Saturday, December 06, 2008

Prodigal Governors feed the hogs

Should we reward budget-busting irresponsibility? The states that were undisciplined and spent more than they took in want us to. Prodigal Governors by The Editors on National Review Online: The states have been on a spending jag, and now that the bills are coming due, Washington is hosting a parade of governors led by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has demanded that the federal bursars “get off of their rigid ideologies” and write him a check for a couple dozen billion dollars. Tellingly, he compares the state of California to an “accident victim on the side of the road that is bleeding to death.” But this was no accident. Who was behind the wheel, governor? California’s projected budget deficit over the next 20 months is about $28 billion, or 26 percent of the state’s budget. Since taking over from Gray Davis, who didn’t exactly set the gold standard of fiscal discipline, Schwarzenegger has steered the state into a 40-percent increase in spending, some $41 billion a year. Arithmetically inclined readers may calculate that California’s spending increase under Schwarzenegger and the usual spendthrift Democrats in the legislature is a greater sum than the projected shortfall. Which is to say, if only Californians could return to the Gray Davis version of fiscal discipline, they’d be in the black. But spending under Schwarzenegger has grown at twice the rate it did under Davis. If this is the alternative, give us that old-time rigid ideology, the one that says Republicans were put on this Earth with a mandate to cut spending and lower taxes. Instead of looking to Washington for a handout, the prodigal governors should look to their more prudent brothers, such as Gov. Rick Perry of Texas. Noting on Tuesday that Texas currently enjoys a budget surplus, Governor Perry laid out his state’s formula for success: “Texas has created a business-friendly environment where 1,000 people a day move to our state to work and raise a family.” Montana’s Democratic governor, Brian Schweitzer, is no captive to conservative ideology, but he stewards a surplus as well, helped along by Republicans in the state senate. Even in Alaska, where 90 percent of the state’s revenue depends in some part on oil, the price of which has this year fallen by two-thirds, Governor Palin is managing admirably. Raising Wyoming’s taxes to subsidize Californians’ extravagance violates both prudence and federalism; we have 50 different states for a reason.

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