Legislature has done its part; now it's the governor's turn
The Legislature on Tuesday sent Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger a deficit reduction package that closes the state's $41 billion budget hole by nearly half.
As expected, the governor has vetoed the package, because it didn't contain everything he wants – despite an impending cash crisis that will prevent the state from financing infrastructure projects, force IOUs on companies that do business with the state and delay Californians' tax refunds.
Put simply, the governor appears to be getting cold feet about the only solution – including any of his – to muster enough votes to pass the Legislature.
It doesn't have to be this way.
The two-thirds vote requirement for budgets and taxes has led to perpetual struggle in Sacramento. As legislative leaders, we took an innovative approach to increase the state's revenues by majority vote. Our strategy avoided the wrangling with legislative Republicans over taxes.
The great comedian Milton Berle once said, "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door." Opportunity wasn't knocking, so we built the door. Now it's up to the governor to seize the opportunity and walk through.
Schwarzenegger should recognize that our solution is the only game in town.
This is not the time to miss opportunities. This is the time for decisive leadership. A fiscal and economic emergency that started with home foreclosures and spread to Wall Street and the credit markets shows no sign of slowing.
Leveraging this economic crisis for unrelated political gain is inexcusable. Now that the governor has decided to veto our deficit reduction package, he will no doubt use the excuse that the Legislature failed to send him a plan that reduced the deficit and created jobs.
This is simply not true.
The Legislature's proposals create more than 367,000 good-wage California jobs – if Schwarzenegger signs them.
Not only does our plan advance nearly $3 billion in voter-approved bond funds to improve streets and roads, public transit, housing sites, parks, levees and water quality projects, it also includes $3 billion more for additional job-creating transportation projects.
The package includes some of the governor's proposals to expand public-private partnerships and streamline California's environmental rules and construction techniques.
The governor has balked at our economic stimulus plan, even saying publicly that he will only sign a plan that is exactly what he proposed.
Beyond the unreasonableness of that position, we have serious policy concerns with parts of the governor's proposal. His plan would completely waive landmark environmental laws for certain highway projects and hand over taxpayer money to private contractors for construction projects with little or no oversight.
The Legislature has been more than willing to meet the governor halfway on his proposals, but we cannot in good conscience back an "anything goes" approach to California's environment and a privatization scheme that would make President George W. Bush blush.
Next week we will vote on additional bills that are even closer to the governor's requests. While we can't keep chasing the governor's elusive goalposts, we can and will pass proposals that reflect the compromise this crisis requires.
We should be clear that like all of the governor's "stimulus" proposals, the additional bills we will pass do nothing to resolve California's real and immediate emergency – the cash crisis. But the comprehensive, compromise package of solutions now before the governor does.
Schwarzenegger must put the cash crisis, as we have, above all else. The state's small businesses and taxpayers deserve nothing less.
If you look at the governor's record – whether it's AB 32 or the infrastructure bonds – his success has come as a result of partnership with Democrats in the Legislature. The $18 billion budget deficit reduction plan provides him with yet another opportunity to be an effective partner. By taking these key steps to address California's fiscal emergency, we can show the people of California that we can get their work done – and we can put more Californians to work.