Dear Sen. Steinberg,
On the occasion of your swearing in as president pro tem of the California State Senate I offer you my congratulations and my condolences.
California faces its most serious economic crisis since the great depression. But you give me hope. I've watched you since you were elected to the Sacramento City council. On the council, in the assembly and in the senate, you were always one of the smartest people in the room, an elected official with a knack for getting difficult things done.
When you couldn't get the legislature to increase funding for the mentally ill you pushed a ballot measure which my editorial board opposed. Unlike other initiatives your' provided a funding source, a surcharge on people earning more than a million dollars a year to pay for services. Don't tell anyone at The Bee but I voted for it.
Last year, when a dysfunctional legislature was unable to get a budget passed, you maneuvered an important reform bill that links greenhouse gas reduction to transportation funding and housing onto the governor's desk - a miracle. The state needs another miracle, a balanced budget.
Any fair deal will require sacrifice from everyone, including your allies in labor. You're known as a good guy but can you be tough, tough enough to coax contract concessions from public employees and tax increases from republicans?
Good luck, Sen. Steinberg. You'll need it.