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More bad budget news could be on the way from analyst

By: STEVE LAWRENCE, Associated Press Writer
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SACRAMENTO (AP) ” State officials grappling with a $14.5 billion budget deficit could find they have a bigger problem than they thought. The legislative analyst's office is scheduled to release its evaluation of Gov. Arnold Schwarznegger's budget proposals and projections on Wednesday amid continuing signs of a deteriorating economy and lower-than-anticipated state revenue. When he released his budget plans last month, Schwarzenegger proposed across-the-board cuts and more borrowing to deal with a deficit then projected to reach $14.5 billion over the next 18 months. But he conceded Saturday that the deficit could end up being larger than expected. ``You can only project,'' he said after signing a series of bills that begin to chip away at the state's red ink through a series of cuts and spending delays. ``It could be that those numbers ... are off by $1 billion, and so the (legislative analyst's office) is going to come out with new numbers and with new information, and we are going to look at that.'' Also this week, lawmakers face a Friday deadline to introduce bills for this year's session, and several legislative committees have scheduled fact-finding hearings on topics ranging from obesity to teen driving to sexually transmitted diseases. Here's a rundown on some of those hearings: TEEN DRIVING ” Two Senate committees will hold a hearing Tuesday on the link between teen traffic fatalities and cutbacks in driver education programs at California high schools. According to the committee, teenagers are involved in an inordinate number of fatal accidents despite adoption of increasingly stricter licensing requirements for young drivers over the last decade. OBESITY ” Another Senate committee will look Wednesday at the status of Schwarzenegger's obesity prevention program. PRISON CROWDING ” The Senate Public Safety Committee will question administration officials on Tuesday about efforts to reduce prison overcrowding. The committee's chairwoman, Sen. Gloria Romero, D-Los Angeles, is holding up legislation that could add to the crowded conditions by creating new felonies or increasing sentences. OUTSIDE CONTRACTORS ” The Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee wants to know if the state Energy Commission's use of outside contractors is leading to redundant or unread reports that waste taxes. The hearing is on Tuesday. SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED DISEASES ” The Assembly Health Committee will meet Tuesday to look at the causes, costs and ways to control what it calls an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases. LIFE INSURANCE ” On Wednesday, the Senate Banking, Finance and Insurance Committee will examine the growing life settlement market, which involves the sale of life insurance policies from the original buyer to a new beneficiary for more than the cash value offered by the insurance company. Among other things, the committee wants to know if senior citizens, who are the primary targets of life settlement investors, are getting raw deals when they sell their life insurance. The committee's chairman, Sen. Mike Machado, D-Linden, is drafting legislation to regulate the market.