By Kevin Yamamura
kyamamura@sacbee.com
Published: Thursday, Dec. 2, 2010 – 12:00 am | Page 1A

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will offer a last-ditch budget proposal Monday to close a $6 billion deficit over six months, but don’t expect his ideas to go very far.

Democrats are likely to ignore Schwarzenegger’s special-session budget, instead waiting until Democratic Gov.-elect Jerry Brown issues his own plan one month later.

Democrats expect more palatable solutions from Brown, especially since Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear has promised “ugly cuts” and no new taxes in Schwarzenegger’s stopgap December proposal.

But Democratic leaders also think the deficit problem should be viewed in its $25.4 billion entirety – not just as a short-term $6 billion gap with an end date defined by the lame-duck governor.

“From our perspective, it makes more sense to work with the incoming governor on a global solution to our budget rather than work on a piecemeal approach with a governor who will be gone in a few weeks,” said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.

The overall $25.4 billion deficit consists of two parts. It includes a $6.1 billion deficit through June 30 that exists because state leaders relied on rosy assumptions in their record-late October budget package, according to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. It also includes a $19.3 billion deficit in the next 2011-12 fiscal year.

Schwarzenegger wants to tackle only the first piece of the problem. “We’re not going to increase taxes,” McLear said. “I think you’re looking at mostly ugly cuts. It’s very simple. The state is going to have to cut, if not under this governor, then under the next governor.”

The Legislature has ignored a lame-duck governor’s special session call before.

With the state sinking into recession, outgoing Gov. George Deukmejian called a December special session in late 1990 to solve a $1 billion gap in a $38.2 billion general fund budget. Deukmejian suggested a 1 percent across-the-board spending cut and an even greater reduction in school spending, as well as a smaller renter’s credit.

All fell on deaf ears.

Legislative leaders sent Deukmejian’s plan to their fiscal committees and sent lawmakers home until January.

Said then-Assemblyman Steve Peace, a Democrat: “None of the proposals that are before us now do anything other than serve a political desire to give the impression of doing something.”

Democrats privately suggest that Schwarzenegger is trying to salvage his reputation in the final month of his gubernatorial career. But Schwarzenegger, as Deukmejian did two decades ago, insists he is only doing the responsible thing by acting on the problem.

“I don’t buy into that lame-duck thing, you know,” he said last month.

While Schwarzenegger has kept Brown informed, he is not working in conjunction with the next governor, according to spokesmen for both leaders.

In his December plan, Schwarzenegger is likely to revisit cuts in health care, social services and prisons that lawmakers rejected this summer.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, is waiting to see what Schwarzenegger will propose before responding, said spokeswoman Shannon Murphy. Pérez and Steinberg want to reverse a Schwarzenegger veto of child care subsidies for former welfare-to-work parents.

It’s unclear how Schwarzenegger can resolve a $6 billion problem by June 30 through cuts alone. Slashing Medi-Cal and social services generally requires a two- to three-month implementation period. At best, lawmakers could reduce spending for about four months; that would require the annualized equivalent of $18 billion in cuts.

By comparison, Schwarzenegger and Republicans last year called for $12 billion in cuts, and leaders ultimately agreed to about $7.5 billion in reductions.

“Can we solve for $6 billion?” said Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor. “I think that would be almost impossible to do on just the expenditure side.”

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