And people wonder why I (a) plan to vote no on the recall, and (b) don't think any of the other candidates would do a better job.
"But today, just a week before the Oct. 7 recall election, none of the major candidates running to replace Davis has proposed a realistic, detailed plan to erase what remains of the budget shortfall. And neither has the governor.
Of the three top candidates competing to succeed Davis if he is recalled, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante has offered the most detailed plan to balance the budget. He wants to raise taxes by $8 billion to $10 billion to close most of the gap, proposing higher taxes on cigarettes, alcohol, commercial property, business income and the wealthy.
But details don't make a plan credible, and Bustamante's has huge gaps. He counts, for instance, on $2 billion in savings in state health programs from the passage of a mandate on employers to provide health insurance to their workers. But no one knows if such a mandate would produce these savings for government, and even if it did, the bill does not take effect until 2005. His proposal also includes $2 billion in unspecified budget cuts, a convenient line in a budget outline but one that won't do when it's time to propose a real spending plan in a few weeks.
State Sen. Tom McClintock knows more about the budget than anybody running, and many of his instincts about waste and duplication in government are on the mark. But lately he has taken to exaggerating the savings that could be accomplished by efficiencies which, he says, would not reduce the level of services available to Californians.
McClintock has been touting some measures that he says would save at least $13 billion by eliminating duplicative programs and using competitive bidding to procure services for the state. He is right that both of these measures should be used more.
But his estimate of the savings is wildly inflated.
His plan is based on a study by the Reason Public Policy Institute that mixed general fund, special fund and bond fund savings together, sometimes to ludicrous ends. It projects $137 million in savings from efficiencies in Parks and Recreation, for instance, even though that amount is more than the department's entire general fund budget.
Why does it matter? Because money from different sources cannot simply be shifted to close the general fund gap. Much of the parks budget is funded by entrance fees. If you cut out a planner or a park superintendent, the state cannot then use those fees to pay for health care or schools. Otherwise the park fee would be a tax, and an illegal one at that. The same is true for beverage deposits used for the recycling program, or bond measures approved by the voters to pay for specific construction projects.
Arnold Schwarzenegger, meanwhile, seems convinced that he can simply wave a magic wand called "the independent audit" and balance the budget with little or no pain. He has proposed no specific budget cuts and has said he would not raise taxes. But the 60 days he has allotted for his review of state finances would take him past the deadline for getting his first budget to the printer. What is he going to do in the meantime? He hasn't said.
The truth is that to propose a credible, balanced budget in January, either McClintock or Schwarzenegger would have to suggest deep cuts in vital services, not just trims in the bureaucracy. And even Bustamante would have to come up with billions in specific spending reductions that he has so far avoided discussing."
I guess I'll have to vote for Bustamante as the slightly-less-clueless of them all, but man. Ugh.