Gov. Arnold Schwarzen- egger has taken three reforms to the voters for a special election this fall, which some people say is necessary to reshape California, while others grow weary of his unwillingness to negotiate with the Legislature.
Schwarzenegger had initially proposed four constitutional amendments that would cap what the state feels are decisions the state legislature is responsible for: public pensions, revising the way political districts are drawn, basing teachers’ wages on merit rather than tenure and putting new limits on state spending.
The public pension initiative, however, was recently pulled off the ballot, and would have cut off death and disability benefits from the families of police and firefighters, according to Steve Mehlman, communications director at the California State Employees Association.
“We are pleased,” Mehlman said. “The fact is that the pension initiative was flawed.”
The pension plan that currently exists can be improved, but no one seems to be looking into that, he said.
“It makes no sense to completely change what has been a pretty successful system,” Mehlman said. “But it definitely can be improved.”
Mehlman said although the CSEA is pleased that the initiative has been pulled, there is still concern and a threat by the governor to bring it back if the Legislature does not act quick to negotiate.
“We are pleased, but by no means do we think it’s over,” he said.
Mehlman said it seems that the governor has been unwilling to compromise with the legislature until now, but people will have to wait and see if he will stand by his word this time.
Marc Sattzberg, president of the West Los Angeles Democratic Club, said much of what is being proposed is about money, and an attempt to create future Republican voters.
“This is a Republican agenda,” he said. “(This is) not to save money in the state of California.”
Sattzberg said he does not recall many people, whether Republican or Democrat, being in favor of any of the governor’s reforms.
Many see all of these proposals as broken promises, Sattzberg said. For example, he does not understand exactly what the governor has against unions, he said.
Schwarzenegger told state organizations, including educators, that if they went along with him in terms of reducing funds this one time, he would not go after them in the future, but that is exactly what he is doing again, Sattzberg said.
“This is not about limiting spending,” Sattzberg said. “It’s about diverting our attention from the real problem. But if he can’t get things one way, he’ll go after it another way.”
Now Schwarzenegger is taking the issues to the people again, which, aside from the time and cost, Sattzberg said, is just another attempt to move around the legislature.
“This is why we elect the state government,” Sattzberg said. “To carefully consider bills that come before them. We are not the experts, and we pay them good money for this. They are representing us.”
Mehlman said the CSEA will continue their efforts to stop any plans for a special election.
Not only is it costing a lot of money, but it is also the governor’s job to work with the legislature which he has not made a realistic effort to do, Mehlman said.
Peggy Sadler, vice president of the Simi Valley Republican Women’s Club Federated, said the special election is necessary since the state legislature has not chosen to react to the governor’s proposals. Sadler said all of the governor’s proposals are necessary and important, especially since the state is going broke.
In regards to teaching tenure, Sadler said the governor is only asking that it take teachers five years instead of two to obtain tenure, which is still quite reasonable compared with the 10 years it took previously. Sadler said five years is a reasonable probation period, because two years is not enough time for them to become familiar with the classroom environment.
Sadler said that because the state legislature has refused to have committee meetings to discuss these issues, the governor has no choice but to take the measures to the people.
“He has said all along that he is willing to meet the legislature halfway, but they haven’t tried to offer any alternatives, so he’s calling their bluff,” she said. “They don’t believe he’ll really do it, but he is. He has no choice, and something needs to be done.”