Retirement Roulette

Don't Gamble With My Pension

Time to shift gears and make friends


When Arnold Schwarzenegger delivered his State of the State speech in January, he was riding high. He laid out ambitious goals to go along with the customary platitudes. So confident was the governor that he threatened to take his "reform'' agenda to the people in a special election.

Today, the special-election threat has never looked feebler. It's time for the governor and his advisers to regroup, curtail his campaigning outside the Capitol and get back to work inside it with the Legislature.

Unless he does, the good ideas that were embodied in his proposals will be lost entirely.

A poll from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) released Wednesday found that only 40 percent of Californians approve of the way the Republican governor is handling his job, while 50 percent do not. The Legislature's majority Democrats have noticed.

Schwarzenegger has postponed an initiative on pension reform. He dropped a big hint Wednesday that reform of redistricting can wait a couple years. A spending-cap initiative is supported by fewer than half the voters, PPIC found. On merit pay for teachers, the last of the State of the State proposals, the governor has vacillated about what his exact aim is, though this is one idea that polls well.

Pension reform and merit pay galvanized union opposition to Schwarzenegger, but he has really taken a beating in public opinion on K-12 education more generally; only 28 percent approved of his performance.

Many of his bruises are deserved. The governor has failed to deliver on a promise. Last year, he got the education community to agree to cuts in return for full funding this year. But the first draft of the governor's budget didn't deliver.
Two opportunities for redemption are now before him. State revenues have been running ahead of predictions. When the governor releases a revised budget in two weeks, he can add education dollars and restore some trust.

The governor's education secretary, Richard Riordan, has resigned. Riordan, the former mayor of Los Angeles, always seemed to be a courtesy appointment, after Schwarzenegger had nudged him aside at the last minute in the recall election.

Riordan's earlier good work with schools in Los Angeles never translated to effectiveness in Sacramento. An astute appointment to fill the vacancy will bring coherence to the governor's education policy.

This might not seem to be the most opportune time for the governor to negotiate with Democrats. The initiative hammer he had hoped to hold over their head is looking like a rubber mallet. Even so, there are signs that the parties can work together.

A decisive vote Wednesday by Senate leader Don Perata, D-Oakland, in favor of Schwarzenegger's controversial workers' compensation director demonstrated a cooperative attitude.

The governor should try to build on it.

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