In a budget deal as painful and complicated as the one passed Friday by the Legislature, each lawmaker gets multiple opportunities to cast votes that could later be used against him or her in a campaign.
There was evidence everywhere last week of how important it is to each of them to pick their spots. Democratic Sen. Mark DeSaulnier from the East Bay, for instance, voted no or not at all on as many budget-cutting items as possible, because he is engaged in a special-election campaign this fall for an open seat in Congress. Republican Sens. Jeff Denham of the Central Valley, who is running for lieutenant governor in 2010, and Tom Harman of Orange County, who is running for attorney general, took care not to vote for cuts to schools or law enforcement. Over in the Assembly, Republican Anthony Adams of the Inland Empire, the target of a recall effort, abstained on vote after vote.
Sometimes, the situation becomes more than ordinary lawmakers can take. One example was Ventura County Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, who is not running for anything. Through tough budget vote after tough budget vote in February, June and July, she had shouldered the burden of voting yes on every hard cut that the leadership had negotiated with the governor. About 2 a.m. Friday, Pavley, a former mayor and founding member of the Agoura Hills City Council, decided she had to take a stand. She refused to vote for a plan to raid transportation funding from local governments.
Without Pavley's vote, the plan stalled with a 20-20 tally. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg pleaded with her to change her vote, but she didn't budge. After about half an hour, a San Francisco Bay Area Democrat switched, allowing the measure to pass 21-19.
Pavley and other Democrats were clearly piqued that more Republicans didn't vote for some of the tougher elements of the plan, since many of the particulars were the result of GOP victories in negotiations. GOP leaders openly praised and supported the overall plan, but rank-and-file Republican votes for many of its elements were few and far between.
Pavley noted that Republicans had insisted that there could be no new taxes in the plan, and rejected even a modest fire-protection surcharge on property insurance premiums proposed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. "They're against taxes and they're against cuts," she complained. "That's a prescription for IOUs."
In the end, all the angst in the Senate vote over the raid of local transportation funding was unnecessary. The Assembly scuttled the idea without a vote -- leaving the 21 senators who voted for the idea with a bad mark on their voting records (at least in the eyes of local government officials in their districts) for having cast a vote that turned out to be meaningless.