Print this Article

Governor Focuses on Budget Deadlock in Brief "State of the State" Address

By Jeff Hudson - January 16, 2009

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's "State of the State Address" on Thursday (Jan. 15) was the briefest in recent memory, lasting barely ten minutes.  The Governor focused on the ongoing negotiations addressing the enormous state budget deficit.  Many of the Governor's remarks seemed geared more toward reaching the public via airtime on the evening news than toward personally swaying the stance of the legislators gathered in the Assembly Chambers.

Schwarzenegger said that "our state is incapacitated until we resolve the budget crisis" and "the truth is that California is in a state of emergency."

"The $42 billion dollar deficit is a rock upon our chest and we cannot breathe until we get it off," he said. "It doesn't make any sense to talk about education, infrastructure, water, health care reform and all these things when we have this huge budget deficit."

Schwarzenegger used the word “education” only four times in his address, and used the word "schools" just once.

Schwarzenegger also referred to his past as an action movie hero while describing the highly partisan deadlock that has marked the budget discussions for the past year. "Conan's sword could not have cleaved our political system in two as cleanly as our own political parties have done," he said.

He nonetheless held out something of an olive branch to legislators, saying "The legislature is currently in the midst of serious and good faith negotiations to resolve the crisis, negotiations that are being conducted in the knowledge we have no alternative but to find agreement."

The Governor called on both parties "to work together, to sacrifice together, to think of the common good – not our individual good."

He added "each of us has to give up something because our country is in an economic crisis and our state simply doesn't have the money" to support existing programs at their current level.

Schwarzenegger called for a commitment that legislators (and the Governor) "lose per diem expenses and our paychecks for every day the budget goes past the constitutional deadline of June 15." The suggestion was greeted by stony silence by legislators from both parties, at which point Schwarzenegger departed from his prepared text and quipped "I thought that this line would get a great applause in this hall but I understand why not."

A few sentences later in the address, a remark by the Governor praising California firefighters (who faced a record number of simultaneous wildland blazes during the summer of 2008) generated warm applause.

The speech was short on specifics, and contained no new proposals from the Governor – not exactly a surprise, since the Governor and legislative leaders of both parties have been huddling in intensive, closed-door negotiations during the past week.

The Governor's address drew some positive reviews from Democrats, with Assembly Speaker Karen Bass saying "I think he set the right tone in saying we are facing an absolute emergency right now, and really it's inappropriate to talk about all the great things we're going to do, until we solve this crisis."

Darrell Steinberg, Senate President Pro Tem, indicated that he liked parts of the speech, but didn't care for the proposal to dock salaries for legislators if the budget isn't approved on time. "It's very popular to pick on legislators," Steinberg said.

Editor's Note: Jeff Hudson is the editor of EdBrief and an award-winning education reporter and writer in print, radio and television media.