George Will

During the coming presidential campaign, California's Republican governor will be busy proving the fatuity of his proposal to solve California's budget crisis by cutting waste, fraud and abuse -- things for which there is no constituency. In 2004, President Bush will not campaign in a California seething with resentment of spending cuts and attempted tax increases advocated by a hugely unpopular Democratic governor. Instead, Bush will campaign in a California in which the Republican governor will be illustrating the axiom that today only a Republican governor can substantially raise taxes.

This is so because the people, in their zeal for majority rule, have mandated,

through the initiative process, a two-thirds supermajority requirement for raising taxes. Which means the Republicans' legislative minority is large enough to block a Democratic governor's request for tax increases but probably is not starchy enough to resist a Republican governor's request for -- Republicans believe in recycling, at least of squeamish rhetoric -- ``revenue enhancements.''

Then again, some Republicans might resist, because their principles need not threaten what is really important -- re-election. Almost all legislators of both parties represent safe seats because the political class has put an end to much of California's politics by using redistricting to protect all incumbents. This is one reason why politics has re-emerged through the recall process, which allows the people to vent against their chosen representatives.

The put-upon people of California, groaning under the weight of decisions taken by California's electorate, have repeatedly taken lawmaking into their own hands through initiatives that mandate this and that allocation of resources. So an estimated -- no one seems able to say for sure, which fact says much about the consequences of California populism -- 60 percent to 80 percent of the budget is beyond the control of the governor and Legislature.

One of the new governor's two noteworthy campaign promises is that he will not cut education, which -- thanks to what the public did in a 1988 initiative -- is roughly 50 percent of state spending. His other venture into specificity during the campaign -- a campaign in which he said, brassily and correctly, that ``the public doesn't care about figures'' -- was his promise to promptly increase by 50 percent the already $8 billion deficit by repealing the car tax that Davis and the Legislature recently tripled.

A Washington-based Democrat, who was making election-eve get-out-the-vote calls to African-American households in South Los Angeles, knew Gray Davis would be recalled when voter after voter told her, emphatically and specifically, the precise dollar amount that the tax increase was costing him or her. The new governor should repeal it because it is unjust. And because the people deserve to get what they demand. Don't they?


George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
 
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