Saturday, April 21 , 2018, 1:45 pm | Fair 68º

 
 
 
 

Scott Harris: We Miss You, Gray Davis

Our state is in crisis in every measurable way, and Gov. Schwarzenegger is missing in action — or, more accurately, inaction.

October 7, 2003, was the recall election, a day that will live in infamy for California and all Californians. We hired a new governor, a struggling actor who had two qualifications to run — he had name recognition, and he wasn’t Gray Davis.

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Scott Harris
Davis was booted out of office because the state was $15 billion in the red and Enron had robbed us blind, for which Davis was held responsible. Less than six months later, we approved Proposition 57, the $15 billion Economic Recovery Bond Act, based on promises from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger that once we paid off the debt, he would never allow us to get that deep in the hole again.

Now, five years later, being $15 billion in the red seems like “the good old days.” With the governor’s collusion, this year’s budget is close to $20 billion in the red, was cobbled together three months late while sidestepping any significant decisions on program cuts or revenue increases — and is already hemorrhaging.

Perhaps the governor’s attention has been focused elsewhere, and we can find evidence of his success in other important areas affecting our economy and our lives. Let’s look at the critical issues facing the state during the governor’s time in office.

Education? Funding is plummeting (ransacked to try to stem the budget bleeding), public schools are falling apart and the dropout rate is at a record high.

Infrastructure? In November 2006, the voters approved almost $40 billion in bonds (the most in state history) for transportation, schools, levees and affordable housing. It’s two years later. Has anyone seen a significant improvement in any of these areas?

Illegal immigration? While predominantly a federal issue, it has a dramatic impact on the state. Has the governor addressed the issue in any tangible way? No.

Affordable housing? Home prices are dropping dramatically, but since very few of us can afford to buy (even if loans were available), and many of us own homes that are worth less than the mortgage, I doubt the governor wants to put this on his résumé.

Jobs? Unemployment is at 7.7 percent, rising fast and companies that can afford to leave the state are doing so.

Special interests? The governor made it clear in 2003 that he was above special interests, that he didn’t need and wouldn’t accept their help. It’s five years later and if I were as close to special interests as the governor is, my wife would be jealous.

Election reform? Redistricting was promised and never happened (though Proposition 11 is on next month’s ballot) and more money than ever is flowing from special interests and lobbyists to our elected officials.

None of the major problems facing California when Gov. Schwarzenegger entered office has been fixed, or even improved. He was MIA during the budget crisis (except for a childishly hollow threat to veto every bill that crossed his desk), and he has taken the term “lame duck” to a new low. He is shunned by his own party and not trusted by the other one. As our state implodes, what is our governor doing?

Good news! He’s going to fix global warming. Next month he will host (and special interests will probably pay for) a conference of national and international leaders, with the goal of establishing an international alliance. Ironically, as our state melts down, the governor is focused instead on melting ice caps.

Here’s a suggestion: How about hosting a conference on the state budget? Invite U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California congressional leaders from both parties, state Senate and Assembly leaders from both parties, our state treasurer and controller, governors from states with a surplus and a plan — and maybe Warren Buffet. Lock them in a room, bring in pizzas and a portable potty and tell them no one leaves until we have a workable budget supported by everyone in the room.

In other words, governor, lead. Our state is in crisis in every measurable way, starting with you and a crisis of leadership. Global warming may be important, but it is not as imminent a problem as many others we face today in California. You are bailing on your job, your responsibilities and your constituents for the glamour — and the all- important legacy — that you believe involvement with global warming can bring you. If you prefer to work on global issues, to the detriment of California’s immediate and serious problems, perhaps you should resign, governor. Then someone whose priorities include California can take over.

As our state continues to implode and our governor avoids his responsibilities, that sound you hear over and over is state Sen. Tom McClintock saying, “I told you so!”

Scott Harris is a political commentator. Read his columns and contact him through his Web site, www.scottharris.biz, or e-mail him at [email protected]

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