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Is California Close To Reaching A Budget Deal?


California's top lawmakers say they are close to a budget deal, but a budget deal won't be signed till AT LEAST next week.
Nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy speaks to Morning Edition about the latest on the state budget and the upcoming gubernatorial debate.

California's top legislative leaders say they are close to a budget deal, but a deal still hasn't been signed yet. It could happen next week. We're joined on Morning Edition by nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

DWANE BROWN (Host): The governor met with the Republican and Democratic leaders last night, Leo. Are we getting some details of what a spending plan may look like?

LEO MCELROY (Political Consultant): Well, as we understand it, most of the big five came out of that meeting shaking their heads, so the prognosis doesn't seem to be too bright at the moment. Part of the thing is the governor is really insisting that they include a revision of the state employee pension system in whatever they bring to him, and he seems to be sticking to that pledge that he's not going to sign anything unless they do that. And they're not too eager to go ahead with that. Both sides of the legislative divide count on union support, and they really don't want to anger the unions that have been good backers of them on one side or the other.

BROWN: What about the issues of either raising taxes or cutting more spending?

MCELROY: Seems to be pretty well down to cutting spending. The thing that we understand is on the table that could count as a raise of taxes is the decision to put off for two years the measure that would give tax breaks for businesses. So we understand at the moment that the big five are agreed on that, whether the Republican caucus will go along with that and provide votes is another question.

BROWN: We are about two months away from the November election. The two major party candidates for governor will square off in their first debate -- that sounds weird -- tonight, though, and you can hear that on KPBS 89.5 at 6 p.m. What's at stake, Leo?

MCELROY: Well, the big question is which of these two can rehabilitate themselves -- if you look at the poll numbers, both of them are viewed negatively by the voters. More voters dislike, or disapprove, of Jerry Brown, than like him. And the same of Meg Whitman. So the question is can either one of them turn the likability corner or the competency corner or whatever corner they can find there might be voters behind, and start to become a little popular. Right now this is a negative race of who's going downhill faster, and the debate of course offers a lot of opportunities to go downhill and make mistakes.

BROWN: Yeah, I noticed that even former Governor Gray Davis weighed in, saying that the candidates should be a little more focused.

MCELROY: Yeah, and he knows what he's talking about. Gray Davis did more gubernatorial debates than everybody else combined in the history of the thing, I mean he was an avid debater, and debated his opponents a whole lot of times in each campaign. In this particular case it'll be interesting to see whether anybody takes his advice, and whether either of them comes off as more likable, more competent, more pleasant than they presently do.

BROWN: Very good. Nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy. Thanks Leo.

MCELROY: All right.

BROWN: And you can hear that gubernatorial debate here on KPBS beginning at 6 o'clock.

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