More lawmaker reaction to Arnold’s veto threat

(UPDATE @ 11 A.M. MONDAY 10/12: I’ve updated this post throughout to denote which bills the governor signed and which bills he vetoed.)

Lisa and I worked up a story about East Bay lawmakers’ bills being held ransom as Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger threatens a blanket veto this weekend unless Legislative leaders cut a deal on the state’s water problems. As print space is limited, I thought I’d post some of the lawmakers’ comments in fuller form here.

Assembly Majority Leader and state Attorney General candidate Alberto Torrico, D-Newark, said Friday that if the governor follows through on his veto threat, he’ll unveil a bill Monday explicitly banning exactly this type of legislative and executive “extortion” in the future. Torrico had asked state Attorney General Jerry Brown to probe whether the blanket veto threat already violates the California Constitution’s and Penal Code’s ban on such quid pro quos, but Brown said Friday he’ll not do so.

“This is a new low for the governor, but it really is in keeping with the tenor and tone in Sacramento of negotiation through ransom notes,” Torrico said.

Torrico cited Legislative Republicans’ successful moves in recent years to exact policy wins such as tax breaks for the horse-racing industry and a ballot measure that would create an open-primary electoral system, in return for their votes on the state budget.

He’s concerned about three bills he authored: AB 1049, (VETOED) adding the state Safely Surrendered Baby Fund to the state income tax return form’s voluntary contributions section; AB 1270, (VETOED) making it easier for victimss to receive compensation from the Victim’s Compensation and Government Claims Board in a timely manner by requiring the board to have written procedures and time frames in place as suggested by a state audit report; and AB 665, (SIGNED) to ensure that federal incentive payments given to California for increasing the number of youth adopted out of foster care will be distributed to counties to fund activities to improve legal permanency outcomes for foster youth ages nine or older.

Staffers for state Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley, said she’s concerned about two bills she has waiting on the governor’s desk.

SB 83 (SIGNED) would let county transportation planning agencies put measures on their counties’ ballots to impose fees of up to $10 per vehicle to raise money for local projects to ease traffic congestion. The Senate passed this on a 23-17 vote, the Assembly on a 46-31 vote.

And Hancock’s SB 279 (VETOED) would let cities and counties create local financing authorities to help property owners pay up front for solar-energy systems, energy efficiency improvements and water conservation measures; initial funding would come from a bond fund to be repaid over time through an assessment on the tax bills of the participating property owners. The Senate passed this 25-8, the Assembly 58-19.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, noted she has 14 bills awaiting the governor’s action – more than any other Senator – dealing with issues such as lengthening the notice given to the state and requiring public hearings before a hospital emergency room can be shut down (SB 196, VETOED); halting sales of electronic cigarettes, currently unregulated and sometimes marketed to children (SB 400, VETOED); updating the list of public school facilities that need to be seismically retrofitted (SB 305, VETOED); and reducing fraud by barring petition signature gatherers from being paid per signature (SB 34, VETOED).

“Every member of the legislature works long and hard to craft meaningful legislation. The bills would not be on the Governor’s desk if they did not have merit,” she said. “These bills are not just pieces of paper. Each one will have an impact on Californian’s lives.”

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, said she believes the governor will review every bill on its own merit

“These are vital issues to the people of California and I am sure that he will give careful consideration to each of these bills,” she said, noting she has 13 bills on the govenror’s desk. “My top priorities include AB 1386, (SIGNED) which will resolve a 40-year old dispute over a Caltrans project in my district and address local transportation and housing needs.”

She’s also concerned about AB 73, (SIGNED) without which Alameda County will risk losing its groundbreaking violence prevention program, Hayashi said. “Lastly, AB 108 (SIGNED) is critically important, because we need to protect consumers from having their health insurance policies rescinded, especially at the very moment they need costly treatment and life-saving services”


Schwarzenegger: Your bills held to ransom

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was in San Francisco this morning to make remarks to at the 40th Annual Association of Community College Trustees’ Leadership Congress. He did say a few words about what everyone’s talking about: the eleventh-hour negotiations on a water deal, for which the governor is holding to ransom hundreds of bills – some of which he admits could help the state, but which he might veto anyway if the Legislature doesn’t present him a water package he likes.

Just to let you that know I am going back now to Sacramento because we are in the middle of our negotiations. We are negotiating, and this is for a lot of people that are not from California you don’t know that, that’s why I want to tell you. We are negotiating right now to upgrade our water infrastructure. It is something that Pat Brown started in the 60s, and did a great job but it was never finished, our water infrastructure. They never built that canal, they never fixed the Delta and did all of those things because California at that point ran out of money.

So now we have been since decades talking about water infrastructure and we’ve got to bring it up to date. And of course I was elected and became Governor because people didn’t just want to hear the dialogue but they wanted to see action and that is what I am creating right now. Because we have heard enough excuses now that why they couldn’t get it done and why it’s complicated and why it’s difficult and all those kind of things, now we want to create the action.

So this is why we are sitting there, every day now, negotiating with the legislators and I made it very clear to the legislators and to the leaders that if this does not get done then I will veto a lot of their legislation, a lot of their bills, so that should inspire them to go and get the job done and to get the water for another 18 million people but for the 50 million people that we will be in the near future. By the time this water project is built which is 15 years from now we will be 50 million people. So this is why it is very important that we work, work, work to get it done before this weekend. So thank you very much and I am off to Sacramento.

The Big 5 convene at 11:30 a.m. in the governor’s office. (UPDATE @ 11:20 A.M.: Big 5 meeting pushed to noon, the governor’s office says — did he hit traffic on the way back from SF? And if the water bill is so darned vital in these final 48 hours, why’d he leave Sacramento, anyway?)

UPDATE @ 2:10 P.M.: “We can all agree that political extortion is not an acceptable practice in this state. But the Governor’s renewed threats are coming perilously close to extortion under the criminal codes and the California Constitution,” says Assembly Majority Leader and Democratic candidate for Attorney General Alberto Torrico, D-Newark.

More, after the jump…
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Schwarzenegger becomes a budget ‘stunt’ man

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said today he’s going to cross his arms, stomp his foot, hold his breath and turn blue until the Legislature sends him a budget he likes.

Well, not exactly, but close:

“At this point, nothing in this building is more important than a responsible budget and to fix our broken budget system and to create an economic stimulus package, so until the Legislature passes a budget that I can sign, I will not sign any bills that reach my desk,” he said. “That means that some good bills will fail, yes, but we do not have the luxury of stretching this process any longer. The only thing that the Legislature should be focusing on is reaching a budget compromise immediately.”

For context, California’s budget hasn’t been signed by the June 15 constitutional deadline since 1986; a quick search shows me the past 10 budgets were signed on these dates:

  • 2007: Aug. 24
  • 2006: June 30
  • 2005: July 11
  • 2004: July 31
  • 2003: Aug. 2
  • 2002: Sept. 5
  • 2001: July 25
  • 2000: June 30
  • 1999: June 29
  • 1998: Aug. 21
  • So this late date isn’t new, although we are facing a much bigger deficit than usual. But state Controller John Chiang earlier today said that’s not as much of a worry as the governor would have us believe:

    “On Monday, I testified to the Senate Governmental Organization Committee that June revenues provided us with more than $4.2 billion in reserves at the end of September, which is well above the $2.5 billion my office considers a prudent cash cushion. Although I will release the actual cash flow figures in my monthly report later this week, the preliminary numbers from July show that our cash position has further improved, providing added assurance that the State will have the resources to meet its payment obligations for all of September and into October.

    “The Governor based his executive order to cut employees’ salaries to the federal minimum wage on a faulty premise that it would conserve the cash needed to pay our bills next month. Two consecutive months of improved revenues and decreased spending have rendered his executive order to be nothing more than a solution to a problem that does not exist in the immediate future.

    “I have been working with commercial and investment bankers for the past several months to ensure the State can borrow to meet all of our payment obligations, and this news delays our need to borrow by several weeks. In light of our cash flow improvements, I respectfully urge the Governor to reconsider his executive order. To not do so would needlessly subject hundreds of thousands of hard-working public servants to financial harm and add more strain to our already fragile economy.

    “Although the last two months of revenue performance are welcome news, it will not alleviate the need for California to engage in expensive and risky Wall Street borrowing later this year. The only way to avoid this borrowing is with a budget that contains sound revenue and expenditure solutions that are free from get-out-of-town gimmicks.”

    A get-out-of-town gimmick is exactly what this blanket-veto threat seems to be, hot on the heels of his possibly-toothless order to cut state workers’ pay to the federal minimum wage. He’s sounding increasingly petulant as legislative leaders on both sides of the aisle fail to cave to the pressure he tries to exert. It’s a stunt I think people are likely to see worthy of one of his action films, but not of a governor.

    Even his movement off his no-tax-hikes rhetoric — although at least denoting some movement — seems misguided. His proposal to raise the state sales tax by a penny on the dollar for three years would bring in about $5 billion a year, which isn’t even close to the $6.1 billion the state would have in its coffers this year had Schwarzenegger not repealed the Vehicle License Fee back in 2003. And the sales tax is more regressive than the VLF, meaning it has a more disproportionate impact on the poor: The California Budget Project says the state’s poorest 20 percent spent 8.4 percent of their pay on sales tax last year, while the richest 20 percent spent no more than 3.3 percent. And that’s to say nothing of the havoc the governor’s proposal might play with constitutionally mandated Proposition 98 education funding when the sales-tax hike sunsets after three years.

    First he tried to hold state workers hostage, now he’s putting a gun to the head of the very business of government, seeking a budget deal as ransom. If I had to guess, I’d think he’s uncomfortable with giving people any more time to realize how absurd it is that California is one of only three states (Arkansas and Rhode Island are the others) requiring the Legislature’s supermajority support (two-thirds of each chamber voting yes) to pass its budget or tax increases, rather than a simple majority.

    The governor clearly wants the budget done fast. The question is, does he want it done right?