Debra J. Saunders

It's possible that next year, a new governor will confront another huge debt -- some fear the state budget deficit will be as large as $20 billion. The only way that some good can come of the recall is if a take-charge adult confronts the nasty realities that Sacramento hath wrought, and crafts a compromise of spending cuts and temporary tax increases that stop passing suffocating debt on for yet another year.

I don't see who, other than Schwarzenegger, has the mojo to do that.

GOP state Sen. Tom McClintock is a solid fiscal conservative. The left-leaning legislature will reject whatever he proposes.

Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante has proposed huge tax hikes that, if enacted, would be poison for the California job market.

If Davis beats the recall, only his husk will be left anyway.

I asked Schwarzenegger about the move by his close adviser, former Gov. Pete Wilson, to raise taxes and cut spending when, as a newly elected governor, he was confronted with a then-record $14 billion budget shortfall. Schwarzenegger noted that Wilson was "fiscally responsible" and that Wilson's package brought the state from red ink to a huge surplus. But then -- sigh -- he speculated that Wilson might have managed the same without raising taxes. Quel disappointment.

I don't want to pay higher taxes, but I want a governor who, if the economy drags, will know when there's no other choice but to raise taxes -- and pledge to reduce them when the economy improves. I want a governor, who like Wilson, isn't afraid to anger people.

I think Arnold Schwarzenegger could be that leader. I haven't quite seen that side of him, but I think it's there. So I'm waiting.

Debra J. Saunders

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