It's not politics as usual when a Republican governor works out a painless deal with a union. Yet, the California Teachers Association chose not to wrestle with the governor. Union leaders knew that education would have to absorb its share of painful budget cuts, so they agreed to cut school spending below its mandated level. End result: They limited their losses and ensured that schools will at least match this year's funding.
Now, the governor can use the CTA's example to squeeze concessions from other unions.
Another plus: Schwarzenegger was smart to drop his proposed cuts for the developmentally disabled -- and quickly.
Many Dems praised the decision to pull that cut on Tuesday night. (OK, but don't count on a spate of sequels.)
Capitol Dems can complain that Schwarzenegger hurt the needy when he erased the $3 billion car-tax hike. The more they do so, however, the more they remind voters that they were the ones who spent taxpayer money so recklessly that draconian cuts are necessary today.
After the governor's address, state Sen. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough, told me she thought Schwarzenegger erred when he said a tax increase would be the "final nail in California's financial coffin." That, Speier argued, was "tactically a mistake," and the new gov will have to go back on it.
Speier's a savvy lawmaker, but I must disagree. Yes, the governor may have to agree to raise taxes: Fifteen billion dollars is a big chunk to tear out of a budget of some $100 billion, and he needs Democratic votes to pass a budget. Still, Schwarzenegger has nothing to gain by offering up tax-hike proposals today. Let the Dems fight for tax increases. Let them appear on the TV news every night complaining that Schwarzenegger won't raise taxes. At least then, if there is a new tax bite, voters will know who imposed it.
Asked on Wednesday about Schwarzenegger's debut, former GOP Gov. Pete Wilson said, "I think he's got the stomach for it." He has the stomach, and the style.