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AssemblyChambers.jpgThe entire state Legislature will meet today in a "joint convention" to get even more dire news about California's woeful financial situation.

Treasurer Bill Lockyer, for instance, will tell lawmakers that unless a budget is adopted the state will stop financing construction projects for roads and other infrastructure. That's not just bond sales for future projects -- those will stop, too. It means projects that are underway will no longer be able to draw down cash from the treasurer's pooled account as the state's general fund moves toward insolvency. Thousands of jobs could be lost.

"No budget, no state financing," said Lockyer spokesman Tom Dresslar. "The spigot is completely off. We're talking about a complete shut-off of state infrastructure financing unless we get a budget fast."

Lockyer, Controller John Chiang, Department of Finance Director Mike Genest and Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor will describe the consequences of failing to reach a budget compromise.

The state faces an estimated $27.8 billion deficit over the next year and a half.

Barring moves by the Legislature, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in a letter to state lawmakers last week that, "The state will experience a cash-flow crisis beginning in February or March."

After the lame-duck Legislature failed to reach a budget accord, Schwarzenegger called for a special session of the new Legislature to address the state's "fiscal emergency." The new members -- including 25 "true freshmen" -- were sworn in only a week ago.

Outside of the annual State of the State address or speeches by visiting dignitaries (such as the presidents of Mexico and Spain, in 2003 and 2001, respectively) - joint sessions are rare for California.

"There have been presentations by heads of state and distinguished policy experts but in those instances they were sharing their expertise with the Legislature," said Dotson Wilson, the Assembly's chief clerk and parliamentarian.

"This particular joint convention is much more interactive," Wilson added.

The format of the joint convention -- which is set to begin at 3 p.m. -- allows all 120 lawmakers to ask questions of those testifying before the Legislature.

"All the members are on the floor discussing a policy," said Wilson.

Also, late Friday Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg named the membership and chairmanships of the upper house's five budget subcommittees. See who they are.

Photo: The Assembly Chambers in Nov. 2008. Credit: Brian Baer/Sacramento Bee.


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