"It's The System," Says Guv

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Governor Schwarzenegger delivered today his first -- and biggest -- pitch for the six budget ballot measures to be considered by voters in May, accusing interest groups of thriving on a system of dysfunction.

His hourlong appearance at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco was vintage Schwarzenegger -- a sales pitch for his policy vision that veered occasionally into hype and, at times, bombast.

"The special interests, left and right, need the process to be dysfunctional," said Schwarzenegger in the noontime event. "That is how they control Sacramento. That is how they prevent change."

But in veering between placing the blame on the "system" one minute and "special interests" the next, Schwarzenegger sidestepped the role of the voters themselves, who have ratified virtually ever single autopilot spending and revenue measure on the books... and who will be asked to ratify the governor's solutions in just a matter of weeks.

The governor took particular aim in his remarks at conservatives who still are angry about the multi-billion dollar tax increase... and at liberals who wanted very few cuts.

To conservatives: "Those who say that we could balance the budget through spending cuts alone are guilty of political cynicism at its worst. These are not serious people."

To liberals: "Those who say we could balance the budget through tax increases alone reveal their total economic ignorance and lack of math skills. Their grasp of economics must come from living on a hippie commune."

In the question and answer, Schwarzenegger didn't seem to break much news... though he did downplay any rancor that might exist between his administration and organized labor. Unlike the 2005 special election, he said he hopes some of these groups (who are still pondering where they stand on the six budget-related measures) might see the need for these proposals differently in the current economic light.

(An interesting sidenote: while Schwarzenegger was speaking, the League of Women Voters of California officially announced their opposition to four of the six ballot measures, including the Proposition 1A spending cap and the Proposition 1C lottery borrowing. They are neutral on two measures. You may remember the governor praised the LWV last year when they helped him pass Proposition 11's redistricting changes.)

And when asked about his relationship with labor unions in 2009? "We are much more inclusive now," he said.

Again, an interesting statement in light of his many jabs today at "special interests," the long-running nom de plume he's used that seems to be largely limited to organized labor.

And though he praised many in the Legislature for their willingness to make difficult budget cuts and tax increases, Schwarzenegger also couldn't help himself, it seems, when he talked about how unrestricted access inside the state Capitol to tax revenues... is the equivalent of giving dogs a whole week's worth of food at once.

"Some smart-aleck reporter will say that I compared the Legislature to my Labradors," said the governor to laughs.

And then the punch line: "But I love my Labradors."

You can hear the event in a rebroadcast on KQED Public Radio tonight at 9:00 pm. And you can read back the (then) live Twitter I did on the event, too.

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About John Myers

John Myers is Sacramento Bureau Chief for KQED Public Radio and "The California Report," heard daily on 23 public radio stations across the Golden State.

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