California Here We Come

Richard Reeves is not someone I would agree with a great deal, but I’m afraid he was spot on in his column last week where he lamented the downward spiral of his home state:

You may have noticed that the governor and legislators of the Golden State finally produced a “balanced” budget with a deficit in double-digit billions. But, hey, who’s counting?

He lays blame at the feet of California’s often insane patchwork of direct democracy. Both conservatives and liberals have abused this system to the point where voters will simulatenously support huge new spending iniatives and giant tax cuts:

Sure, the state’s chief justice, Ronald George, traveled to Cambridge, Mass., to tell the American Academy of Arts and Sciences that the state is “dysfunctional.” His reasoning:

“California’s lawmakers, and the state itself, have been placed in a fiscal straitjacket by a steep two-thirds-vote requirement — imposed at the ballot box — for raising taxes. … Much of this constitutional and statutory structure has been brought about not by legislative fact-finding and deliberation, but rather by the approval of voter initiative measures, often funded by special interests.”

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s victory in the 2003 recall election was hailed by conservatives. Hey, he’s pro-choice and anti-gun and married to a Kennedy, but who cares when you have a celebrity who can call the opponent’s economic girlie men? And indeed, Ahrnold seemed to be a genuine fiscal conservative. This is until his own ballot initiatives designed to cut down on corruption and fix the state budget all failed in the special election he called in 2005. He shifted left on fiscal issues during his 2006 re-election bid and has continued this track with the legislature, hashing out tax hikes across the board and pushing for a ballot initiative for even more that ultimately failed in May.

What to expect from someone who can barely handle their own finances. From the Los Angles Times: (H/T Instapundit):

A federal tax lien for nearly $80,000 filed against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is related to “a minor paperwork tracking discrepancy,” and is expected to be cleared up quickly with no penalty assessed on the governor, spokesman Aaron McLear said this afternoon.

Public records show the lien was filed May 11 at the Los Angeles County recorder’s office for $79,064, according to a record in an electronic database that includes lien filings. The record lists the debtor as Arnold Schwarzenegger and the address as the governor’s home address in Brentwood.

Now voters are ambling down a dangerous path towards the 2010 election. Their choices right now seem to be from three major contenders. On the left, there’s Jerry Brown, former Governor and current Attorney General. He picked up the handy nickname Governor Moonbeam in the 1980s for his far left agenda. As even the reliably Reeves points out, Brown was in charge when much of this mess got started. On the right, there’s current Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, the only other elected statewide Republican, and Meg Whitman, former eBay CEO and Mitt Romney finance chair/McCain-Palin co-chair.

On paper, Whitman would seem to be the sure bet. She’s got name ID from her time on the campaign trail, and she’s business oriented. However, let us remember just how well the celebrity path worked for California Republicans last time. In addition, she seems to have a pretty poor record when it comes to even paying attention to California politics, having not even registered to vote before 2002 and skipping a number of elections since then, including the 2003 recall . Additionally, though she’ll try to make much of her time at eBay, she left in a huff at a time when many were suggesting that the company was over-extended on its acquisitions while failing to build its core brand.

Steve Poizner, meanwhile, has a strong track record of in public office. He slashed his office’s budget by 15%, cut taxes and fees, and opened up the state to competition. Additionally, Poizner has a very impressive track record of his own in the private sector. He founded SnapTrack, a company that pioneered GPS use in cell phones. He eventually sold the company to industry giant Qualcomm for a reported $1 billion. Poizner also sits well with California’s small but vocal band of social conservatives while not making it the focus of his run, a move that has doomed other California conservatives.

Right now, California’s are looking for a voice. In this troubled time when their state is falling apart and the feds are doing everything they can to stymie wealth creation, they are in an enviable position to select someone with solid fiscal credentials over one candidate who is way to the left and another who is big on glamor but short on solid ideas.

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