State Sen. Abel Maldonado could assume the lieutenant governor's… (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times )
Reporting from Sacramento — State Sen. Abel Maldonado (R-Santa Maria) on Wednesday moved a step closer to confirmation as California's next lieutenant governor when the Senate Rules Committee backed him to fill a vacancy created when John Garamendi was elected to Congress.
Maldonado told the panel that his priorities would be to reduce the state's unemployment rate and make the university systems more accessible and their operations more transparent. He said he would not support additional tax increases or college fee hikes, and he opposes a plan to increase offshore oil drilling.
"I want to make the lieutenant governor's office the public face for job creation," Maldonado told the panel.
The panel's bipartisan 4-0 vote keeps alive the nomination by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and sends Maldonado's appointment to the full Senate for action on whether he should serve out the remaining 10 months of the current term. If neither the Senate nor the Assembly rejects the governor's choice, Maldonado will assume the office Feb. 22.
Senate leader and committee Chairman Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) commended Maldonado for being one of three Republican senators who "crossed over" last year and joined the Democratic majority to pass a $42-billion budget with a plan that included tax increases.
"Sen. Maldonado has been an amiable colleague in our house and has been open to the spirit of bipartisan cooperation," Steinberg said. But he added: "My vote today is not a political endorsement."