No school cuts in Schwarzenegger’s special session

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger called an emergency budget session Monday and proposed $7.4 billion in cuts to social services and prisons, but did not extend any additional cuts to schools.

I want to do everything that I can in order to make the budget a little bit easier for the next governor," said Schwarzenegger during a press conference,

The governor noted that Governor-elect Jerry Brown "can make any changes he wants" to the special session proposal when he takes office in January.

Ana Matosantos, director of the governor's Department of Finance, noted that many of the cuts proposed in Monday's special session were carried over from the 2010 May Revise.

Since the 2010-11 budget act cut school budgets in a way that corresponded with the reductions originally proposed in the May Revise, there was no need to cut them further, she explained.

But Proposition 98 was not totally left alone. The governor proposed cutting $200 million from all state subsidized child care programs, with the exception of the State Preschool Program and CalWORKS Stage 2.

However, the child care cuts were wildly unpopular with Democrats back then and the stop-gap special session has already been brushed off by Democratic leaders.

"I believe the Governor will have a difficult time convincing the Legislature to approve his proposal given the fact that it doesn't address the entire problem, doesn't create jobs and is in fact a rehash of proposals we have already considered and rejected," said Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, in a statement.

Expectations are that Democrats, who control both legislative houses, will ignore the governor's attempt to corral a December session and defer to Governor-elect Brown for budget solutions.

Notably, a response from Senate Minority Leader Sam Blakeslee suggests that Senate Republicans are no longer willing to advocate a cuts-only budget without a complete structural overhaul of state government.

"One thing is clear - the status quo strategy of slash-and-burn cuts will not fix California," said Blakeslee in a statement. "We are long overdue for a serious reevaluation of the role and operation of California government."

A statement by Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare, did not echo Blakeslee's sentiment, saying only that "tax increases during a recession would be devastating."

The proposal to return many services to local governments was a major push by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg last year and will likely resurface in budget negotiations this spring. Governor-elect Jerry Brown has also been outspoken about increasing local control. Though how that proposal would impact schools remains to be seen.

The special session, called under Proposition 58 that was approved by voters in 2004, allows the Legislature 45 days to act on legislation to solve the budget gap, but does not require legislators to solve the entire budget gap. After that deadline, legislators cannot send non-budget related bills to the governor.

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