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The Long Road for California Republicans

by Indy, published

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.

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