COOL! We(Calif) made the front page of the NY Times.
California Crisis: Budget Talks Stall, Recall Drive Gains
June 25, 2003
California Crisis: Budget Talks Stall, Recall Drive Gains
By JOHN M. BRODER
SACRAMENTO, June 24 — Sacramento is in a state of near-perfect political
With the constitutional deadline for passage of a state budget less than a
week away, the governor and legislative leaders are nowhere near agreement
on how to address California's $38 billion two-year deficit. And the drive
to recall Gov. Gray Davis is gathering steam, adding to the sense of
California elections officials announced today that supporters of a recall
had submitted 376,008 petition signatures, more than a third of the
897,158 needed to put the measure to voters. Sponsors of the measure, who
say they have several hundred thousand more signatures waiting to be
submitted, have until Sept. 2 to produce the petitions needed to qualify
for a fall special election.
The Democratic governor is trying to deal simultaneously with the budget
crisis — with almost no help from Republicans — and the recall threat. The
result is the proverbial governmental train wreck, squared.
"I've never seen anything like this at any level of government," said
Assemblyman Joseph Canciamilla, a moderate Democrat who is trying, most
likely in vain, to broker a budget compromise. "The mood here is a blend
of frustration, desperation and utter amazement."
The surly sentiment in Sacramento is mirrored across the state. More than
two-thirds of Californians disapprove of the way the Legislature is
handling the budget, according to a survey of 2,003 Californians this
month by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. Governor
Davis's approval rating among likely voters is a dismal 21 percent, the
lowest on record for any California governor, the survey found. About half
of those surveyed said they would vote to remove him from office if the
recall election were held today.
Governor Davis says that Republicans are to blame for the crisis by
refusing to consider tax increases to pull the state out of its fiscal
problems and by pushing an ill-considered recall effort. He warns that his
Republican antagonists are on the verge of driving the state into
insolvency and political chaos by their actions.
"No one has the right to take this great state over the cliff," Mr. Davis
said in an interview on Monday in his Capitol office. "At a minimum, we
should do no harm. By inaction, we may be doing irreparable harm."
Republicans counter that Mr. Davis and the large Democratic majorities in
the Assembly and Senate are at fault for years of reckless spending.
They say they will not approve new taxes to give them more money to
squander on what they consider to be a bloated state government. Because
California law requires two-thirds majorities to enact a budget, Mr. Davis
needs to find two Republican votes in the Senate and six in the Assembly
to pass the budget. So far, he has zero. The stalemate, political analysts
say, is likely to add to Mr. Davis's political difficulties as the
petition drive moves forward.
-- continued --
California already has the lowest credit rating of any state, and the
bond-rating houses have put the state on a credit watch for a further
downgrade. That would move the state's borrowing into junk-bond territory
and impose exorbitant interest rates on any future bond issues.
"We've basically used up all our collateral," Mr. Davis said. "There's
nothing left to hock."
The current budget mess is only the latest sign of dysfunction in
Sacramento. The energy crisis in 2000-2001, which led to widespread power
failures, infuriated voters. The state continued to spend heavily even
after the technology sector declined sharply in 2001, causing a $16
billion drop in state revenues in a single year. The state's answer was a
variety of budget gimmicks and borrowing that have led, in part, to
Voters are looking for revenge, and the governor appears to be the perfect
"People now are not happy with the status quo, and roiling the waters
sounds like a good idea," said Bruce Cain, director of the Institute of
Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley.
"The Legislature's behavior — not negotiating, ignoring constitutional
deadlines — leads to general frustration and energy that has to go
somewhere," he said. "The governor is the tallest building on the
political landscape and he's the one who will get struck by lightning."
If recall proponents submit the required signatures by Sept. 2, the state
will hold a special two-part election in October or November. If that
deadline is missed, recall supporters can continue to gather signatures to
qualify for a spot on the March primary ballot. The first question on the
recall ballot would be whether Mr. Davis should be recalled; the second
would be, if he is recalled, who should replace him.
It is relatively easy to qualify for the second part. A candidate need
only submit 65 valid signatures and pay a $3,500 filing fee, or submit
The candidate who gets the most votes wins, even if it is only a small
percentage of the total number cast.
The lucky winner serves out the remainder of Mr. Davis's four-year term,
which he narrowly won last November.
The state picks up the $30 million tab for the election — money that is
not currently in the budget.
Aides to President Bush said that the White House, at least for now, has
decided to steer clear of the recall effort, though they are following it
closely out of concern over its implications for the 2004 presidential
Mr. Bush's senior political adviser, Karl Rove, has long asserted that he
believes Mr. Bush might have a chance of taking California in 2004,
notwithstanding the recent political history of the state, a calculation
that might be jeopardized should Mr. Davis be replaced by a more popular
The petition drive is financed largely by Representative Darrel Issa, a
conservative Republican from northern San Diego County, who has put up
more than $1 million of his own money for the effort. (He made his fortune
in car alarms.) Mr. Issa is expected to be a candidate on the recall
ballot, along with Bill Simon, the Los Angeles businessman whom Mr. Davis
defeated last fall. Richard J. Riordan, the former Los Angeles mayor, has
hinted he might run.
-- continued --
Many Republicans also dream of seeing Arnold Schwarzenegger run. He said
this week he was concentrating on the release of his latest Terminator
movie next week and has not thought about seeking office. Virtually all
prominent Democratic politicians in the state, including Senator Dianne
Feinstein, have said they would not seek a spot on the ballot and have
spoken out against the recall effort.
Republican leaders in the Legislature insist that their position on the
budget is not tied to the recall drive. They say that their refusal to
consider tax increases is based on the principle that the state should not
tax its way out of its fiscal problems.
The Senate minority leader, James Brulte, the state's senior elected
Republican, said of the recall effort, "It doesn't affect me at all,"
adding, "I'm not involved."
Mr. Brulte has maintained his party's anti-tax discipline in part with a
threat to work against the re-election of any member his party who strays
from the flock and votes with the Democrats on a budget.
Despite Mr. Brulte's demurral, many Democrats suspect that the hard-nosed
Republican position on the budget has been designed to soften up Mr. Davis
for a recall election.
"The fierce partisanship goes down into the policy levels, where there's
no negotiation, no discussion, no common ground," said Roger Salazar, a
Democratic consultant here. "There is no doubt in my mind that what the
Republicans want to do is bloody Davis up so that the public becomes so
disgusted they're willing to accept a radical solution."
He added, "This is nothing more than a conservative coup attempt."
Mr. Davis tries to avoid discussing the recall effort, calling it
"partisan mischief" that is a distraction from real problems facing the
"Is it a good idea for the democratic process? No," Mr. Davis said. "The
recall was not envisioned as a second bite at the apple after an election
had been duly conducted."
But he said he was confident that he would not be recalled if an election
"I trust the electorate," he said. "They are fair-minded and I trust
they'll make the right decision if they're compelled to in the future."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
i wonder if they realize NYC is on the path to the same fate.
edited to add: great article. thanks for posting all of it.
Yep, we're headed for a great train wreck. I can't wait to see what happens next.
Any place with contemporary Demsarats in charge is headed for the same fate.
one thing i haven't seen or heard about is any attempt to tie some part of the budget crisis to illegals. has it been suggested or even accurate that getting the border and immigartion in order could significantly improve CA's situation?
As the recall petitions get closer to the 900,00 needed you'll see a major "hit" from the Dems and major media against any Republican that would be a front runner. Arnold and Issa will most likely be trashed big time!
SF Chronicle ran an article talking about how Issa was implicated (DA declined to press charges) in a car theft case today.
And so it begins.