The Education of Arnold Schwarzenegger…

I was intrigued that the Governor provided such candor to the LA Times editorial board that he admitted he made mistakes, especially early in his term.

But it seems to me he didn’t go far enough in his assessment. There are several areas where the Governor, with his current goals and agenda–on the budget, health care, and other issues–is hamstrung by his previous policy stances.

* Many have made the point that today’s budget crisis yielding $10 billion in budget cuts is a direct result of his early actions. He reduced the vehicle license fee, which in the current budget year creates a $6.1 billion hole (booked as state spending because of the county backfill). There’s another $3 billion that we are paying to service the debt he create with his bond package–a decision he made rather than to either raise revenues or make additional cuts. So that’s over $9 billion right there. If he had made different decisions, he wouldn’t be in the whole he is in today.

* When he was facing the budget crisis last year, he toyed with the idea of reducing the 2/3 vote requirement for budgets and taxes. He would not have had the 50+ day budget standoff if he helped to pass Prop 56–he actually campaigned against it. He would have had an easier time passing budgets with the passage of Prop 56, which would have changes the supermajority requirement to pass a budget or taxes to 55%.

* On health care, he would already be along the way to his goal of covering all Californians with his health plan if Prop 72 (health coverage for workers of large employers) and Prop 86 (tobacco tax to fund hospital care and children’s coverage) had passed. Both were defeated narrowly–by less than two percentage points. The Governor was against them–he was likely a decisive factor. Now, the health plan he supports does include revised version of those elements. He has been clear he supports these elements only in the context of a broader reform, but it might have been easier to have those measures pass in the first place. Now it all comes down to a vote in the legislature in the next two weeeks, and a vote of the people in November.

The education of Governor Schwarzenegger has been fascinating to watch, and it seems he has more learning to do. But to the extent that he has evolved, he is hamstrung by his past positions and actions.

Health Access California promotes quality, affordable health care for all Californians.
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