Editorial: This time, confirm Maldonado

If we didn’t know better, we’d suspect last week’s Sacramento showdown over Abel Maldonado was a deliberate ploy to take our minds off more serious matters — starting with the state’s $20 billion budget deficit.

That, however, would have required a modicum of cooperation on the part of our state legislators. And that word — “cooperation” — seems to have disappeared from the vocabulary of too many state politicians.

Consequently, what should have been a simple, straightforward confirmation of the governor’s pick for lieutenant governor devolved into another unnecessary political feud.

A recap: The state Senate approved the appointment of Sen. Maldonado, a Santa Maria Republican, without much ado, but the Assembly couldn’t muster the requisite number of votes, despite two tries. Gov. Schwarzenegger then got into the act by threatening to swear in Maldonado anyway, which would certainly have led to a long, costly court battle.

And here’s the kicker: All this brouhaha was over an appointment that expires at the end of the year.

At least the governor had enough sense to back off his threat and decide to renominate Maldonado, rather than forcing the issue. That sets the stage for another vote in the Assembly, and we strongly urge that Assembly members reconsider and confirm the appointment.

Maldonado is well qualified for the position, and he’s the governor’s pick. That should overshadow political bickering that will only further alienate the 83 percent of voters who already hold the Legislature in low esteem on account of partisan gridlock.

We can understand why voters are so disillusioned. A state confronting a $20 billion budget deficit should concentrate on solving that crisis — not become sidetracked by a 10-month appointment to an office that doesn’t have a whole lot of political clout anyway.

It may be too late to save face, but Assembly members can still take the better-late-than-never course: Confirm Maldonado as lieutenant governor and move on.