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Matthew N. Klink - Contributor

Matthew N. Klink is a writer and political consultant who works for Republican candidates at the federal, state and local level. He can be reached at [go to Klink index]

Stay Strong
Don’t Raise Taxes
[Matthew N. Klink] 1/15/04

It's safe to say that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's popularity will never be what it was the day he was elected to replace Gray Davis. And -- though it may sound nonsensical coming from a political consultant -- our state's new Governor shouldn't worry in the short-term about declining favorability numbers.

Gov. Schwarzenegger must remain strong, focused and committed to changing the paradigm in Sacramento - the focal point of which is the state's budget. He must adhere to his promise to sidestep the Legislature and not hesitate to make his case for spending restraint and short-term borrowing for long-term benefit directly to the California electorate, if and when Democrats in Sacramento bog down in the "politics of the status quo."

If the governor's October election accomplished anything, it was to shine a focused beam of light on the unsavory and largely unseen budgeting practices of the Democrat-controlled state legislature in Sacramento. For too long, strong majorities of liberal Democrats spent as drunken sailors -- a comment not meant to demean sailors but to emphasize the carefree, undisciplined spending approach undertaken by our legislative "leaders."

During good economic times, these "investments" as the Dems so lovingly call them, were extreme. In bad economic times, these expenditures indicate gross fiscal mismanagement and, were the state not so politically gerrymandered, would likely cost most members of the State Senate and Assembly their jobs.

As soon as Gov. Schwarzenegger released specifics on his latest $99 billion budget, notably, which groups and programs would receive budget cuts, Schwarzenegger opponents (i.e., Democrats and their liberal special interest groups) and supporters of tax increases (again, mostly Democrats and their liberal special interest groups) began yammering about the "impact" of these cuts. Their solution, as if it's any surprise at all, is tax increases, especially those that involve "soaking the rich," a term loosely used by Democrats to include anyone making a middle class income or higher.

This frequently repeated refrain of tax increases should come as no surprise to any Californian. The California Democratic Party and the Legislature's Democratic majorities have an insatiable addiction to higher taxes and more government spending. Yet, they can't understand why businesses are fleeing our state or why places like Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Texas have an burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit that was, in the past, associated with the Golden State.

In the coming weeks and months, Gov. Schwarzenegger will come under intense fire from politicians, municipal governments and liberal special interest groups up and down California arguing that he must raise taxes. Many tears will be shed, much harsh rhetoric will be spoken and many left-leaning California newspapers will argue that tax hikes are critical for our state to move forward.

Warning bells should go off in the upper echelons of the Schwarzenegger administration immediately and his economic advisors should remain keenly attune to "political pressure" from the left for higher taxes until the state's budget is ultimately passed. Gov. Schwarzenegger appears to "get it" when it comes to California's budget and to change Sacramento for the better. He must never forget that he was elected largely because candidate-Schwarzenegger promised to change Sacramento's failed political culture. As governor, he is trying mightily to enact this change; however, the tax-and-spend culture of Sacramento Democrats refuses to go down without a fight.

It's for this reason that Phil Angelides, California's current state treasurer and likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate in 2006, is so vociferously campaigning against Schwarzenegger's $15 billion short-term borrowing. He and other Democrats would like nothing better than to force a Republican governor to choose between bankrupting California and raising taxes to make-up a multi billion-dollar budget shortfall.

Equally troubling, a March ballot measure is circulating that would allow the Democrats to spend at will. Prop. 56 would allow the Legislature to approve the annual budget and any tax increases with a 55% vote instead of a two-thirds majority. Think about it. If this initiative were to pass, liberals in Sacramento could tax and spend at will. Hold on to your pocketbooks! Perhaps it's for this reason that public employee unions, who benefit financially from bloated government and increased spending, quickly signed on to this myopic measure.

In the State Legislature, as in life, old habits die hard. Gov. Schwarzenegger has stepped into the line of fire in his bold attempt to change Sacramento's culture. His success or failure to do so will largely be determined by actions in the coming months on the state budget. Gov. Schwarzenegger must also realize that liberal Democrats may talk of "bipartisanship" and "compromise," but these "leaders" are incapable of following through, because to do so would threaten their tenuous hold on power.

Hopefully, Gov. Schwarzenegger will ignore public opinion polls for the next six months. If he does what he needs to do now, his long-term popularity will receive a boost from strong leadership. The California electorate voted for change…not for the status quo. Schwarzenegger must not forget this. The alternative, "compromise for the sake of compromise" would irreparably harm him, likely cost him re-election in 2006 and, ultimately, continue California's precipitous downward slide.


copyright 2004 Matthew N. Klink




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