News and views on Schwarzenegger’s legacy

150 150 Armando Botello II

Over the last few weeks, much has been written about our current Governor’s legacy and the recall election which swept him into office. At California Forward, we believe anyone in a leadership position can contribute to making California a better place for everyone. Yet we know that many of California’s structural problems make governing the Golden State much more difficult than it needs to be.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has faced criticism from all fronts for some of the choices he made or didn’t make during his time in office, but he also did his part to enact the types of visionary reforms that can help the state in the long run.

Many of CA Fwd’s proposed changes un-cuff legislators and the governor from past challenges, restructure the relationships between state and local governments, and reinforce our belief that we as Californians can come together to untangle the web and repair our state.

For news and views on Schwarzenegger’s legacy, please click on the links below. And please let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

  • KQED – Arnold’s Budget Legacy: The Problem Persists (12/28) “It’s important to remember that governors don’t, by themselves, write state budgets… a fact that Schwarzenegger found out the hard way more than once. Budgets are the ultimate political compromise, shaped as much by public perception (and blown constitutional deadlines) as they are politics or, occasionally, sensible policy. Accordingly, the budgets that he signed into law didn’t always reflect his preferred path forward. Yet even when budgets seemed to include many items that Schwarzenegger disliked, he proclaimed them to be fantastic” examples of good governance. And while a governor is only one actor, he does set the budget agenda and wields the ultimate power play: the veto.”
  • Associated Press – Schwarzenegger promise to blow up boxes fizzled (12/28) “He comes into office as an outsider saying ‘I’m going to blow up the boxes,’ and he gets to Sacramento and he realizes that the Legislature is the biggest box. The process itself is the box. So to get anything done, he had to blow up the political process,” said Susan Kennedy, a Democrat who Schwarzenegger hired as his chief of staff after he was trounced in the special election. “He turned his attention to big reform and changing that.”
  • Associated Press – Schwarzenegger departs without major budget reform (12/27) “He discovered what others have discovered,” said Fred Silva, senior fiscal adviser at California Forward, a bipartisan group of business and political leaders that is seeking solutions to the state’s fiscal and political problems. “If you’re finding it difficult to raise taxes or cut programs, the release valve was to borrow money. He fell into that kind of fiscal trap.”
  • Sacramento Bee – Mike Genest: Governor’s reforms will help California (12/21) “No one is perfect, but when it comes to making hard choices, getting the state to live within its means, and making long-term reforms that will help future lawmakers, I would put Arnold Schwarzenegger’s record up against anyone’s.”
  • Sacramento Bee – Steve Wiegand: What is Schwarzenegger’s legacy? (12/1)  “Apostles of the governor point to enactment of the toughest auto emissions law in the country, a $42 billion package of public works programs, changes in the workers’ compensation system, creation of a redistricting commission and voter approval of an open primary system as examples of successes under Schwarzenegger’s watch. Critics counter with the governor’s failures to restructure state government, modernize California’s tax and budget systems, persuade voters to approve temporary tax hikes and pension reforms, and lead the state into an era of “post-partisan” cooperation among the Capitol’s warring political factions and special interests. While less passionate and more prudent historians wait to measure Schwarzenegger’s full legacy, however, it’s undeniable that his gubernatorial tenure, at the very least, has been entertaining.”
  • Sacramento Bee – Dan Walters: Schwarzenegger trying hard for legacy (11/30) “Schwarzenegger” hopes, it would appear, that his record on global warming, redistricting and other issues will overshadow his abject failure to redeem his 2003 promise to end “crazy deficit spending” or his later pledge to blow up the boxes of state government. However, history’s verdict on Schwarzenegger’s governorship, whether positive or negative, cannot be rendered now. He launched many programs and policies whose impact, if any, won’t be felt for years. It’s possible that he will eventually be seen as the visionary governor, as Assemblywoman Julia Brownley called him during Monday’s ceremony, if his initiatives on environmental matters, political reform, water and other issues work out. It’s also possible that he will be viewed as someone who blew a historic opportunity to repair California’s tortured finances and doomed the state to penury.”
  • California Progress Report – Peter Schrag: Reaching for a Legacy: A “Nonpartisan” Surrender?  (11/29) “Maybe the longest lasting reforms of Schwarzenegger’s years in Sacramento will be the changes in the elections process –the commission that will replace the legislature in drawing legislative and congressional districts and the creation of the “top two” election process, approved by the voters last June, in which Californians can choose any candidate regardless of party in the primary and in which the top two vote getters, again regardless of party, will face off in the general election. No one can predict the real consequences of those changes. The hope for both is that it will produce more moderate candidates, but given California’s political geography, it’s not certain how many politically competitive districts the commission can produce or the extent to which the “blanket” or “open” primary will force candidates to the political center. What’s very probable after the great sweep of Republican victories in other governorships and legislatures in the 2010 elections is that California’s reforms look ever more like the “unilateral surrender” by California liberals that critics accuse them of. In most other states, Republicans will draw the districts; here, where Democrats will dominate both the legislature and governorship, the commission will. That, ironically, will also be part of Schwarzenegger’s legacy.”
  • Capitol Weekly – Schwarzenegger’s odyssey: The powerful personal touch went untapped (11/17) “The results of his initiative pursuit are mixed at best. But the full impact of his successes may not be known for years. New legislative districts will be drawn next year and lawmakers will be elected under a new set of rules. The stated goal of those reforms is to soften the partisan edges in the Legislature and elect more moderates. Whether those efforts are successful remains to be seen. Arnold Schwarzenegger strove to do big things. In the process he had colossal failures, many of them handed to him by the people he claimed to have commune with. The state’s budget deficit is larger than when he took office, and the stranglehold of interest groups on the Capitol remains unbroken. For all of his talk of post-partisanship, the Capitol remains as bitterly divided as ever. Now, California turns to a new governor – one who understands the minefields of California politics better than his predecessor. But it just may be that Arnold Schwarzenegger will be looked upon as the man who makes Jerry Brown’s success possible, leaving an imprint of state politics for years to come.

Armando Botello II is the communications associate at California Forward.


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