Politics & Government

California Democrats call for use of reserve funds in budget crisis

With California rapidly running out of money, Senate Democrats cut to the chase Tuesday, saying they will not accept decimating the state's safety net and unveiling the skeleton of their own budget-balancing proposal.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg pushed for raiding much of the state's proposed $4.5 billion budget reserve next year to bankroll key health, welfare and college aid programs.

"The purpose of a rainy-day fund is to provide funds for a rainy day," he said. "It's thunder and lightning in California right now."

Steinberg's proposal puts Senate Democrats at odds with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as the state rushes to mend a gaping $24.3 billion budget hole before it runs out of cash within weeks.

Schwarzenegger is wary that lawmakers would rather "kick the can down the road" and hope for rosier-than-anticipated revenues instead of making cuts deep enough to sustain the state in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

"This budget ought to be solved in one chunk, at one time – and let's do it quickly," Schwarzenegger told reporters.

The governor said it is "wishful thinking" or "hallucinatory" to believe that the state's proposed $4.5 billion reserve fund next year is ripe for raiding by lawmakers.

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