California's budget nightmare shows no sign of ending. It merely drags on, year after tortured year, as state leaders fail in their basic task of balancing the books.
Last year's budget deal was laughable even before the ink dried. To close a projected deficit, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and lawmakers did a "wink-wink" and claimed they'd get $1 billion from the sale of the State Compensation Insurance Fund.
They claimed they could borrow money from public transit. They claimed they could wring savings out of the prison system and In-Home Supportive Services.
Because of lawsuits and other easily predictable events, those savings have not materialized.
That's a big reason – along with the fact that tax revenues have trickled in at a rate lower than projected – the state now faces a budget gap for this fiscal year of $5 billion to $7 billion, according to the governor.
Mind you, that's just for the current fiscal year. The deficit for the "out-year" budget – the one that starts in July – looks to be at least $7.4 billion. It could be much higher. The governor and lawmakers keep hoping they'll get federal money for Medi-Cal and can borrow from local redevelopment funds. If the feds don't come through, and if legal action blocks the state from borrowing local money, then the combined deficit (for this year and next) could top $18 billion.
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