California tax revolt: Voters crush Schwarzenegger's budget proposals at the polls

Of the six propositions offered, only one passed — the one to freeze pay raises for legislators when the state’s running a deficit — despite Arnold and his allies having outspent critics 10 to 1 in pushing the initiatives. To paraphrase a hip-hop classic, California knows how to tea-party:

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was dealt a crushing defeat as voters rejected a series of ballot initiatives designed to help plug the state’s spiraling budget deficit…

Schwarzenegger had warned that failure of the proposals would leave California grappling with a budget shortfall of around 21.3 billion dollars.

But weary voters were unwilling to heed Schwarzenegger’s deficit warnings and came out broadly against the ballot proposals, by margins of around 60-70 percent to 40-30 percent, local media reported.

The LA Times is naturally upset — with voters:

By rejecting five budget measures, Californians also brought into stark relief the fact that they, too, share blame for the political dysfunction that has brought California to the brink of insolvency…

The results Tuesday fit Californians’ long-standing pattern of demanding what is ultimately irreconcilable, all the more so in an economic downturn: lower taxes and higher spending.

“We all want a free lunch, but unfortunately that doesn’t exist,” said former Gov. Gray Davis, whose 2003 recall stemmed largely from a budget crisis brought on by the dot-com bust. For decades, Davis said, Californians have been “papering over this fundamental reality that the state has been living beyond its means.”…

The public’s contradictory impulses were laid bare by a recent Field Poll. It found that voters oppose cutbacks in 10 of 12 major categories of state spending, including the biggest, education and healthcare. Yet most voters were unwilling to have their own taxes increased, and they overwhelmingly favored keeping the two-thirds requirement for tax hikes.

As noted by Karl, the same Field Poll showed fully 72 percent of Californians treating this as a chance to send a message to Sacramento that they’re tired of higher spending and higher taxes. In fairness to the Times, though, Mark Steyn has long lamented this same tendency among European and, increasingly, American voters: They love their government goodies even though they manifestly can’t afford them, with the total paralysis here over social security reform the grimmest example. Californians don’t really have to make a hard choice between cutting spending and raising taxes since The One will surely force you and I to bail them out, but per that gruesome Heritage graph illustrating his own deficits over the next decade, the national reckoning’s coming. And given the likelihood that universal health care will pass sometime soon, creating a dependency among the public even more profound than social security, it’s not hard to guess how that choice will go when the time comes to make it. How’s that for a pessimistic thought from your favorite eeyore blogger? In the meantime, your exit question: Republican revival in California next year? Meg Whitman’s got to like the headlines this morning.