- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 1, 2005

In 2004, 51 members of California’s 53-seat House delegation ran for re-election. The fact that all of them won is one reason why Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is campaigning hard for Proposition 77, which would take away the state legislature’s power to draw political districts and give it to a panel of retired judges. Just a month ago, when polls showed a majority of voters in favor in Prop. 77, it seemed that Californians had had enough of their state democracy resembling a one-party backwater where incumbents always win. More recent polls, however, tell a different story, and now it appears that all four of the governor’s ballot measures are going to go down to defeat on Nov. 8.

This would be unfortunate, insofar as Mr. Schwarzenegger was elected to institute the kind of changes he is proposing. In addition to taking on cushy incumbents, his reform package directly targets the teacher unions and their political clout. Proposition 74 would increase the length of time required before a teacher can earn tenure from two years to five; Proposition 75 would prohibit public-employee labor unions from using union dues for political contributions, unless the member gives explicit consent. Proposition 76 would restrict state spending increases and give the governor greater budget authority over items like education spending. All enjoyed majority support a few months ago, but no longer.

The California Teachers Association, the state’s biggest teacher’s union, has spent more than $50 million to defeat the measures. Deroy Murdoch reported yesterday in National Review Online that the union increased dues payments last year 11.25 percent to generate the extra cash for its opposition campaign — a fact which of course begs the question: How much of that money came from members who support the governor’s plan? More recently, the MoveOn.org crowd has joined the fray with ads linking Mr. Schwarzenegger’s proposals to the Bush administration in hopes of playing off the president’s general unpopularity in California. It’s an interesting tactic in that Mr. Bush has not mentioned the ballot measures, nor has he even met with the governor the last two times he visited the state.

There was a time when Mr. Schwarzenegger had the popularity to bypass the Democrat-controlled legislature and present his case to the people. And let’s face it: Going after labor unions as heavily entrenched in legislative matters as California’s takes a certain amount of derring-do — for the governor and his supporters. One Schwarzenegger supporter protesting a union rally recently was assaulted as union thugs tore up her “Go For It, Arnold” placard.

Win or lose, we commend the governor’s pursuit of good, conservative ideas. And although the polls show Californians to be seemingly content with their liberal gridlock, anything can happen on election day.

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