11:32 PM PST on Monday, December 6, 2010

Sacramento Bureau

SACRAMENTO – California lawmakers Monday appeared to dismiss departing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s new proposal to reduce the state’s budget problem by $9.9 billion.

Within an hour of new and re-elected legislators taking their oaths of office, Schwarzenegger declared a fiscal emergency and ordered lawmakers into special session immediately to start tackling an estimated $25 billion budget hole through June 2012.

The governor’s proposal would reduce by $1.9 billion the estimated $6 billion shortfall in 2010-11 and cut by almost $8 billion the estimated $19 billion gap in 2011-12.

Three-quarters of Schwarzenegger’s solutions would come from spending cuts, including deep reductions in health and social programs that the governor has proposed before.

It also contains an oft-rejected surcharge on insurance policies to generate $350 million for fire protection and other emergency services. And it would reshuffle pots of transportation money to try to comply with new voter-approved limits on taking local government revenue.

But as they gathered with friends and family at Monday’s swearing-in, lawmakers from both parties appeared ready to wait for Gov.-elect Jerry Brown to take office in four weeks to begin tackling the state’s fiscal mess.

“Unless I’m surprised, nothing’s going to happen,” Assemblyman Paul Cook, R-Yucca Valley, said of Schwarzenegger’s proposal.

Schwarzenegger said Monday it would be “the responsible thing” for lawmakers to act on his plan right away.

“The sooner we make them, the better it is,” he said of spending cuts.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said it was unlikely that the Legislature would vote on any of Schwarzenegger’s proposals this month.

“The truth of the matter is that Gov.-elect Brown and this new Legislature are the ones that are going to have to live with the results of what we do over the next several months,” Steinberg said.

Senate Minority Leader Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, has met with Brown privately and talked to him by phone since last month’s election.

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