California in a $41 billion fix

It’s unlikely many parties in the neighboring capital of Sacramento seek or want advice from their less populous neighbor to the east.

But — given how many new Nevadans have fled California in search of more economic liberty and prosperity (if we may be pardoned that redundancy), only to seek to recreate here the very overtaxed nanny state they fled — it may occasionally profit us to examine the financial doom now stalking California.

For the record, we do not blame California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — at least not primarily.

The Governator went to the people of California with a series of initiatives, a few years back, designed to help him curb the incestuous power of the state employee unions over his state Legislature, and thus to restore fiscal sanity. Voters turned him down cold. Since then, he has governed with the effective footnote: “Since you won’t let me apply common sense, how about this?”

California faces an 18-month deficit of $41.6 billion. State officials warn California will run out of greenbacks in February, at which point they will have to start issuing IOUs to employees, contractors, and taxpayers awaiting refunds.

Gov. Schwarzenegger has already signed an executive order requiring state workers to take two furlough days per month beginning in February, and requiring a 10 percent cut in state agencies.

A good start — presuming the Governator can prevent his subordinates from book-juggling to merely make it appear they’ve trimmed payrolls and spending.

But accompanying $17.4 billion in supposed spending cuts, Gov. Schwarzenegger also seeks $14.3 billion in tax hikes, and an extra $5 billion in borrowing, by selling bonds backed by future state lottery revenues — bonds that Finance Director Mike Genest admits could be a hard sell.

To their enormous credit, minority Republicans have declined to endorse the tax hikes.

Such tax hikes “will devastate an economy already in turmoil and will hurt people who are struggling to make ends meet,” warns Assembly Minority Leader Mike Villines.

A wise rancher knows he can only trim back his animals’ feed so far. At some point, if the most valuable are to survive a hard winter, some of the stock must be sold or slaughtered, to spare the rest.

Its written Constitution will set forth any government’s prime responsibilities. Chances are that any state agency, department or program that didn’t exist before 1984 … or 1959 … or 1934 … is not mandated by the Constitution, and may be sacrificed entirely, if necessary, to preserve constitutionally authorized functions. Take up the chainsaw, governor, start with 2008, and work back.

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