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Swing and a Miss

The good news: Somebody in Sacramento finally took a vote on the state budget mess. The bad news: They're all still as pig-headed as they were two months ago.

Forty-eight days into the new fiscal year and nine weeks after the constitutional deadline for a new budget members of the Assembly last night bestirred themselves to go on record on a version of a budget bill. After 49 speeches, almost four hours of debate, and enough hot air to float the Hindenburg, the result was a 45-to-30 score in favor of a long-on-taxes Demo plan - 9 votes short of the two-thirds needed to pass.

The resourceful Los Angeles Times capital correspondent Evan Halper totally skunked the competition with the first, very substantive, online report on the evening's festivities, found here.

Earlier, the Sacramento Bee's Jim Sanders offered the clearest look at exactly what the D's put forward in what you like to call your spending blueprint. As his yarn, found here reported, their attempt to close a $17 billion deficit for the fiscal year that began July 1 hinged largely on raising state income tax rates, from 9.3 percent to 10 and 11 percent on households making more than $321K and $642K per year, respectively, as well as suspending the net operating loss deduction for corporations, and other, higher taxes on business.

The three big issues keeping the budget in stalemate are the same today as they were back in the long-ago balmy days of early summer, when our political worthies began this year's version of Kabuki theatre, Sacramento style:

1-Democrats want to close the deficit largely by raising taxes big time, while the Reps are reprising Bush I's ill-fated "read my lips" 1988 convention speech: No new taxes.

2-Republicans want a serious cap on state spending put before voters as part of any budget deal. Specifically, they are pushing a constitutional amendment to limit annual spending increases to a percentage calculated from the rate of inflation plus increases in population. Democrats killed the plan in a committee vote last week, during which Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland, offered this blinding insight: "It seems to me the objective of this proposal is clearly to promote less government." Perish the thought.

3-Gov. Terminator, who's already caved on his earlier opposition to new taxes, is flat-out unable to deliver any Republican votes for a budget that includes raising them. Even if he could round up two of the necessary GOP votes in the senate Santa Maria's own Abel Maldonado would surely be one the guv seems to have no leverage at all with the more conservative Assembly Republicans.

With little useful work to do, the Big Guy checked himself into the hospital over the weekend for a little knee surgery on a balky meniscus he tore...wait for it...working out in the gym a few weeks back. During the 45 minutes the Barbarian was zoned out on anesthesia, Lt. Gov. John (Harold Stassen) Garmendi held the reins of Your State Government. There were no further injuries.

In this Olympic season when world records are being shattered regularly, there was a glimmer of good news, of a sort, from yesterday's budget inaction: this year's clown show has moved up to fifth place on the all-time late budget list, and will go into a tie for 4th if there's no budget Monday:

Year Signed
2002-03 Sept. 5
1992-93 Sept. 2
1998-99 Aug. 21
1997-98 Aug. 18
2008-09 Aug. 17

There's still plenty of time to qualify for Big Prizes in the Capitol Letters Budget Pool by sending your best guess of when this year's budget is signed to jerry@independent.com.

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