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Dave Cogdill, 66, Remembered For Role In 2009 California Budget Deal

Tom Fitzsimmons / John F. Kennedy Library Foundation

Former California legislative leaders Mike Villines, Darrell Steinberg, Dave Cogdill and Karen Bass pose with Caroline Kennedy after receiving the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation's Profile in Courage Award on May 24, 2010.

Tom Fitzsimmons / John F. Kennedy Library Foundation

Former California Senate Republican leader Dave Cogdill died over the weekend. He’s being remembered with bipartisan praise for his role in a crucial budget deal that helped end the largest deficit in the state’s history.

It was early 2009. The California budget deficit stood at $40 billion. And the state Capitol was gridlocked.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the four legislative leaders negotiated around the clock, for weeks, searching for a mix of tax increases, spending cuts and policy changes that could win supermajority approval.

The deal came at a heavy cost.

Late one night, Senate Republicans ousted their leader, Dave Cogdill, who had negotiated the agreement and was working to round up votes for it.

In an interview Monday with Capital Public Radio, Schwarzenegger said Cogdill hated the deal, but did what was best for the state.

“So even though it was against our principles, we voted for the tax increase and got the tax increase,“ Schwarzenegger recalls. “But it cost him his job.”

In fact, each of the six Republicans who voted for the deal saw their political careers wither.

“I still think in retrospect – (it) was the best deal, says former Republican Asm. Roger Niello. “Dave did an outstanding job of that, and in my opinion, he was horribly mistreated by his caucus.”

Cogdill and the other legislative leaders were honored with the prestigious Profile In Courage Award from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

“His actions were a true profile in courage,” says the Senate’s Democratic leader at the time, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg. ”Because he really consciously gave up his leadership to save the state.”

Cogdill “was one of the most respected legislators on both sides of the aisle because he was always firm but fair in his dealings and he always kept his word,“ then-Assembly Republican Leader Mike Villines said in a statement Monday. Villines also lost his leadership post after helping negotiate the budget deal. “I miss him terribly.”

Cogdill also played a key role in negotiating the 2009 water bond, which was a precursor to the measure that voters approved in 2014.

Schwarzenegger remembers Cogdill as a great leader and a friend – with a sense of humor and strong work ethic. 

“He would call me late at night about ideas that we had, so I knew that he was working at it, and reading and studying and trying to figure things out,” Schwarzenegger said. ”He was a very, very dedicated public servant.”

Cogdill died Sunday after battling pancreatic cancer, leaving behind his wife, two kids and three grandchildren.

“My dad was my hero and I strive to be half as good a man, father, and servant as he was,” his son, David Jr., said in a statement Sunday. “While we mourn our beloved father, a man of faith who epitomized integrity, we take some comfort in the knowing that he is finally free from pain and suffering.”

Cogdill was 66 years old.

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 

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