Carol Platt Liebau: Some CA Politics

Friday, April 01, 2005

Some CA Politics

Here is a skeptical article on Arnold Schwarzenegger by former NY Times reporter Seth Faison. The piece fairly drips with the condescension of the "elite" for a populist bodybuilder-turned actor-turned governor.

People like Faison underestimate the Governor at their peril. Schwarzenegger is determined to effect the structural reforms that California needs -- and he's popular and powerful enough to do it. The potential initiatives (they will go the ballot if these are not enacted into law) are: Merit pay for teachers; state budget spending caps; government employee pension reform (changing the system from "defined benefit" where the government promises that a certain amount will be received, to "defined contribution," where the government promises to kick in a certain amount); and redistricting to be done by retired judges, rather than the politicians themselves. (It should be noted that under current law, the judges draw the districts anyway if the politicians can't agree -- and that happened in the 1990 census, resulting in relatively fair districts . . . in contrast to 2000, where all the politicians agreed to draw themselves safe seats without worrying about much else).

Should these initiatives go to the ballot, as seems likely, it's going to be the political equivalent of World War III. The Governor has chosen to take on the entire spending lobby at once, and they'll come after him with all the fury of hell, flush with forced union dues and money raised on the back of unconscionable scare tactics. Even as it is, the Dems know that agreeing, for example, to pre-set spending caps will threaten their identity as a party and their political hegemony; earlier this week, I heard brilliant Finance Director Tom Campbell (for whom I worked briefly in his 2000 challenge to Dianne Feinstein) try to reason with assembly members who simply don't get it. (Talk about him being engaged in a battle of wits with unarmed people!).

Because of union forced dues and member mobilization, the Governor is going to need all the help he can get. For now, check out Join Arnold for more details. More information will be forthcoming if (when) the initiatives move to the ballot.


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