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BY the time 7 o'clock rolled around Monday evening in Sacramento, California's legislators were ready to call it quits, and so they did.

Quits on the budget.

Quits on the state's credit rating.

Quits on responsible leadership.

Quits on fulfilling the California Constitution's requirement that a budget be adopted by midnight on June 30.

Embarrassingly, the elected officials headed home five hours before the deadline - a deadline they have shamefully missed 17 times in 25 years.

They didn't even pretend to be serious about coming up with a fix for the state's $38.2 billion deficit and wrangle until the last possible minute. They had better things to do, such as hanging out at one of Sacramento's popular political watering holes.

One legislator, Sen. Wes Chesbro, D-Santa Rosa, shamefully held a scheduled fund-raiser.

Meanwhile, the state's busted budget - the product of Sacramento's failed leadership - remains busted, and its situation gets ever worse.

California is all but broke, operating on borrowed cash. Without a budget, it will stop paying its bills to vendors and making payments to community college and child-care programs for the state's poorest residents.

Not surprisingly, California's credit rating has gone into the tank. The state already has the nation's lowest bond rating, and bond-rating houses have put it on a credit watch for a possible further downgrade - to junk-bond status.

That's what happens when you live on credit cards and refuse to pay your bills on time.

So now we all suffer the consequences of the failure of Democrats and Republicans alike to fulfill their duties as elected officials.

Should the state's bond rating get downgraded again, the interest rates on future bond issues will go through the roof.

Since the single point Republicans and Democrats seem to agree on is to finance the state's debt through additional borrowing, the prospect of higher interest rates is very bad news. It means that even more of the state's limited resources will go into financing past mistakes rather than paying for current needs.

So when legislators called it quits early Monday, they weren't just ignoring the state Constitution they have sworn to uphold. They were also guaranteeing that millions, if not billions, more of the public's tax dollars will be wasted on interest without benefit to the people.

Every day the Legislature fails to get its budget ready is a day closer to a decimated credit rating.

Continued failure is unacceptable.

The state's legislators are itching to get home for the Fourth of July weekend, but they should get no such relief.

Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson and the Senate president pro tem, John Burton, have plans to hold more sessions this week, as well they should.

In fact, legislators ought to be locked inside their Assembly and Senate chambers until they deliver a budget once and for all.

Enough with the politics. Enough with the excuses. Enough with the inflexibility and the idleness.

Californians need real leaders, leaders who won't quit on them again.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1U9CA
Date:Jul 2, 2003
Previous Article:GOOD TASTE.

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