Marc Ambinder, a very good political reporter with the Atlantic magazine, managed to corner Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger when he was in DC smoking a cigar. His report is an interesting perspective on the Governor’s time in office, especially regarding the budget.
It’s worth reading, but I have some factual clarifications for the article:
* “Under one scenario, California would be left without a social safety net. The most vulnerable would be most hurt.”
– This isn’t “one scenario…,” this is the Governor’s one and only budget proposal, to be the only state in the nation to eliminate its welfare-to-work program, and a range of other services. Readers of this blog know the full devastation, to both health and human services.
* “This is a negotiating position: with pension reform, the starkest cuts could be spared..”
– Whatever the merits or drawbacks of his pension proposals, it would not have any impact in the budget year. This is Governor Schwarzenegger, as he does on many things, using the budget situation to hold the state hostage for other policy goals.
* “Raising taxes during a recession will slow economic growth, he tells me, just when it is starting to pick up a little. He acknowledges that he had to raise taxes last year — that was when the deficit was $60 billion.”
-Cutting services, especially those matched by federal dollars, has a far greater economic impact than any tax increase.
-Actually, he cut taxes–the vehicle license fee–as his first act in office., creating a structural budget hole we’ve had since. Undoing this act (and not having the debt created by this cut) would have solved $6-8 billion of the current budget hole.
– Despite making the structural budget deficit bigger through permanent tax cuts (including a few billion more in new corporate tax loopholes–in the middle of the budget crisis!), he says he raised revenues–but in fact, they were temporary. So in the long term, he leaves a more out-of-whack budget for California.
It is true that all states went through an awful economic downturn, and California was more impacted than other states. But even considering that national context, the Governor’s legacy on the budget is not pretty.