SACRAMENTO – At a joint press conference held Thursday afternoon, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) gave the legislative response to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s State of the State Address. Below are President pro Tem Steinberg’s remarks, followed by remarks from Speaker Bass.
Senate President pro Tem Steinberg:
“We stand here together on behalf of our respective houses to tell Californians that we are working hard to find common ground with Republicans and the Governor on a budget solution.
“We all understand what is at stake: California will run out of money if we fail to act. Tax refunds delayed. Job creating construction postponed.
“There is nothing easy about making up a $41 billion shortfall in our state budget.
“We have children to teach. Roads to build. Natural resources to protect. Seniors to care for.
“But we don’t have the money to do everything this year, thanks to a national and international economic crisis that some say is the worst since the Great Depression. In bad economic times many Californians know what it means, in fact, to cut back.
“State Government must do the same, but in a way that does the least damage to public education, to the environment, to the economy and to those most vulnerable protected by our social safety net.
“We have to and we will, throw out the harsh rhetoric in times like these.
“It’s no time for finger-pointing – Californians want and deserve more from us. They expect us to work together to fix the problem and that’s exactly what we are in the midst of doing.
“To the extent that we have real differences with our Republican colleagues or the Governor, there will be policy differences and we will work them out the best we can. We have no choice.
“Like the Speaker, I am still extremely proud that the majority party sent the Governor an $18 billion deficit reduction plan that would have fixed nearly half the budget shortfall and perhaps forestalled the cash crisis.
“And I genuinely believe that our action in that regard, in part has lead to the resumption of Big 5 negotiations and the effort to solve the entire $41 billion problem.
“But I think our action was indicative of where our hearts and minds are at.
“In serious times, you don’t just wait for solutions to fall into your lap – you work overtime to find the solutions.
“So we are working overtime and beyond to find a solution with the Governor and Republican leaders. The Governor is right, the negotiations have been productive, but we need to keep going.
“There really is an opportunity to turn this situation around on a dime.
“Everyone talks about late budgets. When we get this agreement done over the next weeks, we will have then accomplished the earliest budget in the history of California.
“I can’t wait for those couple of weeks to pass and for the legislature and the Governor to come together on a budget agreement because then we can begin focusing on a positive agenda for California.
“We need to tackle the high school drop-out crisis, education, and the economy.
“We need to get a water agreement. Renewable energy. Health care. There’s so many positive issues, so many positive agendas to tackle.
“Let’s put this behind us so that we can get started on all of those things.
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass:
“This week we celebrate the birth, 80 years ago today, of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – a man committed to empower those left behind in our society.
“We look ahead next week to the inauguration of Barack Obama – a community organizer with his own record of empowering others– as he becomes the President of the United States.
“Looking back at the life and works of Dr. King, and looking ahead to the values and promise of President Obama, we can see great changes that were won at immense cost and great changes to come – along with the shared sacrifice they require.
“Here in California, the governor’s state of the state address underscored the sacrifices ahead of us in guiding our state through this economic emergency.
“In his address the governor committed to working with the legislature to solve the budget problem, and that’s important.
“Californians want us to negotiate a solution to the budget and avoid the cash crisis. They don’t want school districts to go broke and layoff teachers…they don’t want small business vendors getting IOUs and they don’t want their income tax refunds delayed.
“Democrats have stepped up by passing an $18 billion package of solutions ….we’ve stepped up by cutting our operating budget 10%.... we’ve stepped up by introducing bills to aid unemployed Californians ….we’ve stepped up by introducing a green economic stimulus package that will create more than 40,000 jobs …and we’re stepping up by pursuing foreclosure relief and mortgage reform.
“When the governor and legislature work together as partners, real achievements like AB 32 and the infrastructure bonds get done. The same can happen on the budget.
“One of the lessons we can see in looking back at Dr. King and looking forward to President Obama is that even in tough times, even when there is great challenge and sacrifice, there is also hope and opportunity.
“In the Assembly we look forward to working with the governor to make sure California remains the land of hope and opportunity.”