SACRAMENTO - Sen. Dave Cogdill outlined his determined stance that this is "no time to raise taxes" to balance the budget, citing the state's sagging economy and ongoing mortgage crisis in a wide-ranging interview with Sacramento Bee reporters.
Cogdill, the new Senate Republican leader whose district includes Chowchilla and parts of Mariposa County, suggested California's 2008-09 budget could be patched together through a mixture of cuts and borrowing from unspent money the state currently controls, including in voter-approved accounts for transportation, mental health and pre-kindergarten services.
"This economy is struggling," said Cogdill. "To put tax increases on people at this time makes absolutely no sense to us."
He specifically cited unspent funds controlled by the First 5 Commission, funded by a voter-approved tobacco tax, totaling $2 billion that he believed could be used for the budget. He also said earmarked transportation and mental health funds, both approved via ballot measures, could be siphoned away to balance the books.
Asked whether such internal borrowing would just put off California's structural deficit to another year, Cogdill replied that "given the difficulty of this year, I'm not so sure that that is a bad strategy."
He said his goal remained to pass the budget on time and has been meeting weekly with Speaker-elect Karen Bass, Assembly GOP leader Mike Villines and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata.
But, he cautioned, it is "important to get the right budget, not just an on time budget."
Other interview highlights:
• Cogdill, who was the Senate Republican point man on water issues before ascending to the leadership post this spring, said the state faces an upcoming water crisis and that California's tendency to legislate in crises – instead of in advance – was "one of the frustrations" he faced.
"I fear that the water crisis that is looming will make the energy crisis pale in comparison," Cogdill predicted.
• Cogdill said the recall attempt of Sen. Jeff Denham, organized in part by Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, was a "major distraction" and said the effort was a "blatant attempt at a power grab."
He predicted the recall would be defeated.
• He endorsed the redistricting initiative pushed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, which is announcing today that it has gathered enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
• As for the governor's recent comments about small town legislators, Cogdill said he was "not too exercised."
"We probably do need to get out a little bit more," Cogdill said. "We all can benefit from those things."
He was quick to add that his rural-dominated district is "populated by some of the better people in the world."