Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday he’s launching a petition drive to place measures on a special election ballot this fall aimed at changing the state’s public pension funds, changing how teachers are paid and revising how political districts are drawn.
Anticipated for months, Schwarzenegger’s move pits the popular GOP governor against some of the state’s most powerful political forces — including the state’s majority party, the Democrats; various education interests; and most of the largest labor unions.
Schwarzenegger, who has called the election a “great battle,” also planned to make his first campaign-style event Tuesday afternoon. He has vowed to raise $50 million to support his agenda, which he said follows the reformist themes of the 2003 recall election that brought him to power.
During a news conference, Schwarzenegger said he endorsed three specific initiatives that are being circulated for signatures. They would privatize the state’s public pension funds, which manage more than $300 billion in investments; give authority for drawing legislative and congressional districts to a panel of retired judges; and set teacher pay on merit rather than tenure. “The problems are too big to ignore and too dangerous,” Schwarzenegger said as he announced the signature campaign.
While Schwarzenegger also wants to create a constitutional requirement that would impose across-the-board spending cuts when revenues don’t match spending, on Tuesday he didn’t endorse any of the proposed initiatives that are being developed.
In January, Schwarzenegger called on the Democrat-dominated Legislature to place four measures on the ballot before March 1 or face him at the polls. Even though the deadline has passed, Democrats have said they would still consider working with Schwarzenegger on compromise proposals.
Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez, D-Los Angeles, and Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, said Tuesday they are willing to work with Schwarzenegger on the proposals. The problem, they said, was that the administration kept tweaking the plans.
Margita Thompson, Schwarzenegger’s press secretary, said there have been some changes in the proposals filed with the Legislature, but they were minor and not enough to have deterred lawmakers from dealing in good faith if they wanted to.
Although Schwarzenegger and supporters have started gathering signatures for their initiatives, the governor and legislators could still negotiate their own proposed constitutional amendments that could make a special election ballot. Last year, as Schwarzenegger pushed for changes in the state’s workers’ compensation insurance system, he and his supporters were also pushing a campaign that would have put a business-backed initiative on the November ballot.
Schwarzenegger used that leverage to negotiate a compromise, which passed the Legislature last April.
— Associated Press
Published 12:06 pm PST Tuesday, March 1, 2005