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Lockyer suggests mediator break state budget impasse

July 1, 2009 |  3:25 pm


State Treasurer Bill Lockyer sure has some radical ideas about how to break California’s government gridlock.

Hire a professional mediator to facilitate talks between lawmakers and the governor. Former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz, maybe?

And craft two budgets – one for the liberal coast and one for more conservative inland regions.

“We’ll have the budget for the coast that has tax increases and services,” Lockyer said in a wide-ranging interview with The Times’ Sacramento bureau. “And in a bunch of other areas in Central and Southern California that don’t have tax increases … their public schools are closed a month of the year – and see what happens.”

He described the idea as a “genuine thought” that would allow Democrats their preferred solution of raising taxes and Republicans their preferred approach of cutting services.

“If people in Orange County aren’t going to vote for a state budget, I don’t know why you shouldn’t sell  [UC Irvine] to Google,” he said. “Why is there a DMV office in Riverside? Those folks ought to figure out how to go to L.A. at night to renew their driver’s license.”

Lockyer, a Democrat who was previously California’s attorney general and leader of the state Senate, said the state has had “an institutional breakdown.” He sees growing tensions between the Legislature’s majority Democrats and Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: “I would not be surprised if the Legislature’s response to the governor’s muscle is to say: Fine, shut everything down.”

He aimed some fire at GOP lawmakers, saying he believed there are “a number of Republican legislators that are gleeful about the state shutting down,” if that’s where the fiscal crisis takes California.

“In any other impasse of this seriousness, there would be mediators working,” he said, suggesting Shultz as a “potentially fruitful” pick.

In January, when lawmakers and the governor were stalled in the last budget fight, Schwarzenegger dismissed the idea of an outside mediator.

“I don’t think we need a professional mediator,” the governor said at the time.

Lockyer has an opportunity to pitch the idea in person, when he meets this afternoon with Schwarzenegger and state Controller John Chiang to discuss implementing the IOUs scheduled to begin going out Thursday.

-- Shane Goldmacher 

Photo: State Treasurer Bill Lockye. Credit: AP Photo/Jamie Rector