SACRAMENTO — State budget negotiators were planning to meet publicly Wednesday for the first time in six days, but too late to make the rarely met constitutional deadline for passing the budget.
Staff members of the six-lawmaker panel have been holed up in closed-door meetings since last Thursday, looking for places to cut nearly $1 billion in new spending to pump up the state’s reserves to $2 billion.
The committee’s chairman, Assemblyman Tony Cardenas, originally had set a deadline to wrap up by last Sunday.
“We are in the midst of the most difficult budget process in 10 years,” Cardenas, D-Arleta, said in a statement Tuesday, adding that the committee “is facing very difficult decisions.”
The committee is crafting a $102 billion state budget from three separate proposals – one from each house of the Legislature and from Gov. Gray Davis.
The state constitution requires that the Legislature send a budget to the governor by June 15 – but it includes no penalties and the deadline seldom is met.
Budget negotiators concede that the deadline cannot be met this year. However, they say they will complete their work in time for the governor to sign a spending plan by July 1, the day the new fiscal year begins.
All of the major issues remain on the table, including spending for education, foster care and health care. Also, Republicans have said they will continue to call for a larger reserve.
Budget observers say this year’s process may be moving slowly because of questions about the state’s financial health.
A statewide energy crisis and economic downturn “make it difficult to look into the future and say, ’Well this is what we are going to have to work with,”’ in revenues, said Jean Ross, executive director of the California Budget Project.
On the Net: See the governor’s spending plan at www.dof.ca.gov and the legislative plans at www.lao.ca.gov