Monday, April 11, 2005

"One Down, Three to Go" 

In the face of vociferous public opposition from such so-called "special interests" as policemen, firefighters, and teachers, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has at least temporarily dropped his campaign to "reform" California's public-pension system. Hasty retreat, or crafty jiujitsu move? That's the question S.F. Chronicle columnists Matier and Ross pose in the article below, an insider's tip sheet to the ballot measures Schwarzenegger still hopes to put before voters this November -- at an estimated cost of $70 million:
  • Teacher pay and education changes: Stalemate now -- but compromise possible.

    The governor's team continues to say the Democrats are stalling and accuses them of being in the grip of the California Teachers Association. Democrats such as state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata counter that the governor continues to be all over the map when it comes to laying out exactly what he wants . . . .

    The fly in the ointment, however, could still be merit pay for teachers - - something the unions oppose.

  • Redistricting: Schwarzenegger's idea of having judges redraw legislative and congressional districts so they would be more balanced has never been a barn burner with your average voter. Even some Republican leaders are leery . . . .

    Insiders' prognosis: The governor will get his way ... but not until 2010.

  • State spending cap: This is where the real fight will be. Team Arnold insiders tell us that if deals are struck on education and redistricting, all the money that would have gone into those measures and into pension overhaul will be pulled into this fight.

    Democrats counter, if that's what you want, have at it.

    "We just passed a spending cap last year,'' Perata said. "This latest one is just a way to trigger automatic cuts if a budget can't be worked out. It's like setting off a nuclear bomb and then being able to walk away from it, saying, 'It's not my fault.' "

    Both sides agree, however, that the Democrats got a big break on the issue, thanks to Attorney General (and gubernatorial hopeful) Bill Lockyer.

    Lockyer -- who by law got to write the proposed initiative's official "title and summary" -- has nicely hung a 100-pound weight around its neck by stating it would "change state minimum school funding requirements, permitting suspension of minimum spending requirements.''

    In other words -- it could cut Proposition 98 funding for schools . . . .

    "Let there be no doubt,'' said Stutzman, "the attorney general is nursing along some of the very same special interests that have helped him throughout his career."

    Not so, shot back Lockyer spokesman Nathan Barankin: "The truth is, it does achieve its goal of saving the state money -- but by screwing kids."

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