That's the news in this thorough examination (from Steven Harmon of Media News) of the politics of a possible recall of Gov. Schwarzenegger. Leading conservatives Mike Spence and Jon Fleischman don't come out and endorse the recall, but they don't back away from it either. That shows the depth of conservative disappointment with Schwarzenegger, and the real political perils he faces if the prison guards' union spends the money to put a recall question on the ballot.
That said, I agree with Rob Stutzman, the former Schwarzenegger communications director quoted at the end of this story, that a recall vote would be a political opportunity for the governor. It could strengthen him.
Details of the budget deal reached today by legislative Democrats and Republicans have not been officially released, but the leaks have begun. Republicans are saying the budget is a "no new taxes" budget. Of course, that's not the truth.
Tax rates don't increase under this budget, but that doesn't mean the budget doesn't raise taxes. Instead, this budget will rely on borrowing and gimmicks that inevitably force tax increases in the future. In fact, this unbalanced budget will add to the state's debt and debt service costs, which cuts into the amount of the budget that can be spent on actual government services. In the end, people will pay the same tax rates, but they will get less in services. That's right -- less services for the same money. That's a tax increase in disguise.
And if you want to maintain services -- and the public wants to maintain levels of services, eventually taxes will have to be raised to cover this borrowing and the service level. Bottom line: it would be more accurate to call this a "No New Taxes While The Current Republican Lawmakers Are Running For Re-Election" budget.
Here's my LA Times piece arguing that Gov. Schwarzenegger should respond to the prison guards' recall effort -- by embracing the recall vote and using it to rebuild his political capital.
NOTICE OF INTENTION TO CIRCULATE RECALL PETITION
TO THE HONORABLE ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER: Pursuant to the California
Constitution and Section 11020, California Elections Code, the undersigned registered qualified voters of the State of California hereby give notice that we are the proponents of a recall petition ( and that we intend to seek your recall and removal from the office of Governor of the State of California and to demand election of a successor in that office.
The grounds for the recall are as follows:
Catastrophic leadership failings and inept management, including, but not limited to, repeated acts of untrustworthiness, gross fiscal mismanagement jeopardizing funding for schools, infrastructure, public safety and other essential services; reckless borrowing, saddling taxpayers and future generations of Californians with billions of dollars in new debt; breaking your promise to "cut up the credit cards" and oppose new taxes; failure to reform California's correctional system, causing a federal takeover of prison health care and costing taxpayers an estimated $8 billion; using state workers as "scapegoats" for your leadership failure and threatening their rights and financial wellbeing; soliciting and accepting special interest money at levels never before seen in California history'; betraying voter trust and mortgaging our children's future; and leaving California in far worse shape than before your election.
Why would the prison guards' union seek to recall Gov. Schwarzenegger? A spokesman for the union has called Schwarzenegger the worst governor ever. And the union has been fighting him since the beginning of his administration over contract, working conditions, and the union's power in the prisons.
In my reporting today, however, sources inside and outside the union offered a little more context and another explanation for the recall: the internal politics of the union, the California Correctional Peace Offircers Association. Union president Mike Jimenez is running for re-election, and he faces several challengers. They have found plenty to complain about. The union has been working without a contract since 2006, which means no raise for members. Jimenez has drawn criticism from some members for entering into talks with inmate advocates on reforms to the system. One group of dissidents, calling themselves Officers for Change, is sharply critical of Jimenez on its web site. CCPOA's membership is hardline anti-governor. Is the recall threat simply an attempt by Jimenez to win guards' support for his own re-election?
We'll likely hear more about the upcoming union elections in the days ahead.
The governor and his aides are hitting back at the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. -- the prison guards' union -- for its threat to recall the governor. A union official says the group is beginning the process of gathering 65 signatures on a notice of recall.
So far, the Schwarzenegger strategy is to accuse the guards of using the recall to seek a contract that the cash-strapped state can't afford. According to the Sacramento Bee, Schwarzenegger said today: "I will not be intimidated by anybody that is demanding more money than the state can afford and that demands deals more than the state is wanting to give. So the prison guard union is not going to intimidate me with their kind of action."
The idea behind such a response is to try to keep the issue narrow--and focused on the prison guards' contract. Schwarzenegger and his team need to prevent others with grievances against the governor -- just about every interest group in the state has been at odds with him at one time or another -- from joining up. This response makes the recall seem narrow and small. It hints at what should be the first battle -- a behind-the-scenes effort by the union to build a coalition in support of a recall, and by the governor to prevent such a coalition from forming.
Just got off the phone with Ted Costa, the original proponent of the 2003 recall of Gov. Gray Davis that put Schwarzenegger in the governor's office.
Costa, who runs a small taxpayer group called The People's Advocate, hasn't made any decisions, but he expressed interest in the recall and said he had left a message for prison guards' union official Lance Corcoran offering to meet with CCPOA. When I asked him if he would support the recall of Schwarzenegger, Costa replied: "Anything's possible, including me support a recall. That's all possible. Yes it is."
Costa thinks that if a recall qualified for the ballot, Schwarzenegger could be in real trouble. Costa said he would expect potential successors who are planning runs for 2010 to run to succeed Schwarzenegger if he's recalled. "All they have to do is turn the signatures in, and the governor has to get more than 50 percent of the vote to stay in office. The other candidates only need to beat each other," Costa said. "You could get four or five candidates, you could wear them down."
"By no means do I see this as a slam dunk for the governor," Costa added. "He's pissed off everybody."
Costa said he thought the prison guards' union might have done better to wait a little before making public their interest in a recall. "They should have covered their bases before they went public, and maybe built a coalition," he said.
Recalls are different than initiatives and referenda. You don't simply file the petition itself first. When and if the prison guards' union launches the process Monday morning, they'll file a notice-of-intent-to-recall petition. That document will list the reasons for the recall. It has to have the signature of 65 voters. Gov. Schwarzenegger will then have the right to file a response to the notice. Then the actual recall petition may be filed and circulated.
Recalls require more signatures than initiatives or referenda. The standard is -- an amount equal to 12 percent of the total number of votes in the most recent gubernatorial election, in 2006. That number is currently 1,041,530 signatures
about 950,000 signatures -- a very manageable figure. With little competition from other ballot measures (there are currently no statewide initaitves on the street), It's likely that the union could qualify the measure for less than $3 million.
Lance Corcoran, a spokesman for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, tells a Sacramento TV station that paperwork will be filed Monday.
California's powerful prison guards' union, which has warred with the state over its contract for years, is taking a " very hard look" at the idea of filing a petition to recall Gov. Schwarzenegger, a spokesman tells the San Francisco Chronicle. If the California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. were to pursue the idea seriously, they'd likely get it on the ballot. The union has the power to pay signature gatherers. Whether this is a smart political move would be debatable.
There would be reason for Schwarzenegger to worry. He's unpopular with state voters, and the ongoing budget stalemate won't help his ratings. He's been on the wrong side of any number of interest groups who might love to exact some revenge And Schwarzenegger's celebrity -- a major factor in his winning election in the 2003 recall -- could draw support for a recall from folks who simply want attention. Recall the governor who won in a recall. It's irresistible.