Governor Schwarzenegger just wrapped up a campaign event outside the Capitol in support of Proposition 11, but all the questions (damn pesky reporters) were about the state's ailing finances.
The questions come on the heels of a much talked about private meeting the guv held Tuesday with education lobbyists and advocates -- a meeting where he reportedly said things are bad, and public schools will bear part of the burden.
Schwarzenegger reiterated that message in public today.
"Since everyone has to take a haircut," said the governor, "it's natural that education has to take a hit."
The entire comment that was lifted from is below, where the guv goes on to talk about the need for "creative" solutions to what may now be a $10 billion... or more... shortfall.
As you might imagine, the education community takes issue with how much of a trim that schools might be getting in any budget cutting propopsal. They're calling talk of a $3 billion cut in education sectors a "catastrophe."
Expect such talk, and fighting, to dominate California political circles a week from now, when Schwarzenegger officially summons lame duck legislators back to Sacramento.
The Hapsburg Dynasty... Michael Phelps... and California legislators?
If you're confused, then you haven't been paying attention to Governor Schwarzenegger, the pitch man for Proposition 11 -- this fall's attempt to change the once-a-decade process of redistricting. This is Schwarzenegger's second political campaign to wrest control of political map drawing from the hands of the Legislature.
And maybe this time, the stars are aligned just right; after all, this summer's budget fiasco has only helped drive the Legislature's approval ratings towards their true nadir. It would seem simple enough to say that legislators can't trusted to draw political districts, given the 2001 redistricting deal that let numerous incumbents pick and choose the squiggly outlines of their home turf.
The government watchdog groups that wrote Prop 11 say the problem is that legislators have a conflict of interest in mapping out their own districts.
"Drawing super safe districts for legislators to run in is a very big problem," says Kathay Feng of Common Cause California, one of the authors of Prop 11. "We now have a state government that is no longer responsive to the voters."
But the pitch from the governor is different, with promises from Prop 11 that several redistricting experts say won't happen.
First, the issue of competitive districts. Schwarzenegger has long said that lack of competition between the two parties has helped create gridlock (hence the two references earlier, his joke about monarchy turnover and September's quip about what led swimmer Phelps to all those gold medals).
"There's a lack of competition there between Democrats and Republicans," said Schwarzenegger at an event in San Diego last week. "And we all know that if there is a lack of competition there is also a lack of performance."
On Tuesday morning's edition of The California Report (listen above), we took a look at a district that's competitive on paper... but so uncompetitive in reality that the Democratic candidate isn't even mentioned in a promotional booklet published by his party. We also checked in with a researcher who's recent report concluded that there's no strong correlation between competitively drawn districts and whether a legislator is actually a moderate open to compromise.
This morning on the program (listen above), the second part of our examination of redistricting focused on the specifics in Prop 11 -- the way the independent citizens commission would be picked, the concerns about whether it will truly be diverse and accountable, and the very real possibility that California might still end up with legislative districts that are squiggly, contorted shapes... because every criteria given to the new commission can only be applied after rules mandated by the United States Constitution.
"The problem with redistricting is you cannot meet everybody's goal," said Karin McDonald, director of the statewide redistricting database at UC Berkeley's Institute of Governmental Studies. "You cannot make everybody happy."
All of this means the voters can undoubtedly shake things up by approving Prop 11 on next week's ballot, but expectations must be realistic. The governor is a great salesman; but if the kinds of cooperation and esprit de corps he's promising will come from redistricting reform doesn't happen when new districts are drawn in 2011... will the voters who approved the new plan feel cheated?
Governor Schwarzenegger has finally weighed in on the 12 measures appearing on next week's statewide balance, and what might be most interesting are the ones on which he's decided to not take a position.
The list, courtesy of his political advisers, is as follows:
Prop 1A High Speed Rail Bonds: Yes
Prop 2 Farm Animal Confinement Standards: No
Prop 3 Children's Hospital Bond: Yes
Prop 4 Parental Notification of Abortion: Yes
Prop 5 Nonviolent Drug Offenses, Sentencing & Parole: No
Prop 6 Law Enforcement Funding, Gang Penalties: Neutral
Prop 7 Renewable Energy Standards: No
Prop 8 Same-Sex Marriage Ban: No
Prop 9 Victims' Rights & Parole: Neutral
Prop 10 Alternative Fuel Bonds: No
Prop 11 Redistricting: Yes
Prop 12 Veterans Bond Act: Yes
Many of these were already out there; others seem to conform to either Schwarzenegger's long track record on various issues or his known philosophy.
However, it's worth noting that Schwarzenegger is taking a pass on endorsing Propositions 6 and 9. The governor's been on board with almost every other "get tough on crime" measure in recent years, and many of these measures' supporters are ones he has stood with on those past issues.
So what's changed? Perhaps it's the fact that both of these measures come with a collective price tag to state government that could be in the billions of dollars... an issue for the governor to ponder given the news that the budget shortfall may now be approaching $10 billion. There's also the uncomfortable alliance with Henry Nicholas, the billionaire financial backer of both proposals who was indicted this past summer on drug, fraud, and conspiracy charges. Schwarzenegger stood alongside Nicholas in 2004 to defeat Proposition 66, amending the state's three strikes law, but perhaps isn't as keen to do so now.
The ballot positions of the governor didn't come with an explanation, so make of them what you will. But given the lack of a "neutral" box to check on the ballot next to these measures, it's safe to say next Tuesday, in the privacy of the voting booth, the governor will have to choose sides.