Has California become the Chicago Cubs of states, adopting the slogan, "Wait 'til next year?"
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg each suggested that was the case in comments Monday.
The Republican governor told the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce on Monday that hashing out the state budget would take just a few more weeks. But speaking to reporters afterward, Schwarzenegger threatened to push talks to the brink -- all the way into the next governorship. He said he will hold out until he gets major long-term changes to the state's pension structure, tax system and budget system.
"If I don't get all of the things that we need in order to be fiscally responsible and to make the changes, the tax reforms, the budget reforms and the pension reforms, I will not sign a budget and it could actually drag out until the next governor gets into office," Schwarzenegger said, according to audio of his remarks.
Steinberg, D-Sacramento, responded by vowing to be just as stubborn in budget negotiations if Schwarzenegger does not agree to delay corporate tax breaks and maintain welfare and child care for low-income residents.
"If the governor continues to insist on granting billions in corporate tax cuts financed by drastic cuts to public education and programs for working mothers and their children, I am prepared to grant his wish by waiting for the next governor," Steinberg said in a statement.
So what to make of all this chest beating?
It's a sign that Democrats and Republicans remain distant, which they acknowledge. Each side continues to stick to its main negotiating points. For Democrats, it's sustaining social services and education programs with some new taxes; for Republicans, it's reducing public employee pensions and blocking any tax hikes.
In actuality, it's hard to see how Schwarzenegger would fail to sign a budget as his final legacy piece - and as someone desperate for more victories to close out a tumultuous second term. It's also hard to see how Democrats would wait until January, given how much public programs would suffer without a budget and the lingering threat of minimum wage for state employees. Not to mention the fact that the next governor may be Republican Meg Whitman.
But neither side will admit as much.
Updated 4:37 p.m. to correct quote from Schwarzenegger.