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Playin’ Possum


All this ruminating on Gov. Terminator brings us, as you might expect this being July in California, to a few thoughts on the budget and the reforms Gov. Terminator may or may not have planned.

Take a look at this LATimes “Column One” piece about how the state legislature operates on anecdotes and vanity. (Feeling cynical? Consider howterm-limits encourage legislators to use their eight years in office to act like a babies and do what they want, because they want to without much regard for the consquences). Then read this SacBee piece on Schwarzenegger’s falling back on a number of supposedly tough negotiating points on the state budget. Given the governor’s now well-established love of being underestimated, you kinda get a sense of the strategy at work here. Is Schwarzenegger lying low, waiting for the state to recover a bit financially? Probably. The Google stock offering alone is going to do that right here in our little corner of California. And there are lots of other hopeful signs out there. So is Gov. Terminator perhaps waiting – like the crocodile – for a chance to do what needs to be done at a time when he might be seen as working with the financial improvements, not against them? Hmmmmmm.
Playing off Shriver’s comments about cafeteria politics, I’m going to suggest that Schwarzengger’s playing possum this budget cycle for a long-term strategic reason, one that’s very hard for California political reporters to think about. First, because of his enormous popularity, Schwarzenegger can afford to go slowly. And, if his state government reform package is indeed revolutionary, he’ll need all the political capital he’s got to spend on big and substantive changes. Here, in particular, no one really expects great things of him. But, in order for the state of California to truly put its financial house in order it must change its tax structure and begin to rely on property taxes – no unevenly assessed on individuals and corporations – as a basic and reliable form of continuing — even increasing — revenue. That means Proposition 13 has got to be changed. And there is no way a Democratic governor working with a much-despised Democratic Legislature can get that change enacted. But uh, Arnold just might be able to do it.
Let’s say Schwarzenegger can gather together a bipartisan coalition to change how California raises revenue and runs its finances, well, uh, he would have safely walked on what political pundits from coast to coast say is the electrified third-rail of California politics, wouldn’t he? He’s save the world at least once, so he’s just the man for the job, isn’t he? Oh, and, if he succeeds, he’ll be one very large step closer to the presidency because changing the U.S. Constitution might be the one thing on earth that’s easier than raising Californians property taxes.
UPDATE:Here’s Dan Weintraub’s take on the budget talks written at about the same time as mine and it, too, focuses on some change in property tax levies. We’re getting closer….

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 3:41 PM | Permalink

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