Mixed Messages

Governor Schwarzenegger’s brief State of the State Speech January 15 focused largely on the need to pass a budget, a deed that can only be accomplished with the aide of the Legislature – particularly a handful of its Republican members. 

Schwarzenegger called on the Legislature to “be courageous” for California. 

“The Legislature is currently in the midst of serious and good faith negotiations to resolve the crisis, negotiations that are being conducted in the knowledge we have no alternative but to find agreement,” the GOP governor said. 

“There is no course left open to us but this: to work together, to sacrifice together, to think of the common good – not our individual good.” 

But while Schwarzenegger called for cooperation, the one “reform” proposal he mentioned was to not pay lawmakers and the governor for every day past June 15 a budget is not in place. June 15 is the deadline the Legislature is supposed to send a budget to the governor who then has 15 days to act on it.  

“If you call a taxi and the taxi doesn’t come, you don’t pay the driver,” the governor said to buttress his case. 

Regarding the Legislature at best tepid reaction to his comments, he ad-libbed: “Look at the happy faces I see there now. I love that.” 

 And then: “I thought that this line would get great applause in this hall but I understand why not.” 

It’s been said that politics is a brutal contact sport played in nice threads but always conducted with good manners. 

Had someone gone to the governor’s website – www.gov.ca.gov — to watch a webcast of his sixth State of the State speech they would see in the lower right hand corner of the page the words “Legislature’s Failure to Act.” 

The words are the title of a chart, which shows the number of days since the governor called lawmakers into special session November 5 – January 15 is Day 71 – that a budget has not been enacted. 

Scrolling down, there is a figure which the chart purports is the cumulative amount of money lost to the state by this inaction, a little over $8 billion as of January 15. 

The same chart is on the wall of the state Capitol just to the right of the door to the governor’s office which the four legislative leaders enter each time they conduct private budget negotiations. 

Democratic leaders of the Legislature recently complained that the governor kept shifting his position on their proposed $18 billion in cuts and taxes, which they said would help, avert what Schwarzenegger calls a “fiscal Armageddon.” 

“We can’t ward off the fiscal Armageddon if he keeps moving the goal posts,” Assembly Speaker Karen Bass of Los Angeles complained. 

Bass flew from Los Angeles to Sacramento on December 26 to attend a budget meeting called by the governor. Both Schwarzenegger and his chief of staff Susan Kennedy were on television monitors. Schwarzenegger was in Sun Valley vacationing with his family. Kennedy was in the den of her Marin County home. 

Five days later, Schwarzenegger released his budget plan to close what he estimates to be a more than $41 billion gap between revenues and spending commitments over the next 18 months. 

When Democratic lawmakers sent the GOP governor their budget proposal on January 6, he promptly vetoed it. 





Filed under: Governor


  1. Governor says we have an emergency.

    The Legislature responds by immediately adjourning,
    goes home, then takes a holiday on Monday with many
    attending the Obama baptism, then they come back for
    a check-in per diem session on Thursday.

    My kind of emergency.

    Comment by Gus Turdlock — 1.15.2009 @ 4:04 pm

  2. It is important to frame it correctly and Greg is right. We can’t go back and redo what is past but we do need to move forward. All of us. Hopefully rancor, personality and invective is over. We are all Californians and our elected representatives should reflect that. You can’t cut or spend your way out of this ditch alone. Here is to a new day and new definitions. No cynicism would be nice too but that might be too much to ask for. Off to the Obama baptism by fire. I wish him well too. B

    Comment by barbara oc — 1.15.2009 @ 5:05 pm

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