Budget Skeptic Disconnected!

Anthony Pignataro:

Just listened in on an unintentionally hilarious conference call put on by the Governor’s Office of External Affairs. This one featured Budget Director Ana Matosantos briefing business leaders across the state on the 100-day-late budget Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed last week.

According to Matosantos, the new budget “closes” the $19.3 billion budget gap from last year. It includes “substantial pension reform” and “no additional taxes.” It also includes $5.4 billion in federal funds and $5.5 billion in “other funds” that includes the $2.33 billion the state will make by selling 11 buildings in a cumbersome sale-leaseback deal and “a host of other funds” that Matosantos didn’t feel the need to explain.

There were a few skeptical questions. “If we’re borrowing from other funds, have we really solved the problem?” one chamber of commerce guy asked.

“We’ve closed the gap,” Matosantos said, though she admitted that “definitely there’s a gap for next year.”

The funniest part happened when Lucy Dunn of the Orange County Business Council asked Matosantos if “we’ve ever gotten $5 billion from the federal government.” Matosantos gave a windy answer saying basically that yes, and so far the state as received $1.3 billion and is currently “working towards getting the balance” from the fed. Dunn started to give a follow-up question, but she was cut off mid-sentence.

The External Affairs people handling the conference call immediately moved onto other callers without acknowledging Dunn’s sudden disappearance. A few minutes later someone mentioned the possibility of getting Dunn back, but the guy running the call said she was “disconnected.”

OCT. 12, 2010

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