Experts Expound

Experts Expound

It has been reported that one of the most serious problems facing
California, the chronic state-budget shortage, is not being sufficiently
addressed in the campaign for governor. Is this true? Are any or all of the
candidates deliberately shunning tough fiscal issues?

Yes. Yes.

Answering the question honestly means telling voters either they can’t have
something or they’re going to have to pay more to get it. Nobody wants to do
that in a campaign season.

This governor seems to believe in the first rule of cartoon physics: If you
don’t look down, you never fall. Even whittled down from $20 billion, $6
billion remains a very big hole. Look for the Democratic nominee to point
out that he’s standing on thin air as soon as the budget is passed.

Of course they are. They’re politicians. The structural budget crisis will
only be resolved when put before the voters in the form of an initiative.

All three candidates are ducking for cover. The fundamental problem: The
public can’t handle the truth. Even minor reductions in spending are
portrayed by the media and interest groups as apocalyptic, and the public
also hates broad-based tax increases.

Give Angelides credit for speaking the truth, while Westly and the governor
are playing dodge ball whenever they’re asked about how they would balance
the budget. Democrats should skewer Schwarzenegger for being the biggest
spender and biggest borrower in California history.

They’re all dodging the issue. Even Angelides is raising taxes on the rich
for half a dozen different programs, and Arnold and Westly just talk about
growing out of it. It’s unfortunate, but there’s no way to take on this
issue truthfully without getting destroyed for it.

Yes. Confronting the shortage means making difficult decisions and promising
less to voters. The governor has good reason to avoid directly addressing
the structural deficit. Angelides and Westly might score a few points by
blaming it on Schwarzenegger, but the governor can argue that he inherited
the mess and has significantly improved the budget outlook even if he hasn’t
eliminated the deficit. If the Dems highlight the issue, it could put
pressure on them to propose solutions, which would have to be the sort of
tough medicine that politicians traditionally save for after the election.

Yes they are avoiding the topic because it’s not what drives voters. Policy
wonks care about budget shortfalls; voters care about traffic. Also, we will
not see a substantive debate on spending in this campaign, mostly because no
one candidate is on solid footing on the issue.

No one wants to tackle the budget issue because the candidate either has to
discuss what program cuts to make or how to increase revenues, which usually
means a tax increase.

The people from whom we sought opinions: Andrew Acosta, A.G. Block, Don
Wilcox, Jon Fleischman, Evan Goldberg, Deborah Gonzalez, Dan Schnur, Jason
Kinney, Tom Kise, Karen Hanretty, Kevin Spillane, Michael Houston, Matt
Ross, Sam Delson, Mike Madrid, Morgan Crinklaw, Dave Lesher, Richard Zeiger,
Ralph Simoni, Bob Hertzberg, Scott Baugh, Steve Maviglio, Tony Quinn, Peter
DeMarco, Adam Probolsky, Barbara O’Connor, Jack Pitney.

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