Budget Battles: Maldo v. Poizner

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Ah, the fun days of budget brawling aren't over yet.

Today's tussle features the most prominent Republican legislator to vote in support of the $40 billion budget package last month... and the highest ranking Republican running for his party's nomination to be governor in 2010.

Abel Maldonado vs. Steve Poizner. And now the opening salvo by the gentleman from Santa Barbara County:

Maldonado, in an open letter today to Poizner, jabs at the sitting insurance commissioner for his criticism of Proposition 1A, the spending cap/rainy day fund/defacto longer tax increase proposal on the May 19 ballot. Poizner has urged the California Republican Party to oppose the measure championed by their presumed standard bearer, Governor Schwarzenegger.

"Your behavior and actions have proven to me that you are not interested in governing," writes Maldonado, the GOP state senator from the Central Coast. "What," says the letter, "are your solutions to this budget crisis? I don’t mean the platitudes you espouse when you are securely behind your podium. I want to know what, where, and how much you would cut from our state budget?"

Maldonado goes on to poke the multi-millionaire Poizner for accepting not only a salary, but a pay increase in 2007. The letter (read it here) is written on stationery for a group called "Yes on 1F," which a Maldonado political spokesperson says is a new group formed in support of the no-salary-hike-in-deficit-years measure, Proposition 1F.

(To be fair, Maldonado himself is a man of personal wealth, though perhaps not on the level of Poizner.)

It's doubtful that Prop 1F needs any real campaign to ensure passage. As reported last week, the most recent statewide survey found that a whopping 81% of those polled say they support the proposal.

Maldonado has made it clear he's interested in another run for statewide office, and so the dustup certainly can't hurt for him in the PR department. It's also the kind of critique that the campaign in support of Prop 1A and the budget package as a whole will no doubt like, as it offers up a rebuttal to weeks of high-profile critcisms of the measures.

[UPDATE 3:26pm And here's the official response, in part, from the Poizner political team... "Maldonado's letter is a bit like the arsonist lashing out at the fire department for not stopping him from burning the village. Perhaps Mr. Maldonado is feeling the heat today given that the sales tax increase he supported will begin tomorrow... Raising taxes is a recipe for disaster, not reform."]

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About John Myers

John Myers is senior editor of KQED's new multimedia California Politics & Government Desk.  He has covered California politics for most of the past two decades -- serving previously as Sacramento bureau chief for KQED News and, most recently, as political editor for KXTV News10 (ABC) in Sacramento. He moderated the only gubernatorial debate of 2014, and was named one of the nation's top statehouse reporters by The Washington Post. Follow him on Twitter @johnmyers.

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