The Long Road for California Republicans

Which has
a longer life expectancy, a house fly or a Republican legislative leader in California?

Republican
leaders, but not by a lot.

First the
Senate ousted Dave Cogdill after a long
painful weekend of budget talks that included
a lockdown
. He’d lasted less than a year.

Now
Assembly Republican leader Mike Villines
has taken a “you can’t fire me, I quit” position, stepping down
amid continuing party dissatisfaction with the February budget deal that led to
the tax proposals on this month’s ballot. He’d lasted a little more than two
years.

Cogdill,
who had nothing left to lose, and Villines, who did, have campaigned with Gov.
Arnold Scharzenegger and Democratic legislative leaders in recent months as
officials have toured the state in favor of the ballot propositions.

In the
case of Villines, it further angered party conservatives who were steamed at
the deal to begin with.

“Republicans
have one job and one job only: keep taxes low and keep the budget under
control. And frankly if we aren’t willing to do that job, we should all
resign,” said Michael Der Manouel Jr., president of the conservative
Lincoln Club of Fresno County told The Fresno Bee. “We never wanted
a compromise on the budget in the first place, and it was done without (our)
input.”

The men
who replaced Cogdill and Villines – Dennis Hollingsworth and Sam Blakeslee –
are willing to toe that party line. Ironically, it might not matter now.
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass told The Sacramento Bee she doubts any new
tax proposals will be on the table.

It will
matter, though, if they adopt the unwillingness to compromise that seems to
accompany the vow of tax chastity.

It’s an
unwillingless Cogdill believes hurts the party.

“We
Republicans don’t seem to be able to deal with incrementalism,” he told The
Los Angeles Times
. “Democrats have proven to be masters.
It’s something we rail against. If we don’t get it all and exactly the way we
want it, then we reject it out of hand. This is the most recent example.

“Democrats,
with incrementalism, can ultimately get to wherever they want to go. It’s the
way they operate.”

And it’s
an unwillingness Villines has said could become further entrenched if the
propositions fail,

“We’re
giving voters a chance to say, ‘Get together and compromise.’ If they reject
it, what they’re saying is, ‘We don’t want parties working together. We want
partisan warfare,’ ” Villines said in that same Times column.

A poll
the Public Policy
Institute of California
released this week shows that rejection is indeed
likely on five of the six measures. The only one voters like is the one that
would cut legislators’ pay in times of crisis.

“The
voters who are really tuned in are really turned off,” institute
president Mark Baldassare said in a news release. “They see the
state’s budget situation as a big problem, but so far, they don’t
like the solution.”

Meanwhile,
the Legislative
Analyst’s Office
says that if the Legislature and/or the voters don’t do
something – and do it quickly – the budget situation will continue to
deteriorate.

“If there
were to be a prolonged impasse, the treasurer and controller could be prevented
from borrowing sufficient funds to allow the state to pay its bills on
time,” the nonpartisan LAO warned.

Remember
that cliff everyone kept talking about in February? We’re nearing the brink
again, and this time there will be even less inclination to work things out.