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Nobody knows when a state budget deal will be struck - but judging from lawmakers' answers to a question about their vacation plans, don't bet the mortgage on a breakthrough any time soon.

With the start of a new fiscal year looming, July 1, several lawmakers were asked when they would feel comfortable making vacation plans.

"I have none whatsoever for the entire summer, " said Assemblyman Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, a member of the Legislature's joint budget conference committee.

Nielsen said he hopes that an impasse would not last all summer.

"I'm the insufferable optimist and I hope not," he said. "But it well could."

"I've already canceled vacation plans for July," said Sen. Robert Dutton, a Rancho Cucamonga Republican who also sits on the conference committee assigned to craft a budget to be considered by both houses.

Assembly Republican leader Martin Garrick is clearing his schedule for a long impasse, if necessary. "Next year," he said of vacationing.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, is ready for whatever happens, apparently. "I'm not making vacation plans," he said simply.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a Politico interview, vowed recently to "hold up the budget" until lawmakers agree to overhaul the pension system for future state employees.

"It doesn't matter how long it drags, into the summer or fall or into November or after my administration -- and I think the people will support that," Schwarzenegger said.

Daniel J.B. Mitchell, a UCLA professor emeritus of public policy and management, said pressure to strike a deal will intensify as the state moves closer to the Nov. 2 election in which 100 legislative seats are up for grabs.

"People in the Legislature need to get home and campaign," he said. "There's just a lot of pressure that begins to build."


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