Legislature Passes State Budget, Cuts to UC System

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California legislators finalized a slew of proposals aimed at closing the state's budget deficit Friday afternoon, bringing a tentative end to a legislative marathon that kept lawmakers up throughout the night.

Seeking to close the state's $26.3 billion budget shortfall, the package of about 30 bills proposed drastic cuts to the state budget, including $3.2 billion from health services and social programs and $2 billion from the UC and CSU systems.

The new bill package proposes $15.5 billion in spending reductions. Since February, almost $31 billion has been cut from the state's operating budget.

In a Friday press conference, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said that while he was unhappy about the many one-time solutions proposed in the budget, he was proud of legislators for approving measures that would save the state from "drowning into the fiscal abyss."

But he warned that uncertainties remain, and legislators could be called upon to reconvene and make further cuts in the coming months.

Despite Senate approval, the state Assembly rejected two controversial proposals, one aimed at borrowing $900 million in gas tax revenues from local governments, and another that would have generated $100 million annually through offshore drilling.

The governor is expected to cover the shortfall through other cuts that he said will be discussed over the weekend.

The governor's May proposal to eliminate the Cal Grant program was rejected by the conference budget committee in June, and current recipients for the 2009-10 school year should still expect to receive the grant money as part of their financial aid packages, according to UC spokesperson Peter King.

But King added that the future of the program, which currently provides student aid for 46,000 undergraduates in the UC system, remains uncertain.

"They are simply honoring commitments they've already made," he said. "We're fighting now so we can get them in the long term, but right now it's just the status quo."


Contact Chris Carrassi at [email protected]

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