California’s State of the State

See the full transcript here (h/t Brian Leubitz at Calitics).

It is charming that the Governor’s only big policy suggestion was to withhold pay and per diems from the Legislature and the Governor if a budget isn’t passed by the constitutional deadline. Thank you, Arnold, that is both helpful and insightful.

Of course, he did know where to place the blame:

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.

Unfortunately, he is partially to blame for this very gridlock. He has consistently chosen not to chastize the obstructionist members of his own party in a manner that would have a meaningful effect on their votes. He blames ‘partisanship’, but not particular partisans. He wants to have his cake and eat it too: cultivating a reputation as a post-partisan centrist without alienating the conservative allies he needs in his own party. Rigid partisanship is rewarded, in part, because he refuses to use his position to punish it.

Furthermore, he misdiagnoses the problem. Legislative Democrats have been nothing but accomodating over the last year, consistently weakening their own proposals in an attempt to draw any movement out of the Republicans, and to no avail. And, when the desperation finally peaked in a barely-legal work-around budget, they watched the Governor attempt to blackmail them into abandoning years worth of environmental and labor regulations.

The state is ungovernable. Between the two-thirds rule, Proposition 13, and our on-going preference for ballot-box legislating, it has become virtually impossible to run the state on sound principles. This is not entirely the fault of the political class – the populace plays an obviously important role in initiative-driven spending mandates. However, it is unrealistic to expect the populace to be able to budget-by-initiative. There is a reason we have a representative rather than direct democracy, and we need to reclaim it.

If the Governor wanted to really prove himself to be a reformer, he would have stood up today and called for the fundamental structural reforms that would have struck at the core of the problem: prohibit paid signature gatherers for initiatives, limit the ability to amend the constitution by initiative, repeal Prop 13 for commercial (and possibly some residential) property, abolish the 2/3rds rule for both budgeting and taxes, and repeal or extend term limits so experienced legislators write the laws rather than lobbyists.

Unfortunately for California, this governor has always cared more for flash than for substance.

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Published in: on January 15, 2009 at 11:34 am  Leave a Comment  
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