Sacramento in turmoil as Arnold battles legislative leaders

Arnold Schwarzenegger versus Darrell Steinberg and Karen Bass

Well, we have a State budget. Or do we? With breaking news that at least one of the Legislative leaders, Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) is going to sue the Governor to try and overturn the Governor’s recent budget vetoes, Sacramento seems to be moving into yet another phase of governance chaos.

At least one news story reports that Assembly Speaker Bass (D-Los Angeles) is in jeopardy of losing her Speakership position because the budget she helped cobble together reached the Governor in a form that required he veto nearly $ 1 billion in order to come close to balancing it. Thus, the Governor was handed either a great opportunity, or a tremendous burden, depending on one’s viewpoint.

The Governor used his veto pen, whacking several programs that have been important to both Speaker Bass and Senate Pro-Tem Darrel Steinberg (D- Sacramento) and many who support them politically. Those programs include child abuse and child health services. Advocates for those programs are currently seeking support from Bass and Steinberg to make a run at the Legislature to over-ride those vetoes when the Legislature re-convenes later this month. A 2/3rds vote of the Legislature would produce an over-ride. Whether such a veto over-riding proposal sees the light of day in the Legislature will depend on the will of Bass and Steinberg to take on the Governor and endure the possibility of even more distasteful gubernatorial budget cuts to offset any such restoration.

Then comes the news yesterday (Friday) that Steinberg may sue to reverse the Governor’s veto. Steinberg claims the Governor exceeded his constitutional authority so a lawsuit is appropriate. The radio news reported that Bass may join Steinberg in such a suit. Is it for real, or is it a CYA by Steinberg and Bass because their leadership positions are in jeopardy because of this budget morass?

In the meantime reports are that State revenues continue to run below the level assumed in this brand new budget. This is producing more talk about another California budget crisis as 2009 draws to a close. Moody’s, the investment and bond rating agency, lowered California’s bond rating earlier this summer. Then it announced in mid-July that it believes California’s new budget is not very solid and the future does not look good. In a July 31 San Francisco Chronicle story Emily Raines, Moody’s vice president, is quoted as saying “the plan adopted this week may stop the state’s credit rating from dropping further”, but added that eliminating the deficit “was achieved through a combination of cuts, raids on local funds, accounting maneuvers and one-time revenues that leave the state poorly positioned for budgetary balance in future years.”

Not to be overlooked is the fact that Moody’s is being sued by the State employees retirement system known as CalPERS claiming Moody’s investment rankings have been “wildly inaccurate” resulting in those who relied on them, such as CalPERS, losing a lot of money. Old timers may remember that Moody’s was similarly accused when fingers were pointed in the 1994 County of Orange bankruptcy.

Also keeping the political pot boiling, there are people with plans to take out papers to seek enough voter signatures to put an initiative on the ballot to turn the full time Legislature into a part time body, such as that found in Texas and Nevada. Whether the impetus for such a movement is revenge or truly pursuit of some kind of Holy Grail of legislative efficiency, those in the Legislature are increasingly aware that the voting public is not happy with them. Thus the belief by some that the Steinberg (and possibly Bass) threatened lawsuit is as much a CYA move as anything else.

It gets worse. Some unionized State employees have voted to strike because the budget imposes furloughs and other benefit losses, and the public is beginning to see even worse than normal levels of service from its State government. And, the newspapers are reporting that a federal court has ordered California to fix its over-crowded prison system within 2 years or risk a federal takeover, leaving the State with no control but with 100% of the cost.

Has anyone noticed those ads being run on T.V by the State of Nevada seeking to lure businesses to flee California and locate to Nevada where taxes either do not exist at all (Individual and corporate income taxes) or are comparatively low? Even my Southern California high school has scheduled its next reunion out of State. Their timing couldn’t be better.

About Over But Not Out

A retired Orange County employee, and moderate Republican. The editor seriously does not know OBNO's identity as did not the former editor, but his point of view is obviously interesting and valued.