Thousands protest governor's plans
A Capitol rally by teachers, nurses, other unions
is among the largest in recent years.
By Alexa H. Bluth, Bee Capitol Bureau
May 26, 2005, The Sacramento Bee
THOUSANDS OF PROTESTORS from across Northern California
blanketed the south lawn of the state Capitol on Wednesday in
a mammoth gathering to accuse Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of
turning his back on middle-class workers with his budget and
The event drew busloads of teachers, nurses, firefighters,
prison guards and other union members on a searing afternoon
for a protest that ranked among the largest in recent years.
"It sends the message that there are a lot of people who are
really concerned about what he is doing to the state," said
Bill Jacks, a physical education teacher at Hemlock
Elementary School in Vacaville.
Around him, protesters wearing union T-shirts and toting
signs listened to union leaders speak and even sing out
against the Republican governor. At times, the crowd chanted,
"Hey, hey, ho, ho, Schwarzenegger's got to go."
Organizers furiously handed out bottles of water and granola
bars to the crowds of people jammed together in the 90-degree
weather. Paramedics helped at least three people who were
overcome by the heat.
A crowd of at least 10,000 - organizers claimed more than
20,000 - collected in Sacramento. Thousands also held a
similar protest in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
The protests were organized by the Alliance for a Better
California, a coalition of workers unions who are fighting
Schwarzenegger's budget plans and ballot initiatives -
including a spending control measure that could undermine
school funding guarantees. Unless he reaches a deal with the
Legislature, the governor has said he will call a special
election on his proposals for the fall.
"We are here from every town in Northern California to say
together 'no' to the governor and 'no' to the governor's
special election," said Barbara Kerr, president of the
California Teachers Association. "We represent the real
people of California. We are a diverse coalition of everyday
people that work and make this state run."
A new statewide poll released Wednesday, meanwhile, showed
voters aren't clamoring for a fall special election.
The Public Policy Institute of California survey found 62
percent of likely voters said it would be better to wait
until the next scheduled statewide election in June 2006.
Secretary of State Bruce McPherson has estimated the special
election would cost about $80 million.
Schwarzenegger defended his education initiatives at an
appearance earlier Wednesday at Natomas Charter School, and
said his 2005-06 budget spends $3 billion more on schools
than in the current fiscal year.
"The important thing to know is that money is not
everything," he said. "If we just throw money at education
and at your kids, and think that we have done our job, we
will be wrong. We will be shortchanging all of you. It is
very important that we make our education system efficient,
that we teach the best possible way, that we have the best
teachers, the best school principals."
The PPIC survey also found that likely voters are split over
how the state should spend $4 billion in revenues that are
expected to flow in to the state because of a better-than-
Of likely voters, 77 percent said they favor the idea of
reducing the amount of state debt. But 74 percent also said
they favor boosting K-12 education funding. About 55 percent
of likely voters said the money should be used to increase
spending on transportation projects.
Schwarzenegger's budget plan proposes to use the extra money
to reverse his earlier plans to borrow from the state's gas
tax fund for highway projects, and to reduce borrowing.
Margaret Fortune, an education adviser to the governor,
called Wednesday's protests "straight out of the (California
Teachers Association) union playbook of beating the drum for
more money even though the governor has increased education
expenditures by $3 billion in the budget he proposed in May."
Schwarzenegger's budget plan does include a year-over- year
boost for schools, but educators say it falls short of
fulfilling an agreement he made last year to put even more
money into schools if the economy improved.
Kerr said the governor should take notice of the crowds of
people who turned out Wednesday.
"The real reason he is having this special election is to
silence the voice of working people," Kerr told the crowd.
"Will we let the governor silence our voices? No!"
Several Democratic lawmakers milled about in the crowd,
including Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez.
"They are pretty angry at the governor, there is no question
about it," he said.
Copyright (c) The Sacramento Bee