When Arnold Schwarzenegger was a movie star, if he didn’t like the script, he could order changes, and the changes would be made, because a movie set is not a democracy.
When he ran for governor of California in the election to recall then-Governor Gray Davis, he spoke of his love for the state and the opportunities it gave him, and vowed to undo Davis’s mistakes and straighten Sacramento out. And he often boasted that, unlike Davis, he was “rich,” and therefore didn’t need contributions from special interests.
It was a great story. A young Austrian arrives in America with nothing but dreams, becomes a champion body builder, then a movie star and successful businessman, and runs for the highest office in the state to pay it back for all it had given him.
A whole lot of voters liked the story and he was elected.
But, as it turned out, he not only didn’t have the answers, he didn’t even know the questions, and it was business as usual, again, in Sacramento.
Though the governor was presumably still rich, he began taking contributions. Though he had vowed to put children’s needs first and improve the schools, he played fast and loose with education funding, combining severe budget cuts with increased fees for students in the state’s colleges and universities. Though he had once been a working man and presumably a union member (SAG), he lambasted working people and unions, focusing primarily on such public employees as police and firefighters, nurses and teachers, blaming them for the state’s financial woes, while continuing to truckle to his corporate contributors. He saw the Legislature not as his partner in crafting state policy, but as his enemy, and, in the process, managed to make state government more dysfunctional than it had been under Davis.
When the Legislature refused to do his bidding and his poll numbers began to drop, Governor Schwarzenegger decided to rewrite the script, and called a special election in order to change the rules and give him more power now and an edge in his bid to win re-election next year.
Special elections are rarely called and only when the matter at hand can’t wait. In this instance, there is no emergency, and the sole beneficiary is the Governor himself. His ballot initiatives will neither right any wrongs nor improve the state, but will increase his power, while reducing the power of the people.
So, in a bizarre turn, California taxpayers are being forced to spend about $55 million on the first phase of the governor’s 2006 gubernatorial campaign.
But California is not a movie, it’s a democracy, and the state constitution is not a script, it’s a compact made by, of and for the people and, like the U.S. Constitution from which it derives, it contains checks and balances to ensure that none of the three branches of government – the executive, legislative and judicial – oversteps its bounds.
The constitution should never be changed lightly and certainly should not be changed for purely partisan political reasons, but Schwarzenegger’s special election is obviously rigged to short-circuit the democratic process, by transferring power via his ballot initiatives from the people and their elected representatives in the State Legislature to him.
This is the movie capital of the world and we are crazy about movies, and we love movie stars, the real ones, but we are equally crazy about the democratic process, and its only stars are the people.
We trust that the people will see through this ill-conceived and arrogant power grab by the governor, and stop it in its tracks on November 8 by voting NO on all the initiatives on the ballot, in order not only to deny the governor’s effort to convey power from the people to him, but to block his use of legitimate means to achieve illegitimate ends.
76 is the worst, most perilous and most radical of the governor’s propositions. A proposed constitutional amendment, it would lead to deep funding cuts for our schools and other public services, and do away with checks and balances in the state budget process by granting unprecedented power to the Governor, while doing nothing to solve California’s fiscal problems.
If approved, it would result in a permanent loss to our schools of $4 billion every year, since funds owed from the 2004 suspension of Proposition 98, which was approved by voters in 1988, would never be recovered. This loss would amount to $600 per student per year and would lead to more overcrowded classrooms, more teacher layoffs, more cuts in art and music programs, fewer textbooks, elimination of more librarians, PE teachers, nurses, and counselors.
In these ways, Prop 76 would fundamentally change the constitutional minimum funding guarantee for public schools and make education vulnerable to severe spending cuts year after year.
California voters passed Prop 98 to ensure a stable and consistent level of school funding and to improve California’s ranking among the states over time. Under current law, when spending cuts are made to education in bad fiscal years, the funding level must be restored when the state’s fiscal condition improves. Proposition 76 would eliminate that provision from the Constitution.
California’s spending for education is already well below the national average, Proposition 76 would put in place a constitutional mechanism that would further lower education funding levels and keep it there, guaranteeing that our schools will remain mediocre, or worse
Prop 76 would also allow the Governor to unilaterally cut additional funding for schools in the middle of the school year, creating havoc for local school budgets, nullifying California’s constitutional system of checks and balances and giving the Governor unprecedented power to override state laws with no public oversight.
The Governor has line item veto power, the power to call a special session and to veto legislation that calls for new spending. He doesn’t need more power, he needs more respect for the democratic process.
In addition to savaging our schools, and undoing out constitutional checks and balances. Prop 76 could open the door to funding cuts to public safety, health care, transportation and early childhood development programs.
In a bow to the religious right, the governor’s proposed Prop 73 would require that parents of underage girls be notified before they can have abortions – even in cases of incest.
His Prop 74, which would extend the probationary period for public school teachers from two to five years, is clearly an effort to shift blame for our faltering schools from his deep cuts in school funding to teachers.
There is no question, good teachers are crucial, but so is adequate funding.
The governor’s Prop 75 would require public employee union members to give their permission annually for their dues to be used for political contributions, but imposes no such restrictions on corporations and their stockholders, thus legalizing a double standard.
His prop 77 would reassign redistricting powers from the legislature, which represents the people, to a panel of three retired judges, who represent no one. Even Judge Wapner is against this one.
Voters should reject the remaining propositions, 78 and 79, both of which purport to reduce prices of prescriptions, and 80, which would reorder the energy landscape, by way of making clear that they oppose power grabs disguised as special elections, and are not only rejecting bad propositions, but cynical political tactics.
In sum, voters should just say NO eight times on November 8 to preserve our democratic process by quashing this blatant effort to sabotage the state constitution, subvert vital checks and balances, and give the governor unprecedented and perilous powers.And, it should be noted, that generally when movie stars demand and get script changes to pad their parts, the movie suffers, and so does the audience.