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A Recall Amounts to Political Fiddling as the Fiscal House Burns

June 12, 2003|Steve Westly

With California's credit rating already the worst in the nation and in danger of sinking lower, this is no time to create more turmoil with a coup against our elected governor. That instability could only weaken the state's standing on Wall Street.

Our state budget crisis is so great, and the consequences of not solving it so dire, that no elected official should focus on anything else until the difficult job of crafting and enacting a budget is done. Yet supporters of the recall against Gov. Gray Davis are diverting time, energy and attention away from solving the budget problem to pick a political fight.

The recall should be reserved for extreme circumstances, such as criminal acts, and not used on a whim for self-serving political purposes.

The financial world is watching us. As we finalize the terms of $11 billion in short-term cash-flow borrowing, Wall Street, increasingly leery about investing billions of dollars in California, wants to know if our leaders are serious about solving the state's fiscal problems. It wants to see concrete steps toward a budget solution, now. Foremost, it wants to see that we consider getting our fiscal house in order a greater priority than maneuvering for political advantage.

That's why a recall campaign is bad for California. It is a huge political distraction at a time when California can least afford it.

Your legislators and statewide officeholders shouldn't be gathering signatures, monitoring polls and pondering potential replacement governors. They should be focused on the budget, period.

We can't fail to pass a responsible, balanced budget on time this year. The consequences would be calamitous for Californians. The state would quickly run perilously low on cash, causing delayed payments for many important state services. Some transportation and education funds would dry up.

The state's credit rating would tumble further. Prudent, low-interest borrowing, essential to efficient cash-flow management, would become all but impossible.

Getting the budget completed this year will be immensely difficult even without political distractions because the depth and breadth of the state's economic crisis are so great and the necessary decisions so tough.

Asking Californians to consider a recall under these circumstances is just partisan politics.

Democrat Steve Westly is California state controller.

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