Style, substance to be closely watched as Schwarzenegger unveils new budget plans in the days ahead

As he prepares to deliver the most important speech of his political career,
Gov. Schwarzenegger has a couple of things going in his favor. For one,
there’s the flood of new state revenues, which could be as much as $12
billion more in the state’s general fund this year. Having such a windfall
has helped the governor as he attempt to reclaim the political center after
the disastrous 2005 special election.

And then there is the promise of bipartisan cooperation that seems to mark
every new year. Clearly this year’s speech will be a dramatic departure from
2005, when the governor outlined his special election plans in an address
that shocked California Democrats.

Money can help avoid a lot of political conflicts. While Schwarzenegger was
forced to make spending cuts in his first two budgets, this year the state
is flush with cash. Fighting over how to divide the spoils is inevitably
easier that fighting over potential cuts.

Many of the details of tonight’s speech have already been leaked to the
press. The governor will call for more than $4 billion more in public school
and community college spending, and announce a suspension of planned fee
increases at the state’s university systems. He will call for a $1 increase
in the state’s minimum wage, an issue that is an anathema to many business
groups. And he will call on the federal government to allow California
residents to import drugs from Canada.

But the State of the State is at least one-part show biz, and pundits and
politicos will be listening closely to the style and tone of the speech as
much as the actual details. By all accounts, a tone of reconciliation will
be on the governor’s mind.

“I think the tone of [Thursday] night will speak volumes,” said Senate
leader Don Perata. “I think a lot of us last year were stunned by the
confrontational tone.”

If Perata has been more conciliatory, the Assembly speaker has been more
aggressive in his criticism of the governor. While Nu

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