It was somber. It was serious. It was short.
Governor Schwarzenegger's 2009 State of the State address is now one for the history books... but not without a sifting through on this week's edition of the Capital Notes Podcast.
We're a day early with this week's podcast, but what the heck; everything's different this time around with the State of the State. Capitol Weekly editor Anthony York and I take a look at the overall tone, the challenge for the governor to speak to both legislators and the public and large, and where we go from here in discussions to solve the massive $40 billion budget hole.
Eleven minutes, 56 seconds.
Governor Schwarzenegger's State of the State address was short... pretty much focused singularly on the state's fiscal disaster... and vintage Arnold, with a pat on the back and a wagging finger all at the same time.
State of the State speeches are always some odd blend of an address to the legislators sitting in the Assembly chamber and a conversation with the presumed larger audience of average Californians listening or watching at home. That split audience has led many governors to paint with broad strokes, finding ways to blend a general message with specifics that almost everyone can agree are worthy goals.
But Schwarzenegger has often struggled with that balancing act, occasionally throwing out some populist red meat lines that bomb with his live, legislative audience.
Today's speech was more serious and somber than most (that in itself is likely challenging for the eternally optimistic guv). But just when Schwarzenegger had made it clear that now's not the time for fighting, he threw a bit of a jab.
"If you don't mind, let me just make a little suggestion," is how he began.
With that, the governor threw out the idea, already floated by some legislative critics, to enact a "no deal, no paycheck" system for the Legislature in the event of a summer budget impasse.
And then, silence.
"I thought that this line would get a great applause in this hall but I understand why not," said Schwarzenegger.
Democrats focused on that passage as the one part of the speech they thought was off track. And in fairness to the guv, it was a mild rapping on the knuckles. Even so, it reminded many of the Arnold of Days Gone By... the "outsider" who always reminded lawmakers he could go directly to the people for "action, action, action" if nothing happened in Sacramento. That's part of his legacy -- the payoffs and pitfalls of sometimes being a "party of one," to borrow the phrase.
And surely one pitfall is how hard it can be to get divided legislators to unite, even when angry interest groups take a whack at every proposal that's floated or debated.
With budget negotiations now in full swing, perhaps the best thing the governor did in his 2009 State of the State was make the event short and sweet, and get back to negotiating. On that front, it looks like the speech was a hit.
It's a big speech. But if you're the person delivering it, it may not be so fun to go back and examine the words that don't feel quite the same with the passing of time.
This morning, Governor Schwarzenegger delivers his sixth State of the State address from the Assembly chambers. (A plug: I'm anchoring a live broadcast of the speech, a special of The California Report, heard on various stations statewide, including KQED).
In preparation for this year's speech, consider the following snippets from the past. Some excerpts sound as though they could still be said this morning; others will no doubt raise red flags with the governor's critics of promises made but not necessarily kept.
Check back later this morning for some sense of what he said this time around, how it was received, and what's next.
"Every governor proposes moving boxes around to reorganize government. I don’t want to move boxes around; I want to blow them up." (2004)
“Our systems are at the breaking point now. We need more roads, more hospitals, more schools, more nurses, more teachers, more police, more fire, more water, more energy, more ports… more, more, more.” (2006)
"If we here in this chamber don’t work together to reform the government, the people will rise up and reform it themselves. And I will join them. And I will fight with them." (2005)
"Professor Schwarzenegger is going to explain now the economics of our budget problem. Our budget problem is not because California's economy is in trouble… I said it back during the recall and I'll say it again; we do not have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem." (2008)
"These huge budget deficits are aftershocks of past financial recklessness... We cannot tax our way out of this problem. More taxes will destroy what we’re trying to save -- which is jobs and revenue… A tax increase would be the final nail in California’s financial coffin… The people of California did not elect me to destroy jobs and businesses by raising taxes." (2004)
"Together, with the help of the Legislature and the people, we brought California back from the brink of bankruptcy. We balanced the budget without raising taxes, and record revenues are flowing into our treasury, and we are paying down our debt." (2006)
"Our prisons are in crisis. We have inherited a problem that was put off year after year after year... Our prison system is a powder keg." (2007)
"I understand the concern that we have now a deficit, and that our plan is maybe too daring, or too bold, or expensive. But sometimes you have to be daring, because the need is so great." (2008)