California budget impasse driving folks to drink?

Legal News Line Sep. 10, 2008, 2:00pm

Jerry Brown (D)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - California Attorney General Jerry Brown, himself a former governor of the state, offered practical advice for Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is now embroiled in the longest budget delay in state history.

"Get them in the same room," Brown said of embattled legislative leaders who have failed to work out a budget that is now 72 days overdue. "Maybe serve them a cocktail or two."

If the advice sounds a little like the guys from the classic 1970s comedy "Animal House" - "My advice to you, is start drinking heavily" - it was intended a bit more seriously. Brown, along with several former and current leaders in the state, was asked by the Sacramento Bee what advice they'd offer the beleaguered governor.

Brown's comments stressed his pragmatic approach to finding what proves to be a painful process. Republican and Democratic legislators have taken turns dumping each other's respective budget proposals, as well as those submitted by the governor himself.

Republicans are blocking the budget for the 2008-2009 fiscal year from the Democrats and from Schwarzenegger because of proposed tax increases needed to cover a projected $17 billion in expenses.

"They've got to come to grips with the significant elements of the budget," Brown told the Bee's Capital Bureau. "If they are not going to have $17 billion (to balance the budget) they have to put cuts on the board. And you have to rub their nose in what it is that will have to be eliminated. It's too generic now. It's all behind the screen."

Schwarzenegger has tried to flex his political muscles, that while not as legendary as his physical ones have provided sufficient strength in the past, every way one can imagine.
He's refused to sign bills. He tried to cut all state salaries to minimum wage. He laid off more than 10,000 state and temporary workers. He's taken whatever political potshots at the Legislature he can for their failure to present a workable budget. All to no avail.

Other leaders interviewed by the Bee reflect the same sense of division that is prominent within the Capitol. Republican leaders like State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner reject the need for increasing taxes. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat and former state Assembly speaker, urged seeking "a middle ground" between revenue and expenses.

Poizner and Vallaraigosa are both reportedly considering a bid to replace Schwarzenegger in 2010, as is Brown who already has served two terms as governor in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Brown, who has yet to formally announce but has been aggressive on the fundraising trail in recent months, is believed to be the early front-runner in what could be a highly crowded Democratic primary.

Meanwhile, the state continues to buckle under the weight of billions of dollars in unpaid bills and threats of continued cuts. Likewise, 873 bills passed by the Legislature have not been sent to Schwarzenegger for signature because of his determination to veto any bills until a budget is passed.

The impasse forced legislators to cancel plans to attend their respective conventions in the past two weeks. Schwarzenegger also canceled his invitation to speak at the Republican Presidential Convention last week.

As the deadlock increases, Brown's advice for a cocktail or two may be the only thing that makes any sense in a process that could drive anyone to drink.

More News