State Senator Abel Maldonado says that during the epic budget battle in Sacramento, some of his fellow Republicans urged him to withhold his vote so that the stalemate would bankrupt California.
“It was ‘Abel – let it go into bankruptcy, let it go off a cliff, we need to prove a point, that it’s the majority’s fault,’” he said in an interview, to be published Thursday in the Santa Barbara Independent.
Maldonado’s decisive vote on the budget deal last month thrust him into the state and national political spotlight. After two other senate Republicans signed on to the budget, Maldonado played hardball with the governor and the Democrats who needed his vote to get the two-thirds needed to pass it.
He got what he wanted: removal of a 12 cent per gallon gas tax increase from the plan, plus necessary approvals to put two pet political reforms on the ballot.
One is a measure, to come before voters next year, to revamp elections so that the top two finishers in a primary election – rather than the winner from each party – face off in the general election.
The second is Proposition 1F on the May 19 special election ballot. It would forbid the Citizens Compensation Commission, which sets salaries for legislators and statewide officeholders, from awarding pay raises in years when the state is in deficit.
Maldonado has been excoriated for his vote on the budget by doctrinaire, anti-tax Republicans because it includes $15 billion in higher taxes. Although a right-wing recall effort against him fizzled, the California Republican Party voted formally to deny him financial or any other political support. And most other Sacramento Republicans are giving him the cold shoulder.
Last month’s GOP convention was nasty, he said. “It wasn’t pretty,” he added. “There was a lot of shouting and a lot of insults. People were yelling at me, calling me a sell-out and stuff like that. I took my wife and maybe I shouldn’t have.”
The 41-year old Maldonado, born and raised in Santa Maria the son of immigrant farmers, was first elected to the senate to represent a long swath of the Central Coast in 2004, and re-elected in 2008, after three Assembly terms.
He said his vote on the budget allowed him to wrangle reforms that do not carry personal benefit for him but “are about California.” He also expressed regret that in the past he signed a “no new taxes” pledge, saying that Republican orthodoxy on the issue “is an irrational position.”
“I regret signing” the pledge, he said. “I regret not having a couple of words added – ‘unless there’s an emergency.’ We have a fiscal emergency in our state. People want ideas and solutions, not political positions.”