California's independent budget expert has joined the chorus criticizing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's plans for solving a projected $14.5 billion deficit. As usual Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill makes valid points, but unfortunately offers at least one bad piece of advice.

Ms. Hill, who lawmakers and the governor rely on for unbiased budget evaluations, said this week Mr. Schwarzenegger's proposed across-the-board 10-percent cuts don't take into consideration that some government spending is more worthy than others, a distinction that Ronald Reagan made when he was a budget-cutting governor. It seems unlikely the Gov. Schwarzenegger overlooked that point when proposing deep cuts for virtually every government operation. We suspect his meat-cleaver approach is intended to shock legislators or voters or both into approving new taxes or fees, despite his claims otherwise.

The Legislative Analyst's critique, delivered Monday, also chided the governor for continuing to count on "rosy assumptions" in some projections, including up to $200 million too much revenue from Indian gaming for 2007-08 and 2008-09. The current deficit is due at least partly from Mr. Schwarzenegger's overly optimistic revenue projections last year, which Ms. Hill criticized at that time. The governor seems to persist in these disingenuous shell games.

Unfortunately, Ms. Hill also recommended the Legislature "identify additional revenue solutions" such as cutting back tax credits or deductions and imposing new "user and regulatory fees" to fill the budget gap. While Mr. Schwarzenegger has vowed no new taxes, he has already slipped $125 million in new "fees" into his 2007-08 budget. We're sorry to see Ms. Hill apparently succumb to the Sacramento assumption that programs still must be funded, rather than evaluated for their usefulness and potential elimination when revenue runs short. We agree with Republican Assembly budget committee Vice Chairman Roger Niello who said, "Raising taxes to pay for Sacramento's poor spending choices is not the answer."
Nevertheless, Ms. Hill joins critics in and out of government and across the political spectrum, who increasingly see Mr. Schwarzenegger's budget fiascos for what they have been: hide-the-pea exercises in deception that fail to address fundamental flaws in government finance.

Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub pointed out that the four budgets Mr. Schwarzenegger "signed have not solved the problem. Arguably, they've made it worse." Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal noted many political insiders believe "the governor's entire approach is to set up Californians for a major tax increase." Sadly, they both make valid points.