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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Gorilla In California Politics

Government employee unions in California are not only a special interest they are probably the most powerful special interest in the state. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has been criticized since he came to office for describing the unions as special interests but recent events have shown he was right.

California appeared headed for its annual budget catastrophe when the Democrats reversed their usual obstructionist course and agreed to a budget close to the one propose by Arnold. Differences still remain between the parties so the GOP is holding up the budget this time (click here for story) but the Democrats are generally going along with Arnold's budget this year. Buried in this story in the Los Angeles Times (click here) is the reason why. The teacher's union told them to. As the Times reports:

We are not going to hold up the budget and have a protracted budget battle," said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles). "We want to send the message to voters of this state that we are serious about getting things done."

A month ago, Nuñez called Schwarzenegger's budget proposal a "sham," saying the governor "simply doesn't get it" and is "not listening to the people."

Several lawmakers said Tuesday that the Democrats changed strategy at the urging of the politically powerful California Teachers Assn. "No such decision was going to be made without them," said Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla (D-Pittsburg).

The teachers group is gearing up for its own fight against a measure on the fall ballot that could clip the ability of state employee unions to fund political campaigns. The unions are among Democrats' biggest backers.

A new public opinion poll is out showing that The Governator's popularity numbers have plummeted to 37 percent favorable versus 53 percent unfavorable. (Click here for story.) Arnold was riding high when he came into office after the recall election. Since progress began to stall in Sacramento after an unchanged Democratic legislature was returned to office last November, Arnold has been threatening to go around the legislature and hold a special election on his agenda. Last week he made good on his threat and set an election for November. In response the teachers and prison guards unions raised dues on their members to raise $68 million. (Click here for story.)

Preparing the battlefield, the powerful unions who run the Democrats in this state went on the attack. Television viewers in California have been treated to very well made and hard hitting commercials accusing Arnold of breaking promises to fund schools and to protect Californians from crime. Two of the ads can be seen at the website (click here) of the so-called Alliance for a Better California, which is a special interest group bringing together 11 unions. A more accurate name would be the Alliance for the Status Quo in California. The union attack ads have done their job and currently a majority of Californians disapprove of the governor and a majority oppose the his special election.

Now, according to this story (click here) the governor is reaching out for a compromise.

In California, when the unions talk, people listen, whether they want to or not. Hold on to your wallets, everybody.




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