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State Lawmakers Continue Work On Emergency Budget Fix


State lawmakers are ready to continue work on an emergency budget fix today/Tuesday. We're joined on Morning Edition by nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

State lawmakers are ready to continue work on an emergency budget fix today. We're joined on Morning Edition by nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy. Leo, good morning.

LEO MCELROY: Good morning.

PAMELA DAVIS: Lawmakers are working on proposal to trim the state's $20 billion budget gap, but you have something to say about the lack of urgency in that process.

MCELROY: Well, I think it's a little startling. Let's take a look at the numbers. The governor called a special session of the legislature and gave them 45 days to do something about a portion of the $20 billion deficit that the state faces. He asked them in that 45 days, which by the way ended yesterday, to resolve $8.8 billion of the gap. The legislature actually sent him bills as of yesterday that resolved about $2.3 billion in solutions, leaving about $6.5 billion of that unanswered, and of that $2.3 billion, the governor is poised to veto $1.8 billion of it. In other words, we might have made progress on half a billion, out of $20 billion. This is -- this makes glacial speed look like the 100-yard dash by comparison.

DWANE BROWN: So what do you think we're going to end up with this process?

MCELROY: I think we're going to end up with a legislature that's going to sit there, move as slowly as possible, and frantically hope that the future in economic recovery catches up with them, and makes it impossible or unnecessary to do much of anything. I think everybody's banking on the fact that the economy is turning around, and they're hoping that the turnaround will be sufficient that they don't have to cut programs, and that they can get away with the half-hearted measures that have come out of there so far. And I do mean half-hearted, and with that I'm being generous.

BROWN: Well, this is a big election year, re-election for Senator Barbara Boxer, she's running again. Her poll numbers, though, are low, Leo. That hasn't been a problem for her in the past, though, has it?

MCELROY: No, it's been interesting. Everybody looks at this. The hallmark usually is for an elected official, if they're under 50 percent in the early polling, they're in trouble, and Barbara is always under 50 percent in the polling. She's regarded as being kind of on the left fringe of the Democratic party, and as such a lot of moderates tend to go into the undecided pool rather than commit themselves to voting for her. And yet, when it comes time for the election, two things happen. One, the independents come around, and two, Barbara proves once again that she's a tremendous political fighter. She has not yet been pushed into a really close election, and I don't know that the prospect is there this time for her to be pushed. Although, you always wonder when doomsday will arrive.

DAVIS: The folks promoting a constitution convention say they're running into a financial boycott. And former speaker Bob Hertzberg says there are threats to keep them from getting financial support, or even signature-gathering help. Why's that?

MCELROY: This is fascinating -- this is really interesting, if you want a novel about political plotting, this might be the one. What they're finding is that there are a lot of economic interests in the state that are strongly tied to the current way of doing business. Particularly, the initiative process, which is a huge, huge industry in California, between the signature gathering, the advertising, the organizing, the legal aspects of it -- it's a gigantic closet industry in the state, and there are fears in many quarters that the constitutional convention that Bob Hertzberg and his people are trying to promote, might eliminate the initiative. And wipe out this big, big business that has grown up in California over the last 30, 40 years.

DAVIS: And that is nonpartisan political consultant Leo McElroy.

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