Not just refunds, either. Welfare checks and student grants will be held back, too. Let it be a lesson to those of us who pay estimated tax, me most of all: In these trying times, don’t overpay.

Instead, ask yourself, “What would Tim Geithner do?”

The controller said the suspended payments could be rolled into IOUs if California still lacked sufficient cash to pay its bills come March or April.

“I take this action with great reluctance,” Chiang said at a news conference in his office. But he said that without action to close the deficit, “there is no way to make it through February unscathed.”

There’s a hitch with the IOUs, though:

In 1992, banks honored the state’s IOUs, cashing them on demand, and then receiving an additional 5% from the state when it made good on the obligations. In effect, the IOUs served the state as unsecured bridge loans from banks. But this time around, with credit tight and banks still feeling the impact of the fall meltdown in the financial services industry, it is not yet clear how banks will respond.

“Nobody’s making any decision whether ‘Bank X’ will take the IOUs as money or not,” said Brian Tobin, a Culver City based tax preparer.

I hereby formally open the pool on guessing which date California will be bailed out. I’ll take February 28. Exit question: Where’s the recall petition for Arnold?

Tags: California