All Eyes on Abel
As the state budget deadlock continues, Dems and Schwarzenegger woo Central Coast senator.
Thursday, February 19, 2009
The most powerful man in Sacramento earlier this week may have been the Central Coast’s state Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) – a key Republican vote needed to approve California’s $42 billion budget.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he would send layoff notices to 20,000 state employees on Tuesday morning and prepared to stop work on the last 275 state-funded public works projects still in operation after three days of heated negotiations that failed to produce a state spending plan.
Schwarzenegger delayed sending out pink slips since Friday, when it appeared lawmakers would be able to reach a deal over the weekend. Earlier, the governor and legislative leaders brokered a tentative plan to bridge the roughly $42 million gap through $15.8 billion in cuts, $14.3 billion in taxes and $10.9 billion in borrowing.
But first, the 18-month budget plan had to pass the Legislature, which requires three GOP votes in each house. And with Republican lawmakers pledging to vote no on any new taxes, it looked to be a tough sell.
By Tuesday morning, after three days of deadlock, both the state Senate and the Assembly were in virtual lockdown, with leaders in both houses refusing to let lawmakers leave the Capitol until approving a budget plan. Both houses were in session for a state-record 30 hours on Sunday night. (An L.A. Times photographer snapped pictures of Monterey’s freshman Assemblyman Bill Monning and other lawmakers sleeping at their desks.) Legislators met again Monday, still one GOP Senate vote short.
“I will not allow anyone to go home, to resume their life, to have any kind of resumption of normal business,” until a budget is approved, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told senators. By the Weekly’s deadline, Steinberg’s house needed one more Republican vote to approve the budget – and all eyes were on Maldonado.
Maldonado, a moderate Republican who represents the Monterey Peninsula, was one of the first GOP votes to break rank – and the budget deadlock – in 2007 and support a deal reached by Schwarzenegger and legislative Democrats. But Maldonado’s got higher aspirations than the state Senate. He ran and lost in the 2006 Republican primary for state controller to a more conservative candidate. He’s rumored to plan to run again in 2010. And a pro-tax vote in a Republican primary doesn’t bode well for Maldonado.
“I’m having some real hesitations for voting for this budget,” Maldonado told reporters over the weekend. “I’ve bolted from my party on other issues, but I’ve never been in a position where there’s a $15 billion tax increase to the people of California. That’s the difference, and the governor knows that’s the difference.”
But by Feb. 16, The Sacramento Bee’s Capitol Alert blog reported that Maldonado would support the budget plan – if four demands were met. He wants an open primary system in which the top two vote-getters (regardless of party) would compete in the general election. This would favor Maldonado in a run for a statewide office. While Maldonado acknowledged he plans to run for statewide office, he told reporters the open primary is about “good government reform.”
Maldonado also wants a law passed so the state would stop paying lawmakers if they do not approve the budget on time, and a ban on legislative pay raises and per diem increases in years when California faces a budget deficit, Capitol Alert reports. Additionally, Maldonado wants lawmakers to remove pork spending from the budget package.