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No Budget Deal In Sight for California


California is already setting records on a late budget and legislative leaders aren't even meeting.

California is already setting records on a late budget, but why aren't legislative leaders meeting?

We're joined on Morning Edition by nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy to ask him that question. The governor canceled talks on Monday due to illness, but can't Democrats and Republicans still get together on this issue?

LEO MCELROY: There isn't very much reason for them to cancel anything. The governor has not been a major player in these discussions anyway. But the fact is, apparently, they found another excuse to remain totally immobile on this issue. We do have one record yet to be set -- the latest date a budget was ever signed was September 23 or 2008, and we do have two days to go before that. We're going to break that record pretty easily, too, so all the records will have fallen, and that'll be the only accomplishment that the legislature and the governor will have achieved.

DWANE BROWN (Host): Yeah, they met on Friday, the governor and those legislative leaders, the four. Are we any closer to any resolution here?

MCELROY: There is no indication that we're anywhere closer. There's about $19 billion worth of budget hole to be filled, and no indication that anybody's close to filling it. The Democrats are insisting that they do not want to cut social programs for the needy any farther than they already have, and they need to raise some revenues to help fill that hole. Republicans are saying they will vote absolutely against any revenue increase that they want all of the hole filled by budget cuts, and Republicans have enough votes to stop the tax increases from going in, so right now, we're frozen. We are just in a stage of Ice Age, frozen mastodons in a big ice cube.

BROWN: Yeah. Speaking of frozen, we've got the governor's race overhead, less than two months away from the election in November. Meg Whitman has set another campaign-spending record. Does this matter?

MCELROY: I think it may matter a lot. It matters in a couple of ways. It means she continues to put the message out there that she's been putting out for a long time. She started spending far before most candidates would have been bumping that much money into the race, and she has indicated that she will go up to $150 million, if necessary, to win the governor's spot. The question is, is this helping with the public? It's so far been keeping her kind of dead even with Jerry Brown, who hasn't spent much of anything. Is the public likely to be more convinced as she pumps in more money, or are they likely to begin to look at that and resist it, saying that's too much money for somebody to spend, she's trying to buy the office.

BROWN: Yeah, uh, Whitman's campaign also spent some dough on an ad featuring Bill Clinton talking about her opponent Jerry Brown's tax record when he was running for president. How might his support -- Bill Clinton's support -- of Jerry Brown now effect the election?

MCELROY: Well, it may help some. It may help mobilize some Democrats who like Bill Clinton better than Jerry Brown. It was interesting, though, that Jerry's own predilection for wising off got him in trouble when he was asked about the ad. He said 'Well, we all know Bill Clinton doesn't always tell the truth: I did not have sex with that woman,' and that very probably came close to costing him Clinton's support. Clinton has swallowed the insult, Jerry Brown has apologized, and Clinton's on board backing Brown and Gavin Newsom, the lieutenant governor candidate.

BROWN: Well, we're close to the election. November 2 I believe is the date?

MCELROY: That's it.

BROWN: Yeah, so when it comes to any of the candidates for governor, be they Republican or Democrat, the big issue has been consensus in Sacramento. Do you see either of these candidates being able to pull things together?

MCELROY: If it happened, it would be a miracle very much akin to the parting of the Red Sea. It would be of biblical proportions. The consensus that doesn't exist shows very little sign of ever occuring at all. The fact is that the divide between Democrats and Republicans is pretty huge, and the election that is coming up for legislative seats is not going to decrease that divide one inch.

BROWN: Nonpartisan Sacramento Political Consultant Leo McElroy. Thanks, Leo.

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