuesday of Props 1A through 1F.

May 16, 2009|By Zain Shauk

California’s fiscal future, amid a swirl of mixed signals from politicians, educators and special-interest groups, will be in the hands of voters during a special election Tuesday.

Legislators crafted five ballot measures as part of a plan to fix a $42-billion deficit. They added a sixth initiative to prevent elected officials from receiving pay raises during deficit years.

But since developing the propositions, Democratic and Republican lawmakers have failed to endorse all of the measures on which their budget plan now relies.

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Voters must approve Propositions 1A through E in order for California’s current budget plan to work; otherwise, lawmakers will have to reconvene to make up for a growing shortfall.

The state will need to borrow at least $6 billion and cut another $6 billion in spending, regardless of whether the initiatives pass because of a projected $15-billion deficit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said during a news conference Thursday.

But if the initiatives fail, those totals could grow to $9 billion in new borrowing and $7 billion in cuts to make up for a hole that is expected to grow to $21.3 billion, Schwarzenegger said.

The effects of the resulting cuts will severely impact almost every public service, he said.

Recent surveys show that none of the five budget-related measures have received a majority of support from likely voters, except for Proposition 1F, which limits pay for elected officials.

Local educators and city officials have been torn on the propositions.

The Burbank City Council, on a 4-1 vote, opted not to support the slate of initiatives, while the Burbank Unified School District Board of Education voted unanimously in favor of endorsing the measures.

The Glendale Unified School District Board of Education did not vote on supporting the propositions, and was visibly torn during a discussion of the election.

Statewide signals have been mixed as well.

The California Teachers’ Assn. is supporting every measure because it expects the damage to education would be far worse if the state has to reconvene to discuss solving budget holes, potentially looking to schools for making further reductions. Meanwhile, the California Federation of Teachers has opposed all but one of the measures, arguing that lawmakers should be forced to return to their desks and formulate a better plan.

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