Debra J. Saunders

Later that year, Schwarzenegger watched voters defeat three other measures -- including an initiative to curb state spending -- with depressed turnout in GOP strongholds. If you can't get Republicans to back you when you're trying to cut state spending, what's the point in sticking your thick neck out?

But with this broad national popular push to control out-of-control government costs, Schwarzenegger could succeed this year.

His economic adviser David Crane believes that the time is ripe for the governor's proposed defined-benefit version of the 2005 overhaul. For one thing, current state workers are paying dearly for retirees' benefits. They have had to endure furloughs, and as long as the status quo continues, he argued, they face "reduced chances for pay increases."

Also, the more Sacramento pays and owes yesterday's workforce, the less Sacto can spend on programs dear to progressives today.

"If Illinois can do it," Crane told me, "California can do it." Or maybe Illinois can do it, but Hotel California still can't.

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.