Modesto's Cogdill among state lawmakers to receive Kennedy award

SACRAMENTO -- 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.

Republican state Sen. Dave Cogdill of Modesto, who is not seeking re-election, was one of those honored. He was the Senate minority leader during the budget talks but was later ousted.

The others honored were Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, and former Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines, R-Clovis.

During an emergency budget session in February 2009, the Democrats voted for spending cuts that angered employee unions and other party supporters.

The Republicans agreed to tax increases, a move that later cost them their leadership roles.

Gov. 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 unusual to give the award to two Republican lawmakers because the award is issued by a Democratic political dynasty. Schwarzenegger's wife is Maria Shriver, daughter of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who was the sister of John F. and Robert F. Kennedy.

The awards were presented at the 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 awards has been derided. 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.