"Describing California's monumental budget deficit as 'a rock upon our chest,' Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger broke from tradition in his State of the State address
Thursday with a blunt vow not to advance any policy agenda
this year other than resolving the state's fiscal crisis," writes Michael Rothfeld in the Times.
"As lawmakers sat before him in the Assembly chamber,
Schwarzenegger said they had put their partisan beliefs
above the interests of Californians, and he asked them
to forgo their own salaries if they fail to pass the
next budget by the deadline in June.
"The speech is an annual rite in which governors normally
lay out a list of their accomplishments from the preceding
year and their grand aspirations for the new one. Schwarzenegger,
giving the sixth and next to last address of his tenure,
said he had such a set of proposals sitting on his
desk, where for now they will stay.
"His expression was serious, and his remarks were short,
lasting less than 10 minutes.
"'Addressing this emergency is the first and most important
and greatest thing that we must do for the people of
California,' Schwarzenegger said. 'The $42-billion deficit is a rock upon our chest, that we cannot
breathe until we get it off. It doesn't make any sense for me to . . . stand in front of
you and talk about education or infrastructure, or
water, or healthcare reform and all those things when
we have this huge budget deficit.'
If you want to stop reading now and instead listen
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John Myers, grab this podcast.
Team Chron reports:
"The governor's decision to give a short, pointed speech was a shrewd
political move because it focused attention on the
state's most-pressing issue while avoiding specifics and giving
his critics little to respond to, one Capitol pundit
"'I thought the tone was moderate. There was no name-calling, no 'girly man' comments, no 'Terminator' metaphors,' said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics
and Media at Sacramento State University.
But there was one mention on Conan's sword. The guy is who he is...
"'Conan's sword could not have cleaved our political system
in two as cleanly as our own political parties have
done,' the governor said, referring to a pair of movies he
made as an action-film star. 'Over time, ours has become a system where rigid ideology
has been rewarded, and pragmatic compromise has been
"At the same time, the governor tried to offer some
optimism in solving the state's fiscal crisis, telling lawmakers he came to "simply encourage this body to continue the hard work
you are doing behind closed doors."
"'I know we'll get it done,' he said."
The Bee's Kevin Yamamura adds: "Schwarzenegger delivered few applause lines, and lawmakers responded with silence, most notably
when he said they should lose pay the minute the budget
is late. In his only State of the State proposal, the governor
suggested cutting off salary and per diem payments
for lawmakers if they do not pass a budget by the constitutional
deadline of June 15.
"Many lawmakers dismissed the idea as a gimmick, and
Democratic leaders said the plan was moot because they
intend to deliver a budget this month that will last
through June 2010. To enact such a threat, the governor either would
have to win unlikely support in the Legislature or
pursue a ballot initiative.
"'You read the polls, it's very popular to pick on the legislators,' said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. 'And I know there is certainly a lot to criticize. But
I'm darned proud of the institution that I help lead.
… These are good, hardworking people, and sometimes
the late budgets are the result of genuine differences
in philosophy, in priorities and in values.'
"Democratic Attorney General Jerry Brown said the governor struck the right tone by focusing
on the budget rather than grand initiatives. Several
lawmakers, however, said the governor should have provided
a stronger vision Thursday.
"'California needs the action and courage governor of
2004,' said Sen. Jeff Denham, R–Merced. 'Promises were made that boxes would be blown up and
waste would be cut.'"
"All involved appear to be working against a Feb. 1 deadline, when the state is expected to start juggling payments
to vendors and others and may have to send IOUs to
taxpayers owed refunds and others due money from the
state," report Michael Gardner and Jim Sweeney in the U-T.
"'There is quite a bit of discontent brewing,' former Gov. Gray Davis, who was present at Schwarzenegger's request, warned after the speech. 'It reminds me of the days of Proposition 13, when the last to get the word were the people in
Part-time legislature, anyone?
Notable yesterday was a toning down of substantive
rhetoric, as an 18-month budget deal appeared to be coming together.
Capitol Weekly reports:
"Steinberg said the Democrats $18 million deficit reduction plan, which sought to do
an end-run around the two-thirds vote requirement for passing a budget, "got the Republicans' attention" enough to restart negotiations. Then, noting that
they would essentially be passing a two year budget—last year's budget, now more than half a year overdue, as well
as the 2009-2010—he got in what qualifies as a pretty good laugh line
"'When we get this agreement done in the next few weeks,
we will have accomplished the earliest budget in the
history of California,' Steinberg said."
But, if a deal doesn't come together, John Chiang is getting ready to issue IOUs.
"Controller John Chiang has launched a special working group with the financial
industry to study how California will issue IOUs if
it runs out of cash next month," reports Andrew McIntosh in the Bee.
"Chiang warned of a state cash shortage in December,
telling state departments that financial troubles could
cause serious troubles beginning in February.
"Since then, the controller has gathered several financial
industry groups representing credit unions and banks
to discuss how IOU issuance would work. The state calls
them "registered warrants."
"The group's aim: to identify and work out potential problems that could
arise with IOUs – before they start circulating, Chiang spokesman Jacob Roper said."
Chiang is expected to lay out his IOU plan in full
The Merc News's Mike Zapler looks at ways to illustrate the size of the budget
shortfall. "Payroll for California's roughly 230,000 civil servants tallies a mere $18 billion — not including legislative aides or people who work
for the state's courts or university systems. (Those 149,000 additional folks aren't under the governor's control, but even if Schwarzenegger could fire them,
their salaries wouldn't be enough to patch the $40 billion deficit.)
"California's shortfall is larger than the entire yearly budget
of every other state except New York. It exceeds the
gross domestic product of more than 100 countries, including Syria, Costa Rica and Kenya.
Closer to home, it's 40 times the size of San Jose's general operating fund, which pays for most of the
city's basic services. And it's a devilish 666 times the size of San Jose's projected deficit of more than $60 million in the fiscal year that begins July 1.
"In nongovernment terms, $40 billion would buy about 78,000 houses in Santa Clara County at the November 2008 median price of $515,000. That's almost half of all of San Jose's single family homes.
"It's also $3 billion more than the combined net worth of Google
co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, according to Forbes.
And $40 billion could purchase more than 500 Boeing 737-800s.
"Of course, the governor and lawmakers aren't talking about buying airplanes. They're weighing cuts to programs that educate kids and
help the needy, as well as tax increases at a time
families are stretching to make ends meet."
Dan Walters argues for the recognition of a core problem of governance, which the governor alluded to, but didn't confront, in his speech.
"Ideological polarization is certainly one factor in
the chronic failure to deal with the issues that an
ever-growing and ever-changing state generate, not only the budget but water,
education, transportation congestion and countless
others. But there are many other factors contributing
to gridlock, especially a fundamental disconnect between
our economic, geographic and cultural diversity and
a political system that, in effect, gives every "stakeholder" on every issue a veto power.
"Fiddling with the margins of that conflict with procedural
reforms such as redistricting, open primaries or punishing
lawmakers for budgetary stalling will produce, at best,
marginal improvements in performance.
"We must address the more fundamental conflict – even if that means a constitutional convention to
completely overhaul our governance structure."
"In a 4-0 vote, California's campaign watchdog agency approved new rules Thursday to limit how politicians
can use ballot measure committees," reports Shane Goldmacher in the Bee.
"The accounts, which have grown increasingly popular
and are now controlled by the governor and some dozen
lawmakers, are not subject to contribution limits.
"Current law only forbids spending the ballot funds
on re-election campaigns and, in some cases, politicians
have spent hundreds of thousands, if not millions,
of dollars on non-ballot-related causes.
"Ross Johnson, chairman of the Fair Political Practices Commission,
has called the accounts 'open-ended slush funds.'"
"The Senate approved a major expansion of wilderness areas nationwide
Thursday, protecting more than 2 million acres of public land from drilling, logging
and mining, including 735,000 acres across California," reports Zachary Coile in the Chron.
"The 73-21 vote was a huge victory for conservationists, who
persuaded Senate leaders to roll 160 wilderness bills into one giant package. The bill
would permanently protect lands in nine states, from
the Eastern Sierra Nevada in California to Oregon's Mount Hood and from Utah's Zion National Park to the Jefferson National Forest
"The package now heads to the House for final passage,
but its sponsors said the Senate's lopsided passage will help smooth the way. It could
be the first environmental bill that Barack Obama signs as president.
"In California, the measure would expand wilderness
areas from Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks to Joshua Tree National
Park and also would authorize $88 million to help restore the historic salmon run on
the San Joaquin River. The bill would help implement
a settlement to end the 18-year dispute between environmentalists, federal regulators
and Central Valley farmers over how to maintain water
levels to preserve a key spawning ground for Chinook
And from our triple-dog-dare files , "AP reports, " In a scene straight out of the movie "A Christmas Story," a 10-year-old Indiana boy got his tongue stuck to a metal light pole.
police say the unidentified fourth-grader was able to tell them that a
friend dared him to lick the pole Wednesday night.
Temperatures in the Chicago suburb were around 10 degrees at the time.
"By the time an ambulance arrived, the boy was able
to yank his tongue off the frozen pole.
"Police say ambulance personnel explained to the boy's mother how to care for his bleeding tongue."
He then went home and shot his eye out with a Red Ryder
BB gun witha compas in the stock.