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Schwarzenegger's Legacy Mixed As He Returns To Capitol

Capital Public Radio file photo

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger campaigns for Proposition 11 in Summer 2008. Prop 11, narrowly approved by voters that fall, created a Citizens Redistricting Commission that now draws California congressional and legislative districts.

Capital Public Radio file photo

He always said he’d be back – and though it’s taken him four years, former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the state Capitol Monday for a climate change symposium and the unveiling of his official portrait.

Schwarzenegger’s legacy is a complicated one.

Claremont McKenna College Professor Jack Pitney calls the “governator’s” governorship a “disappointment.”

“He came into office talking about ‘blowing up da boxes,’” Pitney recalls, imitating the governor's famous accent, “and the boxes proved to be pretty sturdy.”

Pitney says Schwarzenegger could never fundamentally restructure state government, as he had hoped, and left office with California facing a $27 billion budget deficit.

“If Prop 25 had been on the books, a lot of the drama surrounding the budget process under Schwarzenegger would have vanished,” Pitney says.

That’s the “majority-vote budget” rule that current Gov. Jerry Brown has used to avoid the long, drawn-out fiscal fights of the Schwarzenegger era.

Pitney says it’s too soon to say how two key legacy issues Schwarzenegger championed will turn out: California’s new “top two” open primary system and the state’s greenhouse gas reduction law known as AB 32. That law is the one thing about Schwarzenegger that Democrats praise.

As for the GOP, Pitney says, “It’s hard to think of any Republicans in California who utter Arnold Schwarzenegger’s name – except in a negative way.”

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio