POWER….Governor Arnold announced a budget deal with California higher education leaders on Monday. Basically, the universities accepted a spending cut this year in return for guaranteed growth rates in future years plus restoration of a few things Schwarzenegger had proposed cutting in the first draft of his budget last January.

It’s probably a lousy deal for the universities, but that’s not what caught my eye. Check out this reaction from Democrats in the legislature:

“We were taken aback” by the university officials’ agreement, said Assemblyman Dario Frommer (D-Los Feliz). “I’m surprised they would go along with such a deal. I think the university officials need to take a class in civics. This is a government where the Legislature proposes a budget and the governor ratifies it. They may have made a deal with the governor, but they haven’t made it with us.”

….”This is a severe blow to both UC and CSU. The only cut I am ready to make is in the salaries of the administrators who agreed to this,” said Jackie Goldberg (D-Los Angeles), chairwoman of the Assembly Education Committee. “If we agree to these cuts and then 3% growth in the future, it will take these institutions 10 years to get back to where they are now.”

Said Assemblyman Joseph Simitian (D-Palo Alto): “The administration’s January budget does irreparable harm to the UC and CSU system. Suggesting that somehow that will be remedied by modest guarantees for growth and cost of living ? is quite wide of the mark.”

Here’s the real civics lesson: apparently the Democrats ? who control the legislature and ought to have plenty of clout ? didn’t even know these negotiations were taking place. University officials clearly decided that the Democrats were so weak that they couldn’t count on getting a better deal by working with them instead of with Schwarzenegger.

They might be wrong about that, but Democrats in the legislature might want to think long and hard about why they’re so out of the loop on this. In politics, perception of power really is power, and at least one group of bureaucrats has decided that the Democrats don’t have any. Time for some soul searching, folks.