California’s Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying hard to convince voters he has learned from the across-the-board defeat of his proposals in last year’s special election. In contrast to last year’s attempts to bypass the Legislature, this year the governor has sought to project an image of cooperation to benefit all Californians. But a look at some of the measures he vetoed and signed helps to reveal the real Arnold.
Of the 1,172 bills the Democratic Party-led Legislature sent him, the governor okayed 910 and vetoed 262 — a slightly lower percentage of vetoes than in previous years.
One notable veto was that of SB 840, the single-payer health care bill by state Sen. Sheila Kuehl that would have provided all residents with comprehensive health care benefits. Schwarzenegger claimed it called for a “government-run health care system,” would cost the state “billions” and lead to significant new taxes on individuals and businesses.
Kuehl challenged the governor’s reasoning as “inaccurate,” pointing out that health care delivery would remain the same, whether public or private. She also pointed out that instead of the current lack of cost controls and huge insurance company profits, SB 840 would have created a “transparent system that actually would succeed in making health care coverage affordable in California.”
Legislative leaders and backers of the bill vowed to continue the fight. The OneCareNow campaign said it would keep building grassroots support until elected officials, including the governor, accept single-payer in California.
Among other vetoes:
• SB 815, which would have restored major cuts Schwarzenegger made to workers’ compensation benefits for permanently disabled workers.
• AB 1840, which would have revealed which corporations are using taxpayer-funded health care programs for their employees rather than providing affordable health benefits. The bill would have affected Wal-Mart, one of the governor’s top donors.
• SB 1523, which would have required superstore retailers like Wal-Mart and Kmart to complete an independent report showing the impact on local economies in areas where they plan to build.
• SB 160, the “California Dream Act,” which would have let undocumented college students apply for financial aid, and SB 1162, which would have enabled undocumented immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses.
• AB 2302, which would have increased the availability of interpreters for people with limited English proficiency in court proceedings.
• AB 675, which would have cracked down on corporate tax cheats.
• Two bills to reduce the number of false convictions in the state by requiring guidelines for eyewitness evidence and recording the interrogations of violent crime suspects.
One of the governor’s most notable signings was that of AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act, to significantly cut greenhouse gas emissions. Praised by many environmentalists, it nonetheless includes an escape clause allowing a future governor to delay implementation for up to a year and perhaps longer under certain conditions.
The governor also signed legislation to raise the state’s minimum wage by $1 an hour, to $7.75, but rejected calls to index the new wage to inflation. In a statement, California Labor Federation head Art Pulaski pointed out that “it took three years and a re-election campaign” to convince the governor to raise the minimum. He vowed to continue the fight for indexing.