That, as it turns out, was just about the easiest part of closing California’s $26 billion budget deficit.
For almost 24 straight hours, members of the state Assembly and Senate hashed through 30 bills, eventually cutting billions of dollars from schools, social programs, prisons and, yes, courts.
Play by play, after the jump.
In the end, Assembly Democrats blocked bills that would have allowed oil drilling off the Santa Barbara coast and the siphoning of local governments’ gas tax money. That punched a new $1 billion-plus hole in the state’s budget, one that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he will try to erase, at least partially, with his veto pen over the next few days.
The governor didn’t say what programs he might blue-pencil — court spending is not immune -- but did say he wants a healthy reserve. Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, told reporters the Legislature may have to make more cuts when it returns from vacation next month.
“This was the toughest budget to do since I’ve been here,” Schwarzenegger said Friday afternoon.
The controller has not announced yet when he will stop issuing IOUs and restart regular check processing. Some court vendors and appointed defense counsel have received the IOUs instead of checks since the state started running short of cash on July 1.
For the courts, judicial branch leaders will now have to figure out how to make the budget cuts work. Some judges have balked at the once-a-month closure plan, arguing that their courts can save enough money by other means to avoid shuttering courthouses over the next year.
Also, some sheriffs are reluctant to renegotiate their bailiffs’ security contracts, even though the new budget legislation calls on them to cut at least 4.62 percent of the costs they charge courts.
The Judicial Council meets Wednesday at 11 a.m. to discuss those issues. The first statewide court closures could start Aug. 19.
— Cheryl Miller
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