The expectation in Sacramento this June is that the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will produce a rare on-time budget. There are many conventional explanations for this possibility: a multibillion-dollar revenue windfall that has made it possible to fully fund education and most other programs without having to make cuts; a new spirit of bipartisanship, begun with the passage of infrastructure bonds, that benefits in an election year the battered image of both Schwarzenegger and lawmakers; the fact that the state borrowed so much money to get itself out of a budget hole in previous years that paying back debt absorbs surplus revenue that might otherwise be the subject of fights over new spending or tax cuts.
But there's another explanation that many in the Capitol point to with hope, as they anticipate the possibility of a July vacation undelayed by a prolonged budget fight: the World Cup.
There are a lot of soccer fans in the Legislature, and among them is Speaker Fabian Nunez. He very much wants to go to Germany to attend the World Cup, which ends in early July. He can't leave until a budget has been passed.