NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Running short of cash, California has started delaying $3.5 billion in payments to taxpayers, contractors, counties and social service agencies.
With the governor and state lawmakers locking horns on resolving California's budget crunch, the controller Monday halted checks covering these obligations so the state could continue funding its school system and making its debt payments.
The delay will inflict more pain on the already sorry condition of the Golden State, which is facing a $40 billion budget gap. People won't have tax refund money to spend, businesses won't get paid for their services and agencies won't have funds to help the needy until the budget situation is addressed.
Nearly $2 billion in personal state income tax refunds are being held up, according to state estimates. Last year, some two million Californians received refunds in February.
"People are going to be hurt starting today," said Garin Casaleggio, a spokesman for Controller John Chiang.
Also on hold are $515 million in payments to the state's vendors and $280 million to help people with developmental disabilities. Other public assistance agencies will be left waiting for hundreds of millions of dollars.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders are behind closed doors trying to hammer out a solution to the state's budget crisis, which also includes a $15 billion budget deficit for 2008-2009 and a projected $25 billion gap for 2009-2010. The governor has proposed draconian spending cuts in virtually every department, as well as hefty tax increases, to close the widest deficit in its history.