California Politics Update With Sacramento Political Consultant Leo McElroy
DWANE BROWN (Host): Thousands of state employees in California are entitled to back pay after a state appeals court ruled in their favor over furloughs. We’re joined on Morning Edition by non-partisan Sacramento political consultant Leo McElroy. Well the governor ordered nearly 200,000 Leo to be furloughed to deal with California’s budget crisis. What does this appeals ruling mean for them?
LEO MCELROY (Political Consultant): Well, for a number of them it means a lot of suspense because this is a fairly narrow case. This is a case involving employees of the state compensation insurance fund, which is a business that is operated by the state and funded out of the insurance premiums paid by employers. The courts are saying in this case this was not a legitimate budget saving, because these people were funded from the insurance purchases and therefore it wasn’t legitimate to go with it. So that’s the one that’s going to the Supreme Court to find out whether that ruling is going to stand or not. This could involve anything from don’t do it anymore or payment of back pay. But in the meantime, all the other employees are hoping that the ruling, when it comes down, will be broad enough that it may create a basis for them to fight their own furloughs and fight for their own back pay.
BROWN: Just moving forward into the new fiscal year, the furloughs are off the table, am I not right?
MCELROY: That’s supposedly the case. But nothing’s really off the table. We’re at budget deadline day. And we’re going to miss the budget deadline again – oh my what a shock. But nobody knows exactly what’s going to be the solution that’s going to pull us through it because nobody’s anywhere near close to agreement.
BROWN: Let’s talk about one of the propositions that was passed by voters last Tuesday. Proposition 14 – how that might affect the minor political parties?
MCELROY: Well, there’s been a lot of political concern. The minor political parties, like the major political parties, hated this idea. They did not want the primary opened to all voters. Historically, the minor parties in California, unlike the major parties, actually bar, “decline to state,” or “independent” voters, from voting in their primaries. They don’t want more members. They don’t want more people participating. The Republicans and Democrats do allow independents to vote in their primaries. So the minor parties had said this is going to deny us a place on the ballot in November – and probably in many cases it will. But on the other hand, in some lopsided districts, it’s very possible that a minor party candidate could be the one who finishes second and makes it to the November ballot. The major issue in a lot of minds is – are the minor parties are really serious about electing anybody? If they are they are going to have to compete for it in the primary election.
BROWN: I suspect this will be challenged in the courts?
MCELROY: Of course, all the parties are going to go after this one. Just as they did the last time California voters passed an open primary measure. Last one was defeated. This one has survived court tests in Washington and might get by the courts.
BROWN: Well, the primaries are over, we are headed to the general election in November. Why do you call November initiative heaven?
MCELROY: Well, for those who do this kind of business, suddenly the curse seems to be off. The word was out when that special election was held by Gov. Schwarzenegger with a number of ballot measures in 2003. A the voters looked at it and said we hate all of these and voted everything down. The word was out that oh – it’s not a good time for ballot measures anymore and so we’ve had a very low crop. But suddenly, coming up in November, we’re going to have 15 or more ballot measures on the ballot because somehow the word has gotten out, oh wait a second, maybe it is a good season to do this after all. And we’re going to see competing ballot measures that are directly competing with each other – vote yes on 88 and no on 89 or vice versa. It’s going to be a real free-for-all. And trying to figure out what’s going on is going to be like trying find a friend in the crowd on New Year’s Eve in Times Square.
BROWN: Well, today is the constitutional budget deadline for the state legislature to come up with a budget plan. If they don’t, and it’s likely they won’t, where will we go from here?
MCELROY: We will go on the same path that we’ve been on before. What’s interesting is nobody remembers that last year was the first time in a long, long time that we made the deadline. Of course we made the deadline with a budget that didn’t stand up long under economic conditions. But we actually made the deadline last year. Doesn’t happen very often. Won’t happen this year. And there is no sign of anything anywhere close to an agreement coming out of the 10-person conference committee that’s trying to wrangle some sort of budget out of all of this mess that is coming down.
BROWN: Non-partisan political consultant Leo McElroy.