Commentary: Plenty of red ink in Gov. Schwarzenegger's legacy

The Sacramento BeeJanuary 26, 2010 

Arnold Schwarzenegger, with 11 months remaining in his star-crossed governorship, says it's "a little bit too early to reflect" on his legacy — but California voters appear to be rendering their verdict already, and it's not a positive one.

Schwarzenegger once enjoyed some of the highest approval ratings ever recorded for a California governor — 65 percent during his first months — but the latest Field Research poll, released on Sunday, found that just 27 percent of registered voters approve of his performance, and 59 percent say he'll leave state government in worse condition than he found it.

Schwarzenegger professed to be unconcerned about his popular standing Monday during an appearance before the Sacramento Press Club and, instead, said he would devote his final months in office to closing the state's whopping budget deficit — without new taxes — and pressing the Legislature on budgetary, taxation and public pension reform.

"This is the year we have to do these," Schwarzenegger said.

Fat chance.

Schwarzenegger is a lame duck Republican who's distrusted by GOP legislators and whose prescriptions for reform and balancing the budget are anathema to the Democrats who control the Legislature. Those conditions, plus his own lack of popularity, give him no leverage to create the legacy he, of course, wants even as he professes disdain for such petty motives.

Truth is, his last year as governor will almost certainly be dominated by the issue on which he was elected and which continues to bedevil him six-plus years later — the perpetually imbalanced state budget.

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