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Schwarzenegger may make history with a budget veto

Staffers to the governor are giving media outlets strong indications that Arnold Schwarzenegger will tonight go on the air to announce that he is vetoing the California state budget — which was approved weeks late by Sacramento legislators — because it is filled with accounting tricks and contains the seeds of even more overspending in 2009 and 2010.

If the governor issues a budget veto, it will be a historic first in California. It will also be a huge embarrassment to an extremely unpopular legislature (its approval rating has sunk to very low double-digits) led by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass of Los Angeles and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata of the Bay Area.

It's also a big mark against Schwarzenegger, who failed to bring two long-warring political parties in Sacramento to agreement when he had the chance much earlier this year. You can thank a perfect storm — of ineptitude.

The Democrats have controlled the California legislature since the year 1958 (no, that's not a typo. Roughly around the time the Russians launched Sputnik, the Democrats took virtually permanent control of Sacramento's 120-seat legislature). The majority Dems have written the vast majority of California's 50,000 or so laws now on the books, and have authored the vast majority of new taxes.

The Republicans have been the minority in the legislature since 1958 except for a couple of years here and there; their real power is in their ability to reject the Democratic-authored budget, which requires two-thirds backing of the 120 legislators for approval.

Normally, these two perpetually warring sides compromise on the budget. But for the past two or three years, we saw a perfect storm of ineptitude: both the Dems and the Reps pretended there was no end to the housing bubble, or the riches in taxes and revenue the housing bubble created for the state treasury.

Arnold also pretended the housing bubble was permanent, signing off on new programs and steep new spending. While all these pols were wildly spending taxpayer money and other revenue — some estimates show that the size of California's state budget has jumped an incredible 40 percent since Arnold took office — the housing bubble suddenly burst.

Can't wait to hear how the governor plans to explain this in his probable veto message later today.


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