Commentary: A 'when pigs fly' feel to Schwarzenegger's reform plans

The Sacramento BeeJanuary 7, 2010 

Arnold Schwarzenegger began his last State of the State address Wednesday by describing how two pets, a pony and a pig, jointly filch dog food from a sealed container.

"So one lesson to draw from the pig and pony story is what we can accomplish when we work together," he told state lawmakers, describing 2009 as "a pig and pony year."

Schwarzenegger quickly followed that upbeat metaphor, however, with a litany of California's ills, ranging from a recession-wracked economy to continuing budget deficits, and laid out an agenda of reforms whose enactment is about as likely as his pet porker's taking wing.

There was a "when pigs fly" quality about the entire speech – a lame-duck governor taking his last stab at reforms he has unsuccessfully promoted for six years, such as limiting state spending, creating emergency reserves, cutting prison costs, curbing costly public pensions and overhauling a boom-and-bust tax system.

He could have been talking about all his long-stalled reforms when he once again urged lawmakers to adopt tax system changes proposed by a blue-ribbon committee – a proposal he said had mysteriously vanished.

"Maybe the pig and the pony have taken it," he mused.

"The commission proposed major, radical reforms," he said. "Now, some people right away said they are too bold and thus they would be too hard to enact. Now what do they mean 'too bold'? Bold is what we do in California."

Schwarzenegger has failed because changing the status quo gores powerful interest groups, especially public employee unions, that have spent millions of dollars to oppose him.

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