FROM CANYON TO COVE: Our men in Sacramento

State Sen. Tom Harman, like most other legislators, seems dismayed but not overly concerned by the state budget impasse.

In his annual meeting with reporters and editors from this newspaper group Friday, he described a Legislature that is gridlocked by party politics.

He can’t get much of his legislation through the Democrat- controlled houses, and he isn’t budging on his party’s insistence that no tax be increased or new tax imposed to get a handle on the $40-billion-and-counting projected budget deficit.

As this is being written, closed-door meetings are underway in Sacramento between the heads of both legislative houses and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The latest report, from the San Jose Mercury News, was that Speaker Karen Bass is “hoping” for a resolution soon.

But “hope” is the operative word.

“There’s not much progress, because the Democrats are not willing to compromise,” Harman said. Seems that’s a two-way street in Sacramento.

Meanwhile, Schwarzenegger, a nominal Republican, has been accusing the Legislature of “failing to act” on his website. “Day 91!” screams his website. “Our budget problem gets worse every second...” and you can watch the billions get bigger on the screen to the tune of about $1,000 a second.

But Harman points out that the state is not lacking a budget. The Legislature approved a compromise budget in September, but then officials realized the numbers were off, and the economy began to flail, and so the Governator sent the Legislature back to hammer out an updated budget.

Since it’s so late in the fiscal year, Harman says the idea is to fix the current budget and also come up with a balanced budget for the next fiscal year. That’s a tall order.

Sort of like trying to bail out the Titanic in the middle of the perfect storm. Probably better to abandon ship at this point.

Anywho, the Legislature missed its last self-appointed deadline of Monday to have a budget deal in place, but they’re still meeting behind closed doors.

Controller John Chiang stopped issuing checks Monday, but that hasn’t cut off the money stream — not quite yet. The federal government is picking up the tab for the state’s supplemental security checks to the disabled and elderly, and university students are still getting their grant money.

The state is due to get $11 billion from the Obama stimulus plan, which represents a life raft for those most likely to fall overboard.

By the time this column hits the streets, California may have a new budget in place. Or not.

Funny thing about Republicans and taxes. Laguna’s Mayor Pro Tem, Elizabeth Pearson, swallowed her Republican anti-tax pride and backed the city’s Measure A, the half-cent sales tax increase that helped the city weather the fallout from the 2005 Bluebird Canyon landslide.

And apparently she paid a high price for it, as she remarked not too long ago that she “gave up her political future” in the wake of support for the tax measure, which has helped the city keep its financial footing, even as many other cities have gone into the red.

Harman considering attorney general run

Now Harman is looking to move up and out of the gridlock of the Legislature where he’s toiled since 2000. He has served in the Assembly for about six years and in the Senate since 2006. He’s eyeing a run at attorney general in 2010.

But, as he explained to us, that’s only if current AG Jerry Brown runs for governor. And that’ll happen only if Sen. Dianne Feinstein decides not to run for governor. Right now, folks don’t see Feinstein, 72, giving up her cushy U.S. Senate seat to take on this state’s notoriously difficult CEO job. But you never know. Maybe she’s a stress junkie — or has a death wish.

Harman points out that he meets the basic qualifications for AG: He’s a licensed attorney (we checked, he is) — apparently one of the few electable Republicans who can say that — so he’s probably on a short list of potential nominees. Also, Harman has been around some big names: to wit, Malcolm Lucas and George Deukmejian, who led the firm with whom he started out his practice in the 1970s. Lucas went on to become chief justice of the State Supreme Court, and Deukmejian, some may recall, went on to become governor.

Harman’s formed an exploratory committee and will announce his decision soon.

Critical of Proposition 8 stance

As for the direction he’d take as AG, Harman is highly critical of Brown for his refusal to defend Proposition 8 — which banned same-sex marriage in the state — against legal challenges.

Harman thinks the AG’s job is to defend the “people of California,” no matter what, even if he thinks the “people” are wrong. He may have a point there, but Brown could argue he is taking a judicious approach by not trying to lead a defense of a proposition he has publicly opposed. In any case, Harman is on record in support of Proposition 8, so it’s probably a moot point.

DeVore seeks Boxer’s seat

In other political news, our man on the other side of the capitol, Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, is aiming even higher. He wants to unseat Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2010.

Ironically, DeVore is following in the footsteps of some prominent Democrats — including President Obama — by using the Internet to raise campaign money, a method that landed him on the cover of the Wall Street Journal recently.

But raise taxes? Don’t even think of going there.


CINDY FRAZIER is city editor of the Coastline Pilot. She can be contacted at (949) 380-4321 or cindy.frazier@latimes.com.

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