Commentary: Is Schwarzenegger playing politics with lawmakers' wages?

Arnold Schwarzenegger has less than nine months remaining in his topsy-turvy governorship, and he is watching his once-substantial political clout evaporate.

Schwarzenegger's popularity, as measured in public polls, is virtually as low as that of Gray Davis, the governor he succeeded in a historic 2003 recall election. Inside the Capitol, as its denizens refocus on his potential successors, he's considered to be just another lame-duck governor.

Voters may erase two of his major achievements, a sweeping anti-global warming law and shifting legislative redistricting to an independent commission, by passing two pending initiatives. Much of the money for those two measures is coming from interests that once supported Schwarzenegger, as a recent Bee article points out – another sign of his declining political power.

Unfortunately for Schwarzenegger, he cannot coast. California's economy is mired in recession, and the state budget deficit – the issue on which he was elected seven years ago – is as troublesome as ever.

So how does an unpopular Schwarzenegger retain any authority in a Capitol filled with conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats who equally disdain his centrist politics?

The one-time action movie star may have to resort to old-fashioned brute force – and holding a salary cut over the heads of legislators may be one weapon.

To read the complete column, visit www.sacbee.com.