Plescia elected GOP leader amid frenetic bond negotiations

With Kevin McCarthy off to make a run for Congress, San Diego Assemblyman
George Plescia has been selected by Assembly Republicans to be their new
leader. Plescia’s selection comes in the middle of a frantic, last-minute
effort by legislative leaders and Gov. Schwarzenegger to place an
infrastructure package on the June ballot.

Throughout the negotiations, Democrats have blamed Plescia’s caucus for
being the major obstacle in these negotiations. “The Republican leadership
and the governor are not on the same page at this point,” said Assembly
Speaker Fabian Nunez, in a press conference earlier this week. “Once they
get on the same page –Republicans, that is – we can have negotiations that
are more fruitful.”

Though Plescia has the reputation of being affable, he expressed the same
frustration with the governor’s office that McCarthy and other Assembly
Republicans have articulated. While Plescia said McCarthy and Budget
vice-chairman Rick Keene are leading the negotiations on the bonds, the
leader in waiting expressed some of his own frustration at the governor’s
recent shifting of gears.

“There’s great frustration probably on both sides of the aisle,” said
Plescia. “There was no urgency until last week in the governor’s office to
get this done for the June ballot. They were OK working on this stuff to go
on the November ballot, and then all of a sudden, the middle of last week,
when they came back from Washington DC they wanted to move quickly.”

As for whether Assembly Republicans would be willing to go along with an
infrastructure deal for the June ballot, Plescia said, “I think there’s the
will if there’s restraint in our spending. I don’t think our caucus goes for
a big bond. And if there’s not reforms, they won’t go with the bonds, such
as design-build for transportation, some streamlining of the CEQA process
for some of our levees that need repair right away and if there’s no surface
water storage in the water bond, I think it’s very difficult for our caucus
members to go along with that.”

Much of Plescia’s legislative focus has been on transportation issues. This
year, he has introduced ACA 4, a constitutional amendment which would
prevent the use of funds set aside for transportation projects for anything
other than transportation. Plescia says he’d like to see the so-called
“Proposition 42 fix,” included as part of any bond deal.

“I think the Prop. 42 fix is a key component if you’re going to have a
transportation bond,” he said. “You’ve got to lock up that loophole and stop
the raid of transportation funds.”

While Plescia was formally selected to lead the Assembly GOP caucus
Wednesday, he will not formally assume the position until April 17, after
the Legislature returns from its spring recess. Plescia’s selection came
after a brief leadership fight in which Assemblymembers Mimi Walters, Keene,
Bill Maze and Roger Niello all dipped their toe into the leadership waters.

Plescia secured the necessary votes with help from Assemblymembers Sharon
Runner and Greg Aghazarian.

Keene will continue to be the lead negotiator on the bond negotiations, and
will continue to be the ranking Republican on the Assembly Budget Committee
in the new leadership regime.

In the meantime, says Plescia, Republicans continue to have concerns with
the governor’s infrastructure proposals, and will voice those concerns
through the current leadership team.

“I’ve made it clear with the governor’s office: Kevin is our leader. Don’t
try and pick our members off, or think we’re split. We’re all unified behind
Kevin. It doesn’t make sense to change quarterbacks right now.”

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