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The budget un-process

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Posted: Thursday, February 12, 2009 12:00 am

The California budget will be as big as the L.A. phone book. It will be in print today and Legislators will have to vote on it as soon as tomorrow.

A big percentage of legislators are like two representing the Lodi area — freshmen elected in November.

Lodi's Assemblymembers Alyson Huber and Bill Berryhill are not thrilled they have to take the most important vote of the year with so little time to read and so little time to consult voters.

"It's the most undemocratic (budget) process we've had," said Huber. No budget hearings, no committee votes, just BAM, here it is. Now vote. Up or down.

All the policy making, cajoling and compromising have been done by "The Big Five" — Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Assembly Speaker Democrat Karen Bass, Assembly Minority Leader Republican Michael Villines, Senate President pro tempore Democrat Darrell Steinberg and Senate Minority Republican Dave Cogdill.

Incidentally, Cogdill is our Senator. He's been leader of Republicans in the Senate for about a year. I didn't meet with him this round, though we have talked in the past.

Though an overwhelmed newbie, Alyson Huber did say the Legislative Auditors Office was doing a heroic job keeping non-Big Five lawmakers in the loop. That non-partisan agency has issued digestable pamphlets as The Big Five negotiations reached critical stages. She, and presumably Berryhill, had input in the process through caucus meetings.

Huber said she expressed herself on some items, such as the devastation small counties in her district would feel if public safety funds were cut.

Berryhill pointed out it will take three Republican votes in the Assembly to pass the budget — more if one of the Democrats balks. He said the vote would be Sunday or Monday. Yesterday (Wednesday Feb. 11), there was nothing in writing. So was Berryhill going to be one of the supporters?

He was waiting to "see" the budget in print — a city-size phone book.