California changed governors Monday. Out is Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, who originally campaigned against taxes and against budget deficits but presided over the largest state-tax increase in American history and left the state $28 billion in the red. In is Democrat Jerry Brown, who promises to make many hard decisions, but already is planning for Californians to pay more in taxes, a solution that seems to us to be the easy way out of the state's fiscal mess, and not a hard decision at all for a politician.
It's difficult to give the former governor high marks, despite Mr. Schwarzenegger's starting on the right foot by rolling back vehicle license fees, whose increase had helped fuel his recall election among an angry populace, and by reducing workers compensation costs that were killing California businesses.
In the end, Mr. Schwarzenegger's most significant accomplishments, if they can be called that, were political successes Californians dearly will pay for in the years to come. The much-touted Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 has set the stage for Draconian regulations to hamstring the private sector in its competition with out-of-state businesses. The health care panels rushed into existence to enforce Obamacare add unnecessary new costs and complications the state may be stuck with even if Congress undoes the onerous federal health care reforms.
Perhaps most destructive is the open-primary election system championed by Mr. Schwarzenegger, which effectively eliminates the two-party system of primary nominations and general elections. The goal ostensibly was to elect less-ideologically rigid politicians more inclined to deal-making and compromise so they can more easily get things done, which means passing more laws. Does anyone really believe California needs politicians who can enact more laws?
We were briefly encouraged by Mr. Schwarzenegger's election in 2003, but his administration lost its luster as he increasingly came to resemble the problem he campaigned to correct. We will allow ourselves to be cautiously encouraged by Mr. Brown, partly because the Sacramento Bee reports that he wants to make permanent spending cuts on a large scale, eliminate local redevelopment agencies and enterprise zones (boondoggles that siphon off taxpayer money for highly questionable uses) and make a variety of reductions in social services.
But, as Mr. Schwarzenegger demonstrated so painfully, it's easier to intend to do good than to accomplish it.
The Orange County Register