In this morning's story on The California Report recapping the California Democratic Party's convention, I attempted to convey the top election year priority of many delegates -- jobs and the economy -- and how that concern might play out in the race for governor.The story was complicated partly by the fact that Democrats are still grappling with exactly what kinds of economic solutions they prefer, and by the fact that the only thing on which they currently seem to agree is the villain: corporate America in general and Wall Street in particular.
But the other reason the story was complicated was because of Jerry Brown.
There's no doubt this key California issue was on the mind of the presumptive Democratic nominee for governor, but there were also apparently a whole lot of other things on his mind at the same time. So many so, that it begs the question: can Brown stay on message in his quest for a third term as governor?
Set aside the details of today's unveiling of a revised deal that seeks to swap new, limited offshore oil drilling in exchange for early shutdown of larger drilling operations plus land protection... and here's the bottom line:
Is there anything in the new version of the much talked about project known as Tranquillon Ridge that will appease its critics?
And those critics fall in largely one of three categories: those who dislike the substance of the original proposal, those who worry about the symbolism of the first new oil drilling in state waters since 1969... and those who dislike both.
And here it is in a nutshell: the poll shows a lot of Republican voter support for Poizner's tough talk on denying state services for illegal immigrants, but decidedly strong support -- even among Republicans -- for a "path to citizenship" that the candidate decries as "amnesty."
There's plenty of coverage out there of President Barack Obama's southern California trip... which leaves a niche politics blog to highlight something else -- and that's what a difference a few months can make.
Californians sure are caught up in this hope and change vibe in politics. But only when it applies to what's happening in the nation's capital, not the state capital.
That's one of the conclusions to draw from tonight's new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California. Most striking: 79% of those surveyed believe Barack Obama will be a "strong and capable president." And lest you think that's being driven by the state's majority Democrats, the poll found 66% of Republicans feel the same way.
73% say they think the nation will unite behind the man from Illinois; only 44% said the same about his predecessor, the man from Texas, in 2001.
But asked about the men and women in charge of state government, and things get ugly. Governor Schwarzenegger's job approval rating is down to 40% in the new PPIC poll, and just 30% on specifically his handling of jobs and the economy. In January 2007, when he began his second term, Schwarzenegger's overall approval rating stood at 58%.
21% approval for the Legislature overall; a measly 15% approve their work on jobs and the economy.
Worse still, 75% think the state is headed in the wrong direction, and most think the state budget fiasco is a big deal. And how would they solve it? A mix of spending cuts and tax increases was the most picked choice (44%). Also worth noting: while K-12 education was most chosen as the part of the budget to protect from the axe, health and human services was second among all subgroups... again, including Republicans. Least desired to be protected by all groups: prison spending.
The governor's proposal to temporarily increase the state sales tax to help solve the problem is okay with 52% of those surveyed; his call to possibly shorten the school year to save money was roundly rejected by 63%.
And the result that will no doubt get the tongues wagging among those who hate the state's supermajority budget vote requirement: 54% of respondents favor reducing it to a 55% vote in each house of the Legislature, an eight point uptick since 2003.
Schwarzenegger was asked about that today during his appearance at the Sacramento Press Club (yes, we get the polls early and thus ask about it before we can ever actually report the results). His response? Fix other things, from redistricting to the polarized political primary system, first. "I think it's not the two-thirds vote that is the problem, I think that the political system that we have in place is really the problem," he said.
It's worth noting that PPIC's poll does not ask whether voters would change the requirement of a supermajority vote on tax increases. Remember that without this provision of Proposition 13 being changed, the current $40 billion budget mess still would need GOP support if the solution includes taxes... that is, unless the Democratic no-GOP-tax plan was resurrected.
And before those on the left get too excited about the willingness to consider scrapping the supermajority budget vote, they should note another PPIC poll finding: 70% say they support a strict limit on annual state spending increases. That sounds like a new spending cap... one of the issues being demanded by Republican legislators.
If you're looking for the voters to figure this one out, it would seem, keep on looking.
Sacramento Loves Obama. For now, at least.
Two bits of news trickling in from the nation's capital are creating a stir inside the fiscally drained statehouse as the week begins. First, today's headline that President Barack Obama is asking the federal EPA to take another look at California's request for strict new tailpipe exhaust standards. That long battle that resulted in the Bush administration saying 'thanks, but no thanks' last year in its rejection of California's request.
"We never gave up," said Governor Schwarzenegger at a news conference this afternoon reacting to the Obama announcement. "Now California finally has a partner and an ally in Washington."
That comment makes it impossible to ignore the irony: Schwarzenegger campaigned for George W. Bush in 2004. Had a Democrat been in the White House, many would argue the EPA would have never rejected the waiver. Schwarzenegger also campaigned for Sen. John McCain against Obama, though McCain's position on global warming issues wasn't as in conflict with California's guv as was that of the former president.
Meantime, state lawmakers are starting to see estimates of how big the federal helping hand will be in terms of a fiscal bailout... er... economic stimulus. A report from the National Conference of State Legislatures suggests California could receive as much as $21.5 billion of the $198 billion package.
Of course, that number comes with some caveats; not only does it not match up to our budget process (federal fiscal years begin in October, ours begins in July)... but it also wouldn't all go towards solving the $40 billion hole in California's general fund. That number may be closer to about $11 billion.
In his Q&A with reporters today, Schwarzenegger didn't dismiss the importance of the money. "We will take that money," he said. But at the same time, he made it clear he's not ready to necessarily shrink the gap that needs to be resolved through private negotiations with legislative leaders (which continue today). And on those talks, he would only say this: "We're getting closer and closer."
Well, you won't be surprised to learn things are quiet on this day in California's statehouse, with all the political oxygen sucked out towards the east and the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States.
Many of California's leaders are bundled up and in Washington, D.C. Governor Schwarzenegger was on hand for the inauguration of President Barack Obama, as was Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, Lt. Governor John Garamendi, Attorney General Jerry Brown... and the list goes on.
Budget negotiations were put on hold, allowing staffers time to flesh out some of the proposals apparently being talked about in closed door meetings (that from gubernatorial press secretary Aaron McLear, who declined to say more about those proposals). We're told the legislative leaders and Schwarzenegger are likely to regather on Thursday here at the state Capitol.
In the meantime, I encourage you to check out some of the great inaugural coverage being done by my colleagues at The California Report -- namely, host Scott Shafer and producer Suzie Racho, who have been in Washington for about a week chronicling the Golden State experience of this moment in history.
[update 4:03 pm - Sigh. Welcome to another example of how the budget process is about as clear as mud. The original version of this posting reported that lack of legislative action on the current fiscal year's deficit could add another $2 billion to the already assumed $11.2 billion gap. That was based on the Q&A in today's weekly briefing with the governor's staff. But after seeing a copy of the document the Schwarzenegger administration sent to legislative leaders yesterday, it now appears that the $2 billion is the amount of extra solutions that would need to be found absent legislative action by mid-January. In other words, the governor's $9 billion in solutions proposed last month... would only be worth $7 billion by January. It doesn't mean that the budget hole will be deeper, just that much more tough from which to crawl. Thanks, too, to an eagle-eyed expert legislative staffer who confirmed the error of my ways in an email this afternoon. The posting below has been modified to reflect the proper understanding. --JM]
That well-reported $11.2 billion gap between state government's revenues and expenditures is expected to be even harder to resolve without legislative action over the next seven weeks.
That's the message from aides to Governor Schwarzenegger, who say that the governor's November 6 proposed savings will be worth $2 billion less if the Legislature fails to act before the end of 45-day period covered by the new fiscal emergency declaration.
Of course, that's assuming the sour economy doesn't shrink revenues even more than it already has... thus making the problem even worse; remember that the 18-month deficit figure now stands at $28 billion.
Schwarzenegger's press secretary Aaron McLear told reporters today that the governor believes the November proposal, which includes everything from a $4 billion cut in K-12 spending to an increase in the state sales tax, is still the right way to go.
But budget spokesman H.D. Palmer said today that if the Legislature fails to act, money-saving proposals start evaporating as soon as next week.
Schwarzenegger was in Philadelphia this morning (above) talking about the states' need for a federal economic stimulus package and, we're told, chatting with President-elect Barack Obama about how Californians were convinced to authorize massive infrastructure borrowing in 2006. (Doubtful the governor renewed his, ummm, October concerns about the President-elect's physique.)
So when will the guv be back in Sacramento to personally chat up the new legislators about the need for action? That remains unclear, even though Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said yesterday that Schwarzenegger needs to do more heavy lifting in forging a relationship with newly elected GOP legislators.
All the newbies got a welcome gift from the guv this week: a ceramic replica of the state Capitol with Schwarzenegger's famous signature on the bottom. We're told it opens up like a little pill box.
While no doubt unintentional, it's hard to miss the symbolism that the little Capitols are... empty. Anybody have any ideas on how to fill them up with cash?
It was vintage Arnold Schwarzenegger today in Columbus Ohio, as the guv stumped for GOP presidential nominee John McCain. Two parts of his intro of McCain are worth noting, the first for its mocking humor.
"The next Arnold Classic [held in Columbus], I want to invite Senator Obama," said the governor, "because he needs to do something about those skinny legs."
The crowd roared. Schwarzenegger went on. "We're going to make him do some squats. And then we're going to go and give him some bicep curls to beef up those scrawny little arms."
Lest anyone think the guv didn't have a point about Barack Obama, he then said: "But if only we could do something about putting some meat on his ideas."
After then praising McCain for being "solid" and the man for the job, the governor of California took a jab at the Democratic nominee's fundraising prowess in the race for the White House.
"It is true that Senator Obama has raised massive amounts of campaign funds, more than anyone in history," he said. "If Senator Obama had taken all that money he spent on TV ads, he could've bailed out the banks, paid off everyone's mortgages, and saved taxpayers a ton of money. I think there will be a backlash against all of this lopsided spending."
The Ohioans roared... perhaps unaware that Schwarzenegger is no slouch himself when it comes to raising campaign cash. Lots of campaign cash.
In fact, it seems safe to say the incumbent governor will go down as the most prolific campaign fundraiser in California history.
A quick, but by no means exhaustive, analysis of state campaign records of his major campaign committees, from his 2002 afterschool initiative to today, concludes Schwarzenegger has raised more than $136.2 million as a political figure.
But that's a debate for back here at home... where given the state's fiscal problems, one might be able to use the same argument the governor did today -- that there's at least a worthy govenrment service ot two that could have benefitted from the money he's raised, too.
Governor Schwarzenegger's appearance at the Bay Area Council's annual event this morning felt more like a celebrity interview than a policy discussion, though perhaps that changed after the first 20 minutes or so... which is when the video feed went down.
Still, a fun quip came when the moderator asked Schwarzenegger to name a policy disagreement he's had with his wife, First Lady Maria Shriver. The governor replied with describing the day he came home a few weeks ago.
"All of a sudden," he said, "I see an Obama sign in front of my home."
The governor went on to quote his wife talking about Obama. "'Oh, he's so cool,'" he said he remembers Shriver saying. The audience at the Alameda event ate it up.
But the best line came next. In a reference surely to make supporters of Democrat Hillary Clinton feel slighted, Schwarzenegger said he sees his household Obama-McCain disagreement as having a silver lining come November.
"It doesn't matter who gets elected, we're in."