About 250,000 unemployed and disabled persons in California failed to receive checks from the state today as Republican Gov. George Deukmejian and the Democratic-dominated legislature fought over delayed passage of a $27.2 billion budget.
The state cannot spend money until the budget, which was supposed to have been passed Friday, is completed. The number of people who will be without checks by the end of the week is estimated to be 650,000, and the delay also will affect the state's hospitals, nursing homes and other medical institutions covered by California's Medicaid program.
No one will predict when the budget might be passed. It depends upon how long either side can withstand the pressure from the unemployed, disabled, sick and eventually the state workers who haven't received their checks.
The Democrats have proposed a budget that is about $1 billion more than Deukmejian wants to spend, and they are awaiting assurances from the governor that he will not blue-pencil cherished items before they agree to pass it and send it to his desk.
But, everyone agrees, money isn't the problem. Reapportionment is.
The Democrats are seeking assurances that Deukmejian will not call a December special election to vote on a reapportionment plan put together by Republican Assemblyman Donald Sebastiani, a scion of the Sebastiani wine-making family.
Two years ago, led by the late representative Philip Burton (D-Calif.), Democrats rammed through a reapportionment plan that appeared to assure them control of the legislature and of the state's congressional delegation for the rest of the decade.
After a year of attempts in the courts, in the legislature and on election day to reverse the plan, most of the GOP gave up and resigned themselves to their fate. But Sebastiani, 30, wrote his own plan, one that could give Republicans an additional six seats in Congress, and--in a good Republican year--control of the legislature.
Sebastiani apparently has gathered enough signatures to put the reapportionment plan on the ballot. One observer said, "The Democrats are scared out of their gourds by Sebastiani."
Virtually every year in recent memory, Democrats and Republicans have wrangled over the state budget, putting off passage while they politic and posture, shaving a few million dollars here, adding a billion there to play to their constituencies.
Previously, the lawmakers voted temporary appropriations to keep the system moving while they tinkered with the stalled budget. But this year is different.
The crisis stems from a bill passed five years ago by a disgruntled San Francisco area lawmaker tired of long-running budget negotiations. The bill indicated that if in 1983 the budget was not passed by July 1 there would be no continuing appropriations except for debt service.
The checks stopped flowing Friday, but because of the holiday the impact has not been felt. Pressure will grow as the week progresses, but to Assembly Speaker Willy Brown, reapportionment is "the most important issue that this legislature and the people have ever faced."
Tonight, Deukmejian and the Democrats took to the airwaves to denounce each other.
"The unemployed and the disabled could have their checks tomorrow if the Democrats in the legislature would just send me a budget," Deukmejian said in an early-evening broadcast.
Brown followed, saying there is a "serious crisis in this state," and asking, "Who can best orchestrate what can be done to solve these problems?" The answer, Brown said, is the Democrats.