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Governor Schwarzenegger Faces Opposition On All Sides

Audio

Aired 1/12/10

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would seem to need friends...as he tries to resolve yet another budget crisis.But he's facing battles with entrenched opposition on three fronts: The California Congressional delegation... The state's largest teachers' union and the state's prison guards. We're joined on Morning Edition of nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger would seem to need friends as he tries to resolve yet another budget crisis.But he's facing battles with entrenched opposition on three fronts: The California congressional delegation, the largest teachers' union and the state's prison guards. We're joined on Morning Edition of nonpartisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy.

DWANE BROWN: Leo, let's start with the congressional delegation. Of course the governor is miffed because California didn't get the kind of deal Nebraska got in its health care reform bill. So now he's opposed to the bill. Is that likely to gain him traction or alienate people he needs most?

LEO MCELROY: I think it's going to cause him a lot of problems; it's going to echo right down the line. If his problem really is getting votes in the California Legislature, there aren't too many legislators who want to pick fights with the congressional delegation, because that's usually the next place they want to end up, is replacing one of those people in Congress, where there are no term limits. So, having a fight going on with a congressional delegation isn't going to help you on either side of the aisle. In a year when you'd think the battle cry would be let's all pull together because we're all in this mess together, it seems more like the wheels are coming off the wagon.

PAMELA DAVIS: Now in the State of the State message, he talked more about recovering some of the tax money that California sends to Washington. Is there any chance that that's going to happen?

MCELROY: I think very little, and I think the fact that he picked a fight with a congressional delegation and openly blamed them, probably makes it even less likely that there's going to be any substantial movement there. California's a dog in that battle back in Washington. But when you've got the congressional delegation being told that they have fallen down on their job, they're going to get their backs up, and they're unlikely to battle much for the governor. He does have a point, there are some reimbursement levels where California gets pretty much the short end of the stick, but I don't think he's gone about it in a way that's going to get him a lot of cooperation about of the folks back in DC.

DWANE BROWN: Well, in a reverse to last year's budget battle, the governor talked about this time protecting education spending. He's looking for more federal money, Leo, by making concessions opposed by the California Teachers Association. Is that really a no-win situation?

MCELROY: Well, I think it has the potential of being a pretty bad 'push me, pull you' situation here. On one hand, he's talking about protecting education, and that's got to brighten the eyes of the educational constituency, but on the other hand, the education plans, in order to be competitive for federal money, run pretty much counter to the kind of thing that the California Teachers Association and other parts of the educational network really want to see. They don't want to see charter schools strengthened, they don't want to see parents have a greater influence on failing schools. They're concerned that it's going to put the system further out of whack, and the teacher accountability measured by student scores is a pretty dangerous path if you're a member of the teachers association. So, on one hand you've got let's protect education, on the other hand you've got let's do it in a way the teachers association doesn't want. That doesn't leave you a lot of constituency fighting on your side.

DAVIS: And he made a point of saying that he wants a provision that the state will always spend more on education than on prison, and then there's the talk of privatizing corrections. That kind of talk can't please the Prison Guards Union.

MCELROY: No, I mean we're talking open war, and these guys have not liked Schwarzenegger for a long time. I mean they've had ads up outside their union headquarters in Sacramento for a long time attacking Schwarzenegger. This just makes it absolutely open. Privatizing prison situation is one that really gets them stirred up, and the hornets' nest is stirring and buzzing all over the place. This is an absolute declaration of war, and these guys take war as the rest of us take New Year's Eve parties. You know, an invitation to have fun. So it's going to be, it's going to be messy, and the governor's going to take a lot of heat, and this final year is--in a career that's been up and down, this is likely to be the worst year of his administration.

DAVIS: Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy, Leo, thanks for joining us this morning.

MCELROY: You bet.

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