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Arnold Wimping Out?

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Governor Schwarzenegger has built a solid reputation on a foundation of bipartisanship and a tough attitude towards the budget. This week, however, some cracks have begun to appear.

The LA Times reported yesterday that Arnold's agreement with the powerful prison guard lobby included tons of concessions and minimal cutbacks. While the Governor managed to delay some pay raises, he delivered a costly new benefits package and more institutional power for the union in return.

Early this month, a Schwarzenegger-appointed panel on prisons delivered a report on reforming corrections. It identified "too much union control" as a key element to the troubles facing the state jails. Arnold promised to bring $300 million back to the state coffers after new negotiations with the prisons lobby - but his agreement lives up to about a third of that promise. It's disappointing to see the strongman cave, especially when it comes to this important issue.

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Arnold has also been working hard to appease conservatives in the state Republican party. He wants to repeal a law signed by Gray Davis in 2002 that allows workers to sue their employers over violations of safety regulations or minimum-wage laws. Reasonable people can argue over whether such lawsuits should be allowed - the problem is that he wants to tack on these rules to an already-delayed budget agreement, further confusing a complex process.

Arnold's eager to appease Republicans because of our ridiculous state laws that require a 2/3rds majority to pass a budget. Local GOP officials know that they have no future in modern Republican politics if they back tax hikes - so they dig in their heels and ignore the fact that our treasury is stuck deep in debt.

It's clear that the Governor has what it takes to broker a compromise. But does he have the courage to rebuke GOP ideologues who are desperate to prevent reforms?