California Dreaming

CALIFORNIA DREAMING….Justene Adamec emailed last night to draw my attention to Tom McClintock, a Republican candidate for governor in the recall election. Justene warns that he “swings right” on social issues, but for now I’m willing to ignore that and just examine what he has to say about the budget. After all, that’s issue #1.

Justene says she likes his specifics, and here they are:

The moment I have taken the oath of office, I’ll sign the order to rescind the illegal tripling of California’s Car Tax. If this governor can claim that he has the authority to raise the car tax by fiat, then by God I’ll claim the same authority to lower it right back down by fiat.

I’ll then sign a stipulation to the Superior Court in Pasadena in the case I filed last year to void the $42 billion of outrageously priced electricity contracts that Davis approved. Those contracts were negotiated under a clear legal conflict of interest by Davis’ chief negotiator. This governor won’t stipulate to these simple facts because it would require him to admit wrongdoing. I’ll certainly admit Davis has done some things wrong!

Then I will sign a third document, calling a special session of the legislature to deal with our Workers Compensation insurance crisis. They will have 30 days to enact Arizona’s Workers Compensation law?slashing workers comp costs by 2/3. And if they fail in 30 days, I’ll take it to the ballot and let them explain to the people why they refused to act while our job market was collapsing.

Mark me down as unimpressed. Item #1 will actually widen the budget deficit. Item #2 depends on the judge ruling in our favor, which isn’t likely even if McClintock does take the bold step of criticizing his predecessor, and will be tied up in appeals for years in any case. So it does nothing. And item #3, while it addresses an important issue, has very little to do with the budget.

Then, in another speech, he sets out in more general terms his can-do credentials for fixing the budget:

I set only two requirements for my vote on this budget: it must be balanced and it must not require tax increases.

Earth to McClintock: that’s been the Republican position since last June and it hasn’t worked. McClintock is surely right that the budget process is seriously broken and we need to start fixing it now, not continue putting it off forever. But I would take his toughminded stance a lot more seriously if it was accompanied by a proposed budget that included no tax increases, no borrowing, and $38 billion in spending cuts. If you’re a straight talking guy and that’s your position, after all, then let’s see your straight talking budget. As far as I’m concerned, if you talk big but don’t have the courage to show us your plan, warts and all, and then base your campaign on it, you’re just another Sacramento shill.

UPDATE: On the other hand, let’s give equal time to Democratic shilling. This column by Daniel Weintraub suggests that despite appearances the current budget plan actually includes virtually no spending cuts at all. For example, due to arcane allocation rules, the vehicle fee increase has been counted as a spending cut. (No, I refuse to try and explain. Read Weintraub if you want to know more.)

I just hate California politics. I always have. National politics is bad enough, but Sacramento is just a cesspool, and it seems virtually impossible to ever get a straight answer about anything. I can’t figure out what’s really going on with the budget, but for the record here’s my best guess: (1) spending really did skyrocket starting around 1998-99, (2) the dotcom bust hurt us worse than most states for obvious reasons, and (3) we lost a fair chunk of change due to gaming of the energy system. But I might change my mind tomorrow if I learn something new.