We've seen this week in the transcripts of tape-recorded conversations of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich the crude abuses that can result from the exercise of gubernatorial power. His brazen efforts to leverage his power to line his pockets is disgusting, embarrassing and likely felonious.
In California's Capitol, thank goodness, guvernatorial corruption is not an issue.
Still, it sometimes seems the state is paralyzed in part because Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has embraced the opposite extreme -- a reluctance to exert his power and influence, not for private gain, but for public good.
If Schwarzenegger could line up just six fellow Republican legislators to support him on budget proposals, he could leverage that to gain extraordinary concessions from Democratic leaders and prevent the state's imminent fiscal catastrophe. But he has not shown any outward signs that he's making much effort to cajole, entice, threaten or otherwise persuade individual lawmakers to join with him.
The sticking point, of course, is new revenues. With the state's current year budget shortfall now pegged at nearly $15 billion, Schwarzenegger has concluded that the hole cannot be filled through spending cuts alone and that the solution must also include some tax increases. To that, all GOP lawmakers have thus far said nyet.
One would think he might host a few holiday parties, perhaps provide an opportunity for some targeted lawmakers to mingle with some of his Hollywood friends. Or perhaps he might call some Republican campaign contributors and ask them to suggest to certain GOP lawmakers that the governor could use a little cooperation. Or maybe he could go into some of their districts and host public events to call attention to the deep and unpopular cuts that would be necessary if there are no new revenues to help balance the budget.
But Schwarzenegger seems uninterested in this part of the job -- the ordinary, nitty-gritty excercise of gubernatorial influence and power.
His reluctance to do those things has clearly frustrated Democratic leaders of the Legislature. Assembly Speaker Karen Bass put it bluntly this afternoon: "It is past time for Gov. Schwarzenegger to break the logjam created by his own party and produce Republican votes for a package of cuts and revenues. The 2/3 vote requirement means Democrats can't do it alone. With 51 Democrats we only need three Republican votes in the Assembly. But we need real leadership from Gov. Schwarzenegger to convince even a few of his Republican colleagues to compromise."