Will Schwarzenegger, on the road to failure, finally change course?

Less than 60 days from now, Gov. Schwarzenegger will submit his state budget plan for the coming year, the last budget blueprint of his Governorship.  Despite signing a budget in July this year that planned for a surplus and enacted massive cuts to vital services and programs, California is expected to face a shortfall of about $21 billion by the close of this fiscal year according to the Legislative Analyst’s latest forecast.  As he approaches his last year in office, the Governor must decide whether his plan will continue the destructive decline in public investment that he has championed over the last five years, or whether he will reverse course and introduce a budget that will build the foundation for California’s economic recovery and future prosperity.   

 Signs are that he plans to continue down the same path – a decision that will cement his legacy as the governor who allowed the California dream to be tarnished.  Despite the fact that his destructive cuts have already put families out of work, forced parents and grandparents out of their homes, and turned our kids away from college, Arnold said he plans more “across-the-board cuts” to deal with an anticipated budget crisis he’s made worse with years of deceptive budget tricks and short-sighted cuts that will cost California more in the long run.  

Even before the nation’s credit crisis drove California tax receipts into an economic freefall, the governor harmed working families with a budgeting policy that amounts to “cut-now-and-worry-about-the-consequences-later.”   And now California families are paying the price for his short-sighted approach.  

On nearly every important issue facing our state, Gov. Schwarzenegger has left Californians worse off than when he took office.  His massive layoffs have hurt families and damaged our economy.  Schwarzenegger presided over the largest cut to public schools in state history, pushing per pupil funding in California to last in the nation.  Schwarzenegger has led the drive to slash UC and CSU budgets, resulting in qualified students being turned away from college for the first time in California history.  Seniors and people with disabilities have suffered needlessly at Schwarzenegger’s hands, with critical services that enable them to be independent deeply cut and wages for those who care for them slashed.  Children and the vulnerable have been put at risk because Schwarzenegger cut billions from health care for children, Medi-cal, Cal-Works, foster care and programs that provide social services and health care for seniors and people with disabilities.

And although Arnold promised to stand up to the corporate special interests that demand favors and giveaways in exchange for campaign contributions, Schwarzenegger has doled out the biggest corporate giveaways in state history, paid for by seniors, people with disabilities, school children and middle-class families who will suffer the burden of Arnold’s budget decisions.

California families say, Enough is enough!  California families, seniors, schools and our kids have endured enough cuts.  The Governor has a chance to salvage his legacy, but only if he reverses course now.

Representing nearly 200,000 California working people, including nurses and home care workers who care for the elderly and the disabled, we call on the Governor to chart a new budget course that is fair for the middle class, invests in a better California for our children, and keeps the promise of a dignified retirement for our parents and grandparents.  

If Schwarzenegger fails to be a champion for California’s middle-class families, this one-time action hero’s legacy will instead be remembered as our state’s worst governor.  Elected as an “outsider” who promised to shake up Sacramento, he will instead be remembered for becoming corrupted by the same corporate special interests he promised he would stand up to.

Sadly, if Schwarzenegger continues down this path, it will be our children who will pay the ultimate price for his failures as they inherit a crumbing public infrastructure, embarrassingly meager investment in our public schools, a generation of young people shut out of our public universities, and a health care system on the brink of disaster.

 He has less than 60 days to decide if the history books will praise his leadership on behalf of California families, or lament his governorship as a total failure.

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