Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appeared to return to his fiscal conservative roots Tuesday, calling for budget cuts and a constitutional amendment to give him unilateral authority to make more cuts in emergencies.

But his solution to California's looming $14 billion budget deficit smacks of management by crisis, rather than sincere conviction. His spending limitations would kick in only when revenue drops below expectations. Why not cut spending before revenue runs out to avoid a crisis in the first place?

"It used to be that Sacramento plugged deficits by grabbing money everywhere it could - pension funds, local governments, bonds, gas taxes meant for transportation," Mr. Schwarzenegger said. He now appears grudgingly to favor restraint only because the state faces a huge deficit, is spending up to $600 million more a month than it takes in and there's no way to raise more money.

Even so, we look forward to the details of Mr. Schwarzenegger's proposed constitutional amendment, which he said would set aside surplus funds to be used only when revenues fall below expectations. We've heard such talk before. In 2005 a union-financed campaign defeated Gov. Schwarzenegger's ballot proposal to empower him to reduce spending. Two years earlier a similar measure was killed in the Legislature. Perhaps this time, the crisis is severe enough to prompt necessary cuts and to persuade voters to empower future governors to take such emergency action. Both promise to be difficult to achieve, judging from Democrats' opposition.

"Cuts alone won't fix things," Democrat Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez said even before Mr. Schwarzenegger detailed his plans in Tuesday's State of the State address.
But if ever cuts were called for, it is now.

Mr. Schwarzenegger showed another glimmer of restraint Tuesday. He said education reforms must be made, although "this is not the year to talk about money" for reforms. We're anxious to see what Mr. Schwarzenegger can reform without more money.

"The problem is that while revenues are flat, automatic formulas are increasing spending by 7.3 percent," Mr. Schwarzenegger said, reiterating his promise not to raise taxes to solve the problem. It's clear budgetary gimmickry has failed.

Reiterating an original campaign motto, Mr. Schwarzenegger said, "We do not have a revenue problem; we have a spending problem." We urge him to act accordingly and not merely stop spending when revenues decline, but prevent deficits in the first place.