California lawmakers pass long-overdue budget

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California lawmakers sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger the main bill in a legislative package aimed at ending the state's record budget impasse and closing a $19 billion deficit, acting early Friday after an all-night session.

The Senate's final vote was more than three months after the start of the fiscal year, as the state was preparing to issue IOUs to state contractors. It came about 19 hours after lawmakers convened Thursday morning.

The Senate acted hours after the Assembly acted Thursday.

“Finally,” a smiling Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said as the main bill passed at 7:15 a.m.

The budget was delayed in large part because the Senate was short five members.

Senators Jenny Oropeza, D-Carson, and Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, were absent due to long-term illnesses. Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, had to leave early to attend a court appearance on charges alleging that he lived outside his Southern California district since he was elected two years ago. Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley, was absent for undisclosed reasons, and the late Sen. Dave Cox, R-Fair Oaks, has yet to be replaced.

“I need live bodies to cast 'yes' votes,” a frustrated Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said about 3 p.m.

The $87.5 billion general fund spending plan lawmakers sent to the Republican governor is nearly $16 billion less than the general fund just three years ago. It's a stark indication of the economic conditions in the nation's most populous state.

Schwarzenegger helped negotiate the budget deal, which includes no new taxes or fees, and is likely to sign it quickly.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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