Budget +26: Kinder, Gentler PR

Comments (2)

Arnold Schwarzenegger has never been one to miss an opportunity to stoke the fires under the feet of legislative leaders when it comes to the now annual summer budget impasse. And that held true this morning in Los Angeles -- though it was a kinder, gentler rattling of the cage than in years past.

"They always start late, therefore they always will be late," said Schwarzenegger of the Legislature in a chat this morning with the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce. And yet in the same sentence, the governor avoided any direct jab by saying that, yes, work is being done... but the problem is "complicated."

With the budget now almost one month overdue, and negotiations inside the Capitol described by several sources today as pretty much stuck, the Schwarzenegger PR bandwagon may be heading back out on the trail. The governor told reporters in LA this morning that he believes the state is still "weeks away" from a deal on a 2010-2011 spending plan. In fact, he even floated the notion that it won't be a done deal until after he leaves office... maybe true, but also maybe part of that legendary Schwarzenegger rhetoric.

And he promised to be talking about the budget impasse at events "up and down the state" if needed this summer. We've seen such a PR push before. In days gone by, it was a much more provocative Arnold Schwarzenegger who railed against the summer budget doldrums, most infamously in 2004 when he called legislators "girlie men" for missing the constitutional deadline.

Ah, that was then.

Today, the governor took much smaller jabs -- choosing to simply call it "irresponsible" for legislators to again be late in sending him a plan.

Meantime, legislative talks continue over how to end the stalemate but seem stuck on what's a fairly easy thing to understand -- neither Democrats nor Republicans are willing, for now, to sacrifice anything more than they've already given up. One legislative source today described the gap between the two parties as between $7.5 billion and $10 billion, an estimate consistent with recent chatter that some things are likely already resolved... but an estimate where the high end of disagreement ($10 billion) seems to be a concession that there's no firm consensus on what's actually 'solved.'

And what will it take to bridge the gap? Tough to say. One would think that a chief executive -- a governor -- is the one who mediates between warring legislative factions. But whether Schwarzenegger can do so in this case isn't clear.

Also in the mix is what the governor's demanding -- and whether those demands are conceptual or concrete. In LA this morning, Schwarzenegger reiterated his demands for systemic pension and budget reform before he'll sign a new spending plan. He also added reform of the state's tax system to the list. His spokesman later laid it out this way: Schwarzenegger wants budget reform along the lines of 2009's failed Proposition 1A, minus the tax increase... he wants pension reform that includes rollback of the 1999 pension sweetener signed by the former governor... and he wants the Legislature to at least consider last year's bipartisan tax commission recommendations, but with no specific flavor of reform other than something that helps smooth out state finances.

The administration denies that tax reform is a new part of the budget demands; still, saying it has to happen feels like an important adjustment in rhetoric, and one the Guv hammered home today.

"I am absolutely committed," said Schwarzenegger, "that I will not sign a budget if we don't have all of those reforms in place."

That was the tough talk part of today's event -- a different kind of 'tough' than those halcyon days gone by, where the Schwarzenegger Era was just getting revved up and not heading towards the homestretch.

RSS Subscribe

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.
  • Stan Miller

    I thought the constitutional deadline for a budget was June 15.

    In your articles, you repeatedly refer to it as July 1.

    Two weeks in my organization (state contractor) is roughly 200k.

    Which is correct? June 15 or July 1

  • http://www.kqed.org/weblog/capitalnotes/blog.jsp John Myers

    June 15 is the Legislature’s constitutional deadline. Not to diminish that date’s importance, but no real world consequence comes if, say, they ratify a budget on June 16. Or June 17.

    But missing the July 1 start of the fiscal year does have real world consequences: the state no longer has legal authority to pay many of its bills. So the blown deadline that really hurts came…and went…almost four weeks ago.

    Good question. Thanks.