Debra J. Saunders

But if the governator works with Democrats, will he lose the GOP base?

He may be lucky. State revenues have exceeded expectations of late. An economic recovery could come to the rescue.

Otherwise, Schwarzenegger won't be able to deliver on all his campaign promises -- eliminating the car tax hike, not cutting school spending and not raising taxes. As San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman Mark Leno noted, if balancing the budget were as "simple" as cutting fraud and waste, "we would have done it already."

This year's $38 billion deficit, it should be noted, was so huge that it exceeded $1,000 per Californian.

There could be a big deficit next year, too. Schwarzenegger pointed out Wednesday at his first press conference that if lawsuits challenging bonds floated to balance last year's budget are successful, next year's deficit could exceed $20 billion. Despite his massive mandate, the muscleman may have to propose raising taxes.

"If he comes out and starts talking about tax increases, the Republican base is going to go ape," predicted GOP consultant Richard Temple -- unless Schwarzenegger does a solid job of communicating the need for action. Temple noted that GOP governors Ronald Reagan and Pete Wilson raised taxes and survived.

Schwarzenegger "didn't create this problem," Temple said, "so he's not responsible for the problem, but he is responsible for ending politics as usual."

For a Republican Party starved for victory, that would do nicely -- tax hike or not.

Debra J. Saunders

TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Debra Saunders' column. Sign up today and receive daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.