Now that the "other" George, the one back East, has said in effect that Republican ideology must take a back seat to fiscal prudence in rocky economic times, Gov. George Deukmejian's position on the California budget crisis--no new taxes period--suddenly seems less tenable and sensible.
In fact, the President of the United States has written a perfectly usable draft of the kind of compromise statement that the governor must soon issue from his Sacramento office, if the State of California is to have a balanced budget by July 1.
"I met this morning with the bipartisan leadership . . . ," said Bush in his statement Tuesday on the federal-deficit talks in Washington. "It is clear to me that both the size of the deficit problem and the need for a package that can be enacted require all the following: entitlement and mandatory program reform, tax revenue increases, growth incentives, discretionary spending reductions . . . to assure that any bipartisan agreement is enforceable and that the deficit problem is brought under responsible control . . . "
That's a formula that Sacramento now should emulate. Partisan bickering over the state budget for next year seems increasingly petty and out of touch, given the $3-plus billion deficit and the unrelenting demand for state services created by continued population growth.
There's too much haggling and political posturing, such as the GOP's absolute rejection of all new revenue measures (cuts can't do it all) and the Democrats' resistence to significant cutting (new revenue can't do it all).
The Democrats are right to insist that the games stop. Sure, you can throw out the $40-million appropriation for abortion aid to indigent women if you want. But the courts will order it put back in; they always do. Why not deal with reality?
And the Republicans are right to raise the automaticity issue: The aggregate of the legally required health and entitlement programs and other costs are driving up expenditures at an annual rate of 11%, when the revenue stream can only truly sustain a 7% level. \o7 Very \f7 bad trend lines. The structural problem is real.
It's fiscally irresponsible for the Democrats to ignore the governor's point on automaticity; it's irresponsible for the Republicans to wrap their budget stance in the flag of no new taxes. What to do? Well, for starters, how about we balance the budget, as the state constitution requires?
We suggested last week a menu of careful trims and a one-year-only suspension of income-tax indexing that would cost the average taxpayer only $40 or so, but would knock off $1 billion of deficit. But if there are better ways--higher rates for the relatively well-off?--let's hear them. It's time to stop posturing and get on with governing.