Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger pushed his budget reform proposals this morning in Pleasant Hill at one of his trademark townhall-style meetings.
He wants the Legislature to pass a spending cap tied to annual revenue growth and create a rainy day fund as a hedge against bad fiscal times. But he faces a major political maelstrom in Sacramento. The Legislature is heavily divided over whether to impose only cuts or find new money to cope with an estimated $8 billion deficit next year.
The audience of about 50 people convened by the Contra Costa Council, a business membership organization, was by and large friendly to Schwarzenegger’s reform ideas. It was the governor’s third such townhall meeting in California, where he is trying to elicit public support for his reforms and put pressure on state lawmakers.
But there were a few prominent Democrats seated in the front row who aren’t too happy with the some of the governor’s proposals. Outside, about 40 or so protesters carrying signs chanted, “Save Our Schools!”, in response to the governor’s proposal to reduce the budget next year for education.
Assemblyman Mark DeSaulnier of Concord, who is running unopposed in the primary for state Senate, didn’t speak during the event but talked to the press later.
“The governor is very good at what he does in these meetings,” DeSaulnier said. “But to cap growth of the budget and say that it won’t impact the lives of Californians is disingenuous. We still have needs. Our education system is failing our kids. Our healthcare system has problems. How does the governor intend to address the needs of our residents?”
Contra Costa Supervisor John Gioia told the governor that he objects to proposed cuts in Medical provider rates, which he said would further erode participation in healthcare programs for the working poor.
Here are a few more photos from the event by Times photographer Susan Pollard. In the photo on the left, DeSaulnier and Gioia sit in the front row.
Also, the governor’s office sent out a photo: