It was an atypical Address for Schwarzenegger, who normally uses the annual speech as an opportunity to tout his hopes and dreams for the state.
“It’s time now for me to introduce the Governor of the State of California. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger….”
This year there was no night-time party atmosphere. Instead the subdued speech was at ten in the morning. It was short - just over ten minutes long. And instead of outlining his vision on health care, education or water storage, Schwarzenegger focused on one thing:
“The 42 billion dollar deficit is a rock upon our chest and we cannot breathe until we get it off.”
The Governor encouraged lawmakers to compromise – to show political courage - as he put it –to keep the state solvent.
“I think it was absolutely the right approach to take.”
Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg is one the four leaders negotiating a budget deal with the Governor now:
“I look forward to the day….and a day not too far off, when we begin putting together a positive agenda for California around education reform and ending the dropout rate and water and infrastructure and health care, but we can’t get there until we solve this crisis.”
Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines says it is clearly a crisis that requires compromise:
“There’s really no other thing to focus on for any of us - Republican, Democrat, Independent, Green, you know, whatever you are, it doesn’t matter.”
But not all lawmakers were thrilled with the Governor’s brief, grim Address. Democratic Senator Gloria Romero was angry. She carried half-a-dozen sets of children’s shoes into the Chamber to protest the Governor’s proposed cuts to education. She was disappointed he didn’t outline his vision:
Cut “This is probably the weakest governor we have ever seen in the state of California.”
Schwarzenegger did put one proposal in his speech. He recommended that lawmakers and the Governor not get paid if they don’t have a budget in place on time. It got a chilly reception from both parties:
“I thought that this line would get great applause in this hall, but I understand why not.”
After the speech, legislative leaders and the Governor were back to the negotiating table to try to work out a budget deal. The State controller now says California will be out of cash by February 27th unless something changes immediately.