Schwarzenegger reverses course; will sign high-speed rail
By Kevin Yamamura – firstname.lastname@example.org
Published 11:32 am PDT Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Nearly three weeks after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced he would block any bill that reached his desk until the Legislature approves a budget, he sent a letter late Monday to legislative leaders saying he will make an exception for a high-speed rail clean-up measure and a water bond.
Schwarzenegger indicated that in at least those cases, he is willing to renege on his Aug. 6 vow that “some good bills will fail.”
The Assembly is expected to send the governor a bill today that will revise the $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond measure, which is already on the November ballot but is widely agreed to contain flaws in its current form.
Schwarzenegger plans to sign the bill when it reaches his desk, according to his press secretary, Aaron McLear. The Assembly passed it earlier this month but withheld it due to the governor’s threat.
In the letter, Schwarzenegger asked leaders to send him four proposals immediately so they can be placed on the November ballot. Besides high-speed rail, they include a water bond, a plan to expand the California Lottery, and a budget reform plan to strengthen the state’s rainy-day fund. The latter two proposals are part of budget negotiations that remain unresolved 57 days into the current fiscal year.
“The governor believes Californians ought have the opportunity to vote on these four measures on the November ballot despite the fact that the Legislature is two months past their deadline in passing a budget,” McLear said.
Nobody knows for certain when the deadline is for placing new measures on the November ballot. McLear last week said his office believed it was this past Sunday, but Secretary of State Debra Bowen says only that the Legislature can change election laws and decide for itself when the absolute deadline is.
If lawmakers do not place the proposals on the November ballot, they would likely consider a special election after November or the regularly
scheduled June 2010 election.
From a practical standpoint, counties are scheduled to begin mailing ballots to overseas voters, including soldiers, on Sept. 5.
Schwarzenegger made a big splash early this month when he denounced lawmakers for passing legislation without a budget in place. He suggested that they should be focused on the budget alone, and he said he would not sign any bills until a spending plan was approved. He also said he would
veto any bill before it had a chance of becoming law without his signature.
“The governor remains committed that he is not going to sign any bills until we have a budget,” McLear said. “However these four measures need to get
on the November ballot and he does not believe simply because the Legislature has failed to do their job that Californians should not have the opportunity to vote on these measures.”
Democratic Assembly Speaker Karen Bass replied that the governor ought to spend more of his time convincing members of his own party to back a budget plan. “It is unfortunate that Republicans continue to block progress on a budget, budget reform, the lottery, and a water bond without any proposals of their own,” she said in a statement. “It?s time for the Governor to stop sending letters and holding press conferences and start getting votes from legislators of his own party so that our state can move forward on these critical issues.”