In case you missed it, last week Governor Schwarzenegger, who is still refusing to be called a lame duck, called a special session of the legislature for December 6 when the new legislature is sworn in. The purpose?
Governor Schwarzenegger spokesman Aaron McLear said that the goal of the special session is to address the estimated $6.1 billion shortfall in the current budget. But that is not the truth. The goal is to salvage the legacy of a Governor who could never balance the budget, never get the budget passed on time, and saw the fiscal condition of the state deteriorate on a yearly and sometimes more frequent basis.
Let us be honest here – Governor Schwarzenegger could not get a budget passed even when he was Governor, how is he expecting to do so now?
Governor-Elect Jerry Brown was apparently aware the of the move and he and his team were more magnanimous than they should have been.
“This special session underscores the enormous challenges facing the state,” Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said in a statement. “While the governor-elect did not create this fiscal crisis, he and his transition team will continue the work they started after election day, collaborating with administration and department of finance officials, the legislative analyst’s office, legislators and others to address California’s budget problems.”
This morning a Sacramento Bee editorial said, “Lame duck session likely to be futile.”
As the Bee editorial stated, “Try as he did, Schwarzenegger failed to solve this state’s budget problem. In his seven years in office, the crisis went from awful to horrible to dreadful.”
As the Bee put it, the special session might make sense, but then there is reality. They write, “But more likely, the special session will be for show, with Republicans rerunning their calls for more cuts to welfare, and Democrats resisting.” And they rejoined, “Please spare us.”
They continue, “For a variety of reasons, from legitimate political differences to craven capitulation to moneyed interests, Schwarzenegger and the Legislature have been unable to move the state toward solvency. In fact, the state has moved in reverse.”
The reality is that Governor Schwarzenegger had his chance, but he was unable to gain agreement from his own party. He is not going to bring the two parties together now when the Republicans never had an incentive to agree and the Democrats are waiting until January when they get a new governor and a new toy.
“Brown will assume office soon enough. He and the Legislature will focus on the budget. They must consider restructuring state government in a way that jibes with the realities of revenue, and consider altering California’s tax structure,” the Bee writes in conclusion. “The current administration has had its shot. Without a specific plan to make a significant dent in the deficit, the lame ducks ought to hobble off the stage.”
The reality of the challenges awaiting Jerry Brown were made painfully clear this week when the LAO issued their report suggesting another $25.4 billion shortfall that must be grappled with, from a state that has been stung by shortfall after shortfall.
We will now see how the new system works. The Democrats are now in the hotseat in California, as they were in the US in 2008. When Barack Obama and Congress failed to produce results fast enough, the voters retaliated. The same could happen in California.
Governor Brown will get to work with new rules. The Democrats can pass a majority budget so long as there are no new revenues attached to it. That means they can cut but not spend or tax.
Moreover, voters may have a greater chance to hold Democrats accountable now, than in the past, because of reforms to redistricting rules. However, most demographers believe that the new laws will do little to increase competition, mainly because residential patterns are already divided into red and blue areas. There may be a few more competitive districts, but not enough to make a huge difference.
The voters also sent a strong message that they will not pay more money. So they gave the Democrats the keys but not control. And we shall see if this arrangement works any better.
Personally, I believe as I did two weeks ago, if Governor Brown cannot get things rolling, then it truly is time to start over.
One thing that is clear is that Arnold Schwarzenegger is now Mr. Irrelevant and the sooner he gets out of the way, the better.
—David M. Greenwald reporting