Get ready to have two governors at once.
Jerry Brown’s governorship is almost certain to begin before Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ends.
Don’t believe it? Just ask them.
Jerry Brown recently suggested at a San Francisco Chronicle editorial board meeting that he might start working on a new budget – which would include talking with legislators and holding public meetings around the state – this November.
At that time, Schwarzenegger will still be in office, with two more months on his term.
But that doesn’t mean he’s leaving. Schwarzenegger told an audience in San Francisco that he intended to continue his work on the public policy issues he focused on as governor even as he officially leaves office. The governor promised to campaign for, among other things, his water bond, which has been pushed back to 2012.
"You will see that I never drop anything," he said. "I still work out even though I stopped competing. I still do movies even though I stopped the movie business."
The strangest thing about these statements?
The fact that no one thinks them strange. California’s dysfunctional system of government makes the idea of having two governors at a time sound reasonable.
After all, why shouldn’t a Gov.-Elect Brown start working on the budget right after his election? Heck, he may well have to negotiate this year’s budget, seeing as Schwarzenegger and legislative leaders haven’t managed it.
And in a state with a strong (and inflexible) initiative process, a governor must be prepared to defend his legacy at the ballot long after he’s left office. For Schwarzenegger, this may require work on more than just water. His climate change legislation and his political reforms (in redistricting and the top-two primary) are likely to be contested on the ballot for years.
And what about Meg Whitman? Well, her governorship already overlaps with Gov. Schwarzenegger. Her promise to cut 40,000 state government jobs depends in part on Schwarzenegger’s ongoing cuts to the state workforce. (The clock on her promise started when she made the promise last year, her campaign has said). And since Whitman is promising to balance the budget without tax increases, Californians are already seeing her budget policies proposed through Schwarzenegger.
Heck, if you count the hyperactive Acting Gov. Abel Maldonado (who crashed my inbox this weekend with all his emails), California has three governors right now.
For all the good it does us.
I wonder how California would do without any governor at all.