Four California lawmakers who stood up to their parties during last year's state budget crisis were awarded the annual John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award on Monday in Boston.
The award was presented to two Democrats, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento and former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass of Los Angeles; and two Republicans, former Senate Minority Leader Dave Cogdill of Modesto and former Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines of Clovis.
Cogdill, who has represented the Lodi area since the 2006 election, is not seeking re-election. Cogdill previously said in a news release that he plans to return to the private sector and spend more time with his family.
Cogdill served in the Assembly, generally representing Stanislaus County, from 1999 to 2006. He previously served on the Modesto City Council and several local boards and commissions. He had a real estate appraisal business.
During an emergency budget session in February 2009, the Democrats voted for spending cuts that angered employee unions and other core party supporters. The Republicans agreed to tax increases, a move that later cost them their leadership roles.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has praised the lawmakers for working together to address what was then a $42 billion budget deficit. In addition to spending cuts, accounting gimmicks and funding shifts, the Legislature agreed to temporary increases in the sales and income taxes and in the vehicle license fee.
The Republican governor noted it was somewhat unusual to give the award to two Republican lawmakers because the award is issued by a Democratic political dynasty. Schwarzenegger's wife is California first lady Maria Shriver, daughter of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who was the sister of John F. and Robert F. Kennedy.
Steinberg said he was humbled to receive the honor but added, "Our work is not yet done," according to a transcript of his acceptance speech. The awards were presented at John F. Kennedy Library.
The Kennedy family created the Profile in Courage Award to recognize the work of elected public servants.
Past recipients include President Gerald Ford and former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The February 2009 budget deal that led to the Profile in Courage awards has been derided in California. Many of its provisions didn't work as planned, and it was passed only after Schwarzenegger and the legislative leaders agreed to a number of back-room deals.
One Republican abstained from the initial round of voting until he got a $10,000 tax credit for buyers of new homes, which cost taxpayers $100 million.
Most notably was back-room dealing with former Republican Sen. Abel Maldonado, the state's newly appointed lieutenant governor. Rather than asking for special projects for his district, Maldonado refused to vote for the budget deal unless lawmakers agreed to ask voters for an open primary system that in theory will benefit moderate politicians such as him.
The change will go before voters in the June 8 primary.
Despite the tax increases, the state budget was back in the red within months, angering voters.
California faces another massive deficit in the coming fiscal year, this one pegged at $19 billion, and a recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that 72 percent of adults have an unfavorable view of the Legislature.