December 15, 2007

A California Emergency Means Grab Your Wallets

Arnold Schwarzenegger will declare a fiscal state of emergency in California after badly miscalculating the deficit condition in the Golden State. Last August, he predicted that the state would have a $4.1 billion reserve at the end of this fiscal year, but a legislative analyst predicted in November that California would have a $10 billion deficit. Schwarzenegger now says it's even worse than that:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Friday he will declare a "fiscal emergency" in January to give him and the Legislature more power to deal with the state's growing deficit.

Schwarzenegger made the announcement Friday after meeting with lawmakers and interest groups this week to tell them California's budget deficit is worse -- far worse -- than economists predicted just a few weeks ago.

The shortfall is not $10 billion, but more than $14 billion -- a 40 percent jump that would put it in orbit with some of the state's worst fiscal crisis, those who have met with him said.

Four years after ousting Gray Davis in a recall race, Californians may consider giving Arnold the heave-ho. How can any responsible Governor get budget deficits so wrong in such a short period of time? The change from $10 billion in the red to $14 billion is bad enough, but in four months, Arnold missed it by $18 billion. That alone is more than the annual budget for some states. It's like being off by a factor of six Nevadas.

How did this happen? It started when the Governator decided to play nice with the Democratic legislature and start caving on every single spending program they suggested. Despite the already-extant fiscal crisis in California's government, state spending has increased a whopping 40% since Arnold took office. California didn't need more spending, they needed spending cuts and a rational budget process that restrained the big spenders in Sacramento.

That's what Arnold promised, but he retreated after his first bloody nose. He rashly tried to jam fiscal constraints through in a special election set of referenda, and lost. After that, he declared that he would work with the Democratic majority that had created the problem in the first place, and his popularity soared -- as did the red ink.

Now Arnold will declare an emergency, which will force the legislature back into special session. Will that mean cuts in the state budget? Surely you jest. It means Californians will have to grab their wallets, because they can expect a raft of new taxes to float out from Sacramento. It's an "emergency", after all! It gives the legislature and their enabler-in-chief a great excuse to jack up the tax bill while protecting their pet interests.

Unfortunately, Arnold has proven himself wildly incompetent. Not only has he failed to show enough backbone to stand up to a term-limited legislature, he apparently can't do math, either. That recall mechanism may need a new workout.


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