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Sunday Late Nite: Post-Partisanship

When David Broder praises the powerful appeal of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s post-partisan style, what’s he really praising? Well, one way a Governor prioritizes is when he wields his line-item veto pen. That’s right — even though California’s budget needs two-thirds of both the Senate and the Assembly to pass, our Governor has a line-item veto. He can use this veto to tailor the post-passage budget. This year, to finally get the budget passed seven weeks late, the Governor promised holdout GOPs that he’d use the line-item veto in a way they’d like.

What did Arnold veto after the budget passed with the votes of these holdout GOPs? Fifty-one line items in the budget encompassing $703,000,000 in spending — $527,000,000 of it from health and human services.

Powerful appeal? Is it powerfully appealing to cut $310,000,000 from Medi-Cal reserves, an entitlement that’ll simply get a later supplemental appropriation to cover costs? Is it powerfully appealing to cut $55,000,000 from a program that provides mental health services for the homeless? According to State Senator Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) who wrote the bill that created this program in 2000:

“The program provides over 4,500 homeless Californians living with mental illness with permanent housing, where they can regularly receive medical and psychiatric treatment and job counseling. The program has been wildly successful according to the Department of Mental Health, reducing the number of days spent homeless by 67 percent, increasing the number of days working full-time by 65 percent, and reducing the number of days incarcerated by 72 percent.

“This is a program that works, that saves the state money in incarceration costs and that humanely treats a population that usually gets short shrift in Sacramento,” Steinberg said. “I’m extremely disappointed that the Governor used his veto power in a way that punishes the least among us.”

Other cuts due to Arnold’s veto pen:

$1.3 million to track hospital efforts to eliminate infections, which kill more than 7,000 Californians a year; $30 million for state parks; and $6 million to compel drug manufacturers to discount medicines for lower-income people.

[snip]

He also struck a $17.4-million plan to protect seniors.

The overhaul of the state’s conservatorship system was approved last year after an investigation in The Times that detailed how a system intended to protect seniors was plagued with fraud and abuse.

At the time, top Schwarzenegger officials said the overhaul demonstrated his determination to protect the elderly. Assemblyman Dave Jones (D-Sacramento), who championed the reform effort, said the money was “critical to preventing horrendous abuses of our most frail and vulnerable seniors.”

It’s a shame the least among us must suffer Arnold’s veto pen. Did he spare no one?

But for one select group, the spending plan could prove a financial boon: owners of yachts, planes or recreational vehicles.

They will once again be able to avoid paying sales tax if they keep those items out of the state for just 90 days after purchase. That’s how the law worked before 2004, when lawmakers closed what most considered a loophole by requiring state residents to keep those pricey purchases out of the state for a year to receive a sales tax exemption.

Yacht owners must have a vocal lobby in Sacramento to get this $45,000,000 tax loophole reinstated, or was Arnold just acting to protect his own? In fact, it’s worse than that.

A provision intended to keep the one-year requirement in place was removed from the budget last month at the insistence of Senate Republican Leader Dick Ackerman of Irvine, himself a yacht owner.

“It’s a commitment we made to Dick Ackerman,” said Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez (D-Los Angeles), who in 2004 fought to stiffen the tax exemption’s eligibility rules during budget negotiations. “Hopefully they will make him president of the yacht club or something.”

The next time a Very Serious Person praises The Governator for his exciting and modern post-partisan style, please remind that person that Arnold’s style differs very little from the style of California’s last actor-slash-governor, Ronald Reagan:

Mentally ill homeless people, BAD.

Yacht owners, GOOD.

UPDATE: When contacted, Dick Ackerman’s office said he was unavailable for comment, but it’s 79 degrees and excellent sailing weather in Irvine. (h/t David Dayen, calitics.com)

(Assembly Report youtube from AssemblyAccess)

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