Can The Terminator Lift Budget "Rock"?

I'm in Sacramento where Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is calling the state's massive budget deficit "a rock upon our chest and we cannot breathe until we get it off."

His State of the State speech today lasted only ten minutes. It skipped the usual plans and promises, "because the reality is that our state is incapacitated until we resolve the budget crisis."

In brief, Republicans won't agree to tax hikes, and Democrats won't agree to deep cuts and environmental waivers for infrastructure projects.

As the deficit grows by $40 million a day, the state's finance directors say California will be out of cash in about a month.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has come up with some dire proposals, including:

--Cutting the school year by a week and interpreting state law to allow education cuts of about $7 billion.

--Mandatory furloughs for state workers (the Legislature is refusing to go along, somehow suddenly finding other ways to cut spending).

--Sending IOU's instead of tax refunds.

And so on.

The Governor says politicians shouldn't get paid daily expenses once a budget deadline passes. "You have to admit it is a brilliant idea, and look at your happy faces," he said to nervous laughter. "I mean, if you call a taxi and the taxi doesn’t come, you don’t pay the driver—If the people’s work is not getting done, the people’s representatives should not get paid either."

It is a frustrating turn of events for an action hero who came to power six years ago promising to shake up the "girlie men" who ran state government.

Turns out this isn't a movie.

"People are asking if California is governable," he told the Legislature. "They don’t understand how we could have let political dysfunction paralyze our state for so long. It is not that California is ungovernable. It’s that for too long we have been split by ideology. Conan’s sword could not have cleaved our political system in two as cleanly as our own political parties have done."

Can Conan put those sides back together before California runs out of money?


Here is the entire, historically short (less than ten minutes) State of the State speech from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And here is the response of the man who'd like Schwarzenegger's job, Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi, a veteran Democrat who, no surprise, blames Schwarzenegger for a lack of leadership--for going on vacation during the crisis, for not even knowing the names of individual legislators. Garamendi says he's making ten percent cuts in his own office rather than furloughing employees twice a month as the Governor ordered. So where is he finding room to cut?