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Michael Hiltzik: Farewell, Gov. Schwarzenegger

December 11, 2010 |  6:33 pm

After seven years and two misconceived special elections, there isn't much left to say about the Schwarzenegger regime in California. Not for me, anyway. By my count I wrote 44 columns about the governor, dating back to his original election campaign in 2003. I imagine that if his staff was keeping count they would say that the number of these that were positive was zero. Based on a cursory look at the total, I can't disagree.

The oeuvre was probably too negative, overall. Schwarzenegger tried hard to accomplish a number of goals, and certainly was not always unsuccessful. As my Sunday column observes, his successes can be found in the fields of worker's compensation, environmental legislation and attempts at healthcare reform. In terms of social issues, he certainly resembled more the average California voter than the average California Republican politician. There's a positive lesson there: If the GOP wants to regain credibility in this state, its policies need to start looking more like Arnold Schwarzenegger's.

The most interesting result of his administration may be the recognition by the state's voters that solving California's structural problems in governance requires a professional politician, not a crossover. The baton is now handed to the quintessential example of that breed, Jerry Brown. Sincere best wishes to the outgoing and the incoming governors in their newest incarnations.

The column begins below:

The day he took office, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger commanded popularity enough to persuade California's voters to swallow the harshest fiscal medicine.

The tragedy of his governorship is that he never used it.

The roots of the state's dysfunction were well known in Sacramento in 2003, when Schwarzenegger took office, and still are today: It's too easy to enact spending programs by ballot initiative, too hard to get the required two-thirds vote of the Legislature to pass a budget and impossible to keep talented legislators around when they're rapidly turfed out by term limits.

The tax structure bequeathed us by 1978's Proposition 13 is lunacy; it places too much emphasis on the personal income tax, which frustrates the wealthy and the entrepreneurial class, and on the sales tax, which hammers the working class.

The school financing system (also an offspring of Proposition 13) is even more nuts. It hamstrings local administrators by making them beholden to nostrums issued from Sacramento.

Read the whole column.

-- Michael Hiltzik