Governor shows his colors

If there were any lingering doubts as to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s status as a card-carrying conservative, they were wiped out last week, when he vetoed three progressive pieces of legislation.

One bill, by Assemblywoman Sally Lieber, D-Santa Clara, would have increased the minimum wage from $6.75 to $7.75 over a two-year period, helping pull millions of working Californians above the poverty line. Another, written by Sen. Richard Alarcon, D-Sun Valley, would have given local governments more power to fight the invasion of big-box retailers and their very real potential to devastate local economies. The third, by Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-Santa Clara, limited random and unwarranted drug testing of K-12 students.

While all three vetoes affect Chico to a certain extent, the first two deal a combination punch, as Wal-Mart, the largest retailer in the world, looks to expand its existing store on Forest Avenue into a super-center and build a second super-store just a few miles up Highway 99. This creates the prospect of hundreds of minimum-wage jobs coming to town, most likely leading to the elimination of better-paid positions when smaller retailers are forced to close their doors and the reduction of pay and benefits for union workers as grocery stores fight to compete.

Combine that prospect with the continued stranglehold on minimum wage, and we have the recipe for even more crappy, dead-end jobs in low-wage Chico. Schwarzenegger, who vowed to stop the influence of special-interest law-making in Sacramento, has clearly sided with corporate interests over low-income workers. As a result taxpayers will continue to subsidize Wal-Mart by paying for the health care and social services its workers can’t afford.

And as the Chico Unified School District gets ready to bring in the drug-sniffing dogs, students’ rights to privacy continue to erode as they are subjected to drug testing not only without reasonable suspicion but without any suspicion what-so-ever. Pee in the cup, kid; nothing personal.