Karen Bass, California State Assembly Member, and former Democratic Speaker of the Assembly; David Cogdill, California State Senator and former Senate Republican Leader; Darrell Steinberg, California State Senator and Democratic Senate President pro Tem; and Michael Villines, California State Assembly Member and former Assembly Republican Leader, will be presented with the 2010 Profile in Courage Award in recognition of the political courage each demonstrated in standing up to the extraordinary constituent and party pressure they faced while working with Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to address California’s severe financial crisis.
In February 2009, amid one of the worst budget crises in California’s history, an imploding economy, and potentially catastrophic partisan deadlock, the state’s Republican and Democratic party leaders came together to address the financial emergency. After weeks of grueling negotiation, the legislative leaders and Gov. Schwarzenegger reached an agreement on a comprehensive deal to close most of a $42 billion shortfall, putting an end to years of government inaction and sidestepping of the difficult decisions necessary to address California’s increasingly dire fiscal crisis. The deal was objectionable to almost everyone; it contained tax increases, which the Republicans had long pledged to oppose, and draconian spending cuts, which brought intense criticism to the Democrats. The two Republicans were ousted from their party leadership positions over the agreement. Voters defeated the budget referendum in May 2009. In June and July of that year, the state began issuing high-interest IOUs to vendors in lieu of payment. In 2010, California continues to struggle with budget deficits that threaten to prolong the state’s fiscal crisis.