McClintock: the prince of skinflints

Posted: Feb 27, 2002 12:00 AM
Last Year, the California Legislature approved a measure that put a $2. 6 billion bond measure on the ballot for water projects and parks. That measure now appears in your voter pamphlet as Proposition 40, "The California Clean Water, Clean Air, Safe Neighborhood Parks and Coastal Protection Act of 2002." Go to page 6 of the ballot pamphlet, and you'll see that 89 lawmakers voted for it -- only 12 legislators voted against the measure. I knew, before I checked, that state Sen. Tom McClintock, R-Northridge -- and a candidate for state controller -- would be among those 12. There aren't a lot of state pols who would vote against a measure that claims to deliver clean water, wildlife protections for Bambi and parks for urban children. But McClintock has his principles. Legislative Analyst Elizabeth Hill now estimates that the state budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 is $17.5 billion in the red. With the cuts in services that will be necessary to balance the budget, California can't afford the $172 million needed annually to finance new Proposition 40 projects. McClintock opposed the measure because he believes many of its projects don't benefit the whole state and hence should be bankrolled by local governments. He also opposes using debt-ridden dollars to pay for what he sees as maintenance projects. And he's willing to stick his neck out for the right cause. McClintock is running against Board of Equalization Member Dean Andal for state controller in the GOP primary. "They're both fantastic candidates. It's breaking my heart," said California Republican Party spokesman Rob Stutzman. Andal has more money than McClintock, but Andal doesn't have McClintock's history. For one thing, McClintock has a reputation as being willing to take on the GOP establishment. He was a strong critic of former Gov. Pete Wilson's budget. As the ranking GOP member of the Assembly Insurance Committee, McClintock called for a formal impeachment inquiry when hearings suggested that former GOP Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush went easy on wayward insurance companies that contributed some $3 million to keep Quack in office. "It was very painful for me," McClintock said yesterday, "because I had known Chuck for a number of years and thought very highly of him, but duty trumps friendship -- and duty was clear." McClintock is the rare pol who once showed up at an opening ceremony for a government project, diamond lanes, and proclaimed: "I have some news for Caltrans. Most drivers cannot carpool." Andal is trying to win the nomination by telling voters that McClintock is not a "tax fighter." An Andal ad targets McClintock's votes against cutting the car tax and welfare reform. In fact, McClintock was a maverick in fighting against the car tax, which Sacramento cut by 35 percent last year. Andal campaign consultant Richard Temple argued, however, that by pushing so hard, McClintock was not as effective as he could have been. Fact remains, the car tax got cut. As one GOP stalwart confessed to me, McClintock will get her vote because "he deserves it. He's a true fiscal conservative. I don't care what Dean Andal says."