Skip to comments.CA: Sacramento seals the 'Year of the Deal' (formerly known as the 'Year of Reform')
Posted on 09/01/2006 10:43:33 AM PDT by NormsRevenge
SACRAMENTO After a partisan battle over Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's failed Year of Reform initiatives last fall, the Republican governor and Democratic legislators yesterday wrapped up what could be called the Year of the Deal.
They addressed long-neglected infrastructure by putting a record $37.3 billion bond package on the November ballot, produced a rare on-time budget and helped average Californians through a higher minimum wage and cheaper prescription drugs.
They also increased school spending by 10 percent, moving a lagging California closer to the national average spent per pupil, and directed $3 billion in new spending over the next seven years to as many as 600 low-performing schools.
The high-tech state, long regarded as a leader on environmental issues, moved to reduce greenhouse gases during the next decade and provide rebates for a million solar roofs, giving California a chance to spawn new technological industries.
These are major pieces of legislation, said Mark DiCamillo of the statewide Field Poll, specifically mentioning minimum wage, drugs and global warming. I think they will benefit the job performance rating of the Legislature and the governor, if you ask me.
The work of a Legislature often called dysfunctional is drawing comparisons to previous landmark years of productivity some of which, for whatever reason, also came after bitter partisan fighting in the previous year.
A former Republican leader of both the Assembly and the Senate, Jim Brulte of Rancho Cucamonga, said 1993 was an incredibly good year in terms of bipartisan agreements, producing workers' compensation reform, streamlined building permits, manufacturing tax credits and reform of the unitary tax on off-shore corporations.
The year before, 1992, a deadlock between former Republic Gov. Pete Wilson and a Democratic-controlled Legislature over school funding forced the state to pay its bills with more than $3 billion worth of IOUs before a new budget was signed more than two months after the fiscal year began on July 1.
A similar bust-boom cycle occurred a few years later.
In 1996, the Legislature was hailed for producing high-profile legislation that cut school class sizes, provided more earthquake insurance, and deregulated electricity.
Unfortunately, the latter turned out to be a man-made disaster that eventually produced blackouts and added billions to ratepayer bills.
The year before, legendary former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown, D-San Francisco, had kept the lower house in turmoil by using two Republican allies to maintain control of the Assembly, even though Republicans had won a one-vote majority in the 1994 elections.
Maybe for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, Brulte said. Who knows?
But apart from the mystery of good years often following bad years, Brulte and others said Schwarzenegger and the Legislature want to have a record of accomplishment as they prepare to face voters in November. The governor is running against Democrat Phil Angelides, the state treasurer.
It's always kind of easy to do good stuff in an election year, because everyone wants to look good or doesn't want to look bad, said former Senate President Pro Tempore John Burton, D-San Francisco.
Burton said Schwarzenegger, whose four reform initiatives were rejected by voters last fall, made a conscious decision to move from the right to the middle of the political spectrum this year, agreeing to sign minimum wage and prescription drug bills similar to ones he had previously vetoed.
That's smart politics, Burton said.
Last year, Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, issued a news release criticizing the governor for those vetoes, while foreshadowing the current cooperative climate.
When the governor decides he wants to work in a bipartisan fashion with the Legislature instead of waging war against it we accomplish a great deal, Núñez said in the news release. Indeed, the word deal has been heard time and again in the Capitol this year.
Núñez, born and raised in San Diego after spending some early years in Tijuana, was called the most successful speaker so far in this era of term limits in an article last month in Governing magazine.
He is limited to three two-year terms, which means he is termed-out of the Assembly in 2008. Willie Brown, who served more than 14 years as speaker, carried little major legislation and regarded his legacy as clearing the path for the bills of other members of his caucus.
In contrast, Núñez authored 63 bills this year, some of which involved the biggest issues before the Legislature: cutting greenhouse gas emissions and giving Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa some control over the Los Angeles Unified School District. He was a driving force behind the cable TV bill.
The Senate President Pro Tempore Don Perata, D-Oakland, called the Don by some at the Capitol, had an infrastructure bill last year that became the framework for the much larger public-works bond placed on the November ballot.
After failing to reach an agreement to place the public-works package on the June ballot this year, the four top Republican and Democratic leaders began face-to-face talks among themselves that excluded the governor moving from the Big Five to the Fab Four or Little Four.
The can-do harmony established by Perata and Núñez and their Republican counterparts Senate Minority Leader Dick Ackerman of Tustin and Assembly GOP leader George Plescia of San Diego continued with the budget.
But they didn't agree on everything. Democrats jammed the governor by sending him legislation they know he will veto: bills creating universal health care and allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. However, they sent him some bills incrementally expanding gay rights that he may sign.
Schwarzenegger presented Democrats with a dilemma late in the session by seeking ratification of new agreements that would allow a massive expansion of Indian gaming. That forced legislators to choose between politically powerful tribes and allies in organized labor, who felt the compacts had weak language on collective bargaining. Labor unions claimed victory when the compacts stalled.
The governor's $6 billion building plan to ease prison overcrowding was trimmed by Democrats to less than $1 billion. Democrats dropped the only provision for prompt overcrowding relief shipping illegal immigrant inmates to jails in other states.
Schwarzenegger also did not get two budget cuts restored: $1.6 million for his state Board of Education, blocked by Democrats in a dispute over teaching English learners, and $23 million for local child health programs, opposed by Republicans because some programs serve illegal immigrants.
The disagreements, however, were far overshadowed by the big deals.
I suspect, again, this year will have a positive impact on all parties, said pollster DiCamillo. That is usually what happens, just as when you have a bottleneck or a late budget that negatively impacts all parties.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez , D-Los Angeles, (right) led members of the environmental lobby in a round of applause for Assemblywoman Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, (center) yesterday after the Legislature voted to approve her bill to curb greenhouse gas emissions from a range of industries.
Gubamint on steroids...
September 1, 2006
Some of the key agreements between Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democratic-controlled Legislature.
Bonds: A record $37.3 billion public-works bond package was placed on the November ballot to improve transportation, schools, flood protection and housing.
Budget: Aided by a $7.5 billion windfall in unexpected tax revenue from a strong economy, a $131.1 billion budget with a big increase for schools was enacted on time for only the fourth time in two decades.
Minimum wage: After five years, the minimum wage will be boosted, moving pay from $6.75 to $8 an hour in two steps: up 75 cents an hour on Jan. 1, followed by an increase of 50 cents a year later.
Prescription drugs: A program will give more than 5 million uninsured and underinsured Californians discounts on medicine.
Climate change: California is now a national leader in the drive to fight global warming after implementing a plan aimed at reducing greenhouse gases from industry by 25 percent by 2020.
Solar: A $3.2 billion program, financed by increased utility rates, was created late last year and this year to provide rebates for installation of solar power systems.
Cable TV: A bill sponsored by telephone companies allows them to offer cable TV services without negotiating with local governments, providing competition that the sponsors say will lower prices.
What -- not "YEAR OF THE RINO"?
"Year of the Trojan Horse"
Where WE THE VOTER will, if smart, send 'em all packin'...