GOP candidates back away from Calif. budget deal

Legal News Line Feb. 17, 2009, 4:47pm

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Legal Newsline) - With prominent Democrats eying a run for governor in 2010 mired in the fiscal calamity paralyzing the state, the two most prominent Republicans are on the outside looking in, a vantage point both used to bolster their campaigns on Tuesday.

With state Lawmakers deadlocked over a budget deal that would shore up the state's $42 billion deficit, state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner and former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman, weighed in today on the state's budget crisis, saying the current talks are headed in the wrong direction.

Likely Democratic candidates, among them California Attorney General Jerry Brown, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, have chosen to remain distant from the ongoing battles in Sacramento, between conservative GOP legislators, the Democratic majority and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Newsom has his own budget problem in San Francisco, and Brown and Garamendi have been drawn into the political fire recently opposing the governor's exective order to force unpaid days off for state workers.

Most early polls show the Democratic contenders with far more name recognition than their potential Republican opponents, increasing the need for Poizner and Whitman to gain exposure at a time when public trust of Sacramento is on the decline.

Poizner called on lawmakers to stop the 18-month old battle between conservative no-tax Republicans and Democrats in the majority of both houses. After three straight days, and nights, of negotiating, Democrats and Schwarzenegger are still one Republican vote shy of passing the budget revisions that include billions in spending cuts and billions in new taxes.

Poizner said the Legislature should turn its attention to a six-month emergency package that would keep California solvent without significant increases to the sales tax and gasoline tax, that he asserts would hurt the working-class poor and middle class the most, according to published reports.

"They don't have the guts to raise taxes on rich people because rich people have lobbyists and rich people are mobile and rich people will leave," Poizner said in a meeting today with The Sacramento Bee. "And yet they're raising taxes on people who aren't mobile, who don't have lobbyists. This is really the most disgusting, terrible thing I've heard in a long time -- the idea of raising $14 billion of taxes on working class people who are about to lose their homes."

While Poizner pointed the finger at Democrats, and sought to curry favor with Republicans under pressure to approve the budget deal while facing the furor of conservative no-tax voters back home, he did not mention that most of the tax increases were first proposed by Schwarzenegger, a fellow Republican.

Meanwhile according to published reports, Whitman said if she is elected the next governor, she would create two million private sector jobs in California in her first five years in office.

Whitman recently announced her intention to run for the state's highest office, despite no previous political experience. She said her business background is exactly the type of outsider approach the state needs to change the destructive way it currently operates.

"California is out of time," Whitman said on Tuesday in front of roughly 100 invited guests. "The next governor has to replace the state's bloated and chaotic government with a coordinated and streamlined government."

Though Whitman has not formally announced her candidacy, she has planned three "vision speeches" this week to lay out her political agenda. She is highly critical of the budget deal currently under negotiation that would start to close the state's deficit.

"The professional politicians in Sacramento can't see past their differences long enough to save the state they claim to love," she said.

In addition to creating two million jobs, Whitman said as governor she would cut $15 billion in bloated state spending, despite having to work with a Democratic-controlled Legislature.

When first elected to office, Schwarzenegger, who like Whitman was a political novice, said he too would break the deadlock in the Capitol

Since then, Schwarzenegger has been forced to take drastic measures in light of a budget accord last year that he said failed to address the long-term needs of the state, and revenue that came up far short of last year's projections. He sent layoff notices to 20,000 state workers on Tuesday, on the heels of instituting mandatory unpaid furloughs two days a month from 238,000 state workers.

The Department of Motor Vehicles was forced to close on Feb. 6 as a result.

Last weekend, the governor reached a deal with the largest state employee union to cut furloughs from two days a month to just one for its 95,000 state employees, including some who work for the Department of Justice and lieutenant governor who have resisted the governor's attempts to furlough its workers.

Officials from he attorney general's office, along with the other five independent statewide offices, believe the governor cannot force mandatory furlough on its employees. The attorney general's office released a letter last week saying Schwarzenegger was deceptively trying to impose it on Department of Justice employees.

The union also gave back two paid state holidays - Lincoln's birthday and Columbus Day. Employees who work those days would not be paid overtime, according to published reports.

The agreement, if ratified by the union members, would be in force until June 30, 2010.

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