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It seems that Arnold Schwarzenegger has made substantial progress in breaking through the trench warfare of California politics and will do the impossible this year -- deliver a state budget on time, with no new taxes:
Today's proposal will mark a milestone on the way to the June 30 constitutional deadline for obtaining a budget agreement from the Legislature. It is built largely on a series of deals privately negotiated by the governor, the latest of which was announced Wednesday: an agreement between the administration and local government officials that would save the state $1.3 billion in the coming fiscal year.
Despite the state's persistent multibillion-dollar budget gap, despite a Legislature controlled by Democrats who want new revenue, and despite the governor's resistance to cutting programs more deeply, he is on his way to delivering on his pledge.
When Arnold began his run for California's top spot, he received a lot of ridicule, especially from his own Hollywood crowd, about his actual ability to govern rather than stand around and look good. Everything he said or did wound up as a joke, including his pronunciation of the state name itself, although it backfired on Gray Davis when he joined in with the ridicule. No one expected him to do much with the remainder of Davis' abortive second term.
Now it looks like Arnold may wind up as the most effective governor, at least politically, that the state has seen in decades. A natural centrist and by all reports a man with plenty of personal charm and power, he has defused traditionally strong Democratic constituencies such as teachers, colleges, and mayors. By structuring deals with each group, he has managed to divide the Democrats and keep them mostly quiet heading into the November election. Only state treasurer Phil Angelides has spoken out against Arnold's budget, but other Democrats give the Governator a large measure of respect:
"It's actually been a brilliant strategy for him," said Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla (D-Pittsburg), a fiscal moderate who believes that taxes are needed to get the state out of the red, but acknowledges that it is not going to happen this year.
"He is picking off each of the natural constituencies that normally would oppose this kind of budget," Canciamilla said. "That leaves us with no one to stand with in battle. He's gotten the teachers. He's gotten the local governments. They are all satisfied. So what are you going to argue about?"
In some ways, Arnold has a lot in common with our former and current presidents. It appears that he learned a lot about "triangulation" while spending the Clinton years contemplating his future in politics. And like Bush, his opponents constantly underestimate him, to their detriment. If he can finish his first term as strongly as he started, only the Constitution stands between him and their office, and while I doubt that any amendment allowing foreign-born citizens to become President will receive ratification ... betting against Arnold looks like a losing proposition to me.Sphere It View blog reactions
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