Commentary: California leaders aren't acting like budget crisis exists

This editorial appeared in The Sacramento Bee.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and California's top legislative leaders can't seem to stick to their scripts.

One day they are warning about fiscal "Armageddon" and calling for sacrifices to solve the state's $42 billion budget impasse.

The next day they are taking a six-day break on budget talks, jetting off to Washington to watch the inauguration of President Barack Obama and hit some of the parties.

The surreal nature of the last week was reflected by the governor's State of the State address and the legislative response to it.

In his speech, the governor equated the fiscal crisis to slow suffocation. "The $42 billion deficit is a rock upon our chest and we cannot breathe until we get it off," the governor said Thursday.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg also sounded a note of urgency in his response. "In serious times, you don't just wait for solutions to fall into your lap – you work overtime to find the solutions."

Yet nearly as soon as they delivered such messages, Schwarzenegger, Steinberg and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass were packing their bags for the nation's capital. According to their spokespeople, the three leaders kept the conversation going via telephone and plan to meet with GOP legislative leaders today. But the three took a six-day hiatus from face-to-face talks. So much for working overtime.

Granted, Obama's inauguration was a historic event. You can't fault California leaders for wanting to rub elbows and be at the head of the line for goodies from a stimulus package.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Sacramento Bee.