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Governor Says Toughest State Cuts Are Still Ahead

Audio

Aired 11/17/09

Governor Schwarzenegger says California isn't out of the red yet... and more cuts are on the way. We're joined on Morning Edition by non-partisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says California is still struggling with generating revenue, and more budget cuts are on the way next summer. We're joined on Morning Edition by non-partisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy. Well, the governor says the state budget deficit, Leo, could exceed $14 billion by this time next summer. How does he suggest dealing with the gap?

LEO MCELROY: Well, the governor offered a fairly painful little homily on the thing. He said that in the past cuts we've picked all the low-hanging fruit off the tree, and we've picked all the middle-hanging fruit off the tree, and the only thing that's left to cut is the high-hanging fruit. In other words, high priority, good programs are going to have to be cut to meet the deficit. And it's a chilling message for Californians, because it means that regardless of merit if you don't have the money, you can't buy the goods, you can't buy the programs. This is the line the governor is hewing to in telling the legislature be prepared to go across the board with a major cut.

DWAYNE BROWN: Well, we've already seen major cuts to education, health and welfare programs. What big fruit are we talking about then?

MCELROY: How about more cuts. How about more cuts in education, how about more cuts in programs for the needy in our population. We've seen the situation where they've tried to do easier cuts, and a lot of those have been turned around. Right now you've got a challenge in court to the furloughs program, which was one of the cuts made to try to save some money, and that's being challenged. A number of the other cuts have already been reversed, and it's really getting down to the point where there are no cuts left that are not going to be painful. It's gonna hurt, regardless.

PAMELA DAVIS: Leo, there's a battle in Congress over the census. Why does this legislation focus on California?

MCELROY: Because California, fortunately or unfortunately, has the highest percentage of immigrants who are legal, and immigrants who are illegal. And, they are counted in the census. So, in Congress, the battle has begun to require either counting only citizens, not legal immigrants or illegal immigrants, or at least to leave the illegal immigrants off the count. In past years, the ruling has been that you deal with the number of people who live in the state regardless, because you've got to take care of them, but this is an opportunity for other states to pick up some congressional seats at our expense. If they knock out the illegals, for example, and other immigrants, we could lose as many as five congressional seats which would go to other states. So it provides motivation for other people to say 'Well, yeah, let's chop California down a little bit.'

BROWN: So when you talk about how this legislation might affect California, you say we could lose five districts?

MCELROY: That's right, that's right.

BROWN: And we're going into an election year, next year?

MCELROY: We're going into an election year...

BROWN: How might that play out?

MCELROY: Well, it won't matter in 2010 because they'll still be completing the census, but in 2011, with whoever's been elected, the legislature will have a job based on the census figures, of drawing new congressional districts to fit what California's got. At the best we'd keep everything we have, probably we wind up losing at least one. But there's a possibility we could lose five, and then you're going to see some real scrambling, as the determined gerrymanders in the legislature try to work out deals which will provide both parties some sort of a deal, but at the same time assure that the Democrats get the best break of it.

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