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State of the State: Governor vows no education cuts in new budget

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, center, delivers his final State of the State address at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010. At the left is Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is at the right.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, center, delivers his final State of the State address at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2010. At the left is Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is at the right. The Associated Press

After slashing education funding over the past year, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said today in his State of the State address that he will not cut schools any further in his upcoming budget.

He also proposed a constitutional guarantee that California will never spend more money on prisons than on higher education, according to his prepared remarks.

Schwarzenegger also urged California's congressional delegation to block the federal health care overhaul backed by President Barack Obama unless the package includes billions of dollars more each year for California. He delivered his harshest indictment yet of the plan, calling it "a trough of bribes, deals and loopholes" and "health care to nowhere."

The Republican governor said California's budget deficit stands at $19.9 billion over the next 18 months, a slightly lower figure than estimated by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst. He said lawmakers should make it easier for private prisons to compete with state-run prisons.

Schwarzenegger asked lawmakers to back a budget reform initiative submitted by California Forward. Among other things, that proposal would drop the threshold for passing the state budget from a two-thirds vote to majority vote. That would reduce the power of his own Republican Party in the Legislature, although the plan would still require a two-thirds vote for tax increases.

The governor cited two other components of the initiative, however -- a requirement that lawmakers review outcomes of past spending and using one-time revenue increases only for one-time uses such as paying down debt or building a rainy-day fund.

Schwarzenegger asked the Legislature to overhaul the tax system, using a plan submitted last year by a commission that recommended flattening the income tax structure and capturing more taxes from services. He also asked lawmakers to reduce the state's long-term pension obligations, suggesting that he wants to take aim at cutting benefit packages for employees hired in the future.

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