Saturday, October 24, 2009

Radio Silence

Like the errant Northwestern pilots who lost contact with air traffic controllers either because they went to sleep or were having a heated discussion about company policy, CA's candidates for governor are largely silent on the one topic that the voters want to hear about: the state's out of control budgeting, and the two candidates who ARE talking about the budget are the sort of candidates that the state media and political class feel comfortable ignoring: Budget Problem? What Budget Problem?

As national headlines have trumpeted California's budgetary meltdown and the resulting slashing of state services during the past year, the state's beleaguered bottom line remains the political elephant in the room of the 2010 governor's race.

Only two of the five Republican and Democratic candidates - Campbell and state Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner, also a Republican, have tackled in any detail the most daunting challenge on California's "to do" list - its chronic budget woes.

Campbell is an earnest, intelligent moderate who has actually laid out a detailed plan for taming CA's budget, so of course no one is paying much attention to his campaign (although some polls show him as tied for the lead with Meg Whitman). In normal times, that would be enough to reduce him to the status of also ran, but we are obviously desperate.

Campbell, a former South Bay congressman who was the state's finance director from 2004 to 2005, said he understands the problems with communicating such a complex problem to a mass audience.

But it's imperative to make it clear that the financial "shell game" to balance California's budget for the current fiscal year, which ends in June, has sent the state barreling toward a new financial abyss, Campbell said this week in San Francisco.

In July, the Legislature patched most of a $24 billion deficit by making deep cuts to services while avoiding new taxes.

Campbell, who had already released a 30-page budget plan, updated his proposal this week, arguing that the state could save $8 billion to $13 billion a year - and erase its coming deficit- by purchasing private health insurance for its neediest residents.

That plan would be cheaper than the $42 billion the state now spends on the Medi-Cal and Healthy Families programs.

I'm always ready to support professorial types like Campbell, except for one thing; they are congenitally favorable to raising taxes to reach "deals" with duplicitous progressives.

While Campbell is too boring for people to pay attention to, fellow Republican Steve Poizner is too heated. But, he's laid out his own plan, which includes - surprise! - tax cuts:
Poizner also released a plan this week to help fix the state's budget problems. His proposal, with a 4,000-word prologue, would cut taxes - personal income taxes, the state sales tax and corporation taxes - by 10 percent, cut state spending by 10 percent and create a $10 billion rainy-day fund.
That's great, but I don't trust anyone proposing spending cuts without saying what he will actually cut. Sorry, but if we have to wait until after the Inauguration to hear what he wants to cut, we'll be no better off than we were under Schwarzenegger; frittering away a reform mandate in fruitless negotiations.

Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown, for their part, have been completely silent on the one issue voters want to hear about. No surprise. The budget crisis has been a crisis of Big Government and liberal spending schemes. Democratic constituencies don't want to hear about cuts; they want to hear how their special priorities will be protected. Good luck with that.

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