When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger showed up in San Luis Obispo on Feb. 8 to make his pitch for a $500 million plan for job growth and green tax credits, he was preaching to his kind of business leaders.
Central Coast Republicans and Democrats alike often find common ground with the governor’s mix of faith in high-tech, his environmentalism and his love of all things California. “You’ve hit the nail on the head,” the Governator said in response to a question from me about whether California can compete for green jobs with up-and-coming states such as Colorado and Arizona.
By enacting $3,000 tax credit to small businesses for hiring new workers and putting some incentives in place for green technology purchases, he said, California can “tell the rest of America we’re open for business.”
Standing by Schwarzenegger’s side was Sen. Abel Maldonado, the Santa Maria businessman who has aligned himself with the governor’s post-partisan pitch. Maldonado has broken ranks with conservatives to pass important legislation — including last year’s budget compromise.
Maldonado, as anybody who’s read any news report anywhere recently will know, is Schwarzenegger’s pick to replace Democrat John Garamendi for lieutenant governor.
Which brings us to the not-so-subtle subtext to Maldonado’s appearance in San Luis Obispo. It turns out that Maldonado is going to need all the help he can get to be confirmed in a post that he should win in a walk. As he was speaking in SLO, a rump group of Democratic legislators, including Assemblymember Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, were at their own press conference in Sacramento, trying to drive a stake into the heart of Maldonado’s appointment.
Nava’s “no on Maldonado” media memo was a venomous attack on a man who by any account has acted responsibly, with high standards and remained true to his convictions through a successful run in the Assembly and the Senate. These attacks are in part a headline-grab by termed-out Nava who is running for attorney general in a crowded field. Just before press time came word that Maldonado’s appointment, which passed the Senate easily, would be voted out of an Assembly committee with “no recommendation,” a slap in the face that even some Democrats in Sacramento called ill-advised.
While the Assembly’s Democratic members were doing their best to freeze out a competent appointee, other things were happening in the state:
• Cities and counties are finding that local tax revenues still haven’t rebounded from the recession. Panicked officials in Los Angeles are cutting 1,000 jobs.
• Small businesses across the state remain deeply worried about the future and are NOT adding jobs or buying more goods and services.
• The state budget deficit is going to hit another $20 billion—meaning more problems for California, its bloated public sector and its credit rating.
The Schwarzenegger jobs and green technology plan may not be perfect. And it may or may not deliver the 100,000 new and retained jobs and 140,000 opportunities for job upgrades that he promised when he spoke at REC Solar, which by the way, will add 200 jobs this year alone — a 40 percent surge. The Democrats in the Legislature will have to swallow very hard indeed if they are going to fast-track environmental reviews for shovel-ready construction, reduce the ability of every tort lawyer to sue every small business in California and provide tax relief so the private sector can grow jobs.
But that sort of agenda — or a reasonable facsimile thereof — is what California needs right now.
Just a day after the dueling press conferences in San Luis Obispo and Sacramento, another politician stepped up to the podium and warned of the public’s limited patience with the politics of obstructionism, the risks of rising debt and the negative consequences of voting along partisan lines so that elected executives can be made to fail.
That person was a Democrat. His name is Barack Obama. And he is president of the United States. More reasons why Abel Maldonado deserves to be approved for lieutenant governor.
• Henry Dubroff can be reached at [email protected]