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Jan 14, 2009 - 11:15 AM
Arnold's Unraveling Stateby Judy Dugan
California is such a mess that that the state's webcast cut off (on my L.A. computer, anyway) halfway through Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's State of the State speech this morning. It was probably the shortest such speech in modern times. No plans, no boasting, just one grim warning after another:
"We are in our third special session and we've declared a fiscal emergency - and every day that goes by, makes the budget problem that much harder to solve.
As a result of all this, California, the eighth largest economy in the world, faces insolvency within weeks."
Schwarzenegger laid every bit of the blame on the state Legislature:
"It is not that California is ungovernable. It's that for too long we have been split by ideology.
Conan's sword could not have cleaved our political system in two as cleanly as our own political parties have done.
Over time, ours has become a system where rigid ideology has been rewarded and pragmatic compromise has been punished.
And where has this led?
I think you would agree that in recent years California's legislature has been engaged in civil war.
Meanwhile, the needs of the people became secondary."
Schwarzenegger shamed the Legislature with an unflattering comparison to the state's firefighters, and even taxi drivers. He didn't mention the state's structural blockade, the requirement that any budget or tax get a two-thirds vote--meaning the weird, cement-like and otherwise powerless minority party can block any budget, no matter how dire the circumstance.
The Gov also omitted his own role: holding out for the obliteration of environmental checks and balances on state road-building and construction projects in any new budget, a flat-out gift to his top contributor group, property developers.
Finger-pointing has its place, and I'm no fan of the Legislature most of the time--but Schwarzenegger has already tried that and failed.
He has also embraced all the PR that came with his earlier environmental successes. Yet he keeps holding out for picayune environmental rollbacks as the price of his budget approval. Unfortunately, his relentless fund-raising from big business casts a pall on his equally relentless pro-corporate governing, even as the state goes broke.
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