The Unknown of a Second Term Schwarzenegger
6-29-2006 12:33 am
I planned to write today's commentary on the state budget, but then I read Assemblyman Chuck Devore's e-mail to his supporters that Nicholas Romero posted yesterday afternoon and realized that there wasn't much to say beyond what DeVore wrote (or the San Diego U-T or the OC Register).
But I do have a few thoughts on the matter.
While the Legislature and the Governor can campaign this year as having passed and signed the state budget into law before July 1 as required by the state's constiution, no one should be throwing a party.
Sure, this year's budget is not disastrous for the state. But neither is it responsible. How can any legislative body approve a budget that runs a deficit in a year when the state had an unexpected windfall of money?
I must say that the Republicans in the Legislature did the best they could--without the help of any major muscle flexing by the governor, a fellow member of the GOP. One can't help wondering what the budget might have been like if Gov. Schwarzenegger had participated in the budget negotiations before the Legislature voted (it makes this Republican think fondly on the days when Iron Duke was in charge!). Although after Schwarznegger's remarks last year about Big Five sessions, it's no surprise. ("I've never reached any kind of agreement, or accomplished anything, in a Big Five meeting," he told reporters.)
Granted, the official budget process isn't supposed to need a Big Five meeting. But the reality is that we're more likely to get a better budget, from a Republican point of view, when the GOP governor gets involved before the legislature votes. That strategy worked for Deukmejian and Wilson, but they were both experienced politicians who were interested in the details of government and were committed Republicans. You can't help to get the feeling that Schwarzenegger likes the budget signing photo op better than he likes the process. While you can't blame him (who wants to spend hours on hours discussing budget minutia with Don Perata and Fabian Nunez?), as a Republican, I voted for him because he promised to stop the spending spree in Sacramento. I think this budget violated that campaign promise.
One can't help thinking about the budgets in the second Schwarzenegger term. I'm figuring this was the best budget we're going to see in the next five years and that scares me.
I have no faith in what Schwarzenegger will do in his second term, except that I assume that he will likely continue to work closely with Allen Zaremberg and his team at the Chamber of Commerce to fight major job killing proposals. That's good. And we know that a Gov. Angelides would bring us universal health care and (hopefully) Ah-nold won't. That's good too. But everything else seems like a big gamble. Will he go down the path of universal preschool? Will he sign nutty environmental bills? (Even this year, when he's running as the Republican gubernatorial candidate and needs to appear business-friendly to his GOP base, a business lobbyist friend told me that there doesn't seem to be an environmental bill that the governor doesn't support.) Will he agree to raise taxes rather than cut health and welfare programs if the economy stumbles and tax revenues fall?
The uncertainty of a second term Schwarzenegger makes it critical that Tom McClintock and Chuck Poochigian get elected. Perhaps the fellowship of some good, solid conservatives serving in constitutional offices will help keep Schwarzenegger on the Republican reservation in his second term!
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