Last time we saw Governator Arnold, it was November 2004, and he singlehandedly spent (i.e. wasted...) $300 million of state taxpayers funds on four stringent and stingy, government-reshaping ballot measures that all failed miserably at the ballot box. During his campaign for the measures, he deeply offended almost every respected employee group in California from teachers and professors to police and firefighters, nurses and doctors and many more.
And, of course, before this 2004 debacle, Arnold launched a "California Performance Review" of state government, with glowing promises of saving billions. But those top-to-bottom audits also failed to deliver on Arnold's whopping promises.
On January 5, 2006, the Republican governor of Caifornia, a state in which 2/3 of voters are registered Democrats, delivered his annual State of the State address...and it was an eye-opener.
"I have absorbed my defeat. I have learned my lesson " proclaimed the mega-movie-star turned governor. "To my fellow Californians, I say, 'Message received.' "
The "message received" by California's 38th governor is that to be reelected in 2006, he needs to sharply change his voter-repellent Republican ways. That sharp change is away from damn-the-infrastructure Bush Republicanism and toward traditional Democratic thought on shoring up America's education and public works systems and helping the American worker with a raise and a plethora of public projects jobs.
Arnold specifically proposed in his January 5, 2006 speech:
-- $222.6 billion in public works improvements over 20 years, to be paid partly by $68 billion in new general obligation bonds
-- 550 miles of new carpool lanes, 750 new highway miles, 600 miles of new commuter rail lines and 8,500 of bicycle and pedestrian paths
-- $26.3 billion for new charter and technical schools, 2,000 new smaller public schools, and modernization of 140,000 classrooms
-- Two new prisons
-- A new crime lab
-- Repair and reconstruction of California's aging infrastructure, including ports, dams, power plants, levees, bridges, prisons, mental hospitals, parks and the state's 50,000 miles of freeways.
-- $1 per hour raise in the state minimum wage for all hourly workers
All with no new taxes. Of course.
The Los Angeles Times reported that "Republicans and Democrats alike greeted Schwarzenegger's speech with tepid applause and later, guarded comments. "
The governator's new ideas are decidedly Democratic in nature, and polar-opposites from Bush Administration proposals on the federal level. His proposals are exciting, and point toward a Roosevelt-esque approach to bolstering California's desperately sagging fiscal situation and to rebuilding the state's infrastructure.
I hope he succeeds.....everyone does, but Arnold has proven himself to be long on bold ideas, yet woefully short on implementing those ideas.
Arnold recently hired a a new chief of staff, top state Democrat, Susan Kennedy, an avowed lesbian and abortion-rights activist with fiscally conservative instincts. And Arnold's closest advisor and staunchest supporter is his wife, Maria Shriver, a proud Democrat and niece of Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and of the late President John F. Kennedy. Arnold has always quietly been on record as being pro-choice and supporting stem cell research and some gay rights issues.
As California goes, so eventually goes the nation in many trends and patterns. It's interesting to note that as national polls clearly show Americans frustrated with Bush-style Republicanism, the Republican governor of the nation's largest state takes an unabashed Democratic policy route to reelection in 2006.
All I have to say is.....Welcome to the Democratic Party, Arnold! What took you so long???