Gov. Schwarzenegger Discusses Plans For Prisons, Education During State Of The State
Friday, January 8, 2010
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger outlined plans for his last year in office during the annual State of the State speech earlier this week. The governor discussed plans to reduce prison spending, and to increase funding for higher education.
GLORIA PENNER (Host): Well, much has been said about Wednesday’s State of the State speech as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s last hurrah. It marks the beginning of his final year in office and observers were expecting that he would be focused on crafting his legacy and, indeed, there were some proposals that could outlast the next 12 months if they survive the legislature’s filter. So, Leslie, let’s start with those proposals and see whether they are pie in the sky ideas that sound lofty but will go nowhere or are they a pathway to the future? First, there’s the jobs creation program to provide training and create or retain 100,000 jobs. The cost, $500 million. Now, we’re $20 billion in the hole in this state. What chance does that have to fly?
LESLIE WOLF BRANSCOMB (Editor, San Diego Uptown News): Well, it’s one of those ideas that sounds wonderful on the face of it, and I have to admit I’m skeptical. I’m not usually a pessimistic person but the $500 million jobs package, that is a huge chunk of change and while there are – I took a look at it. While there are provisions for training workers, I don’t really see how it could possibly create 100,000 jobs. I think that’s one of those things that sounds nice to say in a speech but realistically the most incentive that this program would offer is $3,000 to an employer who hires and trains someone and then retains them for nine months. That’s not enough to pay someone’s salary. I don’t think that’s enough of an incentive, really, to make employers go out there and hire lit – well, 100,000 new people. It just doesn’t seem like that’s going to work. It’s a nice thing to say on the way out the door but I don’t see it happening.
PENNER: You see, that’s the job of a journalist, to really dig and get the details behind an amorphous proposal like this. Thank you for bringing that up. I think that’s interesting. Well, the governor is pushing, however, John, for teamwork. I mean, he feels now is the time for everybody to work together. How will a sharply divided legislature react to that kind of expenditure that Leslie was just describing when they’re facing more deep cuts to social service programs?
JOHN WARREN (Editor/Publisher, San Diego Voice & Viewpoint): Well, first we’ve got to make some adjustments in terms of what the governor’s saying here. The whole job idea’s not something new. It goes back to the 1976 Comprehensive Employment Training Act that the Democrats put through congress, Title II of CETA, creating jobs, and that’s the one thing that’s been missing in terms of San Diego’s approach to doing something about this as a part of the economic stimulus. So this is not new. What is very interesting is now the governor is doing the Rodney King song that he’s on his way out, why can’t we all just get along. But how do you want people to just get along when you have kicked them and banged them and called them girly and all kinds of things because you were the Terminator and now you’re being terminated based on the term limits and you want to go out like Gandhi with a peace offering. I think it was a nice political speech and that people should get back to the reality of what we’re going to do. They’re not going to rally around his cigar tent and have a love fest with him just because he’s leaving. And so these ideas are not going anywhere without some real hard work, and this might be a time in which he sees payback.
PENNER: But, John, he invited every single member of the legislature to go to lunch with him after the speech and that’s 120 folks. I mean, isn’t that a gesture in the right direction?
WARREN: You know, in the book of Proverbs there – in the Bible, there’s a saying that says if you’re invited to dine with the king and you’re prone to an appetite, you should cut your throat instead of going. And so I think that this whole idea of being invited to dine with him as if people aren’t eating still doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. We got problems here. He’s talking about this great concern for the kids but he’s the one who killed the school system and took all the monies and was killing everything in sight like Attila the Hun just to balance his concept of a budget. And now all of a sudden he wants to bring olive branches. Some of us have memories.
PENNER: Well, let me ask our listeners about their memories and their assessment of the governor. That was a, I was going to say, harsh but I don’t think I’m going to use an adjective there. That was John – John Warren’s assessment of the governor and the governor’s speech and the governor’s history as governor and, I guess, the governor’s future. Do you agree with John? Has Arnold Schwarzenegger not done right by the state of California and is it time for a new governor to sort of change the way things are being done? Our number is 1-888-895-5727. We’d like to hear from you on this one. That’s 895-KPBS. And I see you want to ring in on this, Kent Davy.
KENT DAVY (Editor, North County Times): Sure. The governor’s speech was pure political gumflapping. I would agree with John entirely on that. I think the prospects of almost any of these four major proposals in here, the jobs creation, constitutional amendment on higher education, any – the likelihood of any of those actually being agreed upon in the current economic tax climate of the state of California are minimal. However, to point – simply point the finger at Schwarzenegger and say, well, it’s Schwarzenegger’s fault, he didn’t get along, should’ve gone along, I think belies – is an exercise in fantasy of what’s happened to the state of California. There’ve been a lot of talk out in the world of political and economic analysts lately, taking a look at a comparison between Texas and California. And the roots of it started back in the Bush administration when – and it was cultural then. It was the oil man versus Hollywood, and evil Hollywood, and big oil being on the righteous side. Well, come forward half a dozen years and look at the outcomes. California is the worst state in the nation for doing business according to almost every business group that is approached. Its taxes are among the highest, its economic development among the lowest, its jobless rate higher. Texas, on the other hand, is on the other end of the spectrum on all of those things. On the education system, it spends, I think, 13 – 16% less per pupil on education, gets 12% better outcomes in 4th grade and 8th grade math. Some very interesting problems going on.
PENNER: What is the lesson to be learned? Is it better to dig for oil than have a movie industry?
DAVY: Well, it may be the lesson is to create an economic climate in which businesses do not leave the state because they can no longer afford California’s regulation.
PENNER: Okay, well, I think that the governor, in his State of the State speech, Leslie, really tried to make it a friendlier business climate. I mean, doesn’t he want to move along those projects, for example, that have already received an environmental pass or an okay and say, all right, let’s get those going?
BRANSCOMB: Well, that is what he said. Again, it’s going – anything, as John mentioned, is going to be a hard sell at this point because he’s asking for cooperation from people that he was not cooperative with himself. He – That’s part of his economic stimulus plan, if you will, along with the job creation but it’s another one of those things that sounds a little more plausible than it might really be. I don’t have any quarrel with his – with those plans to make – to prod along some development when it comes especially to green-friendly businesses but everything costs money, and where is it coming from?
BRANSCOMB: …this time with the business…
PENNER: …wherever it’s coming from, he’s drawing a line in the sand, he’s saying no more cuts to education. I mean, that should give educators a…
PENNER: …a nice sigh of relief. Oh, boy, the universities, the university systems, the community colleges, K-thru-12, no cuts.
BRANSCOMB: Well, that’s about time because already that they’ve been completely gutted. The public school system is just a shadow of what it once was. Where my daughter attends school in Coronado, they built a beautiful big swimming pool, which is now closed because they have no money to take care of it. You would be hard pressed to find programs, any kind of elective programs, any music, any arts in the school any more. There just is – Their sports have to be funded by the parents. There is just very little that the kids are getting out of school except for the very basics now. And I know for some people that’s enough but I would prefer a well-rounded education. It’s gone so far I would be more impressed if he was promising to reverse it but, again, where would the money come from. It just isn’t there right now.
PENNER: Well, let’s turn to our listeners. They really want to get in on this conversation. We’ll give them a shot at it. We’ll start with Rich in Solana Beach. Hi, Rich, you’re on with the editors.
RICH (Caller, Solana Beach): Hi. My name is Rich, and I just wanted to let you know I felt that the governor has been incompetent since year one and the reason why is he took a $7 billion cut with the car tax, took it out without any idea of how he’s going to replace it. And that has actually created much of the problems we have today because he took a major chunk for political purposes by going on this car tax, he took it right out of the budget. And you can’t take $7 billion out of the budget without any idea of how to replace it, and that’s what caused this problem and it just exasperated (sic) it over time. So I think he’s been incompetent.
PENNER: Well, wait a minute, didn’t he increase the sales tax, though, so it maybe…
PENNER: …one compensates for the other.
RICH: No, he did not. He did not increase the sales tax by any amount close to what he took out. Remember when he got in 8 years ago, one of the first things he did, he campaigned against the car tax.
RICH: And our budget was about a $100 billion budget. He took out $7 billion right from the beginning and it wasn’t because of any policy concern, it was purely for political purposes because he wanted to get votes.
PENNER: Okay, thank…
RICH: And what happened was he created a situation which immediately took $7 billion out. People think he’s a smart guy, that he’s a businessman. No businessman would do that. I’m a businessman, I know exactly how you have to budget. You can’t do it that way.
PENNER: Rich, thank you so much. In the few seconds we have left, Kent, is that unusual to do something that may not be business wise but helps one in politics?
DAVY: He’s a politician.
PENNER: So he may be a businessman but he’s also a politician. That’s…
DAVY: It’s got nothing to do with it.
PENNER: Okay, very good. John, a little quick comment on that?
WARREN: And an actor.
PENNER: Oh, and an actor. This is true. We’ve had those before, too, in California. We have lots more to talk about and lots of calls to take. And we will be back in just a moment to continue discussing the governor’s State of the State speech, and we’d like to hear from you. Our number is 1-888-895-5727. This is the Editors Roundtable. I’m Gloria Penner.
PENNER: I’m going to give the other side of the story with Governor Schwarzenegger, as we continue talking about his State of the State address on Editors Roundtable with John Warren, Leslie Wolf Branscomb and with Kent Davy, and that is I took some hope from his concept of not spending more on prisons than on higher education, Leslie. And, I mean, that’s kind of a hopeful thing even if we don’t follow through, at least he said it.
BRANSCOMB: Well, again, I’m going to be the pessimist here. That was one of these kind of things that everyone can get behind. Nobody wants to see more spending on prisons than on schools. Everyone agrees that education is very, very important but it’s also probably one of the more preposterous things that he’s said. He’s proposing a constitutional amendment so that long after he’s gone, after the current legislature is gone, they can never again spend more on prisons than on schools regardless of what happens. And how can you really enforce something like that? It sounds wonderful but how could you possibly say this is the percentage that will be spent on prisons, this is the percentage that will be spent on schools, and that’s what he’s proposing. It just can’t – I don’t see how you can possibly legislate something like that in perpetuity when we don’t know what the economic scene is going to be 10, 20, 30 years from now.
PENNER: Fair question. Let’s move now on to our callers. Andy in Lake San Marcos, and, Andy, you’re on with the editors.
ANDY (Caller, Lake San Marcos): Thank you. I…
ANDY: …thought it was real hypocritical of Governor Schwarzenegger to say that now he was all for education after he’s emasculated the whole program. So it just appalls me that there are people who take him for his word when he’s been such a hypocrite.
PENNER: Well, ho – What is it, hope lies eternal in – I don’t remember the whole saying but…
DAVY: Hope springs eternal.
WARREN: Hope springs eternal.
PENNER: …hope springs eternal.
ANDY: Well, he’s definitely an actor, that’s for sure.
PENNER: Yeah, hope does spring eternal. Thank you so much, Andy. And Elaine in North Park is with us now. Hi, El…
ELAINE (Caller, North Park): Hi.
PENNER: Hi, Elaine.
ELAINE: Hi. Good morning. I just wanted to make a comment. I know it seems like everybody’s making the governor the villain and there’s a lot of blame to go around but I just wanted everybody to remember that the legislature has a lot to do with the mess and the deep deficit that we’re in. Every day that clicked by, people should remember, that every day that crawled by that we did not have a budget delivered to the governor’s desk, we went deeper and deeper into deficit. So the legislature not being able to get along with one another, not being able to compromise and put together something caused a lot of our problems right now.
PENNER: Thank you very much, Elaine. I think that she really has a point there, doesn’t she, Kent? I mean, it’s not all on the governor’s shoulders.
DAVY: I think that’s – she’s exactly right. It is California politicians, our political class in general. California’s a state that’s run by special interest groups. It is governed from the edges inward. The power in the state is principally with the public service unions of various stripes. And an interesting – one way you could look at his prison-education comment is to suppose that in some sense he’s setting up a struggle between the most powerful union in the state, the prison guards, against the teachers union.
PENNER: Okay, and final comment from you, Leslie?
BRANSCOMB: Well, I would like to add to that, I think part of the struggle in the legislature also has to do with this increasing polarization between the Republicans and the Democrats which isn’t strictly a California phenomena. It seems that the urge toward compromise and civility has really gone by the wayside as the two parties are increasingly at each other’s throats and refuse to compromise. That’s what held up the budget in California and you see this on a federal level as well. It isn’t unique…
PENNER: Okay, well…
BRANSCOMB: …to the state.
PENNER: Thank you very much. On that note, let’s move on. We still have one more segment to do. Callers, if we didn’t get through to you, you want to leave your comment. Go to KPBS.org/Editors and leave your comment there. We will read them and so will a lot of other people. All right, now we move on.