The governor visited San Francisco today mainly to stump for the May special election budget-reform agenda, but lots of other topics came up during a question-and-answer period as well.
For example, he said he’s “absolutely” in favor of extending Legislative term limits; former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez had the right idea with last year’s Proposition 93, but would’ve fared better with voters if he’d packaged term limits with redistricting reform to prove he wasn’t “acting out of selfish reasons.” Nunez, along with then-state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, were among lawmakers who would’ve been “grandfathered” into longer tenures had the measure passed.
Lawmakers need two or three years just to learn the ropes and get up to speed, Schwarzenegger said today; under current rules, that’s half the time someone can spend in the Assembly. “I think it’s a disservice to the California people,” he said.
Lots more, after the jump…
The governor indicated he’s not in favor of efforts to lower the Legislative voting threshold required to pass budget bills from two-thirds to 55 percent. Instead, he said, the state should pursue political reform that makes it easier for lawmakers to compromise and reach that two-thirds threshold; open primaries, in which the top two vote-getters advance to the general election regardless of their party affiliation, would lawmakers and candidates more room to be moderate without fearing challengers from within their own parties.
Schwarzenegger agreed California needs to invest in education from kindergarten through college, “but the question is always, where do you get the money from?” There’s little public support for reducing the prison population, and thus the prison budget, through selective early release of inmates, he said. (Critics have said this is a false dichotomy, in that there are lots of other ways to increase California’s education spending other than cutting the prisons’ budget.) The governor insisted we must “be creative as possible with how we stimulate the economy and how we stimulate businesses” to create more revenue that can be put into schools.
The governor flatly rejected the idea of repealing Proposition 13’s limitation on property taxes. “I’ve never looked at that as a solution to our financial problems,” he said, returning to the day’s theme of discipline in state spending. Asked whether he would support multi-year budgeting or pay-as-you-go requirements, he said he might, but “you can never predict the economy.” His advisers in 2007 told him “in the next two years, there are no problems in sight,” he said. “People just didn’t see it coming.”
Fielding a question from someone who characterized global warming as “baloney,” the governor replied, “there are still people who believe the earth is flat.” There’s no doubt that the carbon-based economy that helped so many prosper in the last century “be-schmutzed the world,” and decisive action is now needed after the federal government has been “asleep at the wheel for years and years under the previous Administration.”
On health care, the governor said he still believes in pursuing an “individual mandate” plan in which everyone is required to have health-care insurance on their own, through an employer and/or with public subsidy. “Each one of you is paying for the uninsured, it’s a hidden tax.”
He praised President Barack Obama for reversing his campaign-trail opposition to an individual-mandate plan, a stance he said Obama had taken mainly because unions wouldn’t support it without guarantees that health-care costs and insurance premiums will be brought down through systemic reform.
He pledged to work with Obama on this and other issues, and then seemed to go out of his way to make sure nobody confuses him with Rush Limbaugh: “I think we have to make the Obama Administration the most successful administration ever.”
The only reporter to put a question to Schwarzenegger at today’s event was the Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci, who in her inimitable way got right in his face as he tried to leave the room. She asked whether he has ruled out running for the U.S. Senate in 2010 or for any other office.
“I have my hands full with all we’re doing now,” he replied. “I’m not a politician, I’m a public servant. I have no interest in a political career.”