There is a sense in California's Capitol that this could be the week when legislative leaders and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger sign off on a budget-balancing plan and take a stab at getting the two-thirds majority vote needed to get California's finances at least temporarily back on solid ground.
Many, many things could go wrong. The negotiations have been conducted largely in secret, and each time some details leak out another advocacy group ratchets up the pressure to stop the deal. A proposal to eliminate targeted state funding for class-size reduction in elementary schools could be particularly problematic, for few state programs have met with such enthusiastic and universal approval as requiring classes of no more than 20 children in the earliest grades. The California Teachers Association launched a radio ad last week to alert the public, and lawmakers of both parties will feel some heat if they vote to go along with that idea.
Also worrisome is that public opposition to a key part of the budget deal -- a proposal to bring in $5.5 billion by selling bonds based on anticipated increased revenue from lottery sales -- remains strong. Approving that plan will require a vote of the people, and voters just don't like the idea.
The Public Policy Institute of California poll released last week confirms what other polls have found: nearly 2-to-1 opposition to the idea (34 percent favor, 61 percent oppose among likely voters). The negative vibes are shared by Democrats (55 percent against), Republicans (64 percent against) and independents (53 percent against).
Bottom line: Even if the Legislature and the governor do finally and miraculously agree on a budget-balancing deal, the chances are very good that the voters will send them back to the drawing boards to close the gap they had hoped to fill with lottery bonds.