Worst. governor. ever.
December 31, 2010
The media post-mortem on the legacy of soon-to-be-former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has been unfolding all week and it has not been pretty. The verdict seems to be that the Hollywood actor who rode into office on a wave of hollow promises may be California’s worst governor ever. [Calitics]
The Sacramento Bee’s readers agreed there was one word that encapsulated his misrule: failure.
George Skelton has recognized that the recall of Governor Gray Davis in the fall of 2003, which brought Schwarzenegger to office, was a major mistake. John Myers of KQED (and former KSBYnews anchor) offered a more in-depth assessment of Arnold’s signature failure, his inability to fix the state’s budget mess.
And Schwarzegger leaves office with approval ratings at record lows – at or below the numbers Gray Davis had when he was recalled.
The governor’s failures were ideological in nature. Arnold Schwarzenegger became the worst governor in California history through his unwavering commitment to a far-right economic agenda, his fealty to the large corporations who helped elect him back in 2003, and his pursuit of a shock doctrine attack on the state’s institutions and prosperity in the service of his ideology and of his wealthy backers.
Early in his tenure in office, Arnold rejected advice from Warren Buffet and others that he needed to raise taxes in 2004 to close the state’s budget gap. Instead of this responsible – and necessary – solution, Arnold stuck to his ideological guns. He pushed through a costly campaign promise to repeal the restoration of a higher Vehicle License Fee, costing the state $6 billion a year in expenditures to local government to make up the lost funds.
The governor’s “solution” to the structural revenue shortfall was to borrow our way out of the mess. A total of $25 billion in bonds were sold to help pay the operating costs of the state in 2004 and 2005. While deficit spending in a recession is sensible, California’s economy was in recovery during those years, and could have handled a tax increase.
In fact, critics argue, a tax increase, especially on property taxes, might have slowed the growth of the real estate bubble that eventually crippled the state’s economy. The debt service on those bonds takes away from other spending priorities, and lessens the state’s ability to borrow to build infrastructure.
Jerry Brown will be sworn in on Monday.